Uganda’s tourism sector, which has emerged as the country’s leading foreign exchange earner for three consecutive years, is expected to rake in a record Shs 9.4 trillion each year by 2020.
Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) executive director, Stephen Asiimwe, told a press conference today in Kampala that the emergence of tourism as the country’s top foreign exchange earner has prompted the government to call for more investment in the sector.
Tourism, which now contributes 10% of the county’s GDP, has seen steady growth from income of Shs 1.4 billion in 2007 to Shs 4.9 trillion currently. It is projected to hit Shs 9.4 trillion by 2020.
“No other sector has grown like [tourism],” Asiimwe said. “When a sector begins to grow, it is important that government continues to focus on it to improve it even more.”
Among measures expected to boost the sector is government’s imminent move to allow direct international flights to game parks, construction of roads, improvement in security and the move to reinstate the national carrier, Uganda airlines.
Asiimwe was speaking ahead of the 4th edition of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) that is set to take place February 23-25 at the Sheraton Kampala gardens.
POATE is an annual tourism event organised by UTB to showcase the country’s tourism products and services. This year’s theme will be “rediscover the pearl.”
“We want Ugandans to be able to enjoy Uganda. They have to explore it. Many Ugandans don’t know about our national parks, Islands. Many Ugandans are going to other countries to get experiences which they can get here,” Asiimwe said.
Over 200 exhibitors including hotels, lodges, and other industry associations are lined up to showcase different tourism services. Five national tourism boards from neighbouring countries including Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania have been confirmed as participants.
Activities will include a mini zoo at the grounds, a food court to show Uganda’s different foods, a cultural village for cultural diversity, children’s section, hot air balloons, city tour bus, boat trips from Munyonyo and helicopter rides to different places.
With the fast rising tourism numbers, Asiimwe wants Ugandans to tap into the lucrative sector by investing in mostly accommodation in rural areas and islands.
“Most of the accommodation in such places is high end which doesn’t cater for some people so we lose a lot of tourists to our neighbours. In Entebbe and Kampala, we are fine but there are rural areas out there where you cannot not find a one star hotel,” Asiimwe said.
Another area that needs local investment is transportation. For example there is only one ferry from Entebbe to Kalangala which makes a single route each day and in case it breaks down, there is no movement to the Islands.