KAMPALA – The Uganda Tourism Board has unveiled celebrity long-distance runner, Joshua Cheptegei as one of the country’s tourism ambassadors at a function that was held at Golf Club in Kampala.
The 25- year- old Ugandan long-distance runner broke the long-standing 10,000 meter world record in Valencia last year.
Addressing the media, UTB CEO, Lilly Ajarova explained that Cheptegei’s announcement was in line with their goal of restarting tourism in Uganda after being greatly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic that hit the entire world.
“Our annual visitor arrivals had been projected to grow to 1.6 million in 2020 but this was greatly affected by the pandemic,” she said.
Ajarova added that between 2015 and 2019, Uganda’s visitor numbers grew by 19% from 1.27 million to 1.5 million and that on average, the numbers grew by 4% every year.
“The forex earnings from the visitors to Uganda grew by 22% from $1.31 billion to $1.6 billion in the same period.”
The various travel restrictions on travels and fear of contracting the virus, the numbers gradually went down because of the pandemic.
“World over, there are mixed signals about the tourism industry’s recovery this year. In Uganda we expect regional and intra-African visitors to pick up in the second half of 2021,”Ajarova said.
Speaking at the function, Chepetegei said he is happy to express solidarity with all the players in Uganda’s tourism industry as they seek to rebuild an industry that has been nearly destroyed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He shared that he is elated to have entered a deal that will see him contribute directly to the country’s foreign revenues through promotion of tourism.
“I am deeply grateful to UTB for having chosen me for this huge responsibility. I accept it with all humility and honor. Much as Uganda is well endowed, it is not enough, if the world does not know about it. It is our responsibility as Ugandans to shout on top of the mountains and down in the valleys to everybody across the world,”Cheptegei noted.
According to the runner, the deal he has entered with UTB is another huge responsibility to give him more courage to continue winning and carrying the country’s flag high but also promote tourism.
The deal will see UTB and Cheptegei collaborate for support towards the latter’s athletics activities at both domestic and international levels and in turn use his support and platforms to promote Uganda as a tourist destination.
Cheptegei’s photo and videos and other promotional materials will consequently be used as deemed fit by the Uganda Tourism Board.
Cheptegei last year posted 26:11.0 at the Turia stadium in Valencia in Spain, ensuring he breaks the decade long record held by Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele by six seconds to set a new record.
This was the fourth feat achieved by the 24- year- old Ugandan long-distance runner after breaking the 10km road record in December 2019, the 5km record in February 2019 and the 5000m record on August, 14, 2020 in Monaco.