I have been asking myself lots of questions over the years about the influence of our representatives abroad. To whom are they accountable? What is the quality of the individual representing us abroad? Do they learn anything from examples, especially from those representing our neighbours? Do they know our expectations as taxpayers whose money keeps them there?
Why don’t we have any tourism attaché at our embassies, and yet we have commercial, military, political attachés? Can’t we be innovative as Ugandans? Or are we just interested in politicking? If we can’t be innovative, let’s at least emulate what some of our neighbours are doing.
I just received an email from a friend who thinks Ugandans should copy what some Kenyans in Diaspora are doing.
A group a Kenyans have started a company called Kenya Coffee House which is going to be launched soon and their dream is to launch a chain of coffee houses targeting 21 countries where Kenya and East Africa gets most of its tourists.
One of their objectives is to directly present to the clients information about Kenya in terms of hotels, tourism locations, tour packages, local services, culture, etc. The target for the coffee houses will be shopping malls, airports, and other locations with high footfall who are Kenya’s potential tourists.
This project has received support from Kenya Tourist Board, Kenyan embassy in UK, Kenya Coffee Board, land and marine publications, among other institutions.
They have mapped out four ways in which this will produce results:
The first will be through delivering into the hands of every customer who walks through their door, that’s between 1,000 and 1,500 persons per day per location, fliers containing information about Kenya from both the government and other tourism related partners.
The second is that they will have an in-store TV advert/documentary about Kenya and their tourism locations playing on 50-inch wall and front faced window mounted flat screen TVs (estimated number of clients will be 15,000 per month per coffee house)
The third is that they will create a customer loyalty programme (estimated number of clients 10,000 per month per coffee house). The loyalty programme will be used to give away weekly holidays to Kenya and other small gift items produced in Kenya. Winner of the holiday packages will be filmed while in Kenya and played as the TV documentary. The clients will have the ability to redeem points collected through purchase of coffee for discounted flights and tours to Kenya.
The fourth will be the ability for their sit-in clients to access their country’s website via their table tablets (IPADS on all the tables). This will ensure a constant stream of clients visiting their website.
The reason I write about this is that it’s possible for a group of Ugandans to do the same with the support from government, including Uganda Tourism Board, Ministry of Tourism Trade and Industry, Foreign Affairs Ministry and both Uganda Investment Authority and Uganda Export Promotion Board.
According to the figures formed after thorough research, if they had two coffee houses in each of 21 countries, they would have access to about 945,000 potential tourists per month.
Assuming only 10 per cent gets to visit Kenya every year, they would add to the current number about 1,080,000 tourists and if each of them conservatively spends say $1,000, then Kenya would earn $1.08 billion per year. That would create at least 108,000 jobs because according to World Tourism Organisation- UNWTO, every 10 tourists create one permanent job.
Here, my assumption is probably 50 per cent of the coffee will be from Uganda (definitely good for our farmers) but will be sold as Kenyan coffee (national branding).
Patriots, if Uganda received just 10 per cent of the above figure, we would go crazy because Uganda’s 10 national parks and 12 game reserves combined receive less than 65,000 foreign tourists and yet the impact on employment, transport, industries, and communities around national parks is massive.
24 per cent contribution to our forex earning would more than double. Kenya has 29 national parks and reserves and all of them combined received 2.4 million tourists in 2009 whereas Tanzania with 31 received 714,367 and Uganda with 22 reserves and parks combined received 151,818 (the figure includes locals).
Ugandans, remember these countries don’t have the Nile, (The Nile contributes over $3 billion towards the 7 billion dollars Egypt earns annually and yet they have only 22 per cent of it) the good weather we have, the primates, the forests, the concentrations of birds, the diversity of culture, green sceneries, the many islands, if you talk of diversity no country in the region can compare.
Right now if you enter any of our foreign embassies, there is no evidence that they are representing Uganda at all. Promoting our heritage should be the collective responsibility of both government and forward-looking Ugandans.
Mr Wekesa is the managing director, Great Lakes Safaris Ltd and president, Uganda Tourism Association