Recent initiatives to give the Source of the Nile a facelift sets Uganda on course as one of the best travel destinations worldwide. Already, Uganda has had nods of approval to its great tourist potentials and listed ‘best country to visit in 2012’ by the Lonely Planet, and named ‘one of the best travel destinations in the World’ by National Geographic.
So what Ugandans need is to endorse these global ratings, including by the New York Times, naming Uganda as a country to visit. However, unless Ugandans do much more, these honours will remain only pipe dreams.
Every new effort, including the one by Jinja District and the ministry of Tourism, in upgrading the Source of the Nile to a world class tourism site is welcome.
However, such master plans are few. As principal tourism officer Mr Vivian Lyazi admits, a few of Uganda’s tourism sites have improved access roads, infrastructure, and landscapes. This means the actors in our tourism industry should also enhance signage, and operate robust information centres and management tools to guide and track visitors.
Currently, only the national parks, the Source of River Nile and some cultural sites boast of any significant records. For this, projects such as the Kagulu Hill tourism promotion by the Busoga Tourism Initiative are drives in the right direction. Tourism creates wealth for service providers as they open up hotels, foods, beverages, and transport hire services.
Similarly, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, and the Uganda Tourism Board, should improve the country’s water-based attractions and carry out more downstream enhancements, including recreational activities, for example, at Itanda and Murchison Falls on the River Nile.
The ministry and board should develop Uganda’s rich mountain attractions on Mount Elgon and the Rwenzori. As a first step, they should develop the infrastructure along the climbing tracks.
For instance, the eight kilometre access road to Bunyonyi in the hilly and cool Kigezi, which is a great tourist attraction for both local and foreign visitors, remains poor with treacherous tracks on the steep slopes.
This access road and the circular one running around Lake Bunyonyi, which offers a colourful view of the lake, can be upgraded to all-weather murram roads or be tarmacked. Besides, Lake Bunyonyi has great depth and allows for motorised boats to be used by tourists instead of the current and risky leisure rides on dugout canoes.
The Uganda Tourism Board also needs to enter into partnerships with cultural institutions, to develop into tourist attractions kingdom palaces, and many other sites besides Buganda’s Kasubi tombs.
Uganda should cement her spot as one of the best travel destinations worldwide.