By Nsubuga Mukedi
The media on March 8 published a sector story about Uganda’s tourism potential as being capable of speeding up a middle income status by 2020 and booming the economy if well funded.
It was cited that tourism contributes more than Shs6 trillion to the country’s GDP, earning Uganda more than $1.4 billion in foreign exchange. It was further revealed that in spite of the various unresolved strategic issues, foreign tourists have increased from 700,000 in 2007 to 1.4 million currently.
The key highlights for the sectors under performance were listed as underfunding, inadequate tourism support infrastructure, low levels of product development and above all, inadequate marketing services.
Uganda’s Parliament has proposed to the Executive that Shs20 billion be given to Uganda Tourism Board in the 2018/19 financial year to adequately propel this body to market Uganda’s tourism potential locally, globally and regionally.
Uganda’s tourism sector requires a new set of critical thinking and strategic transformation to yield adequately to aggregate national income.
A lot of our local attractions are still undeveloped, under developed, ignored and or neglected. Our communities are also still wanting in terms of tourism awareness and sensitisation to engage in real tourism enterprises for national development. As a consequence, community tourism is still very low at local levels. However, we commend some efforts made so far by government in the development of the tourism industry in Uganda.
As a national strategy, we need to impart a new mindset into our national planners, leaders and policy implementers to cultivate a sense and aspect of tourism in whatever project or programme that is made for Uganda at local and national levels. We also need to re-orient the private sector to follow suit.
There is need to develop a culture of tourism sensitivity in all our local and national planning interventions to promote massive and sustainable tourism potential for sustainable economic development.
Our urban development interventions, housing projects, roads development, cultures in diversity, environment management, civil and political management, public hygiene and sanitation, etc, should all be designed, aligned and executed in accordance with the established national minimum tourism development standards.
The rationale is to create and maintain a generally acceptable tourism development practice for Uganda designed to boost the tourism sector and to attract the whole world to enthusiastically come and uncover our multi-potential tourism.
Everything in major tourist destined countries is tourism. The roads, people, buildings, shops, environment, cultures, etc, are all designed and aligned to boost tourism and are very attractive to see.
Such countries include South Africa, China, Malaysia, Kenya, France, Israel, UK, USA, etc. France is one of the world’s leading countries in tourism with more than 83 million tourists visiting the country every year. This is made possible due to their critical focus and investment in the sector rather than trading in speeches and resolutions for sustainable development.
To attain maximum tourism levels in Uganda, we impatiently need the following interventions:
– Craft and execute a well thought out master sector plan to boost the trade for at least 10 consecutive years.
– Create a tourism development fund to boost product development at local levels.
– Locate tourism among the top government-funded priorities for at least 10 years.
– Immensely provide tourism education to the local citizenry for them to appreciate, promote and uphold the trade for sustainable development.
– Strategise for government massive job creation through the tourism sector.
We need to think big, have a bigger vision, commitment and investment to make Uganda a leading tourism destination overtime and the time to start is now.
Mr Mukedi is a development consultant and a senior public management scientist.