BY LILLY AJAROVA
Today, Uganda joins the rest of the world to mark World Tourism Day 2019 at the PECE Stadium in Gulu. This year’s celebrations are organized under the theme: Tourism and Jobs, a better future for all. Celebrated every 27 September around the world, the purpose of World Tourism Day is to foster awareness among the international community on the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value.
The day seeks to address global challenges outlined in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and highlight the contribution the tourism sector can make in reaching these goals.
As a nation, this year’s theme particularly speaks to an important section of the new development Agenda for Uganda which is job creation.
According to the just-released Annual Tourism Sector Performance Report (FY2018/19), international visitor arrivals increased by 7.4% from 1,402,409 in 2017 to 1,505,669 in 2018. This is well above global and Africa’s tourism growth rates, which in 2018 stood at 3.9% and 5.6%, respectively, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
This subsequently led to a 10.3% growth in forex earnings, from US$ 1.45 billion in 2017 to US$1.6 billion in 2018. The sector also accounted for 7.7 percent of the national GDP.
The improved performance is attributed to increased stakeholder marketing efforts (both domestic and abroad), increased participation and understanding of tourism and its role in the economy, increased investments in the sector as well as a stable political environment and improved conservation efforts.
This growth has had a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of Ugandans and Ugandan households, through especially the creation of jobs. Sector employment grew by 10.3% from 605,500 jobs in 2017 to 667,600 jobs in 2018, much faster than overall economic growth, which stood at 5% in 2018. Of specific significance is the fact that 77% of the sector jobs go to the youth (18 – 30yrs) and 58% of sector employees are women.
In the same line, the World Bank is financing the construction of a new Hotel and Tourism Training Institute in Jinja which will help in improving the skillset of persons employed in the sector. Most crucially, the private sector should join hands with government so as to ensure that the training here meets their needs.
Currently, Uganda Tourism Board is prioritizing tourism product development, diversification and investment as one of the ways to increase jobs in the sector and give our tourism offering a competitive edge.
We currently have two bankable products for investment along the equator and another on marine tourism. We believe that once these products are taken on, we shall have hundreds of jobs opening up in the sector and the boost to the economy will be evident.
Furthermore, during FY 2018/19, the sector identified and initiated the development of coffee, agriculture and homestays as viable tourism products. The highly inclusive nature of these products will support the economic transformation of regional communities across Uganda through job creation and income generation amongst the youth and the elderly.
As UTB, we undertook a countrywide retraining, registration and certification of all tour guides. The underlying aim of this exercise is to equip the guides with basic definitions, concepts of tourism, why it is important to provide professional tourism experiences, contribution to socio economic development at local and national level, value chain nodes, typologies, relevant laws and policies, government and private actors and institutions.
We are happy that private sector actors have also undertaken similar trainings with the guides.
As travelers begin to show interest in lesser traveled parts of the country, there will also be an increase in job requirements in rural areas. We are positive about Uganda’s prospects.
The author is the Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Tourism Board.