Wednesday November 28 2012

Capitalise on tourism gains

By Editorial

Latest reports indicate that Uganda has been declared a preferred bird watching destination for 2013/14. The declaration was recently made by the government after Birdlife International, a global programme on conservation and protection of birds and their habitats, and Nature Uganda, announced that there were 34 important bird watching areas in Uganda, with diverse bird species.

For those who are familiar with Uganda’s exceptional natural gifting, these declarations are not surprising. In fact, what might be surprising is the fact that these revelations are being made today yet the country’s unique natural environment has been around for ages.

Recently, Lonely Planet, the largest travel guide book and digital media publisher in the world, chose Uganda as its the best tourism destination for 2012. Still, Africa Bird Club, voted Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as Africa’s number one birding site. Even more, Uganda’s rich bird diversity, accounts for 10 per cent of the world’s total bird species and 50 per cent of Africa’s bird species population.

This, for instance, means that by visiting Uganda, a tourist would be able to see 50 per cent of the bird species on the entire African continent. But we can also do more to let the world know that over half of the mountain gorillas on earth reside in Uganda. And that the source of the world’s longest River-the Nile is right here at home. And the list goes on.

With total annual tourism revenues standing at about $805 million, effective and sustainable marketing campaigns could see this figure easily rise to over $2 billion in a few years. This is the kind of money that we could start getting even before we witness any proceeds from our overly hyped oil resources.

There is no doubt what the economic impact of over $2 billion can have on the Ugandan economy. This can only translate into better healthcare, better infrastructure, reduced unemployment and a better life for Ugandans.
It worth noting that a well-managed tourism industry has the ability to outlast the temporal gush of revenues that accrue from oil production. There is, therefore, every reason for the government to invest in optimising the potential of the country’s tourism sector.