16 January 2019

Uganda: Government Seeks to Attract 2.9m Tourists in 2019

Photo: Porco Rosso/unsplash
Gorillas are a tourist draw-card in East Africa.

Kampala — Government, will through four campaigns including Twende Uganda, Destination Uganda, Pearl of Africa Tourism and an enhanced Tulambule Drive, seek to add at least a million tourists to what was achieved in the year ending 2018.

According to data from Civil Aviation Authority, Uganda recorded 1.9 million tourism arrivals compared to 1.4 million in 2017.

Government, according to Tourism State Minister Godfrey Kiwanda, will be seeking to consolidate arrivals obtained in 2018 in addition to adding at least a million visitors before the end of 2019.

Speaking at a press briefing in Kampala yesterday, Mr Kiwanda said different campaigns are expected to be launched to mobilise growth in tourism numbers from within Uganda, region and international level.

For instance, he said, the 'Twende Uganda' campaign will be enhanced to attract visitors within East Africa, taking advantage of the single visa launched about four years ago.

"Since we went to the EAC with the single visa ... we are going to use the same campaign to make sure that more tourists, especially from the region visit Uganda," Mr Kiwanda said.

This, he said, will be supported by the new administration at Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), which is expected to launch an aggressive campaign to market Uganda.

New UTB appointment

Last week government appointed Ms Lilly Ajarova as the new UTB chief executive officer, replacing Mr Stephen Asiimwe whose term of office expired.

Mr Kiwanda said the campaigns will seek to attract tourists from beyond the region, especially among non-Swahili speaking countries.

"We are looking at South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Gabon and Egypt among others. We are going to design packages that will attract tourists from these countries. We are considering designing packages in a number of areas including faith-based tourism through Uganda Martyrs," he said.

Other campaigns such as Pearl of Africa, according to the Tourism Ministry, will target international markets, especially in new target markets such as Japan, China and Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar), among others.

This will be done through partnerships with music promoters and PR and marketing agencies.

At the close of last year, outgoing UTB chief executive officer Asiimwe told a stakeholders meeting that government would this year hire four public relations and marketing firms to market Uganda in China, Japan and the Gulf States.

However, no details have been provided since in regard to the progress of this process.

According to data from Civil Aviation Authority, 2018 was one of the best years for Uganda's tourism, attracting about 1.85 visitors.

These, CAA said, were only recorded through the airport and there is a possibility that others entered through border points such as Katuna, Busia or Malaba, among others.

Uganda, according to Mr Kiwanda is seeking to raise tourism arrivals to four million by 2020 through aggressive marketing.

The improving performance in the sector, he said, has been achieved through improved services, such as works on tourism infrastructure.

"Much as infrastructure has improved in the country, a lot needs to be done, especially with roads in national parks," he said.

The sector, Kiwanda said, had also registered negative feedback as a result of political contestations, alleged poising of 11 lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park and the tragic sinking of MV Templar recently.

"These tragedies shock the industry but the sector's resilience," he said.

At the international level, Uganda was reviewed among top tourism destinations by media outlets such as CNN and NetGeo.

Tourism players ask government to act on unregistered operators

Meanwhile, players in the tourism sector have demanded for tougher sanctions against suspected criminals who are eroding gains registered in the sector.

The call comes on the back of increasing targeted cases of criminality against tourists that involve outright theft, cheating and inflating services.

"We know the people perpetuating crimes. Most of them are unregistered and unregulated operators," Ms Gloria Tumwesigye, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators chief executive officer, said, adding: "Our reputation is at stake if we don't deal with this issue firmly."

Most of our tourists, she said, come from far and wide, therefore, they must act as Uganda's ambassadors.

A number of cases including issuance of fake permits to about 23 tourists in November last year, fake bookings and unfulfilled service packages, according to the association, have been recorded.

For instance, the association, said a case involving $6,000 lost in fake bookings, had been registered.

Mr Frank Mwesigwa, the Commandant of Tourism Police in an interview, said most of the crimes, among them theft, and poisoning are committed in hotels with a possibility of connivance.

About 500 more officers, he said, will be added on current 936-strong tourism police to safeguard sites and tourists.

However, he urged stakeholders to ensure that they register employees and guests as well as installing surveillance cameras at strategic locations.

Ms Tumwesigye said there has been increased indiscipline in the tourism sector perpetrated by unregistered companies.

"We want government to compel operators to register. It will enable us clamp down on unscrupulous agents," she said.

Tourism remains one of Uganda's fastest growing sector, fetching more than $1.4m annually.

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