The tourism industry in Uganda is growing to be one of the world’s top destinations, and 24-year-old Rada Mutamba Rubangira knows this.
His heart, however, is out for domestic tourism, especially among youthful students and young adults.
When he shared his idea of starting a tour company with his friends, after an entrepreneurship class during his second year at Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi, in 2017, everyone couldn’t help but laugh it off and advise him to stop dreaming. But that was the last thing he was going to do.
“They asked me questions like, ‘where are you going to get the capital to buy the 4x4 safari cars and where are you going to get the Bazungu?’ I told them that my capital is my brain! As long as I have the idea, the rest God will provide,” he reminisces.
That very day, Rubangira says, one of his friends offered to design the company logo after which he immediately shared it on his WhatsApp status with a caption, ‘Coming soon!’
“After a few minutes, the post was all over campus as students shared it on their statuses, and word was everywhere,” he recalls.
“I started RadaSafaris with Shs220,000 from my savings. I printed six T-shirts with the RadaSafaris logo and gave them to my friends. Then I took them to the Uganda equator in Kayabwe for lunch that was fully paid by me and took a few pictures at the equator. That was our first safari trip that was really unprofitable, but sent a big message to my target customers,” Rubangira says.
The plan, Rubangira shares, was to create a tour and travel company that offered affordable, quality bouquet safaris.
They, for example, would do student trips, team building for cooperate companies, family safaris, honeymoons and selling experiences such as gorilla tracking, chimpanzee tracking, game drives, white water rafting, mountain hiking, cultural Safaris, community walks, airport pick-ups and drop offs, among others.
“I work in partnership with my good friend, Edwin Kirabo, who is the public relations officer of the company,” he adds.
After the trip to the equator, Rubangira went on to pitch his idea to the student’s union and the dean of students at Uganda Martyrs University, through the dean’s representative, Jordan Odopin, which he says they liked and offered to sponsor the student’s trip.
“They offered to give me a free bus and fuel. I then organised my first student’s trip, ‘The Ultimate Kalangala Experience Trip’. We organised for 40 students at a fee of Shs150,000 for three days, inclusive of meals, accommodation and activities such as campfires, music, nature walks, visiting different sites, among others,” he recollects.
Next was the ‘Ultimate Fort Portal Experience’ where he hosted 62 students and they visited places such as Tooro Kingdom, Sempaya Hot Springs for Shs100,000. It was for three days and had students from all universities, including some non-students.
Later, they organised the ‘Ultimate Kasese Experience’ where they took 140 students for game drive, boat cruise plus the road trip itself.
They are currently organising the ‘Ultimate Murchison Falls Experience’ due in a few weeks.
“The idea of tourism and university students is that we are trying to promote domestic tourism and we believe that we can change the mindset of Ugandans towards tourism. Some view travelling as being for foreigners, the rich and old. We want students and young people to get to love and learn more about their country and grasp the spirit of travelling in their own country,” Rubangira says.
Earning from tourism
To be able to earn from the trade, Rubangira partners with different accommodation facilities which give him 20 per cent discount on accommodation and meals.
Since its initiation in 2017, RadaSafaris has won the Starthub Africa Pitch Event competitions, 2019. They have also ordered for two safari vans from Japan and Rubangira is confident that their brand is growing.
Like any other business, Rubangira highlights that some of their challenges are finances to, for example, pay full-time staff and buy the Land Cruisers for the safaris.
But again, he says, competition is another of the challenges they have to battle everyday as a new company in the industry.
The Information Technology graduate is now fully dedicated to his company.
“I have been attending various trainings in the tourism field, visiting various tourist destinations around the country so that I know what really happens on the ground. I have had different tourists from different countries booked with us,” he says.
Rubangira says he is also trying to sale his idea of student safaris to the Uganda Tourism Board as a way of promoting domestic tourism.