How to Apply for a Tourist Operator License


This is part II of the series, Who Owns Wildlife In Uganda? Part I is available HERE.

Part II of the Uganda Tourism Act of 2008 provides for the process of licensing.  It limits this provision to tourist accommodation, ‘designated facilities’, travel agents, tour operators and tour guides.

Briefly, all the above require licenses to operate any business in the tourism industry.  However, there are many variables that may eventually hinder the process altogether.

Services requiring licenses include:

  • Operating any accommodation or designated tourist facility. The host (individual/company) or venue (place) must have a valid license;
  • The travel agents’, tour operators’ and tour guides’ licenses are for only the designations/job/services applied for. However, it is common to find a tour guide with a valid license acting as a tour operator. Perhaps, the drafters of the law anticipated a distinction for the isolated cases, but this distinction may take long to integrate into physical process despite many operators having knowledge about it.

The process of applying for a license:

The process as provided by the law may not be what happens during the physical process of obtaining a license. However, this is what the law provides. An applicant is required to do the following;

  • Obtain a form (there are forms specifically for this) and fill it accordingly;
  • Attach relevant documents to identify himself/herself (the applicant/the principal) e.g. qualifications, legal status, tax compliance, addresses, contact information etc.
  • Pay stamp duty;
  • The Board will issue the applicant a license or refuse to issue a license or require that the applicant fulfills certain requirements/conditions before he/she/it is issued a license.

NB:    A license can be cancelled by the Board for any of the reasons the Board may give or for any of the offences prescribed in the Act.

Offences are various and they all seem to carry a similar punishment, i.e. currency points of two (2) years’ imprisonment or both. The law does not consider the magnitude of each offence separately. Hopefully, any amendments the law will cater for this.

Qn.   Can the applicant appeal in case his/her/its application is denied?


An appeal against the decision of the Board must be lodged within thirty (30) days of receipt of notice of the decision of the Board.

The appeal is by way of a Petition to the Minister (Minister for Tourism), who has thirty (30) days after receipt of the Petition to ‘reverse or confirm the decision of the Board.’

Qn.   Can the license holder appeal in case his/her/its license is cancelled?


To appeal against cancellation of the license, the appellant/petitioner must lodge his/her/its Petition to the Minister within fourteen (14) days of notice of cancellation.

Thereafter, the Minister has thirty (30) days from receipt of the Petition to ‘reverse or confirm the decision of the Board’.

Qn.   Should an operator in the industry be punished for operating without a license?

Yes and No.

In case of accountability for either party, a registered/licensed operator carries more validity.

However, the presence of social relationships affects such validity.  It will not be right to punish a family or individual who receives profit from visiting friends, say tens or hundreds of them in periodical visits, who appreciate the individual’s tour guide services.

If the visitors/tourists have authorization to visit the country, a trusted friend to chauffeur them to tourist sites; and the visitors/tourists recommend a hundred other friends to this trusted friend, why should there be a problem?


Many people or groups welcome and in many ways or another guide tourists from one tourist destination to another.

It is common to find designated drivers with valid driver’s licenses performing these tasks individually or for registered companies or organizations.

As a matter of fact, may operators in social settings receive recommendations from previous clients orally.  Safe to say that a license to operate a tourism business may be absent in many cases but the individuals involved in the business continue to operate and survive. Despite the importance of a license in the legality, the numbers of tourists take priority in actual operations.

This article was written by our Feature Columnist, Atuhairwe Agrace for our weekly law newsletter, The Deuteronomy. To contact Agrace, write to her on To receive The Deuteronomy in real time, click HERE.
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