UGANDA (eTN) – Details are beginning to emerge of how best to make operational certain provisions in the Tourism Act pertaining to the introduction of a levy, which could solve the perennial problems of marketing funding the sector has suffered over the past two decades.
While provided for in law, the implementation of the levy, alongside other provisions, has stalled similar to the implementation of significant parts of the tourism policy launched in 2005, which at the time was looked upon as groundbreaking for the region. Much of it has found its way in to the current strategies of neighboring countries how best to tap into tourism resources while due to lack of funding and what more and more appears to be a general lack of interest in the sector by the powers that be, besides lip service being paid from time to time, progress in Uganda has been agonizingly slow.
A source within the corridors of the Ministry of Tourism has confirmed that a consultant had been engaged to look into alternative funding sources even though it appears that the provisions for the levy and the intended beneficiaries may have been misunderstood. The concept of the levy was created to benefit tourism marketing, the national hotel and tourism training institute in Jinja, as well as support a grant scheme, support for research and product development, and assistance to sector associations, but NOT to fill the coffers of the ministry itself.
Subsequently, concerned stakeholders have raised the alarm over such plans, including questioning the possible collection methods to be used. What has been broadly opposed is any collected funds go to government directly, as getting even a fraction back for the intended purpose will be a Herculean task. Some stakeholders looked at the mechanism of Kenya’s CTL collections, known as Catering and Training Levy, which now goes into a dedicated trust fund, administered by a board of trustees which include a significant participation from the private sector, to ensure that funds are not misused or diverted to finance general ministry duties.
Suggestions made by the consultant to load levy payments on Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) park fees, the CAA’s airport taxes, and others have also met with stiff resistance, as it would further impact on the overall cost of a holiday in Uganda, already among the highest in the region, leaving tourism stakeholders with the difficult task to formulate a united front, speak with one voice, make a series of sound and practicable proposals, and then lobby across the board to have their input incorporated in the way forward.