The Tourism Private Sector under their umbrella body Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) has taken a decision to boycott Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) activities.
This followed an invitation from UTB asking UTA to take part in the Board’s event-themed “Rediscover the magnificence of our pearl” scheduled on January 21 from which UTA decided to kick start the boycott.
Herbert Byaruhanga, the UTA President on Wednesday said that It is not, and never has it been the Private Sector’s wish to disconnect from anything related to tourism organized by any government agency but due to many reasons, the private sector of tourism and hospitality (array of associations) took the decision to stand aside.
According to Byaruhanga, amongst the many reasons for the boycott is the lack of engagement by the government (tourism) in decision making and planning for the sector and many other initiatives which make the private sector of tourism and hospitality feel sidelined.
“Being the drivers of the business, we feel excluded from this entire process. It should be noted that tour operators and other actors spend millions of dollars traversing continents looking for tourists/ clients which contributes so much to the country’s revenue,” he said.
In the years 2018/19, Uganda registered 14 Billion dollars from tourism and according to Byaruhanga, the amount is far above what the government injects in marketing the tourism sector.
Furthermore, Byaruhanga said the private sector of tourism and hospitality employs more than 600,000 people, especially the youth. However, throughout the Covid-19 period, the government deliberately ignored the tourism business without any stimulus package.
Despite tourism being a fundamental sector in Uganda, Byaruhanga said that the government also deliberately ignored tourism in the recent high-level workshop “5th Economic Growth Forum” that was held at Kampala Serena Hotel on January 13.
“On several occasions, the sector players have communicated to the Minister of Tourism, Chairman of the Board of Uganda Tourism Board, with no response. Therefore it does not make sense to us, the private sector of tourism and hospitality to blindly engage in activities of government to flag off initiatives where we are left out of the initial planning process,” he said.
He said it’s unfair for UTB to deem it right to extend invitations to private sector players to attend and listen to their undertakings and approve without any contributions which are clear rubberstamping the private sector players.
“To our end, this is irresponsible and utter disregard of the private sector,” said Byaruhanga.