Tourism minister Ephraim Kamuntu (right) with state minister Godfrey Kiwanda, Uganda Toursm Board executive director Stephen Asiimwe and Uganda Wildlife Education Centre director James Musinguzi at the Media Centre on Tuesday afternoon: PHOTO BY RAYMOND MAYANJA

KAMPALA: Government has hired three international private companies to market Uganda in Europe and USA. Tourism minister Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu revealed that government is paying $2.1m (Shs7.8b) to the three firms.

“These firms are doing well. The visibility of the country is now seen. I have just returned from South Africa but I can assure you, we are being felt. By the end of 2017, the number of tourists coming from Europe and America had increased by 17%,” Kamuntu revealed on Tuesday at the Uganda Media Centre.

Prof Kamuntu was addressing journalists during a media briefing on the ministry’s achievements as part of celebrations of the NRM party Manifesto Week.

The three firms, Kamuntu said are based in Germany, UK and USA. Across the world, Kamuntu explained that tourism is the fastest growing sector. For Uganda, to be able to get more tourists, Kamuntu said there should be aggressive marketing both at domestic and at international level.

Flanked by state minister for Tourism Godfrey Kiwanda and other officials from the ministry, Kamuntu also said the NRM government has hired other firms to market Uganda in China, Japan and Gulf States, costing $400,000 (Shs1.45b).

The target, according to Kamuntu is for Uganda to receive four million tourists every year, adding that the missions are busy marketing the country.

Figures from the Tourism ministry show that government currently earns $1.3million from tourists.

Projects

Government is planning to install cable cars at the Rwenzori Mountain so that tourists don’t climb the mountain physically.

Kamuntu said a feasibility study on the cable cars has been done and the ministry is looking for funds to start the project.

The ministry also wants to involve communities residing near the national parks by sharing the revenues collected.

As part of expanding the tourism base, government also embarked on renovating the Ankole Kingdom palace and Prof Kamuntu said the palace is so far fenced.

On his part, Kiwanda asked young people to embrace tourism, to enable government achieve the four million tourists.

He commended the cultural institutions like Buganda Kingdom, for getting involved in marketing Uganda.

“Promoting Uganda is a joint venture,” he explained.

Challenges

One of the challenges, the sector face, Kamuntu said it is the perception many Ugandans have towards, the tourism sector.

“They don’t know that it is fast growing sector. I hear people telling their lazy friends that they are tourists here. They don’t know that tourism is the top exchange foreign earner,” he explained.

The ministry also said it is affected by inadequate funding from the government, to be able to pay services like water bills, internet, electricity and  limited staffing.

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Govt allocates Shs7.8b for tourism promotion in Europe, Asia