The Presidential Advisory Committee on Budget (PACOB) wants the annual funding to Uganda Tourism Board increased to Shs 29.5 billion in the 2018/19 financial year. The Committee said tourism is a priority sector that has high potential to turn around the economy if it receives adequate funding.
The proposal was made by a working group on the sector of tourism on Tuesday during a plenary session of Ministers and heads of government agencies at the Office of the Prime Minister.
PACOB which was formed in 2013 in Kyankwazi advises the President on how to spend money to ensure rgaf areas considered as priorities by the ruling party manifesto and national development receive adequate financing. It is also tasked to identify alternative sources of revenue.
Parliament’s Budget Committee Chairman, MP Amos Lugolobi who presented the recommendations on the sector pointed out that Uganda has not positioned itself to compete favorably with neighboring countries like Rwanda which are taking the lion’s share of the tourists.
He said that Shs 5.6 billion more is required for development of tourism products, Shs 29.59 billion for Uganda Tourism Board to finance its marketing operations in source markets, and Shs 10 billion for construction of stop over spots for visitors along major highways.
Another Shs 50 billion was proposed for the construction of the UTB headquarters.
“We need to redevelop the source of River Nile as a world class tourist attraction site and turn it into a modern international tourism centre. Introducing cable cars and ziplining on Mt. Rwenzori are also low hanging fruits that we can exploit,” he said while outlining the priority areas in the sector.
“Our gorilla permits cost USD 500 yet in Rwanda it is at USD 150 yet we have the same gorillas. Tourists will prefer Rwanda over Uganda because they can save some dollars. We are losing,” Hon. Lugolobi said.
This proposal received support from several other Ministers including Minister of Trade Amelia Kyambadde who also suggested that Uganda’s tourism attractions be diversified. She cited the island of Guadalupe (Mexico) which earns foreign revenue from its coffee and banana tourism.
On his part, Minister of Agriculture Vincent Bamulangako Ssempijja commented; “We should look at areas like tourism critically because the Shs 50 billion they are asking for isn’t too much compared to the revenue the sector draws in for Uganda”.
He said that if more is invested, tourism could bring in more foreign exchange.
In the financial year 2015/16, the tourism sector was the lead foreign exchange earner pooling USD 1.35 billion (23.5% of Uganda’s total exports) followed by remittances from the diaspora.
Former Minister of Finance Saida Bumba asked government to adopt the model of singling out sectors with the highest employment opportunities and investing heavily on them.
The sticky issue on the revival of the national career also came up during the discussion, with participants decrying the absence of domestic flights to national parks and other attractions. But government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa said a committee appointed by President Museveni is still assessing the viability of Uganda Airlines.
UTB has often decried the meagre resources allocated to it which they claim is too less compared to the task required of them – marketing Uganda. This financial year, UTB was allocated Shs 16.4 billion and the year before (2016/17) it was Shs 11.3 billion.