By Hon. Daudi Migereko and Prof. Katende. M. Suleyman
The past two years have been difficult ones. As we come to the end of 2021, it only reminds us of all the importance of family, friends, and the need to be leisured with our loved ones and most importantly, the need to get out of our homes and enjoy our beautiful country, Uganda.
We continue to reflect on how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected tourism, the tourism industry and the associated businesses. Some new approaches to tourism have emerged and presented new opportunities to diversify and even look further inward for its sustainability. This can help us avoid international travel restrictions, optimally utilize our time and enable us to get along on a limited resource envelope/budget. Hence, during this holiday season, it pays to explore and experience domestic tourism plus the associated investment opportunities in the different parts of the country.
Shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic, initial research from the UNWTO panel of experts predicted that domestic tourism demand would recover faster than international tourism demand. Rightly so because the pandemic demonstrated that indeed the only sustainable tourism market was domestic. Taking this prognosis seriously, the team at Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) in October 2020 embarked on a domestic campaign dubbed “Take on the Pearl” aimed at increasing the number of domestic visitors traversing the country.
The campaigns created the much-needed awareness but furthermore, created an appetite for Ugandans to travel and undeniably we saw conversions in this regard. It should also be noted that as a result of these campaigns and other government interventions, arrivals at the number of tourist sites increased; with higher percentages of domestic tourists.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, visitor numbers to the parks and the Source of the Nile in the categories; East African residents (where Ugandans fall) and foreign residents, almost reached the pre-pandemic levels as of December 2020. Also, the majority (99.8%) of tourists to the accommodation facilities were local Ugandan visitors. Similarly, bed space occupancy saw a slight growth of 4.1% in room occupancy during this period.
In pursuit of the domestic tourism agenda and in a bid to set the right precedents for the festive season, the Kingdom of Tooro and king Oyoo Iguru IV supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities from Toro, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Uagnda Tourism Board (UTB), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), other agencies, the political leadership and the private sector organized the highly successful and well-publicized Ekyooto Ha Mpango in November.
The Fortportal Tourism City and surrounding towns felt the real economic impact of tourism. All the hotels, lodges and some homes were fully booked throughout this period.
Like it is the norm for most Ugandan families, Christmas is a time to travel back home to the village and reflect on the abundance, the country life provides, as they brace for the New Year ahead of them. UTB in this regard has carried out site inspections and product audits in the different regions of the country and can confirm that majority of the countryside tourism facilities are prepared and ready to receive guests over the festive period.
We implore Ugandans to explore tourism experiences in their immediate neighbourhood as they bond with family and friends in the countryside.
The products we have include, wildlife experiences (in the national parks, game reserves and forests), agro-tourism experiences, vast cultural and heritage experiences, adventure escapades on the numerous water bodies and mountains in the country (like white water rafting, bungee jumping, hiking, etc) and many others. Apart from the water adventure activities, the rest of the product prices have been revised to range from UGX 3,000 to UGX15,000 for Ugandans thus making them much more affordable to fit the needs of most domestic travellers. We encourage Ugandans not to miss this welcome opportunity.
UTB is also aware of the fact that some Ugandans may not be able to travel to the countryside thus stay in the capital, Kampala, for the holidays. Also, some Ugandans travel to Kampala for the holidays to meet their families that are unable to move to the countryside for the same. Others come to Kampala and Entebbe during the holiday season knowing there is no congestion and traffic jam, hence the right time to explore and experience the different places of tourist attraction in and around Kampala. These include Rubaga and Namirembe Cathedral, Old Kampala and Kibuli mosques, Namugongo and Munyonyo Catholic Martyrs’ Shrines, Kabaka’s Lake, Parliament, National Theatre, National Museum, Namanve Industrial Park, the universities, Mulago Hospital, the hotels, etc.
Site inspections and product audits have been conducted within Kampala and Entebbe to ensure the sites and products are ready to host guests conveniently. Therefore, Ugandans can explore the tourism richness of the Capital for as low as UGX5, 000 per site visited or implore the services of the Kampala Sightseeing bus for UGX100, 000 or less for bigger groups. In the nearby Entebbe City, there is a lot to see and experiences like the National Zoo (UWEC), Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, amazing beaches, Entebbe city tour, boat cruises etc. All these have been priced targeting the typical Ugandan traveller thus are affordable and offer great value for money.
For better travel planning since the Christmas holidays come with numerous bookings to sites, It is recommended that individual booking to the sites of interest should be done prior or the traveller should employ the services of one of UTB’s registered Tour Operators https://UTB.go.ug/tour-operator to help organize and plan your entire experience so that it is more memorable and less cumbersome.
It is therefore once again our call to all Ugandans at home and those in the diaspora that will be home for the holidays to take off time to explore and enjoy Uganda. This will be a major boost to our local economy. Families can easily earn income by supplying products, goods and services to tourists who should be encouraged to buy the local products. The benefits of this domestic tourism will accrue to both present and future generations of Uganda.
Take time off and travel to Uganda. Observe, the Ministry of Health SOPs on Covid-19. A domestic adventure awaits you!
The writers— Hon. Daudi Migereko is the Chairman UTB and Prof. Katende. M. Suleyman is a Board Director, UTB