UTB in digital domestic tourism campaign

By Edwin Muhumuza

Uganda Tourism Board has launched an 8-week long digital campaign to promote domestic tourism dubbed ‘Take on the Pearl’.

Ever since the country was closed to visitors in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector has suffered immense revenue shortfalls and unemployment a trend that is anticipated to reflect in the national revenue purse.

Uganda is the number one tourism destination globally and has year after year held that spot and in a bid to maintain it, domestic tourism is key in jump starting the sector in addition to putting a spotlight on some of the country’s prized tourist attractions.

The Uganda Tourism Board CEO, Lilly Ajarova noted the opportunity presented by the COVID-19 pandemic is to look inwards and therefore travel the country and close the seasonality gap that has been created.

‘’the campaign aims to both 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,” Ajarova said.

According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) panel experts, domestic tourism will recover faster than international demand and will be a key driver for tourism recovery across destinations.

Additionally, the panel points to a start of the recovery of international demand mostly in 2021 noting that considerable challenges remain ahead, starting with the unknown duration of the pandemic and travel restrictions, in a context of global economic recession.

Speaking at the launch the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Mrs. Doreen Katusiime noted that the campaign will give Ugandans and opportunity to know their country.

The President of the Uganda Tourism Association, Pearl Horreau Kakooza said that the move is an indicator to the readiness of the tourism private sector to receive and serve Ugandans as they experience the country.

“Our fully trained Safari guides are available to show hidden gems of our beautiful Uganda. The hotels are now offering discounted accommodation; the tour operators are keen to advise Ugandans on where to visit as we start on the journey to “Take on The Pearl”, she said.

The take on the Pearl Digital Challenge will require participants to Post the contest photo on Visit Uganda social media pages every Friday, get people to respond with name of the place and the reasons why they want to go to that place, for a chance to win the trip.

Also People get their friends and family to come and like their comments, correct comment with highest likes by Tuesday of the following week is selected the week’s winner.

There will be 2 winners per week for 8 weeks and will be announced at the beginning of the week and shall take their trip over the weekend; Friday to Sunday.

According to UTB, What is more important to note is that UTB will not award the 2 winners but there will be a lot of giveaways, discounted accommodation and travel packages rates to enjoy in the course of the campaign.

“Known as the “Pearl of Africa,” Uganda is located in East Africa and offers some of the continent’s most diverse wildlife viewing, dramatic landscapes, and immersive cultural experiences and warm people and hospitality.

Uganda is home to more than half the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas, and trekking to observe these gentle giants in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the world’s top bucket list travel activities.

Safari opportunities abound in savanna, forest, and wetland settings throughout 10 national parks, where visitors can come face to face with “The Big Five” – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo – as well as giraffe, zebra, chimpanzee, hippopotamus, crocodile, and more than half of all bird species found in Africa.

Among Uganda’s extraordinary natural attractions are the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains; expansive Lake Victoria, which forms the source of the Nile River; and Murchison Falls National Park.

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.

UTB to start profiling other key tourist attraction features

By Alice Lubwama

The Uganda Tourism Board has started profiling the different parts of the country, with key features that can be developed to attract tourists without them necessarily going to national parks.

While speaking during the breakfast meeting at parliament,the Executive Director Uganda Tourism Board Lily Ajarova said that if other attractions and infrastructure are developed the country will be able to expand the tourism offers and make it more sustainable hence reduce pressure on the nature resources.

Ajarova also pointed out the need for more incentives to address the challenges of accommodation in the country, in case of any big event in the country.

She also mentioned that the King of Tooro is expecting to host over 2000 international members of the royal families across the globe in September this year but is afraid that the recommended accommodation may not be enough for the visitors.

The first secretary head, sustainable development European Union, Nadia Cannata said that the union will continue to invest in green economy if there is political commitment from the Government.

She has also asked the legislators to follow up the implementation and enforcement of laws on conservation.

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.

UTB CEO tips women on investment in tourism

By Deo Wasswa

Members of the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL) have been urged to position their businesses in line with Uganda’s tourism in order to fully harness the opportunities presented by the sector.

Lilly Ajarova, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Chief Executive Officer, highlighted the above while speaking to participants during a monthly UWEAL networking meeting held at the association’s offices located at Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA), Lugogo earlier today 30th May.

She explained that positioning of their various businesses such as agriculture, craft, and accommodation; among others in line with tourism would enhance their opportunities to benefit from the sector.

“There are so many opportunities in the tourism sector. Right now for instance, the sector could benefit from more accommodation facilities ranging from home stays, budget and luxury lodges and hotels. Kampala has a number of facilities but once you are out of the city, the need for more investment in accommodation facilities is quickly evident,” Ajarova said.

She also revealed that UTB had formally written to the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development requesting for incentives to be extended to investors looking to set up accommodation facilities in different parts of the country. This she hopes, will help alleviate the deficit.

Ajarova further encouraged the participants to set up home stays given that there is a growing number of tourists who prefer this arrangement.

“Here, you have a home that you only need to renovate then offer it for visitors and start earning money without having to set up a new building. However, you need to register with UTB, then we license and then grade your facility and eventually classify it. This is the only way we can promote your business,” Ajarova said.

She added, “Tourism is now about branding, storytelling and immersing tourists into an experience. Once you add this to your product, then you will be on the right track to benefit from tourism”

Connie Kekihembo, the CEO of UWEAL acknowledged UTB for sharing the information with the association’s members saying that the session was an eye opener for many of them.

“One of the things we look at when planning for these networking sessions is government priorities. We noticed that there’s high investment and prioritization of tourism and yet our women were not well positioned. We have heeded to this advice and we shall identify the areas to invest in because we have the capacity to grow tourism just like the agricultural sector,” she noted.

Kekihembo also said, “We have always spoken about value addition because most of our members are in agribusiness. Today, we have found out that agribusiness can also be turned into a tourism product. So our members will not only add value to their products.”

UTB partners with golfers to promote golf tourism

By Edwin Muhumuza
The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) has launched a partnership with the Uganda Gold Union(UGU) in a bid to position Uganda as Africa’s premier golf tourism destination.

This partnership begins with the sponsorship of the Uganda Gold Open Tour set for the 30th March until the 14th of September 2019.

Outgoing UTB, CEO, Steven Asiimwe says the signing of the agreement is to highlight the impact that the sport has on tourism directly and indirectly.

‘Today was the culmination of the discussions that started four years ago. We want the golfers to go beyond the golf course and go have an experience in every tour that they go. Golfers do not travel alone, they are people of influence ,who travel with their families, and if they(UGU) went beyond the 18 holes they could influence other holes.’ he said.

The Uganda Golf Union has always wanted UTB to sponsor some of their tournaments but UTB demanded for the benefits beyond mere sponsorship to include marketing Uganda as a top golf tourism destination.

According to Asiimwe, Uganda is uniquely placed for both the domestic and international golfer and in every town, golf courses are within the vicinity of an experience. In Mbale , one is in eye distance shot of Wanale and Mt. Elgon, rich in many waterfalls. In Kihihi, there is even an airfield next to it, among others.

‘We want to attract many golfers from neighboring countries, we are fortunate to be in some of the shortest travel distance for golfers’, Asiimwe added

The Uganda Golf Union President ,Innocent Kihika noted that golf and tourism do move together because when one goes out for a round of golf, they have to travel, find accommodation, buy meals, locate where to get refreshments, and where to lounge again and all these have economic impact on the communities.

The agreement is expected to last three years and for the first year the Golf Union will receive fifty million shillings.

According to statistics an estimated 5 to 10% travel worldwide with the sole purpose of playing golf and this number is steadily increasing and on a global scale, golf contributes about $20billion annually and by itself is able to attract millions of holiday makers across the world and Uganda is properly located, with friendly weather all year round to accommodate such visitors.

The Uganda golf championship will see golfers visit Mbale, Namulonge, Jinja, Entebbe, Mbarara, Fort Portal among other locations.

UTB, tourism police crack down another fraudster

By Edwin Muhumuza
Kampala, Uganda. February 2, 2019. In another operation with the aid of Tourism Police, Mr. Didan Atukunda from Mamba Gorilla Safari has been arrested for declining to pay back an erroneous payment made by a tourist.

Mr. Atukunda was arrested in a bar in Kabale at 2am by the Tourism Police Regional commandant- Kigezi region, ASP Tinka Emmanuel. The tourist erroneously paid $30.000 instead of $3000 for a trip to trek Gorillas and Mr. Atukunda declined to make the $27,000 refund; forcing the tourist to contact the Uganda Tourism Board. Prior attempts by UTB to discuss and agree to a payment plan between Mr. Atukunda and the touris proved futile leading to the involvement of Tourism Police in a crackdown for Mr. Atukunda’s arrest.
He is currently enroute Kampala from Kabale and will be detained at Jinja Road police station awaiting hearing.

The Uganda Tourism Board through its Quality Assurance department is taking strong interventions to curb crime in the sector.

According to the UTB, Quality Assurance Manager Mr. Samora Semakula, UTB has set up a Tourism security committee consisting of Tourism Police, MTWA and representation from the Association of Uganda Tour Operators with the let aim of tactfully handling fraud and any cases reported by tourists.
Tourism is Uganda’s number one foreign exchange earner. We can not continue to let rogue operators destabilise the growth that we are seeing in the sector. Most importantly we want tourists to enjoy their stay in Uganda. Our role is to ensure quality standards are met in the sector.” Mr.Semakula said.

This brings the number of rogue your operators so far arrested this year to two. In a separate operation, Tourism Police and UTB cracked down and arrested Mr. Mugerwa Ahebwa who
defrauded American tourists of over $18,000. He is currently detained at Jinja Road police station awaiting hearing.

“We shall continue to crackdown rogue operators,”Mr. Semakula reinforces . The tourism industry currently contributes 10 per cent to gross domestic product, making it Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner. The industry contributes more than $1.4b (Shs5.1 trillion) annually and is projected to earn about Shs10 trillion ($2.7b) by 2020.

About the Uganda Tourism Board
Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) is a statutory organisation established in 1994. Its role and mandate was reviewed in the Tourism Act of 2008. The Board's mandate is to promote and market Uganda across the region and internationally, promote quality assurance in tourist facilities through training, grading and classification, promote tourism investment, support and act as liaison for the private sector in tourism development. The broader goals of the Board are to increase the contribution of tourism earnings and GDP; improve Uganda’s competitiveness as an international tourism destination; and increase Uganda's share of Africa's and World tourism market. UTB aims to create inclusive opportunities for the tourism sector through market transformation.