It was learned from usually reliable sources that the ministry of finance seems set to inflict a major budget cut of nearly 20 percent on the ministry of tourism, trade, and industry for the next financial year, 2010/11. Figures obtained indicated a cut from the current year’s almost 48 billion Uganda shillings, or about US$24 million, to just over 41 billion Uganda shillings for the next financial year.
The proposed cut comes at a time when tourism marketing could urgently do with a financial boost so as to promote the country and the numerous attractions in existing, new, and emerging markets, but hope towards that end is now fading, when the extent of planned budget cuts became apparent.
Funding for the country’s marketing body, Tourism Uganda, aka, Uganda Tourist Board, has long been a bone of contention between the private sector and government, with the former often accusing government to pay mere lip service to the sector and continuing to think “tourism is just happening” without understanding that, for instance, in Rwanda and Kenya, the sector has developed so well over the years and after a severe crisis, BECAUSE government allocated major funding increases to sell the country.
Alongside, government has so far also failed to implement the tourism policy goal, set in 2003, to introduce a financing mechanism for tourism marketing through a “tourism development fund levy” as stone-age mindsets within sections of the ministry’s civil service do their best to hinder the launch of the levy, as it would also entail a range of other measures, mainly moving several oversight and executive functions to the reformed Tourism Uganda, a notion civil servants are not at all happy with.
In stark contrast, Kenya, last year’s winner as best tourist board in Africa by the “Good Safari Guide,” this year came second only to South Africa, which had poured mega millions into promoting the FIFA World Cup and their tourism industry, while Rwanda, for instance, walked off for the past four consecutive years as “Best African Stand” at ITB in Berlin.
With development partners also confirming that tourism is NOT on the list of economic priority sectors, they are asked to assist under bi- and multi-lateral assistance programs, while there is clearly a lack of political will to help the tourism industry in Uganda develop as it should, as it could, and to reach its full potential in terms of new investments, job creation, and foreign exchange earnings.