On September 27, the world celebrated the World Tourism Day. Tourism today is a trillion dollar sector involving the movement of over one billion tourists a year around the world and another five to six billion domestically.
This year’s theme highlights tourism’s role in water access and shines a spotlight on the actions currently being taken by the sector in order to contribute to a more sustainable water future, as well as the challenges ahead.
From September 30 to October 4, Uganda will host the international conference of heritage experts meeting in Africa for the very first time. Experts converge for the 15th Conference for National Trusts in Entebbe at the Imperial Golf View Hotel. This conference is co-organised by the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) and the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU).
The tourism industry in Uganda is at a turning point with tremendous opportunities emerging. Lonely Planet, an independent tourists’ trusted information source, named Uganda a top tourism destination for 2011/12. In addition, Uganda has received accolades from six trusted publications including: Virungas: One of 20 must-see places for 2012 by National Geographic Traveler Magazine, Bwindi: Best African birding destination (2011) by Travel Africa Magazine and Rwenzori Mountains: One of world’s 15 best hikes (2011) by National Geographic Society.
Besides the above attractions, Uganda is richly endowed with other natural and cultural tourism resources. Natural resources include the 10 national parks and wildlife reserves popular for nature-based tourism. The cultural resources include Kasubi Tombs, the Uganda National Cultural Centre (National Theatre) and the Uganda National Museum. Of recent, Uganda has also witnessed an emergence and appreciation of community-based museums spread across the country.
Currently, community museums number up to 30 and in all the four regions of Uganda that you may visit, you will be pleasantly surprised to find a community museum. These include Igongo cultural museums in Mbarara, Cultural Research Centre in Jinja, Museum of Acholi Art and Culture in Kitgum, Cultural Assets Centre Museum in Kagadi and St. Luke’s Community Museum in Rakai, among others.
These museums are initiatives by individuals, families or groups who have collected artifacts, oral history, and other elements of the local culture. The museums have made an effort to link past and future through their collections, which are accessible to schools, researchers, local residents and foreign tourists.
Community museums have the potential to play an important role in preserving and presenting the diversity of Uganda’s cultural heritage and provide spaces for appreciating different cultures, which will diversify Uganda’s tourism product through cultural tourism.
Cultural heritage tourism is not yet fully exploited in Uganda but could become a mainstream activity for visitors keen to learn more about Uganda’s kingdoms, chiefdoms and their ancient customs and ways of life, still often practiced like it was decades and centuries ago in the remote areas of the country.
The heritage conference provides an opportunity for Uganda to market her tourism resources. During the conference, learning journeys to different important heritage sites in Uganda, including Lake Mburo National Park, Kasubi Tombs, Uganda Museum and the Source of the Nile, among other places, have been organised to provide delegates with an opportunity to explore examples of heritage promotion work in Uganda.
It is, therefore, important for us as Ugandans to tap into these events to promote Ugandan tourism.
Mr Nsibambi works with the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda.