Kampala, Uganda — Uganda is set to rollout the second round of grading and classification of hotels and other tourism facilities to boost their competitiveness in the east African region.
Lily Ajarova, the Chief Executive Officer at the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) told the media on March.30 that the exercise which was halted last year as a result of coronavirus pandemic will now resume in May this year.
"The star-rating we give during the grading and classification has a life span of two years meaning that all facilities that were graded can no longer identify themselves with the star rating they were awarded because it expired, and this means that currently Uganda does not have any graded facilities," she said while opening a two-day refresher course for the country's 14-East African Community-certified hotel assessors at Protea Hotel, Entebbe.
"Due to Covid-19, a number of facilities' standards have gone down, so this exercise is important for safeguarding the standards in the sector and the competitiveness of Destination Uganda,"
"UTB'S decision to conduct classification envisions transforming the tourism sector into 'one of the top long-haul tourist destinations that offer a high-value, diverse and distinct visitor experience," she added.
Ajarova said UTB plans to carry out stakeholder sensitization especially the hoteliers a head of the facility's grading and classification.
This is the second time that Uganda is grading and classifying hotels and other tourism facilities since 2017 in which only 15 hotels were graded out of hundreds of tourism that needed the service.
The classification is based on a criteria defined by the East African Community standards and classifications of hotels and restaurants and other tourism facilities.
This developments comes at the time EAC is rooting for strategies to sale the region as a single tourism market destinations to the world.
Suzan Muhwezi, the vice chairperson of Uganda Hotel Owners Association said hoteliers are hopeful that mistakes that the government made in the first round of hotel grading and classification will not be repeated.
"During the first hotel grading and classifications, many of the hotel owners were not sensitized about the whole process," she said.
"Some hotels were given classification that does not fit them... some hotels were awarded Three-stars yet they indeed deserved to be First-Stars; while others, which were supposed to have been awarded Second-star were graded as Four-star hotels."
Muhwezi, however, said hotel grading and classification will help the country in marketing its facilities especially to foreign tourists seeking for specific services.
"Most tourists especially foreigners value the stars of the hotel they are booking and they always look forward to experiencing the standards of the indicated star of a particular hotel," she said.
The EAC Standards Criteria for Classification of Accommodation and Restaurant Establishments was developed in 2006 as one of the tools needed to implement the requirements of Articles 115 and 116 of the treaty for the establishment of the regional body, which outlines principles for co-operation in Tourism and Wildlife Management.
The criteria was first published in 2006 and includes schedules for the star rating classification of lodges, motels, tented camps, town hotels, vacation hotels, villas, cottages, serviced apartments and restaurants.
The system also covers material, non-tangible and tangible characteristics of accommodation facilities like supplies in bathrooms, frequency of change of linen, location, measurement of rooms, comfort, style, ambience, luxury and elegance, communication skills of staff and their grooming.
Uganda has over the past 13 years recorded tremendous growth in tourist arrivals from 844,000 in 2008/09 to 1,500,000 in 2018/19, according to UTB statistics.
As a result, the sector's foreign exchange earnings have nearly tripled, growing by more than 171%, from US$590 million to US$1.6 billion during the same period.
Barring the effects of COVID-19, UTB plans to grow international tourist arrivals from the key source markets like U.S., Europe and China from 210,000 to 500,000 tourists- a core element in increasing Uganda's annual tourism revenues from US$1.6 billion to US$3.0 billion by 2024/25.
This, the tourism marketing agency says, will increase the contribution of tourism to total employment from 6.3% to 10% which is equivalent to 433,000 new jobs or an increase from the current 667,600 jobs to 1.1million jobs.