The Uganda Tourism Board has unveiled long-distance runner, Joshua Cheptegei as one of the country’s tourism ambassadors.
According to UTB CEO, Lilly Ajarova the announcement was in line with their goal of restarting tourism in Uganda after being greatly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic that hit the entire world.
“Our annual visitor arrivals had been projected to grow to 1.6 million in 2020 but this was greatly affected by the pandemic,”Ajarova said during the function to unveil the 25-year old long distance runner held at the Uganda Golf Club in Kampala.
The UTB CEO said that between 2015 and 2019, Uganda’s visitor numbers grew by 19% from 1.27 million to 1.5 million and that on average, the numbers grew by 4% every year.
“The forex earnings from the visitors to Uganda grew by 22% from $1.31 billion to $1.6 billion in the same period.”
However, with the many restrictions on travels and fear of contracting the virus, the numbers gradually went down because of the pandemic.
“World over, there are mixed signals about the tourism industry’s recovery in this year. In Uganda we expect regional and intra-African visitors to pick up in the second half of 2021,”Ajarova said.
Speaking at the function, Chepetegei said he is happy to have entered a deal that will see him contribute directly to the country’s foreign revenues through promotion of tourism.
“I’m delighted to be here to express solidarity with stakeholders in the tourism sector. I am grateful for having chosen me for this huge responsibility. I accept it with all humility and honor,”Cheptegei noted.
“Much as Uganda is well endowed, it is not enough, if the world does not know about it. It is our responsibility as Ugandans to shout on top of the mountains and down in the valleys to everybody across the world.”
According to the runner, the deal he has entered with UTB is another huge responsibility to give him more courage to continue winning and carrying the country’s flag high but also promote tourism.
The deal will see UTB and Cheptegei collaborate for support towards the latter’s athletics activities at both domestic and international levels and in turn use his support and platforms to promote Uganda as a tourist destination.
Cheptegei will consequently use his image in photos, videos and other promotional materials as deemed fit by the Uganda Tourism Board.
Last year, the 25- year- old Ugandan long-distance runner broke the long-standing 10,000 metre world record in Valencia.
Posting 26:11.0 at the Turia stadium in Valencia in Spain, Cheptegei ensured he slashed the decade long record held by Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele by six seconds to set a new record.
This was the fourth feat achieved by the 24- year- old Ugandan long-distance runner after breaking the 10km road record in December 2019, the 5km record in February 2019 and the 5000m record on August,14, 2020 in Monaco.