Uganda’s East African tourism potential

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Uganda’s East African tourism potential
Tourists in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

It is without a doubt, Uganda has mainly been known by her neighbors for political reasons. One of the icebreakers whenever a Ugandan visits Kenya, or Tanzania is; “how come Museveni is still your president!” It is not common for Uganda’s neighbors to discuss things they can see or do in Uganda.

Beyond a discussion about president Museveni, many will proceed to discuss Bobi wine; a musician who in the recent past has rebranded himself into the premier opposition force in Uganda. It is as though there is nothing more to discuss other politics.

For a country that has a more than 70% of its population under 25 years, one cannot but wonder how are all these people going to be turned into a productive workforce for the growth of Uganda’s economy?

It is important to note that many Ugandans are still in what is called “economic captivity”. It is for the same reason that until now the country has not escaped the list of the top ten poorest countries in the whole world.

There is a need to propel Uganda out of poverty and there are so many voices out there that have identified the problem and suggested the likeable solution as well.

In the sense of the political landscape, Dr. Besigye has stated that the country is under military captivity. A mere change of presidency will not set everything in order while in the tours and travel sector, people such as Amos Wekesa have suggested that the only hope for Uganda’s economic liberation is through investing in the tours and travel industry.

Obviously, all these ideas are up for debate but what if out of all these, we gave tourism a little consideration, what could Uganda’s tourism industry bring on the table if the country chose to fairly facilitate the industry?

Many people assume the government is merely deaf or not interested in investment but I assume this is a shallow view of what is actually happening in Uganda. To better understand whatever is going in the country is to look at the other conflicting interests at hand. Unfortunately, discussing the conflicting interests will rob us of the time to really explore Uganda’s tourism potential.

First and foremost, here is a little detail about Uganda’s tourism.

Uganda’s tourism mainly runs on wildlife expeditions; that is exploring wildlife in national parks.

The most popular of these national parks are Bwindi impenetrable national park and Queen Elizabeth national park. Bwindi if popular for gorilla treks while Queen Elizabeth is popular for savannah game drives.

A lot of noise has been made to push government into investing in the tours and travel industry but the outcome has been minimal. What if the private sector looked into their little budget and appropriated it to marketing to her neighbors in Kenya and Tanzania!

Tourism revenue

Tanzania is currently targeting a return on investment worth $6 billion courtesy of the tours and travel industry come 2025. On the other hand Kenya is working hard to hit its pre-covid target of close to $8 billion annually from tours and travel alone. Uganda is currently below $1.5 billion. This is not say that Uganda can equally earn the same amount given its limited budget. But there is room to improve and make the best of the limited budget.

Most of Uganda’s marketing, however little it might be, has been targeting travelers from European countries and the United States of America.  There is no serious effort that has been taken to ensure that all our neighbors visit Uganda.

On the contrary, Ugandans visit Kenya and Tanzania because of their beaches. In both Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda is their second best source of tourists.

If Uganda could equally invite them for the primate experiences, it could turn out to be a fair exchange.

Though Kenya and Tanzania are safari giants, none of them has mountain gorillas. This means that Tanzanians and Kenyans will obviously pick interest in gorilla trekking if someone regularly reminded them that Uganda offers such a service. It is high time that Uganda tourism board alongside Association of Uganda Tour operators consider advertising in the neighboring countries rigorously.

It is not a enough to inform people that gorilla trekking is possible in Uganda rather it should be about the experience. What is gorilla trekking like for a couple! What is gorilla trekking like for a family! What is gorilla trekking like for the elderly! What is gorilla trekking like friends travelling together? Is there any advert that captures or tries to answer any of the above questions?

Most of the emphasis has always been put on encountering the gorillas yet the gorilla safaris are a combination of many things. It is in the accommodation where someone sleeps before gorilla trekking, the walk through the forest, the journey to the gorilla parks, the car rental in Uganda experience in case someone opts for a self-drive trip and many other things in that line.

Many of the complaints have always been about the limited government expenditure on marketing Uganda’s tourism sector; but what would happen if the Association of Uganda tour operators (AUTO) chose to rigorously advertise in Kenya or Tanzania in hope to cover up for their low seasons!

To many this would a big gamble given the fact that Ugandans are fond of corruption. But if the money is put to the right use, there will be a huge return on investment in regard to customers from the neighboring countries.



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