Throughout much of the tropics, human-wildlife conflict impedes local support for national parks. By channelling tourism revenue to local residents, conservationists hope to offset wildlife costs and improve local attitudes toward conservation. To date tourism revenue-sharing (TRS) programmes have met mixed success. Local conditions and national policies that shape the success of TRS programmes were identified by comparing the experiences of both implementers and beneficiaries of pilot TRS programmes at three parks in western Uganda. Between 1995 and 1998, communities around these parks used a total of US $83 000 of tourism revenue to build 21 schools, four clinics, one bridge, and one road. In 1996, the Ugandan parliament passed legislation that changed both the amount of money available for TRS and the institutions responsible for sharing the money. The programme was suspended at all three parks while the implementing agency (Uganda Wildlife Authority) struggled to design a programme that complied with the new legislation. TRS funds collected before 1996 were shared through 1998, but since then no revenue has been shared. However, a revised TRS programme is expected to resume in 2001. In semi-structured interviews, both implementers and beneficiaries evaluated local TRS programmes and compared them to other benefit-sharing projects, particularly those promoting sustainable use of non-timber products within park boundaries (n = 44). Both groups of respondents listed revenue-sharing as the most important advantage of living next to a national park. Seventy-two per cent of respondents indicated that they thought TRS had improved attitudes towards the protected areas, and 53% thought TRS was more important then sustainable use of non-timber forest products. Although respondents were generally positive about TRS, in informal discussions respondents repeatedly mentioned four potential obstacles to TRS success, namely poorly defined TRS policies and unsteady implementing institutions, corruption, inadequate funds, and numerous stakeholders with differing priorities. From this survey and literature from experiences in other African countries, there are four key components of successful revenue-sharing programmes: long-term institutional support, appropriate identification of the target community and project type, transparency and accountability, and adequate funding. With firm institutional support and realistic expectations, TRS can play an important role in improving local attitudes towards conservation.