The government is planning to renovate four airstrips in different parts of the country as part of its strategy to develop the tourism industry. This directive was given by President Museveni to the Minister of Works and Transport and his tourism counterpart during a cabinet meeting last week.
The Minister for Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities, Tom Butiime, revealed this while officiating the seventh edition of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo-POATE in Munyonyo, Kampala. The President ordered that the airfields of Kasese, Kidepo Pakuba, and Kisoro be tarmacked and coded to enable tourists with private jets to easily access the tourism sites around these fields.
Butiime explained that this would enable tourists from Dubai or Frankfurt to fly directly to these destinations. There will also be immigration posts at all these four airfields to cater to these visitors.
According to Butiime, this move will be a game-changer in the country’s tourism sector as tourists can visit destinations around all these four places without having to come to Kampala or Entebbe for journey connections. As the renovations will be done, Butiime added that there would be immigration posts to cater to these visitors at all these four airfields.
He cautioned the different tourism sector players, especially those in the hotel industry, to maintain the East African set standards for their facilities if the industry is to go back to its growth rate after the Covid lockdown. This presidential directive has come at a time when the proposed budget for the severely Covid-19 hit sector for the 2023/24 financial year has been revised to 214 billion shillings, up from 89.2 billion that was indicated in the budget framework paper.
Though the proposed increment is still at a 70 percent shortage of the required 696 billion shillings, it supersedes the 190 billion that had been allocated to the sector in the same financial year. David Migereko, the chairperson of the Uganda Tourism Board, applauded the system of issuing a single tourist visa among all East African counties, saying it has transformed the industry in the region.
He added that the POATE conference is a forum aimed at marketing the country’s tourism better. The government has four priority areas strategy for developing this industry.
The East African Community Secretary-General, Jean Havigimana, reminded the attendants that tourism has been identified as a priority sector in the EAC treaty, and the partner states agreed to promote and market it collectively. He said that significant milestones have been registered in implementing joint activities in the sector, like the development of the East African hotel classification criteria and setting minimal standards for tour operators and guides, as well as a single tourist visa by some partner states.
By the year 2024, they will be back to the pre-pandemic arrivals. Lilly Ajarova, the CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board, revealed that post-pandemic, African visitors contribute up to 70 percent of all visitors to Uganda. Ajarova said that the new direction for the tourism industry is to focus on minimizing the negative impacts on host communities as the emerging trend to ensure worthwhile and accountable tourism.
This will be achieved through promoting the use of recyclable materials, reducing waste, but also promoting the conservation of the environment while respecting host communities.