Andrew Roberts and Philip Briggs are authors of Bradt Travel Guides, a book which details Uganda’s tourism potential and beauty. They are currently finalising a new edition of the same book.
While on a recent trip to Kidepo Valley National Park, I chanced on Roberts and he was kind to offer some time for a chat.
He said Briggs had been around too, and they had done some work around Uganda for a couple of months. They split work between themselves. Their third workmate is Brigg’s wife who has shot the photographs for the book.
“I make tourist maps which I sell to tour companies. Uganda has tremendous tourism potential, friendly people and great scenery. Where it has the edge over Kenya is primates and bird species in western Uganda that you will not find in Kenya or Tanzania,” Roberts explains, comparing Uganda to the regional players.
Compared to Rwanda
Roberts says Uganda can compete over Rwanda given its diversity of attractions, pointing out that motherland has far great variety to see but she continues to fail.
Rwanda is more dynamic in terms of marketing. “Even if Rwanda has less to sell, it is selling it more efficiently,” he observes, adding that Ugandan marketers need to wake up and sell ‘this amazing variety’ a lot more efficiently.
He adds, “We will always be ahead of Kenya in terms of birds and primates but Rwanda with its smaller number of gorilla groups also has a variety of birds and they are selling them well.
Tourists travel more to Rwanda to track gorillas. Uganda has to wake up.” Rwanda has an advantage of distance since some of its parks are within two-hours’ drive from Kigali unlike Uganda whose national parks would require a traveller or tourist to cover a number of hours on the road. There is the option of air transport which is a bit expensive for economy travellers.
What can be done
Even then, Roberts argues that distance is no longer an issue. “You can charter a plane from Entebbe to Buhoma or Kisoro.” He is quick to add that government needs to increase Uganda Tourism Board’s marketing budget too. Rwanda spends twice as much on marketing as Uganda.
He says beyond the financial investment, UTB needs to think of simple things such as attire.
“Rwanda uses beautiful girls to sell products and the best we (Uganda) have are women in gomesis. May be we need a better costume to sell out products. When you are doing a television advert for a beer, you don’t get a fat lady,” he argues.
He applauds efforts of individuals such as Amos Wekesa of Great Lakes Safaris Limited for a selfless job well done to market Uganda.
“We shouldn’t entirely rely on people like him to market Uganda. We probably need an airline not for pride but economic sense.
If Uganda Airlines flew to places like Heathrow airport, it will register Uganda’s existence and you will be amazed how many people in Europe will trace Uganda on the world map,” he advises. Roberts is married to a Ugandan woman he met 18 years ago.
Why Uganda is a favourite
Andrew Roberts says Uganda is his favourite country in Africa for its friendly people, the traffic jam notwithstanding.
“I have seen many countries north of Uganda and the people there are not that friendly. You can have a bad day sitting in traffic in Uganda but be here in a park the next day. I feel refreshed,” he explains