KAMPALA – The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) has urged all tourism players to enthusiastically accepted the grading and classification of all tourism facilities in the Country in line with new East African Community (EAC) standards.
According to the UTB, the exercise is vital to the recovery of Uganda’s tourism sector after being hit hard by the pandemic.
Addressing the press during the beginning of the classification exercise at Sheraton Hotel Kampala on Thursday, Ms. Susan Muhwezi, the UTB Board Vice-Chair and Chairperson of Uganda Hotels Owners Association (UHOA), revealed that the occupancy rate between January and March last year compared to the same period this year has gone up from 5.6% to 28.1%.
“…..we expect it to grow as the year progresses with the continued reopening of the economy. Hotels must therefore be ready to satisfy the market as business is beginning to pick up in the hospitality industry,” she said.
The East African Community, standards criteria for the classification of hotels, restaurants and other tourist facilities were gazetted in 2009 to encourage and maintain quality standards in products and services being delivered to tourists in East Africa. The standards were institutionalized under the Tourism Regulations 2008.
The standards include:
- Classification Criteria for Lodges
- Classification criteria for Motels
- Classification Criteria for Restaurants
- Classification Criteria for Guesthouses
- Classification Criteria for Tented Camps
- Classification Criteria for Town hotels
- Classification Criteria for Vacation Hotels
- Classification Criteria for Villas, Cottages and serviced apartments
Since the release of the criteria, Uganda has been able to classify 121 accommodation facilities. The exercise was last conducted in 2017.
Ms. Muhwezi explained that the exercise aids them to find out the compliance levels to the set standards by the facilities.
“We have to be competitive since we have been hit hardest by the pandemic. From the previous exercise, we had six 5star hotels in Uganda. The current exercise will therefore help us know if the number has increased or has gone down.”
Speaking at the same event, Mr. Bradford Ochieng, the UTB Deputy CEO said that grading and classification creates a lot of competition among the Ugandan facilities, thus quality service delivery.
“The assessment will help us be competitive so that when you stay anywhere in the country, you get the same standard of services provided. It is also important that once you stay in a two-star hotel in Kenya, they are the same standards and quality you find at a two-star hotel in any part of Uganda. There should be value for money for the services our visitors pay for.”
Sheraton Hotel General Manager Jean-Philippe Bittencourt, said that such an exercise is very important to give label and certification on global sphere our industry.
“It makes us always improve on where we are lacking and also keep good ratings for our hotel. It will increase the value of the hospitality industry in Uganda,” he said.
Mark Kirya, the General Manager Eureka hotel in Ntinda said, “The grading of hotels is a marketing tool for this country and our services. If services and standards are poor, tourists will not stay here but when they are good, tourists will come here and in big numbers.”
Greg Petzer, the General Manager Speke Resort Munyonyo and Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort Hotel also appreciated the exercise saying that it helps them review what they set as standard then and what they are doing now.
“It is also good for us to position ourselves to ensure our products meet international standards and expectations.”
Created by the Tourism Act (2008), Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) is the official Government of Uganda’s destination marketing organization for Destination Uganda, the Pearl of Africa. UTB exists to sustainably promote Uganda as the most preferred and competitive destination for tourists and tourism investments in Africa. By working with stakeholders in the tourism sector to market Destination Uganda while encouraging investment, education, training and research as well as developing and monitoring standards in the tourism sector, UTB has since its inception, 13 years ago, grown the number of tourist arrivals by 78% from 844,000 in 2008/09 to 1,500,000 in 2018/19. This is slightly above global growth rates of 63% in the same period. As a result, sector foreign exchange earnings have nearly tripled, growing by more than 171%, from US$590 million to US$1.6 billion in the same period. Today the tourism industry, directly and indirectly, creates 667,600 jobs, 77% of whom are youth aged18-30 years and accounts for 7.7% of GDP.
By 2024/25 and barring for the effects of Covid-19, UTB plans to grow international tourist arrivals from the key source markets i.e., U.S., Europe and China from 210,000 to 500,000 tourists- a core element in increasing Uganda’s annual tourism revenues from US$1.6 billion to US$3.0 billion! This will increase the contribution of tourism to total employment from 6.3% to 10% which is equivalent to 433,000 new jobs or an increase from the current 667,600 jobs to 1,100,000 jobs. This will increase the total contribution of tourism to GDP from 7.7% to 9%.