12 Jul 2013 11:19

KAMPALA, July 11 (BERNAMA-NNN-NEW VISION) -- Ugandan Tourism Minister Maria Mutagamba has hailed plans to roll out single visas for people living in member States of the East African Community (EAC), saying the move will lift Uganda’s tourism potential further.

“So many tourists are visiting Kenya but they do not come to Uganda. But if they do not need another visa to (come to Uganda), they will visit Uganda too. In the end, we will all benefit,” Mutagamba said after after opening the 2013 Routes Africa meeting here over the weekend.

Despite being blessed with immense tourism potential, Uganda lags behind its neighbour Kenya in tourism in terms of visitor numbers.

The one visa proposal, which Mutagamba said featured highly in recent tripartite talks involving President Yoweri Museveni and his Kenyan and Rwandan counterparts, Uhuru Kenyatta and Paul Kagame respectively, is now at the EAC Secretariat for further consultations before it is brought to the next EAC heads of state summit.

Mutagamba also said the drive to attract more airlines to operate through Entebbe International Airport should be matched with infrastructural development.

“We do not only need more airlines, we also need airports. Few of our visitors are urban tourists. The majority of them are eco-tourists, yet it takes six hours to drive from Kampala to Bwindi or Kidepo (National Park),” she said.

Works State Minister Dr. Stephen Chebrot recently told a meeting of global aviation players that Africa should up her game in the face of increasing passengers.

"In 2012, international passenger demand grew by six per cent. The strongest growth was recorded in the Middle East (15.4 per cent), Latin America (8.4) and Africa (7.5). Conversely, capacity grew slower than demand at only four per cent. The situation in Africa for capacity growth is certainly much lower. This is especially a big challenge for our airports,” he said.

“Besides capacity expansion, the other challenge we face is that of aviation safety. Africa’s accident rate almost doubled between 2011 and 2012. In 2011, we registered eight accidents. These grew to 13 in 2012.”