East African Business Week – Kampala — Uganda will under the new Tourism act, enforce and emphasize standards of tourist guides in a measure to create discipline and professionalize the industry, the tourism minister said in Kampala.
Mr. Ephraim Kamuntu while awarding medals and certificates to over 30 tourist guides, who trained in guiding techniques and principles at the Uganda Museum in Kampala, emphasized the need for the guides to acquire adequate training because they are the face of Uganda in front of tourists.
“The new law will not allow everybody to handle tourists. Only trained and registered guides will be allowed to take tourists to parks and different heritage sites,” said Kamuntu.
He noted the government is finalizing steps to set up the Tourism Police within the Tourism Ministry to ensure good conduct and safety of tourists.
“Tourism is an engine for economic growth under the National Development Plan. We shall mainstream its Small and Medium Enterprises into the industrial sector,” he stressed.
Mr. Herbert Byaruhanga, the president of the Uganda Safari Guides Association (USAGA), noted that the association started 18 years ago with an aim of improving the quality, profession and standard of all safari guides in the country.
“Mr. Minister, we still have a challenge of the business community not being aware of the equipments needed by tourist guides like binoculars and recorders. “There is also lack of emphasis on guiding principles in high learning institutions, many people don’t want to share information about the history of Uganda and we see that domestic tourism is still less developed,” said Byaruhanga.
The Association of Uganda Tour Operators’ President, Mr. Boniface Byamukama, believes that the tourism industry can change Uganda’s economy however; it’s still faced with challenges of inadequate marketing and promotional funds.
Tourism earned Uganda about $660m last year, contributing 9.2% to the GDP.
Byamukama reiterated the need for Uganda to form a committee that will strategize for Uganda’s naming of the best/number one world destination for this year by Lonely Planet magazine. He also called for the waiving of park entry fees for tourist guides though urging them to improve on their conduct and professionalism while carrying out their duties.
“On several occasions my office has received reports of guides stealing tourist money and property and, transportation of unauthorized passengers with tourists.
“This must stop if not the law will stop it,” Byamukama noted.