The Uganda Hotel Owners Association
THE UGANDA HOTEL Owners Association (UHOA) was founded by Dr. BM Kibirige in May, 2000 when he came to the realisation that hotel owners in Uganda needed to come together and create an atmosphere conducive to business.
Until that point in time hotels had been largely ignored by the Government, despite the fact that they had always been the biggest investors within the tourism sector. 18 years later, UHOA now boasts more than
500 member hotels, is well recognised by the Government of Uganda and holds a seat on the Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Wildlife Authority and Private sector Foundation.
Jean Byamugisha, Executive
Director of the Uganda Hotel
Owners Association tells us about her vision for the future, and the
Association’s support for the tourism industry as a whole. Africa Outlook (Afo): Since inception, how has Uganda Hotel Association developed and progressed in terms of its key objectives and the messages it tries to get across?
Jean Byamugisha (JB): Since May, 2000, UHOA has grown in leaps and bounds and expanded its vision for the future. When UHOA was first created, it was purely limited to the needs of the hotel sector. Today UHOA is an advocate for the Ugandan tourism industry because we realise that for the hotels to grow, the entire tourism industry must grow as well. So today, much of our key objectives and messages are for the overall development of the tourism sector in Uganda with key emphasis on the investment and
growth of the hotel sector. UHOA is also passionate about the capacity building and general welfare of the hotel staff. As the biggest employers in the tourism industry, we aim to create a precedent and lead by example in terms of staff welfare.
Afo: Taking a more general industry stance, how would you evaluate the tourism sector in Uganda now compared to its condition when the Association began?
JB: The easiest way I can explain this is the comparison of night and day; 18 years ago, tourism was largely ignored both by the Government and the private sector. Not only did we receive minimum funding from the Government, tourism was also housed under the Ministry of Trade receiving a lot less attention. Today, Tourism has a standalone Ministry, the Ministry of
Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and receives quite considerable funding to support most of the marketing activities for the sector. Tourism is now the biggest foreign exchange earner for Uganda as well as the second biggest employer second only to agriculture. Tourism has also been recognised by Government as one of the three sectors that will drive Uganda’s economy into the middle income status.
Afo: What is in store for Uganda over the course of 2018 and beyond to continue the good work already commenced and to enhance its reputation as a tourism and business travel hub further in the future?
JB: We are putting plans in place for a lot more lobbying and advocacy. Uganda will continue to lobby and advocate for the tourism sector especially at the international forums in regards to positioning Uganda as a MICE destination. UHOA is very passionate about ensuring that we have much better occupancy rates for the hotels in 2018 so we shall be carrying out many domestic tourism campaigns to make sure we have more Ugandans and foreign residents visiting the country. UHOA will also be participating in many international events to meet international hotel investors and encourage them to come and set up hotels within the country so as to facilitate the MICE market of travellers. Afo: Finally, looking forward, if we were to speak again in three-five years’ time, what progress and development would you hope and expect to be able to report back, both in regards to the Uganda Hotel Association as an entity, and in regards to the business travel industry in Uganda as a whole?
JB: I would imagine that in threefive years time UHOA will have more than 1,000 member hotels. UHOA will be the strongest private sector association in Uganda and the biggest advocate for the tourism industry. In the next five years, I really hope to see Uganda as one of the biggest MICE destinations in Africa. We should be able to compete with giants like South Africa in this regard.
Murchison Fall National Park