The clever introduction of the 10-kilometre Martyrs Walk by the Uganda Tourism Board is a good initiative. The trek from Old Kampala to Busega to retrace the saints’ route to martyrdom, done to raise Shs25 million to have 10 babies benefit from heart surgery at Mulago, produced great unintended results.
It proved a great first step in branding the Uganda Martyrs Day for tourism. It also opened up hidden touristic treasures of colourful red brick walls of Busega Martyrs Church, and missionary Alexander MacKay’s water well and cave asylum.
And yet so much more can be done to add the Martyrs’ treasures to Uganda’s growing lists of tourists’ attractions
Going forward, both the Anglican and Catholic Martyrs’ shrines at Namugongo should be rebranded, and have improved image, products and services.
For now, the shrines are associated with Christian celebrations but on the negative side, the disruptive binges of wild gathering of revellers indulging in excessive drinking do not advance the Christian brands.
This is why Namugongo needs to raise its spiritual brand to befit the June 3 annual fete to remember the Uganda Martyrs as Christian role models.
Precisely, these are reasons why the Namugongo sites should communicate that unique spiritual brand. And here is how it can be done.
First, the two churches should consider what core values hold the occasion, its festivities, and the impression they want the pilgrims to carry home. They should be pilgrims-focused, provide products and services, which make pilgrims celebrations memorable.
Second, the churches should step up the new partnership with Uganda Tourism Board to develop and make all 13 martyrs execution sites in Buganda attractive to tourists.
Third, for these goals to be achieved, the churches should work with business development, design, management and marketing consultants. This would help achieve the re-modelling of the Catholic Martyrs pilgrimage site as suggested by Kampala Archbishop Dr Kizito Lwanga. So are the building of the dormitories, open-air pavilion and island altar
Already, the Anglican Church has planned well to remodel the pavilion at the shrine. The Church’s design of a three-storey guest house for pilgrims should save tired faithful from resting under trees.
Archbishop Lwanga should also follow up on President Museveni‘s pledge to boost Namugongo Martyrs’ Shrine and provide decent sanitation and accommodation. The proposed Anglican Martyrs shrine museum as a central repository of Christian artefacts in Uganda is a great introduction.
These distinctive innovations would endear pilgrims and tourists. Uganda can rebrand Martyrs Day sites to popular tourist attractions.