For starters, we at Gantone (Greater Ankole Tourism Network), the tourism cluster for the Ankole Sub-region, do raise our thumps-up to the immediate past CEO and deputy CEO at Uganda Tourism Board, Mr Steven Asiimwe and Mr John Ssempebwa, respectively. They set the sector on a solid footing for other stakeholders to build on.
Mr Asiimwe aptly says it: Tourism is everybody’s business. And this is where we all need to focus, as we welcome the new team at UTB led by Ms Lilly Ajarova. During the farewell dinner for the outgoing leadership, Tourism minister Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, tasked the new team to ensure Uganda receives four million tourists per year. Yes. It is possible. And we need not look farther than here.
Here is how: During the launch of the current 10-Year Strategic Plan for the ministry in 2012, then minister Maria Mutagamba (RIP) made two revelations, which hold the key to Uganda becoming a preferred tourist destination. One, that every tourist landing at Entebbe Airport pays a fee of $55. Two, in the previous year, Uganda had received 1.7 million tourists.
Whereas she made a request for government to allocate $5 directly into the coffers of tourism promotion, our view is that this amount should be $25. This translates into $42 million annually. Not much compared to regional giant Kenya, but a good start.
Uganda remains the only destination in East Africa where tourists return home with unspent hard currency. Reason? Our limited attraction packaging.
With tourism clusters now fully established, and each having its unique offer, UTB will be able to work with cluster leaders and do a comprehensive attraction mapping to inform the creation of full-menu tourist circuits across Uganda, linking the clusters.
Another key determinant factor is marketing. Tourism is an export product, thus we need permanent visibility and presence in the key source country capitals: Permanent marketing bureaux, or better still, One-Stop-Centres, miniatures of Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Investment Authority, Uganda Export Promotion Board, Uganda Manufacturers Association, National Council for Higher Education, National Organic Movement of Uganda, and related agencies in lead sectors.
These should be manned by seasoned marketing honchos to package and present Uganda at her best. The permanent marketing bureaux should be located in prime, accessible districts of the target source capitals.
The current practice of limiting county information to embassies and high commissions has its own limitations. Embassies by their nature are places not easily accessible freely. Equally insufficient are the contracted foreign-marketing agencies, usually paid from donor funds. We need to take the lead, from our own resources.
Tourism is everybody’s business. In Uganda’s case, the numbers will come from budget tourists, not the high-end of the ‘Concorde’-Cruise Ship’class. Budget tourists are usually the adventurous type, families on holiday or even students.
These will seek budget accommodation, budget transport or even public transport. And these are areas where we are faring poorly relative to our regional competitor destinations.
Both our hard and soft infrastructure (manpower) in these areas require a business unusual deliberate effort to bring them to standard. Can UTB lead a legislative/policy initiative to have all hotels and accommodation place of 2-star and above under outsourced professional management?
What will it require to have world-class PSV transport on our major routes? How about professionalising and standardising taxi-cab business? What would it take? UTB holds the torch, but we all need to do our respective part.
Mr Kahunga is the executive secretary
at Gantone. firstname.lastname@example.org