The Tourism Sector earned Uganda a record-breaking sh105.3 billion in revenue in the 12 months leading to June 2023, which translates into a 113% growth in performance, according to the Uganda Tourism Development Programme Annual Performance Report released on Wednesday last week during the first annual tourism programme review conference at Hotel Africana in Kampala.
The notable performance is attributed to an increase in the number of domestic and international visitors to national parks, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), and other tourist attractions in the country.
The report indicates that the number of visitors to national parks almost grew by 100% in the Financial Year 2022/2023, from 189,988 in 2021 to 367,869 owing to vigorous marketing campaigns by the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, together with its agencies Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) and UWEC.
Furthermore, the Uganda Museum saw an increase in visitor numbers from 2,883 in 2021 to 67,366 in 2022 while UWEC received 486,464 visitors in 2022 compared to only 131,117 people in 2021.
Uganda’s tourism witnessed a significant recovery in the year 2022 where a total of 814,508 tourist arrivals were recorded translating into a 59% increase from the year 2021 where a total of 512,945 were recorded. While this reflects positive progress in the sector’s post-pandemic comeback, the performance is only 53% of the arrivals in the year 2019.
The soaring numbers can be attributed to the full reopening of key tourism source markets, including Europe, North America, Asia, China, Japan and Africa. Africa continued to be the primary source of tourists to Uganda in 2022, accounting for 88% of total international arrivals.
Tourism Sector performance
The Tourism Minister, Hon. Tom Butime while launching the report noted that the realised revenue surpassed the sh92.8 billion set for the financial year 2022/2023.
Tourism contribution to total employment is currently at 14.7% (1,559,147 million jobs) against the NDP III target of 7.5%.
During the financial year, the cultural heritage conservation was boosted and the visitation to cultural heritage sites increased to unprecedented levels.
“In the last financial year, only 31% of the planned funding was approved, which could only cover the fixed costs of wage, gratuity, rent, animal welfare, protected area management as well as sustenance of training institutions,” Butime said
“The achievement was registered in areas of expenditure per international tourist, which increased to $1,150, against the NDP target of 1,361, the number of Ugandans visiting key tourist attractions which surpassed a million mark, and the accommodation capacity, where the total number of rooms in accommodation facilities were 350,550,” he explained.
The tourism minister revealed that there was significant growth in the elephant and antelope population owing to improved wildlife ecosystems. This can be attributed to intensified conservation efforts by UWA, UWEC and private conservation organisations.
In 2022 alone, the total contribution of tourism to GDP was sh7.9 trillion (4.7% of GDP). This reflects the economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel airlines, activities of restaurants and leisure industries, as well as the wider effects from investments, the supply chain and induced income.
The sector represents a substantial 12.2% of the country’s total exports and a significant 41.4% of its service exports for the year. The hotel and accommodation sub-sector attained occupancy rates of 46.9% in 2022 from the low of 20.1% recorded in the year 2020.
Butime also revealed that the 2022 performance was below the levels before the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the country where a non-tax revenue of sh130 billion was registered in the 2018/2019 financial year.
He noted that the low performance is majorly due to inadequate budgetary allocations of only about 30 percent of the NDP III requirements.
The report also cites insecurity arising from political instabilities in some of the neighbouring states, disease outbreaks, negative media coverage and travel advisories as major challenges impeding the performance of the sector.
The tourism ministry also points out the limited facilities and training equipment at Uganda Hotel and Tourism Training Institute (UHTTI) and Uganda Wildlife Research and Training Institute (UWRTI), increasing pressure from the expanding human populations resulting in human-wildlife conflicts, illegal activities such as poaching or killing wildlife outside park boundaries, climate change, as well as habitat destruction, invasive species, encroachment on cultural heritage sites; and increased intensity of problem animals.
Meanwhile, international tourist arrivals doubled to 963 million when compared to the year 2021, but remained 34% below 2019 levels. Most of the recovery was recorded in the regions of Europe and the Middle East with the latter reaching 90% of the pre-COVID-19 levels.
Africa recovered to 67% and Asia was at the lowest realising only 28% of the 2019 levels due to stricter pandemic-related restrictions.
Furthermore, in the year 2022, the tourism sector contributed 7.6% of the global GDP, supported 295 million jobs, and accounted for 9% of total employment.
All economies earned tourism foreign exchange totaling US$1 trillion in the year 2022, but the average expenditure by an international visitor was still low at only 64% of pre-COVID-19 levels. The East African Community (EAC) attracted 5.2 million tourists, a 49.4% increase from 2021, but still 39.8% lower than 2019 levels.