Hotels call on government to market venues, ease restrictions

By JONATHAN KAMOGA

The Ugandan hotel industry, grappling with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen hotel occupancy rates drop below 40% before the December holidays, now wants the government to ease restrictions and commercialize the country’s tourism in foreign markets, with an emphasis on its natural heritage.

Hoteliers say increased funding for tourism will generate more returns faster and save a collapsing economy.

According to Jean Byamugisha, managing director of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association, the industry’s hotel owners association, many of its members are suffering losses and riding on service bills. public and salaries pending.

Others have defaulted on their bank loans and the government has yet to say whether they will receive a share of the Covid-19 economic stimulus package.

“The health of the hotel industry can only be said by occupancy rates. On average, most hotels across the country are currently below 40% occupancy, ”Byamugisha said.

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Uganda, currently under partial lockdown, has imposed some of the region’s most stringent anti-pandemic measures, which have affected businesses and the livelihoods of individuals across sectors.

Byamugisha said the 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. curfew has killed nightlife, with local customers preventing hotels and foreign visitors from choosing destinations with greater freedom of movement.

“Much of the hotel business takes place at night and a 7pm curfew kills hotel business, with no chance of reviving the economy,” she said.

Before the pandemic, the sector was the country’s largest source of foreign exchange, generating around $ 1.6 billion in revenue per year.

The hotel industry contributes nearly seven percent of the country’s GDP, but receives only a meager one percent of the national budget.

Hoteliers are now calling on the government to adjust some of the restrictions and invest more in commercializing the country’s tourism potential in overseas markets, with an emphasis on Uganda’s natural heritage and as a space for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.

Hoteliers say increased tourism funding will generate more returns faster and save a collapsing economy.

Last week, Treasury Secretary Ramathan Ggoobi told reporters in Kampala that next year’s budget will focus on sectors of the economy that can accelerate short-term economic recovery, including tourism.

“The majority of our tourism income comes from international tourism. After the opening of the remaining Covid-19 restrictions, there should be no question of investing in the sector. For us, we believe that the government should inject more money into promoting Uganda as a destination and sponsoring the private sector to, for example, attend international exhibitions from which they can attract tourists to come. in Uganda, ”said Byamugisha.

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