More Irish tourists expected amid zero Covid-19 deaths in Uganda

By Edwin Muhumuza

The Embassy of Ireland has hailed the Uganda Tourism Board and pledged support in ensuring more Irish tourists visit the Pearl of Africa.

This was according to the second secretary to the embassy, Cormac Shine, during commemorations to mark St. Patricks Day with the symbolic lighting of the Kayabwe Equator Monument, in green.

The event marked the fourth year that Uganda has participated in the Global Greening initiative, that sees over 200 famous landmarks and iconic sites across the world go green every 17th March.

The global greening campaign is one that is now in its 11th year run by Tourism Ireland in conjunction with other embassies around the world.

‘We are now trying to promote Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day and showcase our own culture and also eager to work with our partners, the Uganda Tourism Board, a very valued partner of ours and we have been working with them for so many years now on the global greening campaign’, Said Cormac Shine.

This was the second time the Embassy was greening the equator having done the same with the Biharwe Eclipse monument in Mbarara City and the year before the Nile Bridge in Jinja.

‘I think the equator is a great symbol of the pearl of Africa and we are always glad to work with UTB to highlight Uganda’s Tourism Potential.’

The second secretary to the embassy said that they have a small but very active Irish community and up to 2020 there are about 260 Irish people resident in Uganda noting that even if the numbers are small they continue to grow upon realising the great variety of things they have to see in Uganda.

‘You have Kidepo in the north east, Bwindi in the Southwest, the Rwenzori Mountains, the savannah jungle and everything in between and I think it is an amazing landscape that the Irish people are discovering every year.’ Cormac said.

The chief executive officer of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) Lilly Ajarova said the equator is very significant in terms of the beautiful weather that Uganda offers and it is what gives the basis to the biodiversity Uganda is proud of.

‘Also very important is that the Irish embassy has worked closely with us for the last 11 years and we have a cooperation that has been going on directly with the embassy and through their membership to the EU. With the pandemic that we were faced with, we had the EU giving a grant of 6 million Euros to support the tourism sector.

We are very optimistic that as things are settling down with the pandemic we will be able to do more with Ireland as a market for us because last month in February 2021 we signed a new agency as a market destination representative in the UK to cover the UK and Ireland so that we are able to bring in more travelers from those markets.’ Lilly noted.

There have not been any covid19 deaths in Uganda for a month now according to official figures.

UTB celebrates women with third ‘Take On The Pearl’ campaign

By Edwin Muhumuza

Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) joined the rest of the world in celebrating the International women’s day, by offering a tourism trip to six women to Murchison National Park.

This ongoing campaign is meant to encourage Ugandans to tour their country through the digital campaign dubbed Take on the pearl with love.

According to Sandra Natukunda, the senior Public Relations Officer, “It is part of our domestic tourism campaign but this time round we dedicated it to women.”

The group included two winners Tamara Nanfuka and Joan Hiring who each brought along two friends ; Zena Gram, Aminah Nakakande, Brenda and Viola Nina.

On 6th March,2021, they started the day with breakfast at Sambiya River Lodge followed by a morning game drive in the southern park, swimming, relaxing and taking nature walks followed by a boat cruise after lunch and a candle lit dinner at night.

“When they told us that we were going for a game drive, I did not know that we were going to see the animals up close, I even feared that the lions could come close and eat us but the game rangers were so nice and assured us they wouldn’t. I have a lot to tell my family when I return home,” Joan Hiring narrated.

‘We observed that Ugandans like to travel in groups that is why the winners were asked to invite a couple of friends.’ said Natukunda

The campaign is all about sharing the beautiful sights, natures’ sounds, attractive flora and breathtaking fauna in the country.

“The first day was fun as I have never traveled this far from home so I kept on looking at the scenery along the way, am tired but excited about the long weekend ahead,” said Aminah Nakakande, one of the friends to the winners.

In order to get the winner the public to share a picture of themselves in a tourist destination and the one with the most engagements on social media won the trip.

According to UTB, the campaign aims to create awareness and also educate Ugandans on the various tourist spots around the country; with emphasis on What? When? How? Who? And Where to Travel.

Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area, hosting 76 species of animals and 451 birds and the Murchison Falls, also known as Kabalega Falls, lies Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert. At the top of Murchison Falls, the Nile forces its way through a gap in the rocks, before flowing westward into Lake Albert.

The third day of the trip was highlighted with a picnic in the wild including open discussions about women and, to devise means to help those whose rights are being abused.

“As women we go through a lot, these days we are both the mothers and fathers since men have neglected their roles in a home. I am therefore very grateful to UTB for bringing me on such a trip which has been the highlight of my year so far,” Tamarah Nanfuka one of the winners of the trip exclaimed as she gave details about the picnic.

“March is internationally recognized as a women’s month, and as UTB, we would like to use this month to appreciate the mothers of the nation. Therefore, using our current digital campaign Take on the pearl with love, to do this is a bonus for us, and we look forward to having more winners,” said Claire Mugabi the Marketing Manager UTB.

Day 3 of the trip ended with performances from Dance Master Academy of Northern Uganda who performed the Bwola dance, Dingi-Dingi, Laraka – Raka and Ajere dance amid excitement.

Uganda launches Virtual Tourism Trade Expo

By Edwin Muhumuza

Uganda has kick started activities that will see the resumption of tourism domestically regionally and internationally online.

This follows the launch of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) 2021, a tourism and travel trade exhibition which brings together regional and international tour operators, travel agents, destination agencies, and various players in the tourism trade to network and facilitate the tourism business.

The three-day expo will run under the theme “Restarting tourism for regional economic development” from April, 23rd -25th, with a view to ensure recovery, rebuilding, reconnecting and rebooting the tourism industry according to the Lily Ajarova , the CEO, Uganda Tourism Board.

‘More than 200 exhibitors are expected through leveraging on Information Technology while ensuring we increase destination awareness, increase product Knowledge, enhance tourism service distribution, to create new business deals and enhance private sector development.

Our estimated Rate of Return is Shs. 12.2billion shillings in the subsequent financial year.’ she noted.

Ms Ajarova further added that the move will help in relationship building, networking and explore corporate exchanges and activities.

While highlighting the magnitude of the lock down, the CEO, said that the industry lost one million tourists, translating into four trillion Uganda shillings in exchange earnings and so launching POATE 21 was a step in time.

Tourism Minister Godfrey Kiwanda Suubi who launched the event, stressed the need to ensure first with the success of domestic tourism.

‘A country that does not do well in domestic tourism cannot succeed in international tourism. The re-connection cannot only be international but should be domestic and so we must connect with the Ugandans first’ Kiwanda noted.

His remarks were in support to calls from the private sector players led by Chairperson Uganda Tourism Board, Pearl Kakooza, who called for the need to push for domestic flights which will kick start tourism in the region.

‘Eight hours to Bwindi by road is a long way. If we had commercial flights domestically, we would be able to reach all tourism sites within the country.

We expect business to come our way because the market we are targeting is still in lockdown and so have time to browse and find out more about the destination Uganda, Kakooza said.

On his part chairman of the Board, Daudi Migereko said that it was their duty to keep on reminding those markets under lockdown of the existence of tourism in the country and so the need to take advantage of emerging opportunities.

Fourth Tourism Board charged with fast tracking post COVID-19 recovery

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.

Another Calf rhino, Jabali has been born

By Patricia Osman

It is yet another score for the tourism industry following the birth of a baby Rhino at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

Speaking to Capital Radio, Angie Genade the executive director Rhino Fund Uganda, says the male called Jabali was born last night to Bella who has had six babies now adding that the great news only pushes them closer to their goal of re-introducing Rhinos to the wild.

The baby is extremely strong, he is already running around and playing with his two year old brother, the excited Angie said.

Bella is the female that had the first calf at the sanctuary in 2008 unfortunately it was a still birth.

Just two weeks ago another Rhino Laloyo gave birth to a female baby Rhoda. Today the sanctuary boosts of 32 Rhinos.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Rhino Fund Uganda are planning to take Rhinos back to the wild by 2022.

This is what it takes for a rhino to be re introduced into the wild;

A Feasibility study should be done to see which national park or area would be best featured to receive the white Rhinos. Then, a genetics report of the Rhinos is a produced before splitting them bearing in mind which ones move and which ones stay for purposes of continuity of the breeding process.
The rhinos should be at least four and a half or five years old because then they can fend for themselves.

In the event that rhinos are younger than the above age, then they should be moved with their mother who will then take care of them.

UWEC resumes business as government eases lock down

By Edwin Muhumuza

The Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) is appealing to Ugandans to visit the National Zoo again following the resumption of business.

This latest development comes following the launch of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in a bid to ensure safety of visitors, wildlife and staff at the Center in the wake of the Corona Virus Pandemic.

Among the SOPs include; washing hands, disinfecting shoes and vehicles accessing national parks at every entrance and maintaining distance of two meters between visitors queuing up at all entrances.

During their launch, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife& Antiquities Col. Tom Butime Ateenyi, said that the move is a revelation of the health plan for tourism enterprises through coherent and well coordinated guidelines supported by well coordinated medical evidence to manage the pandemic.

The tourism industry has recorded fast growth rate in Uganda and generated 1.6bn in foreign exchange earnings in 2019 and the sector contributed 9% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and at least 1 in every 10 jobs globally was related to tourism prior to the pandemic.

The loss in tourism business occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the loss of jobs, capital flight, failure to meet obligations and fees, coupled with deterioration of properties.

“In response we have consulted widely and developed business continuity and sustainability plan to address some challenges strategically and action areas to include, the health and safety plan, financial recovery plan and thirdly the enhanced destination marketing to signal the reopening of our tourism” Butime said.

In the case of UWEC, it was an opportunity to improve and innovate on the product offer for the past four months.

According to the Executive Director ,UWEC ,James Muhanguzi, prior to the pandemic, money had been released to put in place the required infrastructure, to revamp the facility.

In 2019, a record 370,000 people visited the zoo, majority being Ugandans but that has not been the case this year since the lock down in March this year.

The chairperson Board of Trustees, UWEC, Hon. Flavia Kabahenda, noted that the center is a hub for domestic tourism and Ugandans are so excited and looking forward to associate with the wildlife again and bring nature back to them.

The Assistant Commissioner in charge of quality assurance, Liaz Vivian appealed to all managers of tourism enterprises to establish COVID 19 task force committees led by a team leader and for larger ones to have departmental focal points to help them in ensuring that the COVID 19 task force activities are adhered to, a management plan, mobilize resources so as to buy sanitizers, social distancing masks, hall markings, infrastructure ,document people with varying temperatures, training and availability of information for both customers and staff.

In attendance were tour agencies, associations, hotel owners, freight forwarders, performing arts among other stakeholders.

Uganda’s tourism sector set to thrive

By Edwin Muhumuza

“Uganda is really a safe destination because out of all the numbers tested, none has died and nearly almost all of them have been discharged.”

These were the remarks of Minister of State for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Godfrey Kiwanda, while kicking off the inspection of hotels to ensure compliance of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) put in place by his ministry.

The SOPs are meant to revive confidence in Uganda’s tourism that has badly been hit by the Corona Virus following the cancellation of flights and the shutdown of nations of the world.

“The hospitality business is ready for Ugandans as of now because we have not yet opened for the region, the continent and the rest of the world but Ugandans first of all should come and enjoy their hotels because they have been home long enough.” Kiwanda rallied.

Susan Muhwezi , the chairperson of the board is optimistic that this drive will kick start a sector that has been under lock down as well.

“Gyms, saunas, and the airport remain closed though but there is a move to ensure that there will be a stimulus package for the sector. ” Muhwezi said.

“Tourism cuts across the entire value chain, be it agriculture, industry and so as government focuses on reviving agriculture and industry, it should always bear in mind that we are the ones that buy those things ,among the largest employers, so we are the people that use ICT.’’ she added.

Most Hotels are still closed and those still open are experiencing lack of occupancy and the concern raised by some of them has been the cost of implementing the SOPs.

As The inspection exercise traverses the whole country, starting with Kampala City and Entebbe town this week, hotels are being urged to be prepared and not be found wanting.

UTB Deputy CEO, Bradford Ochieng, noted that the Board would continue to ensure quality assurance across all tourism facilities and ensuring implementation of the SOPs as a key strategy in the revitalization of the sector and ensuring safety and confidence of the visitors which has become a key decision making factor in travel, going forward.

Prior to the Pandemic, tourism was Uganda’s largest contributor to revenue but when the world shut down, including Uganda, the effect could clearly be seen and felt.

However with most parts of the world opening up, the tourism sector which was number one tourism earner will thrive again and once SOPs are followed Uganda will be promoted and tourists will flood the country as they have always done.

Ajarova urges hotel owners to improve their facilities during this period

By Annah Nafula

Uganda Tourism Board CEO Lilly Ajarova has called upon Hotel and lodge owners to utilise the break aimed at stopping the spread of COVID 19 to improve their facilities.

While speaking to Capital FM, Ms. Ajarova said this was a global crisis whose duration is uncertain. She said this while in the break hotel owners should explore ways to improve their services while they follow the stipulated guidelines given by government.

“I wouldn’t expect hotel owners to just sit and wait for the end of this period but rather organize to make necessary repairs if there any needed. In the vent that some have no money to do repairs, this is a good time for them to take stock for their businesses and also conduct one on one trainings for the staff members.” Said Ajarova.

According to Ajarova, UTB is continuing to reinforce the government guidelines on personnel directly working in the tourism sector. She continues to urge all these people to stay safe and take all the necessary precautions during this period.
Uganda Tourism Board is working tirelessly on a strategy that will be used to market Uganda after the crisis she added.

Visiting Uganda guarantees value for money -Museveni

By Edwin Muhumuza

President Museveni has told tourism stakeholders to take advantage of the peace and stability the country is enjoying to realize high revenue returns from tourism. This during his speech to the delegates attending the 5th Pearl Of Africa Tourism Expo at Speke Resort Munyonyo .

The expo, is running under the theme, ‘Promoting Intra-Africa Travel’ in a bid to raise awareness about the untapped potential presented by emerging African travel markets.

The president noted that the government had restored Uganda Airlines to attract tourists to Uganda through the many planned direct routes where, tourists and business people alike will have faster and more affordable travel to the pearl, making Uganda a competitive destination.

The 5th Annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) 2020, running for three days pits business to business and business to customer engagements amongst key Ugandan and regional tourism players with selected tourism wholesalers from Africa and other overseas tourism markets.

Museveni also commended UTB for the intra-African outlook saying that it was time to focus on intra-African business owing to the big market of 1.2 billion people .

The minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Col(rtd) Tom Butime said that Uganda offers, probably one of most abundant investment incentive regimes in the sector including Start-up costs spread over the 4 years ,25% per annum, Scientific research expenditure at 100%,Training expenditure of 100% ,Initial allowance on hotel buildings at 20% ,Subsidized land to investors in the 4 priority sector s (ICT, Agro-processing, Tourism & Minerals processing); Exempt of Motor vehicles for transport of tourist of which have to be specially designed and built for transportation of tourists, Stamp duty exemption on instruments for mobilizing funds for tourism development and 100% profit repatriation.

Over 57 international hosted buyers, 140 domestic and regional tourism operators as well as international and domestic media are in the country to market destination Uganda, courtesy of the ministry of Tourism.

In his address to them, Tourism State Minister ,Kiwanda Ssubi said, “You have another home called Uganda and that the destinations that we want you. Do not sell Uganda to only Egyptians, Tanzanians or Zimbabweans. You are selling Uganda to whoever comes to your destination, please add the pearl of Africa on your menu.’’

Speaking on behalf of the private sector, the President, Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) Mrs Pearl Hoareau Kakooza, called upon government to invest more in industry capacity building, new product development, capital investments and facilitating access to affordable financing adding that access to more affordable financing would translate into a broader tax base and by extension, more tax revenue.

Lilly Ajarova, the Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) told the delegates that Uganda was full of abundant tourism opportunities characterized by the richest tourism attractions portfolio, best value for money for investors and tourists alike and therefore healthy returns on investment.

“We have the richest and most diverse range of human, natural, cultural, religious and historical attractions complemented by a warm tropical climate, warm people, great accommodations and great food, she said.

During the event the Uganda Tourism Board signed a memorandum of understanding with Uganda airlines.

Conservationists, tour operators detest government decision on Murchison falls

By Deo Wasswa
Stake holders in the tourism sector including tour operators, conservationists, civil society organizations and local communities have vowed to continue the fighting government’s decision to giveaway Uhuru falls, a section of Murchison falls towards the generation of hydro power.

On 3rd December 2019, a press statement by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development indicated that the Government of Uganda signed a Memorandum of Understanding with M/S Bonang Energy and Power Ltd from the Republic of South Africa with its Norconsult and JSC Institute Hydro project to undertake detailed feasibility studies for a proposed Hydro power Project at Uhuru Falls located adjacent and parallel to the mighty Murchison Falls in Murchison Falls National Park.

While a team of over 200 people led by Everest Kayondo, chairperson Uganda tour operator’s body and journalists on 10th December toured the two falls , they established that there is construction of a tarmac road in the national park that will ease the ferrying of the construction material on the site.

Speaking to journalists, Kayondo urged the government to stop misleading the public that the project will be executed at Uhuru falls because the said falls are seasonal and depend largely on the Murchison falls.

Kayondo adds that the top of the falls also hold important cultural and historical regalia of great significance to the host communities from the many districts surrounding the park.

He noted that almost 70% of tourists who visits this National Park come to see these two waterfalls.

However, latest reports indicate that parliament has summoned minister Irene Muloni to explain these new developments.