Hoteliers ask for more time to upgrade

KAMPALA, UGANDA – Ugandan hotel owners have asked the government for more time before the nationwide accommodation classification exercise begins.
This will involve grading various hotels and lodges to against an appropriate level of service quality.
During a hotel classification sensitization meeting last week, the owners and managers said 10 weeks is not enough for them to meet the criteria as stipulated in the East African Community Treaty on Hotel Standards.
The Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities organized the meeting in a bid to prepare the hospitality industry for the new changes. Classification is expected to make the region more competitive as a tourist destination.
The Executive Director of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association, Samuel Balagadde said hotel owners need more time to mobilize resources to help them in procuring modern equipment.
“Hotel owners are happy that the Community came up with hotel standards. This is good for the sector, but before Government starts carrying out the hotel classification exercise we need more time to prepare ourselves. Failure to respect our appeal may lead to under-grading of some hotels,” he said.
He said for Uganda to have good hotels that meet the established EAC Standards many hotel owners will need to reconstruct their hotels.
However at current prices, construction materials and hotel equipment are very expensive on the local market. He said this will hinder many hotel investors and suggested that the government subsidies some of these inputs to enable them to improve their facilities.
Cuthbert Baguma the Executive Director of  the Uganda Tourism Board who are behind the implementation of the standards told participants if the hotel owners comply this will help attract more customers especially tourist.
Baguma said although Uganda’s tourism sector is attracting many visitors, no single visitor will like being accommodated in a hotel that does not meet international standards.
“When our hotels are standardized this will help both Government to promote tourism, but also the private sectors will also benefit because 60% of the tourism budget is spent on meals and accommodation which is provided through hotels. But for them to earn more from the sector hotel owners should offer quality services to the visitors,” he said.
Baguma said standardizing hotels will also help owners to market their premises both locally and internationally.
He said the Ministry is soon coming up with a website hosting all the classified hotels in the country.  This will help clients to make informed decisions on where to stay.
A participant working with Colline Hotel in Mukono, located about 10 kilometres from the Kampala, suggested that prices for catering services may be hiked by 10%. She said owners would have to recover the money used in meeting the EAC standards.
According to the new rules each member state must carry out  a Hotel  Classification exercise. Grades range from one star to five star.  
Each star is associated to certain requirements. For example,  a  One Star hotel should have an occupation permit from the local authority, good wash rooms and  proper waste disposal, among other requirements.
Three  and Four Star hotels should have high quality kitchen , a  fully fledged communication system that covers all the rooms and good furniture.
Patrick Kirunda  the Principal Health Inspector at the Kampala Capital City Authority said the standards will help to control food poisoning which has been experienced by many visitors in the country.
He said some hotel  operate in an unhygienic  environment,  but if hotel owners implement the new standards the situation will improve.
Uganda has lagged behind its neighbours in classifying its hotels.

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