The government has secured US$7 million to revamp the Hotel and Tourism Training Institute in Jinja, the Minister of Tourism Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu has disclosed.
Speaking at the launch of the 5th Annual Hotels and Restaurant Expo that takes place at Hotel Africana early next month, Minister Kamuntu said the government wants to transform the institute into a regional centre of academic excellence in hands-on hospitality training in a bid to tap into the lucrative industry.
According to Kamuntu, Uganda is one of the top world tourist destinations to visit in 2017, based on the study by a UK company – Rough Guides, a reputable world travel guide, which ranked Uganda fourth behind India, Scotland and Canada.
Uganda boasts of fascinating features such as national parks, mountains, lakes and rivers and the diverse culture. All these, though underexplored put Uganda in the limelight when the topic of tourism in Africa comes up.
Currently, the minister said, the number of foreign tourists into Uganda has hit 1.3 million against government target of four million tourists by the year 2020.
In a related development the Minister said that Uganda would earn more revenue if the citizens embrace domestic tourism.
“Tourism is everybody’s business; we want Ugandans to know and enjoy their own country because tourism has become a global phenomenon” Kamuntu said at the government-owned Uganda Media Centre.
Minister Kamuntu said the on-going upgrading and construction of roads across the country is partly geared towards serving the tourism industry.
Economically, the minister said tourism is important to Uganda as the number one foreign exchange earner, bringing in over one billion dollars annually.
Speaking at the same occasion Mrs Susan Muhwezi, the Chairperson of Uganda Hotel Owners Association (UHOA), noted that despite the challenges faced by the tourism industry today, it directly employs over 450,000 people, 90 percent of whom work ply trade in the hotels and restaurants.
“The hospitality sector is the backbone of the tourism industry and thus the need to harness its potential through events like the hotels and restaurants expo,” she said.
Mrs Muhwezi further said hotels would give special rates to all Ugandans and foreign residents as a way of promoting domestic tourism.
Speaking of the upcoming hotels and restaurants expo, Mrs Muhwezi said it gives local hotels and restaurants platform to market themselves especially to domestic tourists.