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Tourism Operators Demand Incentives

The operators want incentives inform of tax holidays, tax waivers on all imported tourism materials, policies on tourism development loans among others.
Stephen Asiimwe, former Uganda Tourism Board chief executive officer.

Audio 5

Tourism Operators are demanding more Incentives to boost investment in the sector. 

The operators want incentives inform of tax holidays, tax waivers on all imported tourism materials, policies on tourism development loans among others. 

Stephen Asiimwe, former Uganda Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer, says that the government and policymakers should take lessons from a few developments in the industry which were realized as a result of incentives that were indirectly given during the Common Wealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2007.  

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Asiimwe says that many tourism facilities are being affected by several taxes solicited by both the central and local government, which scares away investors.

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Jean Byamugisha, the Executive Director of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association, says offering them incentives would boost their operations. She notes that more than 90 percent of the hotels are built using bank loans at an interest rate of 20 percent plus per annum, a cost which is later passed on to the clients. 

Byamugisha says they have been receiving reports that one of the factors that have led to the decreased number of clients in most hotels is the high prices, which forces visitors to go for relatively cheap places.  

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Herbert Byaruhanga, the Vice President of Uganda Tourism Association says incentives are good if availed, but priority should be local investors who are struggling to sustain the industry.  

Byaruhanga says that if the incentives are availed, it will help them develop more tourism products, skills development, and marketing.  

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Bradford Ochieng, the UTB Deputy Executive Director, says the board has been tasked to advocate for incentives under the package, MICE-Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events.  

“We think that the four combined will give the best result for the sector. Incentives are highly important as they will see investors invest in the sector. However, this is not something that will happen at once as it will involve enjoyment of key players, policy makers, and top government officials” says Ochieng.   

The tourism industry has been consistently growing from 0.1 percent to now 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product-GDP. Records indicate that in 2017 the industry attracted 700,000 visitors who have however increased 1.6million which were record last year.

Currently, the ministry is laying strategies to promote tourism and increase on its earnings from the current Shilling 10 trillion to Shillings 17 trillion by 2020.   

The sector is also known for contributing to the local job market since currently 6 percent of Uganda’s labour force is directly employed in the sector. This includes employment by hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services.