Africa Travel And Tourism
Scrap visa fees, airlines tell government
UGANDA (eTN) - Airline representatives associated under the Board of Airline Representatives in Uganda have earlier in the week spoken out on how they think tourism to the country can be stimulated and promoted, highlighting, among other measures, the dropping of visa charges for foreign nationals visiting the country.
For several years in the past, this, in fact, was done, setting off a trend to annual double-digit increases of visitors, which, however, started to level out at lower increase levels when visa fees were re-introduced and other factors like the constant underfunding of the tourist board and the non-implementation of the country’s tourism policy came into play.
Airlines have in recent years added extra flights, started to use bigger aircraft on the routes flown, and new airlines like Turkish have entered the Ugandan market, overall offering more seats, and yet the increases in passenger numbers were generally below their expectations, leaving seats empty, especially since the riots caused by political opposition rabble rousers who almost welcome the negative economic fallout in a clear display of lack of patriotism.
Airline chiefs have, as a result, offered special deals, like Brussels Airlines giving a rebate for tourists coming to Uganda who have a prepaid gorilla tracking permit in their possession, in order to stimulate demand for holidays in Uganda through lower fares, no matter how difficult that is at present considering the constantly high aviation jet fuel prices.
In the airline meeting, demands were also made to bring down the cost of aircraft and passenger handling at the Entebbe International Airport with some airlines like Air Uganda continuing to demand permission from the Civil Aviation Authority for "self handling," citing nearly double the cost of handling in Entebbe compared to, for instance, Nairobi, where competition in the sector has brought charges down to considerably lower levels.
The airlines at the same meeting also criticized the ministry of finance for poorly facilitating tourism marketing and while appreciating the launch of a separate tourism ministry, decried the lack of seriousness by government to give it enough money to be able to carry out their mandate.