The AUTO Board Treasurer, Costantino Tessarin presenting the Association's audited accounts at the AGM

Fairway Hotel, Kampala


In line with the constitution that guides the professional operation of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, AUTO members gathered on the morning of the 27th of July 2017 at Fairway Hotel, Kampala in what has been dubbed the association's most important meeting, the Annual General Meeting (AGM).

The AGM was a time for the Executive Board of the association to report to the AUTO members on progress, challenges facing the association and several plans for the future.

In the Executive Report, presented by the Board Chair, Babra A. Vanhelleputte, the Board among many other achievements informed members about their continuous lobbying of government on sector issues pertaining to unfavorable taxation, poor tourism roads, little or no industry regulation and thus the need to resume the issuing of Tour Operator licenses and the need to train of immigration staff, among others.

In her speech the Board Chair also mentioned that AUTO in the past 12 months has carried out a number of trainings to build capacity of its members, enabling them to continually offer professional service to their clients, setting them apart from all other tour companies in Uganda.

"We have helped members in marketing and have represented tour operators on various Boards including the Board of the Uganda Tourism Board represented by Mr. Eddy Kirya, Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center represented by Mr. Ben Katumba; and the Uganda Wildlife Authority represented by Engineer. Ivan Batuma. We are now also represented on the Tourism Satellite Accounts committee that will measure the economic impact of tourism to Uganda", Mrs. Vanhelleputte mentioned.

The AUTO Board pledged to lobby more, to finalize the establishment of a Bonding scheme for the AUTO membership, and to hold more relevant business trainings for AUTO members.

Present at the AGM, the Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Dr. Andrew Seguya commended tour operators for their dedicated service to marketing and selling the National Parks, mentioning that 80% of all business to UWA comes from Tour Operators. He called on AUTO members to join UWA in advocating for the protection of Protected Areas in Uganda.

Dr. Seguya in a bold voice confirmed to the AUTO members present that the price of Uganda's Gorilla permit would not be increased. "We have decided to maintain the price of our gorilla permit at US$600 and are glad to inform you that Uganda now has a total of 15 habituated gorilla families for your clients to visit", the UWA Chief Executive communicated. This decision was applauded by the many tourism business people present who had feared a possible increase in Uganda's gorilla tracking price following the hastened doubling in the price of Rwanda's Gorilla permit to US$1,500.

In his remarks, the Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Tourism Board commended AUTO on a successful AGM and pledged continued support to the private sector. Mr. Stephen Asiimwe commented on some emerging and fast growing markets that Uganda will tap into. “We need to enter new markets like the Arabian and Chinese markets. Ethiopia has emerged as the world’s second largest diplomatic capital after New York.” Mr. Asiimwe exclaimed while encouraging tour operators to exploit business opportunities in these markets.

The UTB boss also hinted on plans to work with a private company to introduce helicopter tours. “The investor is ready to introduce 16 helicopters for passengers and to also introduce rescue helicopters that would be used in emergency air evacuation.” Mr. Asiimwe stated. Among other issues in the pipeline, he informed AUTO members that the Tourism Board is finalizing the long pending issue of tourism licenses. He mentioned that the proposed amendments to the process of licensing Tour Operators were presented to the Solicitor General’s Office and would soon be debated on by the Parliament of Uganda. “We hope to have this issue finalized in this quarter”, Mr. Asiimwe promised.

The association's AGM was also attended by several other stakeholders including Hon. Centenary Rwefuma of the Parliamentary Committee of Tourism, the Marketing Manager of Uganda Tourism Board Mr. Edwin Muzahura, Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center Mr. James Musinguzi, the Senior Commissioner of Police and Commandant Tourism Police Afande Wilson Omoding, a representative from the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities Mr. Paddy Ssentongo, the Tourism coordination officer at Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) Mr. Kakooza Ivan, and other representatives from the tourism private sector.

The AGM marked the first 12 months of a 2-year term of the Executive Board of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators that was elected by the Annual General Meeting on 14th July 2016.

The Board is comprised of Babra A. Vanhelleputte as the Board Chair, the Vice Chair Jacqueline R. Kemirembe, the Treasurer Costantino Tessarin, Ntege Dennis the Board Secretary and three Executive Committee members; Dona Tindyebwa, Lydia Nandudu and Civy Tumusiime.

With a wealth of experience in Uganda's tourism industry since its inception in 1995, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) still stands as Uganda's leading tourism trade association and a flagship of the country's leading and experienced professional, reputable and most respected tour companies.

For a list of Uganda's professional Tour Operators please click here.