Uganda Government has decided to remove exclusive zones in her national parks to boost park tourism following the construction of new accommodation facilities.
Twenty years ago, the Uganda Government gave exclusive rights to a few hoteliers to build accommodation facilities in the country’s three major national parks.
While the rights were aimed at boosting a dormant sector then, the move constrained the growth of the sector as visits to the parks have been constrained by limited accommodation there.
But the lifting of the exclusive rights is boosting the sector as investors take on ventures in the wildlife conservation areas.
The government had given the early proprietors a 25-kilometre exclusive zone for 30 years. That meant no other investor was allowed to erect a similar facility within a radius of 25 kilometres.
The stakeholders in the industry have welcomed Government’s decision saying it is working to boost to the sector.
Mr Ben Rwabutara, the Managing Director Palace Motel Ltd in Uganda’s Western town of Fort Portal says while security in the once insecure parks and mountainous area is good, inadequate accommodation remains a big challenge.
“Exclusive zones around the parks had affected the tourist arrivals since no investor was allowed to set up any infrastructure within a radius of 25 km”.He added
Rwabutura is currently setting up 20 self contained cottages on the periphery of Katwe Town council bordering Queen Elizabeth National Game Park. The cottages are like those in Kidepo National Game Park. Rwabutara are urging Government to aid the tourism sector if it is to be more competitive.
“Lack of Government input in helping people who are interested in developing the industry is a big problem.
Rwabutara said the government should help in identifying investors who are interested in constructing lodges.
Mweya Safari Lodge in Queen Elizabeth Park has a capacity of about 50 rooms and it is fully booked year-round.
State Minister for Tourism Serapio Rukundo, says the Ministry in conjunction with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) have identified areas suitable to tourism investors.
“The exclusive rights given to Madhvani are no longer there.” We discussed with Madhvani about the proposed sites for development,” Mr Rukundo said.
Queen Elizabeth Park in western Uganda covers 2,000 square miles, Murchison Falls, which lies in Gulu and Masindi, covers 3,840 square kilometres, while Kidepo in Karamoja is 1442 square kilometres wide. The Madhvani Group is the biggest concessionaire with a hotel in Queen Elizabeth National Park and two in Murchison Falls, among others.
Despite having unique tourist attractions, Uganda’s tourism sector remains the poorest in the East African region.