UTB seeks to leverage foreign missions to court travelers to Uganda

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UTB seeks to leverage foreign missions to court travelers to Uganda
UTB CEO, Lilly Ajarova

The Uganda Tourism Board has asked the country’s foreign missions to help attract travelers to the country as one of the ways to boost the tourism sector.

“We are calling upon our foreign missions abroad to support us in our tourism efforts, particularly in the areas of branding and marketing, as well as attracting investors to our Uganda. We have seen the success of this collaboration in the past, where our missions have brought potential investors to assess our country's offerings, and we hope that with their continued support, we will yield even more positive results,” UTB CEO, Lilly Ajarova said on Wednesday.

She was speaking during a four-day joint regional economic and commercial diplomacy retreat at Serena Hotel Kigo, in Wakiso district.

The retreat organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is meant to help increase Uganda’s presence abroad.

The UTB CEO told the ambassadors that Uganda is a unique and rare  destination for travelers in terms of its people, cultures, heritage and iconic experiences that she said need to be sold to the outside world.

“Our target is to attract travelers who have flexibility in their itinerary, unlike tourists who follow a strict agenda. These travelers are likely to extend their stay, spend more, and generate more economic and social benefits for Uganda. We want to attract travelers who will come and experience the beauty of Uganda, the beauty of Africa, and then go back and tell the story of Uganda's beauty,”Ajarova said.

The UTB CEO explained that unlike tourists who have well laid out itineraries that after completing them, they leave the country, travelers can always extend their time of stay and this means spending more and creating more jobs.

“If these travelers enjoy one place , they are most likely to extend their time and it is what we target. We want travelers to stay longer, spend more and create more jobs.”

Currently, the average spend for tourists and travelers to Uganda is $1550 but according to UTB, this needs to increase.

MICE destination

The UTB CEO said Uganda also seeks to position itself as the best destination on the African continent.

“Since the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities launched our strategy in 2018, we have made significant progress. We have risen from an unknown destination to become the 10th best destination on the continent for MICE, which is a remarkable achievement. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 in 2020, we moved up to the sixth position in 2022, and currently, we rank seventh. Our goal is to become one of the top five destinations on the continent, and we are working tirelessly to achieve this,” Ajarova aid.

“The recent addition of the Speke Resort and Convention Center has addressed our previous limitation of hosting large conferences. We now have the capacity to host 10,000 delegates in one place, and our hotels are benefiting from the spread of visitors. This infrastructure development has enhanced our competitiveness as a destination, and we are confident that it will attract more travelers to our country.”

She asked Uganda’s foreign missions to help push on this front.

The head of regional economic cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained the rationale behind the retreat.

“We decided to come up with a framework under which we can guide our missions abroad to market the country three main  areas including increasing our exports, attractive foreign direct investments and attracting  tourists. We decided that as a ministry, we needed to being our envoys and diplomats abroad who deal with economic affairs to give them key performance indicators on how they can achieve results in these three areas,” Kabonero said.

He said that whereas government through the Ministry of Finance provided funds for missions abroad to focus on economic and commercial diplomacy, there was need to prepare the missions on how to utilize the funds.

“We have started with 10 missions and two consulates and these are in areas where we think Uganda is likely to attract investment in  agriculture and agro industrilaisation, tourism, mineral development and science, science, technology and innovation .We shall  measure the results and then scale up to all the  other  37 missions that Uganda has abroad,” Kanonero said.

He said the ambassadors have been equipped to negotiate trade constraints specifically non trade barriers including standard, competition and lack of compliance to regional trade protocols.

“Therefore, our missions are charged with addressing those NTBs but there are also some tariff barriers. Some countries are putting levies on our products when it’s a common market. So, all our countries will have to look at those barriers to help increase our exports.”

Kabonero said on data and communications, a regional data framework is a priority.

“We need to discuss data affordability and access to the sea cable.  Most of our traffic to the sea goes through Kenya but it’s a bit of risk. So, we need an alternative route but also, we think the alternative route will reduce the cost of data. Most of our people are no longer using voice. They are using more data. We really look forward to having a summit by the heads of state to address the data question.  If we can have harmonization of data rates, cross border payment systems, this will increase trade among our countries”.

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