Tourism board wants Shs5bn for international PR post-terror threats

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The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) has asked for Shs5 billion for an international PR strategy to counter the impact of the recent terror alerts issued on the country.

The Ugandan security on Monday announced that terrorists belonging to the eastern DR Congo-based Allied Democratic Front (ADF) had infiltrated into the country.

The alert, tourism officials says, dampened the sector mood and activities with UTB chief Lilly Ajarova revealing that they had been inundated with phone calls from potential visitors.

While appearing before the Parliament’s Tourism committee, UTB officials led by its chief executive Lilly Ajarova revealed that following the UPDF pronouncement on ADF infiltration, tourists have started cancelling their bookings.

"I don’t know if you saw the press release from UPDF yesterday, it has caused a scare for destination Uganda from last night, the number of phone calls that UTB and even me have received is overwhelming, because the press release is basically saying Uganda is unsafe,” she said.

Ajarova urged the Tourism committee to ensure that all the Shs5 billion required for engaging international media in promoting Uganda’s tourism is availed in UTB’s 2024/25 budget.

The sector budget already has Shs1.2 billion approved for the same international promotional activities but Ajarova said the latest developments leave them in a potentially damaging shortfall.

“We have to counter that [ADF scare]," Ajarova said.

"From that press release, it means we are going to get more negative travel advisories, so we must be able to counter that by bringing more international media people who can be able to verify that it is safe and then they are able to report back."

In a statement on March 18, the UPDF warned of a likely fresh ADF attacks.

Deputy Defence and Military spokesperson Deo Akiki revealed, that they had likely learned of an infiltration by an ADF group two days earlier.

Last year, ADF rebels infiltrated the country and attacked tourists inside Queen Elizabeth National Park in Kasese, killing a couple on honeymoon and their local tour guide.

The US and British governments also dampened the tourism sector mood last year with a series of travel advisories for their citizens, some believed to have targeted major events such as the highly marketable Nyege Nyege Festival of the arts.

“Engagement of international media, we need to do a lot more," Ajarova said, "yes, we prioritise the Shs1.2 billion that we put in, but that is very little and we would appreciate if we could get another Shs4 billion to add onto that because there is a lot of back-and-forth [in this]."

Mid-2023, the government said it was investing in a number of interventions to increase tourism revenues from $1.6bn to at least $5bn this year.

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