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Museveni Appeals To Tourists To Return After COVID-19 Disaster

Before the outbreak two years ago, Uganda’s tourism sector was earning the country 1.2 billion dollars or about 3.7 trillion shillings in 2019, from 1.6 million visitors. Income from foreign tourists accounted for more than 60 percent of these totals.
A Ugandan cultural setting displayed at Kololo Independence Grounds. Courtesy Photo

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President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has made an appeal to the international community to embrace Uganda as a tourist destination again, after two years of low business.

Launching a new Destination Uganda campaign, Museveni said that while Africa has not suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic as much as the rest of the world in terms of deaths, Uganda has performed even better than most of African countries.

Before the outbreak two years ago, Uganda’s tourism sector was earning the country 1.2 billion dollars or about 3.7 trillion shillings in 2019, from 1.6 million visitors. Income from foreign tourists accounted for more than 60 percent of these totals.

The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities then had predicted that in 2020, the number of visitors would grow the 1.8 million and the earnings to 1.6 billion dollars.  

A 2019 Uganda Tourist Expenditure and Motivation Survey (TEMS) done by the Ministry amongst 4,184 foreign visitors to Uganda, found that slightly more than half of the visitors to Uganda, were returning visitors. And more than 60 percent of visitors said they were most likely to return shortly, to Uganda.

To return to this position and grow the sector further, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), decided to launch a new effort by rebranding "Destination Uganda", and take on the evolving challenges in the market environment.

At the launch of the campaign themed: Rebranding the Pearl of Africa, President Museveni challenges those responsible for planning for the sector to get a new and unique message that will attract the world to Uganda. He for example emphasised the need to sensitise the world on Uganda’s culture, the peace and the safety in terms of health, noting how the country has been able to deal with lethal disease outbreaks.     

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Uganda is a destination that is not only packed with “everything rare, precious and beautiful in Africa” but these resources are spread over an even smaller geographical area, according to the UTB.

However, according to Museveni, the country has a lot that has not been explored. 

On culture, the president said Uganda and African way of life has even more advantages that the world can learn from, especially how it has contributed to the fight against Covid 19. 

Museveni says the disease was largely devastating to older persons and in the west, these are usually bundled into congested institutions, away from family care, unlike in Africa.

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This is the latest of the several campaigns the sector leadership has launched and run to improve visitor numbers and earnings, with little progress. UTB says however, that in 2019, the campaigns and other initiatives including those targeting domestic tourism, African Tourists and the international ones, was starting to bear fruit, only for the trend to be reversed by COVID-19. 

Lillian Ajarova, the Uganda Tourism Board Executive Director, said this time, they have made wide-reaching research and consultations before coming up with the brand message.

Among the issues targeted is for tourists to come to Uganda and stay longer, wish to come back and even recommend Uganda as a destination to friends and relatives.  

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The event that was aimed at bringing together all players in the tourism sector, was however boycotted by a group of tour operators led by the president of the Uganda Tourism Association, Herbert Byaruhanga. He claimed that the government and UTB had not consulted them in the drafting this campaign as well as other policy-making decisions, adding that they were did not even benefit from the government COVID- 19 relief packages.

However, this was dismissed as untrue by UTB. And speaking at the event, the launch of this campaign is also aimed at helping the players who are currently distressed, including helping them access affordable financing.

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The Chairman of the UTB, Daudi Migereko vowed that they will continue helping the private sector do business easily because there is no way tourism can thrive without them. He also added that they have compiled and submitted to government what the sector demands of them, including easing the credit and taxation regimes.

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