Through the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), Tour agents in the country’s tourism industry have requested government to scrap the 18 per cent levy on tourism services. They have also appealed to the government and policymakers to abandon the proposed increment of tourist visa fees from $50 to $100 per single entry.
While in Uganda, tourists have to pay 18 per cent Value Added tax on upcountry lodging services, on top of routine charges such as visa, park entrance and fees for various activities one is to take part in. A permit for gorilla tracking costs $600 and one for chimpanzee trekking costs $150.
With such background, the chairperson of AUTO, Babra Adoso Vanhelleputte argues that government should consider scrapping VAT as one of the motivations to boost the tourism industry, which is currently the top earner of Uganda’s foreign exchange.
As UTB presented the Indaba Tourism Fair awards to the media in Kampala, Barbra noted that some countries in Africa scrapped VAT on tourism services, such as our neighbours in Tanzania whereas South Africa refunds VAT at airports as the tourists leave the country as an incentive. These two countries are among the top tourist destinations on the continent.
She added that doubling the visa fees, a strategy that is already in advanced stages, will discourage tourists from visiting Uganda and could further hurt the tourism sector. The country will become an expensive destination for tourists, yet there are cheaper options in Africa with the same attractions and facilities as we have.
According to 2013/14 statistics, Uganda’s revenue from tourism industry was $1.4 billion, the highest earnings from a single sector with approximation that 130,000 out of 1.4 million people who visited Uganda last year, were tourists.
Adoso said: “Government should appreciate that we are now an export.”
In the current financial year, government apportioned Shs 5bn for tourism promotion. This was lauded by the experts but tour operators felt more money should have been assigned on the sector.