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Uganda’s tourism private sector disputes government growth statistics

Uganda’s tourism private sector disputes government growth statistics

Ugandan tour and safari operators as well as the hotel association have jointly dismissed the figures presented by the Ministry of Tourism about sectoral grown for 2015, with one regular commentator calling them “pure fantasy” and “far from reflecting the truth on the ground which is completely different.”

A sectoral review of the report also harshly criticized the ministry for having published such figures without engaging with the private sector first to establish if the data contained in the report were accurate, drawing further fire from key stakeholders in the industry.

Having seen raw data during the year about occupancies in the hotel industry, where upcountry hotels were hit hard by the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) for the current financial year – a development President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni promised to reverse when meeting investors during the annual Investors Round Table a few weeks ago – it does indeed look likely that some fundamental errors may have crept into the “official data,” as figures seen were half and less of the occupancy figures in the report.

The situation of upcountry hotels took a turn for the worse, as the sudden increase in cost from VAT further depressed the demand for hotel accommodation in and around national parks.

One stakeholder claimed it would be helpful if the Uganda Wildlife Authority could publish timely updates on gate entries into the parks with some comparison over the past few years, to establish the number of tourists who are normally termed “foreign non-resident visitors.”

“Such data could help us to find out how the ministry’s cooked data translate into corresponding park entries for tourists,” said a commentator in an email sent late yesterday in response to a Tuesday query following the sector review meeting on Monday.

Key sector association leaders reportedly took serious issue with the data, putting official government departments on notice to review their report and either provide evidence how the data were arrived at, or else revise it to reflect the situation on the ground. Stakeholders also demanded a representation  of where such data are discussed and interpreted to avoid such situations arising again in the future.

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