Uganda: Higher Tourism Charges?
Thursday, 27 September 2012
Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage has proposed a ‘tourism development levy’ of USD23.3 on each tourist coming to Uganda. This would be raised through different avenues including parks, hotels and tour operators, and is expected to raise an additional USD15m for the tourism sector in Uganda.

However, it would also push the average cost of visiting Uganda up to USD151 per day from currently USD127.3, and make Uganda one of the most expensive destinations in East Africa alongside Rwanda. In comparison, the average cost per day for Kenya isUSD123 and for Tanzania USD126.

Travel to Uganda is still dominated by business tourism, and if implemented, this might make leisure tourism even less attractive: The economic crisis in the eurozone has depressed demand for leisure tourism, and while Tanzania and Kenya do not have mountain gorillas, they also offer attractive national park and, moreover, beach holidays.

Uganda’s tourism sector currently contributes 8% of GDP, and revenues have doubled in the last five years from USD440m to USD800m in 2011. However, it is worth noting that the number of arrivals coming to Uganda for leisure, recreation and holidays fell by 48.3% to 76,000 in 2011, down from 149,000 in 2010. Similarly, the number of visitors for business and professional purposes fell from 184,000 in 2010 to160,000 in 2011. The bulk of visitors, 603,000, came to visit friends and relatives.

The Ministry of Tourism claims that the investment gap for the sector currently stands at 82%, whereas the National Development Plan (2009-2014) data show a 45% investment gap. But there is the question of whether additional funds collected through this levy will be invested productively, or will be squandered. Wolfgang Thome also points out that the tourism levy was part of the implementation of a new tourism development policy launched in 2005, and its overall progress has been ‘agonisingly slow’. The budget to market Uganda in the international tourism industry is tiny. Thome notes that ‘the concept of the levy was created to benefit tourism marketing, the national hotel and tourism training institute in Jinja, as well as support a grant scheme, support for research and product development, and assistance to sector associations, but NOT to fill the coffers of the ministry itself.’ The tourism industry is opposed to such funds going directly to government.

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