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Tour operators asked to formalize businesses

Tourists view the Murchison Falls. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Tourism sector players have been advised to formalize their businesses and register them with the Uganda Tourism Board if they are to benefit from government programs.

Since September, sections of players have been crying out over a rescue package jointly provided by the government and the European Union and managed by the Uganda Development Bank.

The money is aimed at mitigating the losses incurred by the tourism sector players and the whole sector as a whole.

It is estimated that this year the sector that earns the country 1.6 billion dollars annually, will see revenues drop by more three quarters as a result of the pandemic and the government containment measures.

In August, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities announced a phased reopening of the tourism sector, which would see the numbers to tourist sites limited and increased in phases.

This is aimed at ensuring that the sector that is dominated by wildlife is protected from a possible covid-19 outbreak. It is also expected that tourism was one of the most affected sectors of the economy with international borders closed, while local travel was also banned for two months.

For this, the sector was listed among those critical ones that needed special attention to recover since it is also one of the major sources of employment.

The European Union raised about 21.8 billion shillings, while the government set aside 40 billion.

In September, the UDB called on interested players to apply for the funds that were divided into a grant and a soft loan.

The Chief Executive, The Uganda Travel Agents Association Tugata Nicholas Kalyango says it is unfair for UDB to rule out other organisations on the pretext that they are not formal and do not pay taxes, yet many members are fully formal and tax compliant organization.

He says it is unfair to use the associations they belong to, to deny them the benefits.

Lillian Ajarova, the Chief Executive of Uganda Tourism Board insisted that the money and other government incentives will only go to those who are fully registered, and it will help the sector be more formal.

Richard Kawere, the Chief Executive of Uganda Tourism Association, the umbrella organisation of sector players said the members are currently cash-strapped and are applying any money they get to the most critical areas.

Stanbic Bank has meanwhile offered almost 19 Billion Shillings to support the growth of tourism companies through training and helping them access financing.

Tony Otoa, Executive Director at Stanbic Business Incubator Ltd says this will see beneficiaries get between 40 and 150 million shillings.



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