Wednesday October 10 2018

Let’s develop and market Uganda’s tourist sites




It was an honour for Jinja District to host this year’s World Tourism Day next to the source of the River Nile. We thank the government, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and the leadership of the district for a successful event.
Every year, World Tourism Day is held in a different district of Uganda. The idea is to take tourism to the people, and also to tap the best in terms of tourism from the local communities across the country. More importantly, this day gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we have been doing in the last one year with a view to identifying gaps, areas for improvement and introduction of new products and ideas.

So far, our figures for tourism have been increasing; standing at close to 1.4 million tourists for 2017 and contributing $1.4 billion in foreign exchange earnings and about 8 per cent of our GDP. Our target is four million tourists and this is achievable provided we maintain peace and tranquillity, follow through our plans, prioritise investment in the sector, take advantage of the digital era and ensure positive media country coverage.

We are working with our embassies and missions abroad to promote and market our destination. Government has also provided resources to engage public relations and marketing firms to buttress this work in USA, Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, UK, China, Gulf States, India and Japan. Training of our managers and workers to communicate in the requisite languages, prepare cuisine and to appreciate foreign visitors’ culture is ongoing.

On the domestic front; religious and cultural tourism has picked up with the Uganda Martyrs pilgrimages at Namugongo, Janani Luwum Day in Mucwini, Bishop Hannington Day in Mayuge and Imbalu circumcision standing out.
The Tulambule campaign has drummed up the need and importance of Ugandans knowing, experiencing and enjoying what different parts of the country have to offer. Education institutions and the young people have responded positively to this campaign. We thank UWA and UWEC for the affordable accommodation and transport put in place to cater for some of these tourists.

This year’s theme: ‘Tourism and Digital Transformation’, brings to light the reality of the importance of information technology in the area of tourism. For instance, the tourist attractions from the different parts of the world can be relayed to a potential tourist instantly on his/her phone, tab, laptop, television screen, etc.

The ease with which information is accessed to compare and contrast destinations, weather pattern, security, safety, pricing, quality of services, cultural practices, press reports, etc, requires that we must work hard to ensure that whatever we have to offer can compete with the alternative competing destinations globally.
As such, digital transformation has become a major determinant of our visitors.

The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA) working with UTB, UWA, and UWEC together with the urban, local authorities and the private sector, will have a duty of identifying, designing, developing and showcasing sites of touristic attractions. Given the speed at which information is shared in this digital age, the sites of tourist attraction must meet acceptable international standards in order for Uganda to be competitive.

There is, therefore, a need to invest more in improving and developing our tourist sites. Similarly, a programme to address enhanced accessibility of the surroundings and ambiance of the identified tourist sites must be put in place. The return on investment has in most cases been positive and many jobs have been created in the process.

It is along these lines that we commend the Indian Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Modi and President Museveni for the decision taken to allocate considerable resources towards improving the Source of the Nile through the Mahatma Ghandi Convention and Cultural Centre project. We look forward to the timely implementation of this project. These developments will blend well with the iconic new Nile Bridge, which is to be commissioned soon. This increased investment will enhance our capacity to handle tourists and enable us to benefit from accruing economies of scale.

As we prepared for the World Tourism Day, we publicized the tourist attractions in Jinja, Buikwe and Busoga. The Source of the Nile, Lake Victoria, the Kyabazinga cultural sites, Itanda Falls, local hotels, etc., have received many visitors and attracted good publicity.
The above attractions together with other prominent sites across the country, will greatly boost the list of tourist attractions Uganda has to offer.
Tourism is everybody’s business because we all benefit from it. I would, therefore, like to appeal to local and urban governments to main-stream planning and development of tourism resources in their areas, mobilise people to tap into this resource and marshal the business community to invest locally. This can be lucrative business and a steady revenue source.

This will easily happen if we can keep peace and tranquility all over the country, put up decent tourist facilities, and market our tourist sites. That way, we shall achieve greater success, attract more visitors, and register higher income figures, which will go a long way in transforming our country.

Mr Migereko is the chairman Uganda Tourism Board. This is a condensed version of a speech he made on World Tourism Day in Jinja on September 27, 2018.