Speaking during a meeting in Kampala yesterday the Association of Uganda Airline operators asked the government to scrap visa fees for tourists so as to grow tourist numbers. “Paying $50 (about Shs120, 000) each time a tourist crosses the border does not help at all,” the chairman board of Airline Representatives, Pierre Declerck said yesterday in Kampala.
According to the airline operators, the move, if embraced, will among others justify the relevance of the ministry as an independent docket, something they have long lobbied for. The association also wants the ministry to negotiate reduced airport charges, including the possibilities of having airlines doing their own handling, for all the costs incurred in this process are passed to the passengers.
Responding to the airliners, the commissioner for tourism Mr Justus Tindigarikayo said the government will take up the matter and do what it can to help the 20 airline operators not only to prosper but develop the country’s tourism. He however indicated that the ministry is developing tailor made messages to be used by different sectors in developing tourism. The messages will rotate around the slogan “Uganda the Pearl of Africa” and not “Uganda is gifted by nature” for the former was only necessary during the Chogm summit, years ago.
Despite challenges such as inadequate funding of the ministry, high hotel charges, low level of domestic tourism, and inexperienced human resource, particularly in tourism promotion, the industry remains the fastest growing in the economy.
In post budget meeting last week, the President of the Uganda Tourist Association, Mr Amos Wekesa said beside the creation of the Tourism ministry nothing considerable was provided for it, an indication that tourism is still not treated as a major economic sector. However, Mr Tindigarikayo seems to disagree on the grounds that sectors have been funded basing on their performance and priorities.