The long awaited analytical study of Uganda’s tourism sector is finally out.
The Tourism Expenditure and Motivation Survey (TEMS), commissioned last year by the ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, in partnership with the World Bank and DFID, was released on Thursday at the Kampala Serena hotel. The economic and statistical study collected data on tourist expenditures, duration of stay, tourist activities, sites visited, level of satisfaction and suggestions for improvements in the sector.
While the study revealed that the number of non-resident visitors had increased over the years, there was a lot yet to be done for the country to make tangible benefits from the sector. For example, the study revealed that more than one million non-residents visited Uganda last year, and it was estimated that half of them stayed at least one night.
Surprisingly, only 19 per cent of these were leisure or cultural tourists, a segment industry players say Uganda must focus on to turn around its tourism fortunes. This was because the study revealed that leisure and cultural tourists spend 30 per cent to 100 per cent more than other types of tourists on a visit to Uganda.
Instead, the country gets 32 per cent of tourists coming for business reasons, 11 per cent for meetings or conferences, 20 per cent for family visits, and 5 per cent for spiritual/religious purposes. The remaining tourists come to Uganda for research, non-governmental organisation work and education.
“This substantial difference in spending makes these (leisure or cultural) tourists an attractive target in government efforts to increase the economic contribution of the tourism sector and reinforces the importance of strengthening the marketing of Ugandan tourism,” the report reads in part.
The report says 75 per cent of leisure and cultural tourists do not stay longer than two weeks – with their average length of stay being seven days, and 90 per cent of them don’t stay longer than one month. Also, only 20 per cent of the tours, who come for business meetings, conferences and family tourists undertake at least one trip to Uganda’s nature tourism sites – with destinations closer to Kampala being relatively more attractive.
Among the leisure tourists, the report reveals, the most popular trip activities include: wildlife safari (39 per cent), gorilla viewing (26 per cent), adventure tourism (25 per cent) and backpacker travel (17 per cent). Most tourists come from neighbouring countries: Kenya (16 per cent), Rwanda (10 per cent).
On their trip to Uganda, 40 per cent of the tourists visit other African countries, most importantly Kenya (visited by 20 per cent of all Ugandan tourists), Tanzania (12 per cent) and Rwanda (10 per cent). The study also reveals that most tourists obtain information regarding their trip to Uganda mainly through word of mouth.
However, leisure tourists rely much on travel agents, guide books, and the internet. Only 5 per cent of all tourists use Uganda Tourism Board’s (UTB) website as their main source of information, a damning indictment on the body’s efforts. UTB has over the years complained of being underfunded, with the body this year being allocated Shs 240m for marketing the country.
The study also found that tourists were for the most part highly satisfied with their trip to Uganda. However, respondents who were found at three entry points of Entebbe, Katuna and Malaba, identified transport within Uganda and insufficient visitor information, as well as the quality of customer service, as the main areas that need improvement.
Patrick Mugoya, the ministry’s permanent secretary, noted that the study would inform government decisions on how to increase the contribution that tourism makes to the growth of the economy, but also guide the ongoing process of formulating the tourism policy, which would later form the basis for the tourism master plan.
“We are moving systematically,” Mugoya said, adding that “as a new ministry, this is a great achievement for us to understand where we are before we plan where we want to go.”
Tourism has grown five fold over the last decade, according to official figures, spurred by the improvement in security in the northern part of the country. The study, however, points out that many challenges remain. They include the need for government leadership in developing the sector, especially for skills development, and more investment in the parks and other protected areas.
Compared to neighbouring countries, tourism is still a developing sector in Uganda. According to figures from World Travel and Tourism Council, the direct impact of tourism expenditures in Uganda amounted to 3.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012, compared to 4.8 per cent of GDP in Tanzania, 5 per cent in Kenya and 5.7 per cent in Madagascar.
According to the study, tourists in Uganda spend a total of Shs 1.1trillion, generating $1bn (Shs 2.7 trillion) in revenue annually.
“Policy simulations show that attracting extra 100,000 tourists to Uganda would add 11 per cent to exports and 1.6 per cent to GDP, which would further boost the country’s efforts to reduce poverty and boost its development prospects,” said Kirk Hamilton, the World Bank’s Lead Economist.
The study provides four areas where government policy and investment can increase tourism’s contribution to the economy. These include: marketing the country and increasing supply by encouraging the private sector to invest in tourism. The others are: removing bottlenecks by investing in infrastructure; particularly roads, and reducing the cost for tourists visiting the country, and investing in natural assets like the natural parks.
This year, the World Bank has earmarked $25m to be provided to government as a grant to invest in the tourism sector. Part of this money will go towards the renovation of the tourism training institute in Jinja.
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