KAMPALA —A war is brewing up in the tourism and hospitality sector as private players take on Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), a government agency charged with marketing Uganda as a top tourist destination.
On Wednesday, January 19, 2022, Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) President Herbert Byaruhanga accused UTB of working against the interests of other sector players—also threatening to boycott a UTB spearheaded event scheduled for Friday January 2022 where President Museveni is expected to preside over.
Sector private players’ statement that is creating discussions on the social media platforms since Wednesday, Byaruhanga took on UTB bosses— accusing them of gross misconduct, weakness and failure to lobby for the sector that has also been battered by Coronavirus.
“… we as the private sector of tourism and hospitality, have decided to boycott this event being organized by the Uganda Tourism Board -a government Agency, “Byaruhanga wrote, mentioning that “due to many reasons, the private sector of tourism and hospitality has taken a decision to turn down this invitation”.
In the upcoming Friday event, UTB seeks to launch new efforts and also rebrand Uganda as a leading destination but private players who “do a lot in marketing the country abroad” say they were not involved in the process and that they will not be part of it, a development that has since angered UTB.
“Being the drivers of the business, we feel excluded from this entire process. It should be noted that tour operators and other actors spend millions of dollars traversing continents looking for tourists/clients. This contributes so much to the country’s revenue for example 2018/19, Uganda registered 1.4 Billion dollars from tourism, ” Mr. Byaruhanga wrote.
He added: “It is a shame that government can plan to re-discover the magnificence of country when the real actors are not fully consulted for their input to ensure maximum benefits from the drive”
Byaruhanga also noted that throughout the Covid-19 period; UTB and government deliberately ignored the tourism business without any stimulus package, a development that he says has seen many of the SMEs close without any help or support hand from government.
Tourism is an increasingly important contributor to Uganda’s economy. The 1.5 million international arrivals, combined with a growing number of domestic tourists, generated 7.75% of GDP and 6.7% of total national employment in 2018.
Data show that Uganda has the potential to position itself as a high-value destination that offers exceptional wildlife, adventure and cultural experiences which match or exceed those of its neighbours.
However, it currently lacks the confidence, infrastructure and skills to capitalise on its competitive advantage.
Byaruhanga says government tourism have on several occasions conducted activities or procurements that seem to compete and undermine private sector or discouraged activities of private sector players, a development he says, “we can’t allow to continue”.
The UTB has since retorted in equally strong measures—aiming a major dig Byaruhanga and accusing him sabotage and misleading other other players with baseless claim and blatant lies.
“Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), the Government of Uganda’s marketing and regulatory agency has learnt of a press statement by the Uganda Tourism Association’s incoming President, that among others, makes false and inaccurate claims regarding the development process and the launch of Uganda tourism destination brand,” UTB wrote dismissing Byaruhanga’s assertions amongst other claims, alleges that the association was not engaged and consulted during both the development of the brand as well as the organisation of the event leading to the launch.
UTB denied any wrongdoings and said it us6 even shocked that the new leadership of UTA is attempting, at the last minute to mislead its membership about one of the most strategic government interventions into restarting and rebuilding the tourism sector.
“We are also concerned that the new team of UTA is being deliberately dishonest to their membership over the extensive consultative process that UTB has had with the various UTA leaders over the last two years that it has taken to develop and subsequently ready this new brand for launch”.