UGANDA (eTN) – Long-standing demands by the Uganda tourism industry to revert to a stand-alone ministry dedicated to tourism and related areas finally seem to have fallen on fertile ears. News is firming up that the new cabinet in the making will once again have a Minister of Tourism with cabinet ranking. For the first time since the late 90s, the cabinet will be freed from the cumbersome set up of in-house competition with the departments of trade and industry.
If this is a pointer that the powers that be have finally understood the importance of the tourism sector, and its huge potential for job creation, direct foreign investment and domestic investment, foreign exchange earnings, and generally the opportunity to generate goodwill towards Uganda abroad, will remain to be seen. The forthcoming budget will undoubtedly give more concrete information just how well, or how badly, the new ministry will be facilitated and how much direct funding the Uganda Tourist Board will get, to finally get at least at level par with neighbors Rwanda and Kenya, which spend substantially more public sector money in promoting their destination overseas, and with enviable success one should add.
If controversial current tourism minister Hon. Kahinda Otafiire will remain in the portfolio, or be shifted to another position, remains to be seen, but there is hope that the recent series of gaffes by the minister may be reason enough to shift him to a less sensitive ministry where swiftly made and later much regretted utterances cannot do as much harm as it has done for the vital tourism industry.
With the anticipated split of tourism into a separate ministry the plans of a massive 60-story trade center at the site of the Uganda Museum may also be revisited, and while the tourism ministry deserves its own building, it may rather be of a smaller and more adequate and appropriate size and a different location after all.