The tourism sector continues to be a pivotal sector and the leading foreign exchange earner of the Ugandan economy. Uganda is endowed with a variety of tourist attractions; among other things home to 53.9 per cent of the world’s mountain gorillas, 7.8 per cent of the world’s mammal species including the unique tree climbing lions and white rhinos, 11 per cent of the world’s bird species (1063 bird species), and a variety of butterflies.
Tourism contribution to Uganda’s economy
- In FY 2015/16, Uganda earned USD 1.35bn from tourism. The country recorded a total of 1.73 million international arrivals and 1.71 million departures in 2015
- Tourism contribution to GDP increased from Ushs 6.3 trillion in 2014 to Ushs 7.3 trillion in 2015, representing a 14 percent growth.
- A total of 1.172 million people were employed (both directly and indirectly) in tourism in 2015.This was a 33% increase from employment in 2014. Direct employment in the tourism sector was 0.46 million people in 2015 and 0.322 million people in 2014. Consequently, the sector contributed 7.8 percent to total employment in 2015 and 6.1 percent in 2014.
Against this background, the tourism sector has therefore been identified as key sector for growth. For the next five years, government’s focus is to undertake aggressive marketing in order to increase its foreign earnings. In addition, government will focus on the following;
- Establishment of tourism facilitating infrastructures (energy, water, and ICT);
- Development of appropriate skills and improvement in tourism related services;
- improvement in the number and quality of accommodation and hospitality facilities;
- strengthening the provision of security and protection of tourists and tourist attraction sites;
- combating poaching and elimination of wildlife dispersal to ensure maximum exploitation of tourist attractions and amenities;
- improvement in capacity building and tourism management (Regulation and enforcement, grading and classification of hotels and restaurants) and;
- Conservation of tourism sites and wildlife.
Uganda is ranked lowest in terms of leisure and holiday visitors, as a result of weak targeted destination marketing. At regional level, security threats and disease outbreaks, negative media and adverse travel advisories have led to decline of tourists within the region. Other challenges include poor air transport and inadequate hospitality industry skills. Consequently, tourist visits to key tourism locations have declined. For instance, despite the increase in visitations to National Parks from about 203,000 visitors in 2014 to 216,000 visitors in 2015, there has been a 13% decline in the number of foreign non-residents over the same period.
To mitigate these challenges, government continues to implement the National Tourism Sector Development Plan (2015/16-2019/20) in order to enhance diversification of tourism products, aggressive promotion, nature conservation, skills development, infrastructure development and the regulation of the sector. In FY 2017/18, government will focus on the following interventions:
- Skills development for tourist and hotel service providers to enhance standards to world class levels by promotion and enforcement of hotel and restaurant standards through certification;
- Improving access to tourism sites by rehabilitation of tourism roads, which among others include: Moroto – Kotido – Kaabong, Kisoro-Bwindi, Katunguru – Ishasha; and Renovation of major tourism sites and promotion of investment in affordable accommodation in order to promote domestic tourism;
- Continued diversification of tourism products beyond nature viewing to cover cultural, religious and political sites;
- Tourism promotion and marketing;
- Maintaining security through protection of tourism sites.