Martin Magara, the state minister for tourism has confirmed that the Tulambule initiative, which boosted domestic travel, will soon be revived in an effort to capture the large number of Ugandans to appreciate destination Uganda for holidays and vacations.
“The onus is upon Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), tour operators and everybody to make destination Uganda admirable on social media,” Magara notes. “Share the photos of Okuhingira (traditional marriage,) Luwombo (steamed chicken or beef), binges, Sipi Falls among other tourist attraction features that the Pearl of Africa has to offer.”
James Musinguzi, the executive director of the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), predicts that after the tigers are introduced, the playground is renovated, and the beach is cleaned up, the number of visitors will rise.
“In our 70 years of service, UWEC remains the only one-stop place where what the entire Uganda is endowed with can be seen,” says Musinguzi. “It is the closest one can ever get to the tigers, leopards, lions or elephants. The snakes and plants are pulling crowds.”
The Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE), according to UTB deputy chief executive officer Bradford Ochieng, will return in January with a boom. “We expect to attract more destination buyers and sellers from different parts of the world to participate,” says Ochieng.
“We have kept POATE in the faces of potential participants for quite a while, with our new logo and video footage.” Ochieng gave an update to hotels that the grading and licensing operations must resume in order to streamline service offering. “Successfully hosting CHOGM in 2007 made Uganda the region’s preferred Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE) destination,” says Ochieng.
“We are hosting the 11th Africa Society for Blood Transfusion Conference in March 2024. The convention is destined to attract 500 delegates from Asia, Africa and Europe, who are expected to contribute to the country’s GDP to the tune of $0.6m.”
According to Amos Wekesa, lead at Uganda Lodges Limited and the president’s advisor on tourism, government needs to increase funding for the sector in order to see results. “Come 2023, there will be urgent need for more than the sh194.7b allocated last year as international arrivals of tourists return,” says Wekesa. “There is also still the need to ease access to loans from monetary institutions if the annual revenue is to shoot up.”
The purpose of the industry, he continues, is to attract more leisure travelers. “Next year can only be better if there is an increase in direct flights to Europe, Asia and USA,” Wekesa says.
Tour Guides Forum Uganda president James Mwere says this about the Covid-19 lockdown period; “We used the low tourist seasons to hone our guiding skills in workshops and acquaint ourselves with the attractions spread across the country.’ He adds; “Most of us know how to read a given client’s character and when to crack a joke, tell a folklore or deliver a detail.”
Sam Mwandha, executive director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), sees a promising future for the game reserves and national parks.
“Foreigners have to part with $700 (about sh2.5m) to track the treasured gorillas, while citizens of the East African Community (EAC) pay sh400,000, and the gate entry fees are subsidised to sh20,000 per head for adults,” Mwandha says, adding that more Africa-to-Africa tourists are expected next year after Covid-19 lockdowns taught many to appreciate their neighbourhoods.