What you need to know:
- Fusing entertainment and tourism is the new trend. Road trips are packaged with yoga, dance, colour fest, live deejaying, campfires, boat cruises and musical performances. Some have gone an extra mile to coin catchy slogans such as Muliwa [where are you], Tusimbudde (we have set off), to appeal to the youth.
Early 2001, a then youthful Amos Wekesa, founded Great Lakes Safaris Limited, with Shs240,000, approximately $200, according to the exchange rate at the time, on a staircase, in Kampala. Wekesa’s story and Great Lakes Safaris is one of the most enterprising start-ups that have changed the face of Uganda’s tourism business.
Against all odds, Wekesa, now a veteran in the industry, has thrived in tourism business, which has seen a number of youth picking interest in the sector. They are fusing traditional and contemporary means to boost visibility for local tourism, interest more to tour sites across the country and create employment for themselves and youth.
Data obtained from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) indicates that the number of domestic tourists to national parks have significantly increased, which is attributed to the booming local tourism business.
Recent statistics show there are more than 150 tour and travel operators in the country, according to Destination Uganda. With meagre resources at their disposal, a great challenge to most start-ups, today youth pool resources to start travel projects.
Joel Wakanyasi, a tourism enthusiast, explains that most local tour and travel company owners are young entrepreneurs, who thrive on combining efforts and resources to make ends meet.
He notes that on most occasions, companies come together to support each other to execute a given project. Wakanyansi adds that a travel company can organise a tour to a particular destination and then partner with another to provide transport, tents or entertainment.
Given the number of registered tour companies, he says few have resources to operate independently, but they are making a lasting mark on the tourism sector.
Most local tourism entities are using digital platforms to tap into Uganda’s youthful population. Muliwa, Tusimbudde
Wakanyansi and Ambrose Odong, the proprietors of Kempten Safaris are Bachelor of Commerce graduates at Makerere University, who never waited for jobs but rather created their own.
The two explain that all they had was an idea and a dream to tap into the tourism industry. Today, their company is known for attracting a number of youth in Kampala.
When the doors to entertainment venues got slammed following the Covid-19 pandemic, Kempten Safaris provided space to fuse local tourism with entertainment, a sector that had been given a green light to operate.
Kempten relies on art to interest youth in tourism. Their trips are packaged with yoga, dance, music, colour fest and live deejaying. Wakanyansi explains that together with Odong, they have also gone an extra mile to coin eye-catching slogans such as Muliwa [where are you], Tusimbudde (we have set off), to appeal to youth and interest them in joining the caravan.
Kempten Safaris benefits more than 100 youth both directly and indirectly. Wakanyansi says they hire sleeping tents and bags from youths in business, pay artistes, social media influencers, transporters, and catering services, among others.
The company has supported many youth to tour most parts of the country and unlocking destinations known to a few. He adds that besides travel, the group talks to youth about conserving the environment and natural resources and culture.
Kenneth Oketa and his team of young people are giving a chance to Ugandans to fly to their preferred destinations. Vilakazi Safaris Uganda has partnered with Uganda Airlines to give Ugandans the first-of-a-kind experience in touring mountains from the skies. With Shs550,000 per tour, you will see lakes, rift valleys all from above, and their catalogue of local and regional destinations is growing bigger by the day.
Michael Odong, one of the directors of Vilakazi Safaris, says their idea is to generate pocket-friendly and interesting packages for people to travel both locally and internationally. The group also organises local weekly trips in partnership with other companies.
Unlike other local tourism companies, Vilakazi have used their returns to own a viable transport system, creating jobs for drivers, tour guides and influencers. They also organise individual private tours and packages for companies and groups on a regular basis.
Ivan Ssebuuma is arguably among the best young men making a name in tourism photography. He had an idea, but did not own a camera. He borrowed gadgets and over the years, he has mastered the art and is currently a force to reckon with in tourism photography.
He started out with fashion photography but he would later choose travel photography as his niche. He has put his name to hundreds of eye-catching images that define Uganda’s diverse beauty.
Remember that viral clip of a photographer calling out local rafters to show him energy in the famous Njagala vibe catchphrase? That photographer was Derrick Ssenyonyi. He is a professional full-time travel and corporate photographer working with Wild Aperture256. Similar to the aforementioned brains behind lenses are photographer Lovart Mugabi of Karibu Travel Magazine, Daily Monitor’s photojournalist Edgar Raymond Batte among others.
Artistes, influencers, suppliers
Fusing entertainment and tourism is the new trend that is in Uganda. Road trips, campfires, boat cruises are always associated with dance, deejaying and musical performances.
Singer Kenneth Mugabi, dance choreographer Walta Ruva and Abeeka Band are some of the names who are making it happen. Similarly, Innocent Nsubuga is letting the travellers drift to the rhythm, providing a high-tech mobile system called audiophile that has been used by many tour organisers.
The power of influencing
Social media influencing has been tested and proven in promoting artistes, politicians, commodity businesses. Smart businessmen are also importing the trick into the tourism sector. Top influencers such as John Ssenkindu alias Laban, Eddy Pages, Esther Birungi and Lydia Nabawanda have made their mark on the sector.
Laban explains that at a given fee per tweet he makes about a particular destination, he shares the tour art work and interests the youth into travelling. Influencers use videos, photos and other graphical content to tap into their huge following to drum up the much needed visibility for tour organisers.