Wednesday January 22 2014

Uganda’s good weather can boost tourism

By Fred Muwema

I spent the most anxious moments of 2013 in a serious spot of bother because of the weather. While attending a conference in the UK in early December, 2013, my Ugandan weather conditioning was put to the sword. Despite being widely travelled, I was, for the first time in my adult life, forced to pay keen attention to the weatherman’s report because my scheduled flight out of London’s Heathrow Airport would be cancelled if the fog that had engulfed the airport did not let go.

Back home in Uganda, weather is not serious business as the New Vision story of January 17, “Entebbe Airport weather radar dysfunctional” is a case in point. I was even more depressed to learn that our budget for the 2013/2014 Financial Year had only four feather weight paragraphs talking about tourism, nothing about the weather and just a promise to provide a conducive climate for tourism.

And yet any type of weather, if properly harnessed, can be a springboard for serious economic activity that can benefit any country. The United Arab Emirates, despite the extreme heat most of the year, has built a multibillion dollar tourism industry by marketing Dubai as a best weather destination . The Dubai desert drives are a good example of adventure in a wild hostile environment.

Even the Europeans have built multiple multibillion dollar industries out of their freezing and snowing winters like skiing, ice hockey, etc.
It is only Ecuador, parts of western Kenya and eastern DR Congo that share the good mild /warm weather like Uganda throughout the year. Ecuador may not be a good comparison because it is far more advanced when it comes to exploiting its weather-based tourism potential.

According to a recent survey by Visa, most respondents who were asked to choose one main factor out of 10 in determining choice of holiday destination, ranked good weather to be the most important.

Of course, good weather alone is not enough. You also need the right strategic planning, investment in infrastructure development, sustainable peace and security, friendly people (where Uganda scores with a distinction), etc. This is the only way we can effectively exploit the competitive advantage in our good weather.