The national budget framework 2013/14 notes that tourist spending in the country increased from $564m in 2009 to $662m in 2010, reflecting a 14% increase.
But in the 2012/2013 budget, tourism received only sh10.9b or about 0.1% of the national budget.
Alex Asiimwe, the principal policy analyst in the tourism ministry, says this mainly catered for capacity building through training, administrative pay and policy and regulations formulation.
“With such minimal allocations from the national budget, most work cannot be done,” says Asiimwe.
The Uganda Tourism Board is faced with a sh17b funding shortfall, according to a strategic sector development plan.
Asiimwe notes that lack of funds affects marketing and human skills in the sector.
Uganda spends just $25,580 on marketing its tourism potential compared to $23m by Kenya, $10m byTanzania and $5m by Rwanda annually.
Asiimwe says there is need to improve hotels, change mindsets of the local population and build capacity.
Lillian Nsubuga, the Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesperson, says extra effort is needed to improve the sector.
“The potential in the tourism industry is high and can provide employment opportunities to the youth if developed,” she notes.
“Other industries such as fisheries and agriculture are declining, yet tourism is growing. Soon it will be the main income earner for Uganda.”
She adds that to achieve this, the Government needs to take the lead to market tourism.
Tourist arrivals increased 17% to 945,899 in 2010, from 806,658 in 2009. There was a 25% increase in the number of visitors to national parks from 151,818 in 2009 to 190,112 in 2010.
Close to 209,000 visitors visited the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre of which 95% were Ugandans.
“We need to organise trips for international tour operators and showcase what Uganda has to offer so that when tourists go to them, they are in position to recommend our country as a destination,” Nsubuga says.
Edward Semanda, a travel consultant, says the budget does not favour tourism even though it is one of the major sources of foreign exchange.
A minimal amount is allocated to the sector, which cannot ably finance the numerous tourism developmental activities.
“Most ministries rotate around tourism, but there is a lot of reluctance. For example, the tourism ministry had no idea about the Misabwa Island,” he notes.
Semanda cites lack of a national airline as another challenge facing the sector. He also notes that some of the hotels have been abandoned and used for other purposes.
Semanda adds that the poor roads delay movement, hence leaving many tourist attractions unexplored.
However, the Government is working to improve tourism infrastructure.
The national budget framework 2013/14 reveals that 40km of tourism roads will be rehabilitated and sh10b will be set aside to rehabilitate the Kasese Aerodrome to international airport standards.