12 September 2006

Uganda Hotels Not Ready for Commonwealth Summit

Nairobi — Ugandan hotels are not prepared for next year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, a survey by the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry has revealed.

The survey was released during a Sensitisation Workshop for CHOGM Accommodation Preparation workshop in Kampala on August 30.

The EastAfrican has obtained details of the survey, which states that most hotels are yet to comply with the minimum requirements such as fire and safety as well as health and hygiene.

The quality of accommodation and service in most establishments was also found to be below internationally acceptable standards. Another area of concern according to the survey is lack of professionalism among hotel workers. The quality of staff training and grooming was found to be low, which is reflected in the poor quality service in many establishments.

Addressing the workshop, the Permanent Secretary in the Tourism, Trade and Industry Ministry Dr Sam Nahamya said the problems revealed were critical to the country's preparedness and would affect its capacity to offer quality service to guests.

"It is, therefore, imperative that the shortcomings that have been identified be urgently addressed," he said.

Dr Nahamya added that the government had designed a response package that involves sensitisation, promotion, training and regulatory enforcement to prepare for the conference.

He said the workshop marked the beginning of the programme to ensure that hotels and other facilities met the required standards.

"There is no ready solution to the challenges already noted and even to those that are likely to emerge. It is, however, hoped that through this consultative process, effective strategies to bridge the gaps will be agreed upon and implemented."

He also noted that a meaningful public-private partnership was the way to go in any efforts to create sustainable improvement in the tourism and hospitality industry.

He also reaffirmed the government's commitment and support for the hospitality sector and recognised the industry's role in the development of tourism. He said the government envisages a competitive and vibrant hospitality sector that contributes to employment and creation of wealth.

The recommendations that emerged from the workshop are part of the preparatory process for hosting the meeting, which is expected to be attended by more than 3,000 delegates.

"The summit provides Uganda with a unique opportunity to showcase its potential to the rest of the world not only as an international events and conference venue, but also as a trading partner and an investment area," he said.

The 53-member Commonwealth club decided to host the summit in Uganda at its last meeting in Malta in 2005. The Uganda government then formed an accommodations sub-committee to facilitate the hosting of the guests. Dr Nahamya chairs the committee whose task is to accredit hotels.

At least 3,000 hotel rooms of international standard and 60 presidential suites are needed to host the delegates.

There were over 950 hotel rooms of international standard in Kampala and Entebbe by mid this year and there has been a concerted effort by the hoteliers to create more accommodation.

The government estimates that it will spend about $50 million on the biennial meeting.

During his official visit to Uganda last June, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon said he was happy with the progress Uganda has made in preparation for the meeting.

"I have been told by the president and the ministers who are organising the meeting that everything will be in order before the meeting which is only 10 months away," McKinnon said.

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