By Edwin Muhumuza
The Uganda Tourism Board has pledged to embark on branding the entry and exit of Entebbe Airport among other activities in an aggressive drive to revive the country’s tourism sector in its post COVID-19 recovery plan.
This is according to the Chairman of the Board, Daudi Migereko who made the remarks during the inauguration of the 4th Board of Directors whose terms of office have been renewed by cabinet.
Chief Guest Colonel (Retired) Tom Butime said that the task ahead of the board now is to ensure they lead fast tracking the sector recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.
“The pandemic has more or less leveled the ground for competition and it is now our duty to claim our due share of the market as all destinations struggle to rebuild themselves from COVID-19 pandemic.” Butime noted.
“We must with no further delay brand destination Uganda, there is no way we can position ourselves without branding the destination and every citizen must appreciate and promote the brand and in this way we shall turn all Ugandans into destination ambassadors,” he added.
The chief guest also agreed to plans to involve heads of cultural institutions in branding destination Uganda under category, traditional tourism to encourage, persuade and remind traditional leaders of their role in boosting the ‘Tulambule’ domestic tourism campaign.
“You can imagine the king of the Alur crossing the Nile as an event amidst the Agwang dance cultural tunes while in Fort Portal’. That has the same tune as ‘Amankondere traditional dance of the Tooro Kingdom.” said Butime.
On his part, Board Chairman Migereko, appealed to the government to increase the pace with which they tend to critical issues pertaining to the transformation of the country.
‘We must change because the world is not waiting for Uganda, we must render our sector competitive by investing in product development, sights improvement, so that when people come they are ready to spend time in Uganda albeit paying competitive rates, but that will not be possible if we take so long to make decisions.’
Uganda‘s tourism flourishes when other sectors of the economy are doing the same. Key to note is Uganda has been peaceful for the last thirty years courtesy of the Museveni-led NRM government and such the industry contributed 1.6 billion dollars to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product in 2018/19.
However the growth of the economy has seen new challenges in the transport sector more so the heavy traffic during rush hours, a trend that has put the government on the spot to expand roads as well as constructing alternative routes to the airport and to major tourist sites to the East, North, West and South.
In the wake of the resumption of tourism in the country the tourism board wants the Ministry of Works and the Uganda National Roads Authority to hasten the expansion and construction of the Mukono –Namanve-Kinawataka-Kampala while heavy trucks can be diverted to utilise the Nytil-Nyenga-Buikwe-Katosi-Mukono University road, in a bid to avoid inconveniencing tourists which would in turn affect the industry.
Concerns were also raised to government to rein in on commercial banks that have made it a habit to foreclose on businesses yet they are aware that the same companies were not making any money in the past six months due to the lock down. Stakeholders warned that a majority of tour businesses may be affected by this behavior of commercial banks.
Representing the United Nations Development Program(UNDP), Sheila Ngatia, the Deputy Resident Representative in charge of Programme and Operations in UNDP noted that the pandemic presents an opportunity to build better and it is important that the tourism board considers how to really implement the post COVID-19 tourism recovery plan to advance creative interventions to support businesses and to cater for critical operational expenses necessary to protect jobs, restore confidence among travelers as well as social protection of communities that benefit from tourism.