Uganda has failed to reap benefits from the single East African tourist visa system introduced in February 2014, Tourism Minister, Maria Mutagamba says.
According to Mutagamba, the number of tourists visiting Uganda has dropped since the single East African tourists visa system was introduced because Kenya and Rwanda have not honoured the agreement signed by the three countries.
"That is a problem. In fact it is causing me a crisis…We agreed as the East African countries that we are going to have one common visa at $100. You pay that and enter all the three East African countries - Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya.
Unfortunately, for us we embraced it wholeheartedly, but our brothers and sisters in the two countries while they introduced the East African visa, they also maintained their local tourist visa. So if a tourist going to Kenya, I have an offer touring Kenya and I have an offer of $100 touring Kenya and whatever, I will stop in Kenya", Mutagamba said.
The single tourist visa is a multi-entry visa costs $100 and grants a tourist a 90-day validity period to tour any of three of the five East African countries.
Mutagamba says that since Kenya and Rwanda broke the agreement under which the visa was formulated, Uganda is also planning to re-introduce a local tourist visa.
"The tourism sector is agitated. They say; ‘we must have our own tourism visa as Uganda’ so that we can also get our tourists coming here directly until we all agree that we are going to have one [tourist visa]…I hope I will be able to meet the prime minister because they are very very much upset about that.
All tourists are going to other countries and we are getting less of them. Because of that unfulfilled or ununderstood arrangement that we entered in. Otherwise, as Uganda, we have actually been remitting our funds religiously and the other countries are remitting less and the explanation is: they are selling their visas and not the East African visa", Mutagamba added.
According to the 2014/15 Auditor General's report, Uganda Wildlife Authority reported total revenue of Shs 42.7 billion in the statement of comprehensive income compared to Shs 56 billion realised in the year 2013/14.
The report says the Authority posted a deficit of Shs 12.6 billion as opposed to a surplus of Shs 3.72 billion in the previous year. According to Mutagamba, reduction in foreign tourists is one of the reasons for the drop in revenues.