To many people who crammed Jinja Senior Secondary School as Busoga Tourism Expo took its first steps to write its name in Uganda's tourism history, all they wanted to know was what more could Busoga offer outside Jinja town.
Tourism in Busoga is all about Jinja, a town whose lifeline depends a lot on River Nile. It is for this reason that many were shocked when they learnt about a new Busoga tourism circuit, which will go a long way to unlock the region's tourism potential. During the expo, all the eleven hereditary clans exhibited their rich history, and tour operators were taken around the circuit to have an experience of these unexploited sites.
Among these sites was Lyingo cultural site. Located on Lake Kyoga in Buyende district, Lyingo has deep historical and cultural significance to Busoga; it is where the five sons of Omukama of Bunyoro with their mother arrived from Bunyoro. The other sites visited included St Matia Mulumba shrine at Kyabando in Mayuge, Kagulu hill, the preserved fallen kings' skulls in Nabulungi-Namakoko in Bukoolo, Nnyenda hill, Bishop Hannington Memorial site in Kyando and the Kyabazinga palace.
"The potential of Busoga has been discovered," said Solomon Rubondo of Gold Star Insurance.
However, while these new sites could beef up Busoga's tourism sector, most of them are in a poor condition.
"We will renovate all these sites and avail them with trained guides," said Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of Parliament.
"We have for a long time talked about poverty alleviation. This should be one of the channels to do this."
The Busoga expo, scheduled to become an annual event, is an initiative of MPs from the sub-region through the Busoga Parliamentary group headed by Kadaga. Organized under the theme: "Discovering our heritage, exploiting our potential and enriching our cultural heritage for economic transformation", the expo is being looked at as one of the ways to promote and preserve the tourism industry in Busoga.
According to Dr Peter Ngategize, coordinator Competitiveness and Investment Climate Strategy (CICS), ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Busoga will have to borrow a leaf from the Kigezi tourism cluster, an initiative by the Banyakigezi forum, which has turned around the image of tourism in Kigezi.
"This initiative should help to synergize all your energies together. For us, we have the Kigezi Tourism Platform comprising of about 20 people who follow up on all our discussions by meeting quarterly to track on the needs and opportunities available for the sector," he said.
The MP for Kigulu North, Edward Baliddawa Kafufu, called on Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) to market the circuit as part of the overall brand Uganda.
"They have been marketing Uganda but without Busoga. Now we want them to market Uganda with Busoga tourism circuit," he said.