Mountain Gorillas, the Source of the Nile, music, dance, art and the hospitality of Ugandans, are some of the reasons tourists descend upon Uganda every day. Uganda is the Pearl of Africa and generously endowed by nature– the more reason visitors are interested in finding out more about this tourist destination.
The story was, however, different last week. Instead of waiting for foreign tourists here, Uganda was ‘exported’ to the world by nine tourism ambassadors who are also contestants for the Miss Tourism Uganda 2013. Travelling to Ethiopia, Turkey, Belgium, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, the ambassadors took with them knowledge about Uganda’s tourist attractions as well as products that define Uganda.
Visiting Murchison Falls National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park and the Source of the Nile, among other tourism sites weeks earlier, was an opportunity for the ambassadors to ‘take’ these places and more, to the countries they visited.
In Rwanda, for instance, Kellen Nakaye, one of the contestants, took with her coffee from Uganda, cow horn–made items such as bangles and key holders; booklets on tourism in Uganda and wildlife carvings. The ambassadors met various people, including Uganda’s representatives in the countries visited, tourism stakeholders, ordinary people and the media.
The message, delivered by these ambassadors was to promote Uganda as a preferred tourist destination.
Tourism minister Miria Mutagamba, while speaking to journalists who were to accompany the girls to the different countries, said: “The purpose of the travel is about marketing Uganda as the Pearl of Africa.”
For the ambassadors, the experience has been fascinating but also key in their quest to make the world know what the country has to offer. “I believe we have so much to offer, but we need to improve our marketing strategies, how we present ourselves out there and making the tourism experience memorable,” says Nakaye.
The ambassadors are also keen on interesting Ugandans to visit tourist sites in the country, instead of leaving it to foreign tourists only. Sandra Akello, one of the contestants, says if she takes the crown, she will advocate for domestic tourism. “…I believe it starts with us as Ugandans to appreciate what we have even before foreign tourists can come in,” she says. Her colleague Nakaye shares her views: “As much as tourism is the second foreign exchange earner to the country, it has to make sense to the ordinary person.”
After nearly 20 years of Miss Tourism Pageant lull, a new tourism ambassador will today be crowned at an evening event at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala. One of the nine contestants will not just take the title - Miss Tourism Uganda 2013 – but represent the country at the Miss Tourism International Pageant on December 31 in Malaysia.
Most importantly, the Miss Tourism Uganda will be in-charge of promoting tourism locally and internationally with emphasis on culture, wildlife, weather, fauna and flora, eco-tourism, adventure sports and Uganda’s landscape, among others.
The Ministry of Tourism in conjunction with various partners, hopes that this effort will ensure “Uganda’s tourism industry claims its rightful place at the helm of African tourism” and become “a major driver of employment, investment and foreign exchange,” as minister Mutagamba explains.
Who will be crowned Miss Tourism today?
The Ministry of Tourism today picks the Miss Tourism Uganda 2013, a lady who will be Uganda’s tourism ambassador to the rest of the world. Out of the hundreds of girls who showed interest in the pageant, nine will today make a final show of their potential to take that coveted crown. Below are profiles and aspirations of the finalists.
SANDRA AKELLO, 20.
The student of International Business at Makerere University Business School, hails from Dokolo District. If she is crowned Miss Tourism Uganda 2013, Akello will advocate for domestic tourism, because she believes ‘it starts with us as Ugandans to appreciate what we have before foreign tourists can come in’. Akello is eager to work with Uganda Wildlife Authority in conserving the country’s tourism wealth for the future generation. As a tourism ambassador, Akello also hopes to work with the Ministry of Tourism ensure safe and comfortable transportation and access to tourism sites. She detests poaching and the destruction of natural resources.
SHAMIM NAKAMYUKA, 24.
Shamim hails from Mukono District and holds a bachelor’s degree in Tourism from Makerere University.
If she is crowned Miss Tourism Uganda 2013, Shamim will work towards improving how the country’s tourism industry is marketed. A focus on domestic marketing of Uganda’s tourism potential will be top on her agenda because she believes it is one way foreign tourists can get attracted to visit and invest in the sector.
Reaching out to other sectors and ministries to ensure the Tourism industry stands firm is what Shamin also intends to do if her dream to become Uganda’s tourism ambassador is realized.
KELLEN NAKAYE, 22.
Nakaye hails from Bbira Village in Kampala. The violinist recently completed a degree in telecom engineering from Makerere University and has been undertaking voluntary work for charities. When she wins the crown for Miss Tourism Uganda 2013, Nakaye intends to work with the Tourism Ministry to ensure Uganda’s tourism products are clearly defined on the international market. Drawing inspiration from the country’s diverse tourism varieties such as the mountain gorillas, the source of the Nile, arts and cuisine, Nakaye wishes to work with communities to conserve these potentials for the economic benefit of locals and the country.