Kampala — Tourism minister Ephraim Kamuntu has asked proprietors and managers of hotels in the country to improve their services so as to boost the tourism industry.
Speaking at celebrations for the 50 years anniversary of Sheraton Kampala Hotel yesterday, Mr Kamuntu warned that if the hospitality sector is not improved, it will negatively affect the growth and development of tourism business.
"Government is looking at tourism as a serious business and a change agent. Since hotel services are important to our tourists, they should be improved up to international standards so that we attract more tourists into the country," he said.
The minister was optimistic that improved hotel facilities would also help the country earn more foreign exchange which will in turn increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to the East African standards for grading and classification of hospitality facilities, 4 per cent of the total facilities are already qualified for grading.
"Given sensitisation which is a requirement before grading, 62 per cent of the facilities would be able to fulfil the requirements thereby qualify for grading," says the minister.
The 50 years' celebrations, to be crowned in August, will see the hotel compile peoples' memories, carry out general renovations of the facility, technological installations, re-opening of club project among other activities which managers said will help the hotel to compete at the international level.
Sheraton Kampala Hotel general manager Jean-Philippe Bittencourt asked government to improve infrastructure and manage traffic in the city and surrounding areas to ease the movement of guests and tourists in the country.
"As we are celebrating 50 years of existence, Uganda has an interesting culture and beautiful stories that have helped her people to become who they are. Infrastructure in Uganda affects tourists where they take a lot of time to reach their destinations due to bad roads.
"We have a role of recruiting, training and preparing young Ugandans to deliver services of hospitality and other hotel services to tourists and the country," he said.
He pledged to improve the hotel infrastructure and technological investment to reach the international level. "The world moves at a high speed in terms of technology, therefore we are going to be investing our profits in improving proper internet services to visitors, decorations to compete worldwide as well as re-opening the dance club project," Mr Bittencourt said.
Mr Bittencourt asked government to regulate the taxes imposed to help the industry stabilise and set affordable prices which would increase tourist attractions in the country.
"Much as we pay taxes, they should be moderate. The increasing taxes every year have affected business and investment in the country, which scares away tourists due to high costs of the facilities needed," he added.
Establishments. Statistics from the Ministry of Tourism indicate that by 2016, Uganda had more than 3,500 hotel establishments with more than 20,000 rooms and 30,000 beds.
In Kampala alone, accommodation facilities operate at approximately 53 per cent while hotels out of Kampala operate at less than 22 per cent occupancy. Lodges in the national parks operate between 8 and 13 per cent occupancy. If more tourists visited the facilities, the country would be earning more than the current $16m (Shs40b).