The European Union delegation in Uganda has expressed readiness to work with the Tourism sector as part of their set priorities for four years beginning 2022/24.
The announcement comes at a time the EU commences a new financial framework for its grant funding and working on arrangements to bring together different financial institutions to focus on tourism among other priority areas in the post-Covid–19 period.
This announcement was made at Uganda Tourism Board Head Offices in Kampala during a meeting between the European Union delegation in Uganda led by Ms Marijnissen Chantel, the Head of Unit – Environment and Sustainable Natural Resources and Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA) in Brussels, EU delegate Nadia Connono and Caroline Adriaensen, UTB board Chairman Hon. Daudi Migereko, UTB Vice Chair Suzan Muhwezi, UTB Directors; Mr Eddy Kirya, Dr Ronald Kaggwa, Professor Suleyman Katende, Ms Yogi Birigwa and UTB Ag. CEO Ida Wadda.
The discussions centered on opportunities for nature-based tourism and Uganda’s post-Covid-19 plans for tourism development.
In his remarks, UTB board Chairman Hon. Daudi Migereko, thanked the European Union for the support extended to Uganda in areas that positively impact Uganda’s economy leading to the transformation of the lives of many Ugandans.
He applauded the decision of the EU to include the tourism sector amongst the sectors to be mainstreamed for support.
He expressed optimism regarding this cooperation and the associated opportunities which should enable Uganda to effectively tap into the European source markets while preparing for the European tourists from a well-researched and informed position regarding their interests.
’Tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner for Uganda. The sector earned the country over USD$1.6 billion in 2018 accounting for 7.7% of the national GDP and accounting for about 7% of the jobs in the country,” Migereko noted.
He added: “During Covid and in the immediate post-Covid period, we focused on health and safety issues, boosting domestic tourism, skilling our people to be updated with new travel trends, establishing ourselves in the regional and African continent circuit. We now want to re-establish ourselves on the world stage and attract leisure and MICE tourists.”
Ms Marijnissen Chantel, the European Union Head of Unit – Environment and Sustainable Natural Resources and Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA) in Brussels, said: “The EU is grateful to work with the Government of Uganda to enhance our partnerships as we are developing a program on biodiversity which touches tourism and transboundary issues.”
She added: ‘’Based on the 2022/24 framework and policies that we have designed for Uganda’s tourism sector; we are majorly looking at the protected areas, climate change, supporting tourism host communities, among others.”
She highlighted the fact that tourism is a value-chain business that supports other sectors in the economy including Agriculture which has the opportunity to transform the economy.
In her remarks, UTB Vice Chairperson, Mrs. Susan Muhwezi, said, ‘’We are thankful for the cooperation, especially for the credit facility being managed by Uganda Development Bank (UDB).”
She expressed optimism that this will help revive tourism enterprises which had been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Lockdowns came at a time when tour operators, hotel and tourist accommodation proprietors had secured bank loans. We are hopeful this credit facility will support their recovery although the terms of accessing such finance need to be revised and adjusted to meet the prevailing circumstances and improve absorption.”
It was pointed that in the 2022/ 24 framework, the EU Uganda Delegation intends to focus on; green financing, establishing a green academy, integrating of the green economy, developing a skilling programme in partnership with development partners, developing a regional envelop for Africa targeting thematic areas, among others.
Also, part of the framework includes partnering with the Uganda Green Enterprise Finance Accelerator (UGEIFA) – a facility that works together with several commercial banks such as Equity Bank and Yako to strengthen the tourism sector.
In 2021, Uganda received a total of 519,945 tourists. The number of tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom was 2,975 contributing 0.58% of the total visitor arrivals.