In a bid to rate the quality and standards of services which varies from country to country, the Uganda Tourism Board is set to conduct a grading and classification exercise for all tourism facilities in the country in line with new East African Community standards.
The exercise has kicked off on Tuesday with a two-day refresher course for the 12 EAC-certified hotel assessors at Protea Hotel, Entebbe.
Addressing the assessors and media at Protea Hotel, Susan Muhwezi, the chairperson of Uganda Hotels Owners Association (UHOA) commended UTB for working with the private sector members to carry out the grading and classification exercise, which she said, was very vital to the recovery of Uganda’s tourism sector.
“Most tourists especially foreigners value the stars of the hotel they are booking and they always look forward to experiencing the standards of the indicated star of a particular hotel,” Mrs Muhwezi said.
The Uganda Tourism Board is tasked with inspection of tourist services and facilities to ensure they conform to international standards.
For example, hotels are graded from one-star to five-star basing on conformity to the set international standards and this also contributes to the clients they get in form of visitors.
Speaking on Tuesday, the chairperson of the Uganda Hotels Owners Association urged the assessors to be diligent in their work but also pledged support to the exercise.
The East African Community, standards criteria for the classification of hotels, restaurants, and other tourist facilities were gazetted in 2009 to encourage and maintain quality standards in products and services being delivered to tourists in East Africa.
According to the Uganda Tourism Act 2008, accommodation facilities are classified as lodges, motels, restaurants, guest houses, tented camps, town hotels, vacation hotels, villas, cottages and serviced apartments.
Regardless of the start, these facilities should be able to operate 24 hours a day, have foreign exchange services and have lettable accommodation units not less than 10 in number.
Factors like location, size of rooms, restaurants, interior décor, guest rooms, bathrooms, suites, hygiene, safety, security and human resource are also considered while classifying facilities according to stars.
The classification and rating exercise was last done in 2017.
However, according to Lilly Ajarova, the UTB Chief Executive Officer, this round of assessment which was set to be done last year was postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic and its effects like the lockdown.
“The star-rating we give during the grading and classification has a life span of two years and this means that all facilities that were graded can no longer identify themselves with the star rating they were awarded because it expired. This means that currently, Uganda does not have any graded facilities,”Ajarova said.
The Uganda Tourism Board chief said since the standards had gone down, the classification and rating exercise is important in safeguarding them and the competitiveness of Uganda as a tourist destination.
“UTB’s decision to conduct classification envisions transforming the tourism sector into one of the top long-haul tourist destinations that offer a high-value, diverse and distinct visitor experience,” Ajarova said.