He says he does not understand how the statisticians come up with the tourist statistics considering that in the eight years he has been in business, he has never been approached to provide figures on tourists.
Marion Byengoma, the marketing manager of Arcadia Lodges Uganda also finds the definition of a tourist problematic. She says if someone is not actually planning to enter Uganda to visit a tourist area in Uganda, they should not be called a tourist.
But Akankwasah says it does not matter where the visitor comes from. Whether a visitor is from Congo or Kenya, they will use public transport, they will put money in the tourism value chain because they will eat in a restaurant and they will sleep in a hotel or lodge. Other tourism value chain items include admission to nature reserves, parks, and tourist recreation areas, tour vehicles, crafts, souvenirs and more.
“Every time people come into Uganda and stay for at least 24-hours, they spend money and that is what we capture; because they are spending money on hotel/lodges, public transport to visit at least one place,” says UTB’s Mugaba.
Akankwasah says this is possibly the reason tourism players yearn for leisure and nature tourism is because this brings in the biggest amount of revenue to the industry.
“That is why it is this category of tourists that we target more but it does not mean we disqualify other tourists.”
But there is another challenge, according to Nviiri of the statistics bureau. She says to qualify someone as a tourist, in the real sense, UBOS looks at the reasons for travel because not everybody coming into the country is a tourist.
Usually the purpose of visit range from returning residents to prospective resident, those seeking employment, temporary employment, visiting friends/relatives, holiday, business/conference, in-transit, medical treatment, tourism, short contract/consultancy, investment, education and trade.
But, Nviiri told The Independent, UBOS is aware that some travelers do not want to declare their real intention of visiting Uganda. However, UBOS often has no way of verifying the information provided by the travelers, and it takes the answers as provided. She told The Independent that UBOS relies a lot on the information filled on the visitors’ cards that are usually distributed at entry border points.
Out of the 1,206, 334 so-called tourist arrivals, 44% visited friends and relatives in 2013 compared to 48% registered in 2012. This was followed by business/conference at 25% and 16% came for leisure and holiday.
Up to 45% of travellers from Rwanda and 41% from Kenya said the purpose of their coming to Uganda was visiting friends and relatives. Another 15% from Rwanda and 14% from Kenya said they came for trade. Leisure and holiday took third place at 12% and 13% for Rwanda and Kenya respectively.
Cuthbert Baguma, the former executive director of the Uganda Tourism Board told The Independent that the issue should not be about arrivals, rather, it should be about segregating visitors by purpose.
“It is after doing so that you can capture those who come to spend time here on leisure /holiday,” Baguma said, “If I am coming to visit friends or relatives, my impact on the economy may at times be inconsequential since it is possible that I might end up being a dependant throughout my stay.”
Baguma told The Independent that the focus should be on efforts to catalyze those visitors who have come here to spend on leisure activities—hotels, restaurants, art and crafts, and transport.
“These kinds of visitors do not just come; there must be deliberate efforts to attract these kinds of visitors.”
Indeed, in the tourism industry the world over, the holiday/ leisure tourists are the focal point for investment and product development as the return of this type of tourist is higher.