UGANDA (eTN) – The opening of a tourism exhibition yesterday, organized by the kingdom of Buganda, brought the Minister of Finance from the Uganda government into play, when she visited the fair. She officially recognized the role tourism can play in the development of the country and of the kingdom in terms of investments, job creation, and earnings for the country of foreign exchange, now needed more than ever to combat the slide in the value of its currency. The Hon. Maria Kiwanuka then went on to say that the tourism sector was at the core of the country’s new 5-year strategy of creating wealth for all before asking why Uganda had failed to tap into the tourism resources like other countries, demanding that “Uganda must be marketed.”
Indeed, Madam Finance Minister, Uganda must be marketed but marketing must be facilitated. It is appreciated that your arrival into office on Budget Day did not leave you the opportunity to stamp your mark on the document you presented to the nation, but the time to change this is NOW, setting the course for a supplementary budget allocation to the tourism ministry and the Uganda Tourist Board and to ensure that in the 2012/13 budget framework enough funds are set aside for tourism marketing to match the expenditure or our immediate neighbours Rwanda and Kenya. Both countries are reaping from their investments in tourism marketing while the meager handouts from government to the tourism sector here are a constant constraint and explain at least in part why we have not fully exploited our potential for the sector.
And there is more, demand in cabinet that the tourism policy, now in place for almost 7 years, is finally implemented and the funding mechanisms prescribed in it, i.e., the tourism levy, is finally implemented and channeled directly to the sector, DIRECTLY and not via the general fund from which a fraction at best would be returned to the industry. And when that is done, consult with your colleague Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu in the Tourism Ministry how to revamp and revitalize our tourist board to inject the brightest marketing minds found in Uganda into the organization to then go out and tell the world all about Uganda, “The Pearl of Africa.” Let deeds follow your words, Madam Minister, as all we got so far from our government, over many years, was lip service, paying tribute to an industry which could be the country’s locomotive of growth when we need it most, and yet an industry from which government habitually takes and really never gives back to. It is time to act, Madam Minister.