• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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‘Access to our tourism is seamless with our airline that flies to over 13 destinations’

‘Access to our tourism is seamless with our airline that flies to over 13 destinations’

With a sustained effort, Uganda is giving priority to tourism to enable the sector to rank among the top drivers of its economy.

At the just-concluded East African Regional Tourism Expo in Nairobi, Kenya, Bradford Ochieng, deputy CEO, Uganda Tourism Board, spoke to Obinna Emelike on the focus on tourism, accessibility of offerings, investment opportunities, supporting policies, exchanges with the EAC, POATE 2024, among other related issues.

Why is the EARTE important to Uganda Tourism?

We are here to see how best we can leverage the East African Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE) to meet potential visitors and get them to visit afterwards. We call them ‘Travellers to Uganda’.

Are there policies that support your tourism development efforts?

As a country, we have a framework and a National Development Plan which most of our marketing inputs are anchored on. Now we are at our National Development Plan 3 (NDP3). In the current plan, tourism is a priority and it will also be a priority in the next planning horizon.

So, to guide our marketing inputs, we have a destination brand ‘Explore Uganda the Pearl of Africa’.

If you look at the 54 countries on the continent, you can comfortably say that Uganda has most of the things these countries have and that is why it is called the Pearl of Africa. It was coined by Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of Britain, after visiting many African countries.

We want to tell the world that Uganda is the pearl and a pearl is something that glitters and has value. We have great value for tourism.

What is the tourism exchange level between Kenya and Uganda?

Of course, Kenya is a big source of travellers to Uganda. Last year, we had close to 360,000 Kenyan visitors. Uganda is also big in terms of being a source of travellers to Kenya. We had close to 160,000 visitors from Uganda to Kenya in the same period, making Uganda the second biggest source of travellers to Kenya.

Read also: ‘My mission is to make tourism is one of the biggest income earners’

How is Uganda pushing at the EAC level?

With the success recorded with our East African Community (EAC) countries, we believe that the region is our key source market.

At the EAC level, we also have our marketing strategy. Recently, we developed a destination marketing brand for the community with the slogan ‘Visit East Africa feel the vibes’. The regional campaign is also in line with our branding agenda and we want to leverage that to push our brand to the world.

So, we need to work together to bid for other visitors that come to the EAC region.

We have similar ideas for building the region’s tourism, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda operate single tourist visas to make it easier to move as visitors get visas for one country, which serves the other two countries. We have other EAC partners that we hope will join this framework to add voice to the message we are pushing forward.

Also, for the three countries of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, the citizens don’t require passports to move, just an ID card.

What are you doing to address the lack of access, which has been a big challenge for would-be visitors?

Again, what do travellers want?

They are looking for accessibility.

Access to our tourism offerings is seamless now with our airline which flies to over 13 destinations.

As a country, we are happy and set for tourism with more access to travellers to our country through our airline which is now operational.

Uganda Airlines flies to 13 destinations. In October, we added India and Lagos.

We hope to add China and London in the near future.

The access will make it easier for more visitors to come to our country.

Read also: East Africa lends voice to sustainable tourism at EARTE

What about accommodation?

As our airline has taken off, more people will be visiting and we are ready for them in terms of quality accommodation. We have different categories of offerings across hotels and resorts, in the cities and in the wild.

This also opens opportunities for people to, not only visit but also invest in our accommodation infrastructure.

How are you creating awareness on updates and on your recent feats?

With all these positive developments, we are now creating awareness of our destination using the media, the EARTE platform, among other channels of communication.

That is also why we are engaging with you the media here at the expo.

Are you also looking at MICE to woo visitors?

In Uganda, we are looking at leisure travelers and also Meetings Incentives Conference and Exhibitions (MICE). While MICE caters to business travellers, it is one area we are trying to prioritise. Over the last years, we have been making good efforts to position as a MICE destination. It is not that we are competing. Before the pandemic in 2019, we were number 10 in MICE offering in Africa, in 2022 we moved to number 6 and we hope to be number 2 in the next two to three years from now. As I said earlier, we are not competing but complementing each other in the region. You need to be conscious of where the industry is heading and the trends.

So, we are promoting business travel. Next year, we will have more business travel events, one of which is the Non-Aligned Movement Summit. We are expecting over 4000 guests and that is back to back with the G77 Summit. We will host it in January and again it attests to our readiness as a country for MICE.

What do we expect from POATE 2024?

As part of the signature events that we are having, similar to the Magical Kenya Tourism Expo, in May 2024, we will be hosting the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE). It will run from May 22-25, 2024 in Kampala.

We are promising a good experience to the travel media, travel buyers and sellers at the expo.

What are some of the offerings you have for visitors?

As you know, the country has many offerings to show you. We have the big five and an extra two gorillas and chimpanzees, which many destinations do not have. We have diverse and colourful cultures with over 65 tribes that are living in harmony. We are among the most diverse countries in the world. The 65 tribes come with languages, food, crafts, dance and other elements that will excite visitors.

We have River Nile, which originated from Uganda and stretches 4,000 miles to Egypt with many water sports activities and attractions along the way, such as water rafting, and bungee jumping, among others.

Also, Nyege Nyege Festival, an exciting entertainment event in East Africa takes place in Jinja, by the source of the Nile.

We have wildlife as well. We have 10 parks and most of them have won international accolades. We have the Rwenzori, the mountain of the moon. It is a unique mountain with a park, many ranges and challenges for mountain climbing expeditions. We have parks with rare bird species and Uganda accounts for 50 percent of the continent’s bird species. So, we are a haven for birdwatching.

Uganda is also the primate capital of the world. At the Kibale National Park, we have the highest single concentration of primates in one location in the world.

We have over 5000 chimpanzees living in the wild.

Half of the world’s mountain gorillas are in Uganda. They are close to 500 and offer unique experiences to visitors who love gorilla tracking and trekking experiences.

How safe is investment in Uganda?

Uganda is a safe haven for investment. Moreover, investments, especially in tourism, are guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Uganda. The guarantee in the constitution addresses any concern of a potential investor and the returns are quite high, one of the highest in the world. For those planning to invest in tourism, Uganda is your next destination.