Jean Byamugisha Executive Director, Uganda Hotel Owners’ Association
Jean Byamugisha Executive Director, Uganda Hotel Owners’ Association

Uganda Hotel Owners’ Association Executive Director Jean Byamugisha on “Marketing Uganda Through Ugandans” at the launch of Hospitality report 2017

There have been a lot of tourism campaigns arising all over East Africa recently with Uganda taking the lead; yet we still do not seem to be performing as well as expected. What is missing in marketing Uganda as a top African destination?

There are many factors that go into making a marketing campaign successful. One of these is income. A campaign can only be successful if the public has disposable income to go out and actually tour the country, which unfortunately has not been the case for us. Most Ugandans also don’t have a “holiday culture”. There is a misconception that holidays are expensive and so most people prefer to go to the villages and this renders the marketing campaigns ineffective. Other factors include poor customer care, expensive hotels, expensive costs of transport, lack of aggressive local and international media campaigns etc, that all play into achieving the desired objective of the marketing campaign.

However, these last few months, for the first time in a long time, we have seen tourism finally start gaining attention from the government. We are very appreciative of our Hon Minister of State for Tourism Hon Kiwanda for the enthusiasm he has brought to the tourism industry with the “Tulambule,” initiative that’s aimed at the domestic market.

Domestic tourism seems to be at the forefront of Uganda’s tourism strategy since the appointment of Mr. Kiwanda the new State Minister for Tourism, what more needs to be done for Ugandans to see clearly what Uganda has to offer?

I think our Minister Kiwanda has hit the nail on the head with the “Tulambule” campaign. The minister has also made very good progress in getting all the stakeholders to speak one language. Now hotels have a great working relationship with the tour operators and safari guides and this is creating an enabling environment for business in the industry.

More needs to be done in terms of getting sponsors on board so as to “make noise” on the products that Uganda has on offer especially for fellow Ugandans. We need to see more Uganda’s visiting their country and making use of social media to encourage others to join them. We also need to appeal more to the local and regional market seeing as Kenya is Uganda’s biggest source market and Rwanda, a strategic partner.

The grading of hotels commenced last year 2016 to help improve standards of hotel properties in the country, how relevant is this system as of now especially to so many Ugandans who prefer affordability?

Actually grading commenced in 2014 and the first batch of hotels to be graded were awarded their stars in 2015. 2016 saw 38 hotels outside of Kampala get assessed and graded. This system is extremely relevant because as you rightly mentioned, it helps to ensure maintenance of standards as the rating can be revoked if the hotel does not maintain the standard.

Grading also helps with the pricing of the hotel for instance you will not find a one star hotel charging four or five star prices and this can help every Ugandan planning a trip to know which category best suits their pockets.