2016: Uganda will be a hot tourist destination

Gorilla tracking is a key tourist feature that attracts a number of visitors to Uganda. COURTESY & FILE PHOTOS.

What you need to know:

Uganda’s tourism industry continues to be ranked highly but the problem has been how the country harnesses this opportunity for tangible and real growth. Jonathan Adengo reviews a report filed on the Business Insider website.

Uganda is getting there and indeed the power is now with us to flaunt our tourism industry.
Just like in the last few years, Uganda continues to do well on the global charts in terms of having some of the world’s tourism hotspots.

Uganda, according to Business Insider, will be among the 12 key destinations that tourists must look out for in 2016 if they are to get value for their money.
“2016 is all about emerging destinations. Wilderness, wildlife and culture; these themes will illuminate the year’s travel itineraries,” Anisha Shah, a broadcast journalist and photojournalist, specialising in travel to emerging destinations wrote in her article on Business Insider.

Anisha is a veteran broadcast journalist with key global broadcast and publication houses, including BBC, CNN, BBC Travel and Huffington Post.
In her article, Anisha credits Uganda for possessing half of the world’s wild mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest sanctuary.
“Trekking to see them is a wildlife experience of a lifetime. The larger-than-life, humanlike gorillas and chimps induce an indescribable affection for nature,” the travel journalist writes.

Other destinations, including key wildlife migration corridors, national parks, and gushing falls and the source of the River Nile in Jinja are inducing features that shall be hard for tourists to resist next year.
She also highlights the explosive crater lakes across much the country as some of the features that have turned the landlocked nation into a lush oasis.
The tourism sector, on average, contributes about Shs6.5b to Gross Domestic Product. The growth is captured in the government tourism master plan that seeks to at least see the same triple in the next five years.

This has been a growth from Shs5.6b recorded in the 2013/14 financial year.
The growth translates into 9.9 per cent contribution to GDP up from 7.9 per cent in 2013/14.
The growth, according to Ministry of Tourism, has been a result of an increased visitor numbers, which in the 2014/15 financial year, grew from 1,206,334 to 1,266,046.
Government says the new achievements could have resulted in its increased spend on tourism marketing across, even as critics insist less has been done to market Uganda’s tourism potential.

However, there have been some visible marketing efforts, although they have largely remained sparse and inconsistent.
For instance, government recently published a supplement in the New York Times highlighting the country’s tourism and growth potentials.
Such efforts, although long-term, could be key ingredients in the growth of the country’s development, not considering that Uganda has also been a key destination for high profile visits, including the recently concluded papal visit.

The tourism sector, according to government, if well harnessed, on average has the potential to create 600,000 jobs annually.
Anisha also identifies Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary, among the key destinations, which can be accessed through a boat ride on Lake Victor after crossing the Equator.
“It is a pristine island paradise where you meet orphaned and rescued chimps,” Anisha writes but she is also cognizant that there could be a new drive as Uganda seeks to become a middle-income country by 2040 “a plan incentivised further by the Pope’s recent landmark visit”.