Players in the tourism sector have been asked digital marketing as a way of increasing visibility of the country but also to ensure the number of travelers to the country’s tourism sites increase as the sector recovers from the Covid pandemic.
The call was made by Vivian Lyazi, the commissioner for tourism in the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities as he represented the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Doreen Katusiime during the function to assess the impact of the Covid recovery and resilience funds by Mastercard Foundation and the Private Sector Foundation to members of the Uganda Tourism Association (UTA).
“We are in the new normal and every one in this sector should know that things will not be as they were in 2019 before the onset of the pandemic. We need to employ digital marketing skills to market our products but also be innovative,”Lyazi said.
Ministry of Tourism official said there is need for digital marketing approaches that involve women and youths to take part in tourism as one of the ways to deal with the unemployment problem.
“Now that the economy has been fully reopened, competition among tourism players is going to be high because everyone will be fighting for the small market. This calls for innovation and working hard but the magic bullet to ensure recovery of our tourism is through digital marketing to make sure more people are aware of what we have to offer,” he said.
He noted that government will support all players in the tourism sector to ensure it realizes its full potential.
Whereas Uganda earned $1.6b (about Shs5. 8 trillion) from tourism in 2019 to make the sector the leading foreign exchange earner then, the Covid pandemic decimated this to ensure earnings dropped by 73% to shs4.1 trillion (US$0.5bn) by 2020.
Foreign visitors dropped by 69.3% to 473,085 whereas employment opportunities dropped by 70% to 160,980 and as of June 2020.
However, last year, the Mastercard Foundation through the Private Sector Foundation gave Uganda Tourism Association members shs2.2bn as a recovery Covid recovery and resilience fund.
Speaking on Tuesday, beneficiaries gave testimonies of how they were enabled to pick up after being bartered by the pandemic for over two years.
“The funds came at the right time when we needed them. We used the funding for training in digital marketing and making our website more active. We were also able to train our members in product development and diversification,” said Albert Kasozi, the Association of Tour Operators(AUTO) CEO.
Nicholas Kalyango, the General Manager for the Uganda Association of Travel Agents hailed the program for helping their members who had been affected by the pandemic recover but alos learn resilient skills.
“We were able to develop our strategic plan using the funds to help us implement our activities but we were also able to undergo trainings on new trends like digital marketing,”Kalyango said.
“The trainings we go enabled us to diversify and now many of our members are into providing local tourism services which they were not into before the pandemic.”
Many of the Uganda Tourism Association members said they used the recovery funds from Mastercard Foundation and the Private Sector Foundation to train their staff but also but some equipment to use in their work.
The Uganda Tourism Association president, Herbert Byaruhanga hailed the program as an important tool in the recovery of the sector and its members after being bartered by Covid for more than two years.
“This was a very good push for our members but we ask for more support to develop skills for our people and also develop more products to sell to tourists both locally and abroad,”Byaruhanga said.
The Private Sector Foundation Uganda Executive Director, Stephen Asiimwe said they are ready to support the tourism sector in terms of policy and advocacy.
“We are ready to offer to the sector evidence based research to help develop new products but also help in capacity building and skills development. At PSFU we will also ensure partnerships locally, regionally and internationally,”Asiimwe said.