New leadership takes helm
Uganda Tourism Board, a government agency mandated to promote and market Uganda as the preferred destination received new leadership. On January 10, 2019, Lilly Ajarova became the first female CEO in the history of the agency. She is deputised by Bradford Ochieng, former director of corporate affairs at Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority.
Previously, Ajarova steered Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary for 13 years to glory. A few months later, the Ugandan Association of Travel Agents (TUGATA) ushered in a new executive board with a new chairman Richard Mujjuzi who replaced Ms Pearl Hoareau Kakooza.
Meanwhile, the Jane Goodall Institute of Uganda, a global NGO protecting endangered chimpanzees and Great Apes welcomed James Hutchins as the new executive director taking over from Dr Peter Apell who was in acting capacity.
The Crane flies again
Air transport is an important enabler to achieving economic growth and development. Air transport facilitates integration into the global economy and provides vital connectivity on a national, regional, and international scale. It helps generate trade, promote tourism and create employment opportunities.
Uganda received four passenger planes, a vital step in the country’s efforts to relaunch its defunct national carrier and share in the region’s aviation business monopolised by Kenya Airways.
The CRJ900 planes from Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier flies directly to Bujumbura, Juba, Mogadishu, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Nairobi to mention but a few. The revival of the airline is intended to boost competition and lower costs for local travellers.
Uganda hosted the second biennial African Primatological Society (APS) conference in Entebbe.
The week-long conference under the theme: Primate Conservation in Africa, Challenges and Opportunities featured primatologists from more than 20 countries across Africa and beyond. The September meeting aimed to promote greater involvement of African stakeholders in research and conservation of African primates.
Following a survey conducted between May and December 2018, a few weeks ago, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities revealed that the Bwindi -Sarambwe Nature Reserve had 459 mountain gorillas up from 400 in 2011.
The families also increased from 36 to 50. The global population of mountain gorillas stands at 1,063 shared among DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. The rise in mountain gorilla numbers will spur Uganda’s tourism sector since gorilla tourism is the highest foreign exchange earner in the Pearl of Africa. Little wonder, the permit charge increases from $600 to $700 effective January 2020.
First animal ambulance
Just before we end the Bombardier celebrations, Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (UWEC) has received a a £50,000 animal ambulance whose primary use will be to rescue, rehabilitate injured and abandoned animals.
The vehicle modified from a Land Rover Defender 130, has been transformed with the latest anti-poaching, animal rescue additions,and wrapped by world-class designer and car wrapper to the stars Yianni from Yiannimize, UK. The ambulance is an Ex- military vehicle with extra strong specification, custom built animal crate, fitted with the powerful vehicle lights, winch, medical equipment, tracker units, siren, and specialised wrap.
In February 2018, the Drive4Wildlife team, an animal conservation and travel project supported by Paradise Wildlife Park & The Big Cat Sanctuary covered 4,500km in four east african countries under four weeks. During their epic adventure, they donated funds and equipment to several projects along the way, including Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (UWEC).
From this successful journey, they embarked on the fundraiser to get the Entebbe Zoo an animal rescue car. The car will enable the Entebbe Zoo to fulfill one of its mandates; to conduct the rescue, rehabilitation and release of wildlife species. Besides Paradise Wildlife Park,Zoological Society of Hertfordshire, The Big Cat Sanctuary, and other several companies ,over 500 members of the UK sponsored towards the project.
Uganda emerged Best Exhibitor in Africa at the 2019 Indaba Tourism fair that was held in South Africa in May, 2019. Five months later, the Pearl of Africa won the best booth award as chosen by the public at the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) Expo 2019 that attracted more than 130,000 visitors and exhibitors.
In the same spirit, Uganda’s Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka was among the three personalities shortlisted for 2019’s TUSK Award for Conservation in Africa. Despite losing to Tomas Diagne from Senegal whose work focused on the protection of tortoise, freshwater and sea turtles of West Africa, Kalema- Zikusoka was celebrated as a founder and CEO of the non-profit Uganda based Conservation Through Public Health which has innovative programmes to protect mountain gorillas and other wildlife from human and livestock disease and then use information and communication technology to aid both local development and environment education.
Meanwhile, Patrick Agaba was named 2019 winner of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Conservation Champion Award. Agaba had proven instrumental in the recovery of Murchison Falls Programme. He ensured relationships between UWA and communities are strong, helping to reduce elephant crop raiding and supporting UWA ranger training with the US and UK military.
Save Murchison Falls Campaign
As conservationists celebrated Agaba’s recovery of the Murchison Falls Programme, on June 7, the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) published a note through the press, acknowledging receipt of a notice regarding an intended application for a licence from Bonang power energy limited, a South African company.
The company has intentions in the generation of 360 megawatts of hydroelectricity power from a plant to be established near Murchison falls in Kiryandongo and Nwoya districts in north western Uganda. Unfortunately, the real location of the proposed power plant was discovered to be the same coordinates of Murchison Falls, the magnificent, iconic feature in the largest protected area in the country. This was the beginning of the hands off Murchison Falls Campaign!
The power company continues to extend the plan of undertaking the feasibility study in details, but tour operators, guides, hoteliers, cultural leaders, conservationists parliamentarians and global tourists have maintained a ‘NO TO A DAM’ as their stand. They argue that Murchison Falls is a must-visit destination in Uganda with ecological, cultural and tourism value.
Kidnap of an American tourist
Never had the country witnessed an elite squad from the tourism police dispatched to rescue a tourist. Early this year, four armed men kidnapped Kimberley Sue Endecott, 35, an American tourist in Uganda and demanded $500,000 as ransom. The American citizen- a woman- and a Ugandan driver were kidnapped at gunpoint at Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwest Uganda, while on a game drive.
The government closed all exit areas on the border between Uganda and the DRC to pursue the criminals. The victims were rescued and criminals arrested. This sent a clear message that safety of tourists is a priority and there is zero tolerance to tourism crime in destination Uganda.