uganda’s Tourism sector: Great past year and hopeful future. The players in the Uganda safari or tourism industry are optimistic about 2013 having experienced a remarkably fruitful year in regards to tourism during 2012. With marketing strategies being beefed up towards both domestic and foreign tourism, focus has been shifted to Uganda’s natural heritage.
2012 shall always be remembered as the year in which the Uganda safari/Uganda’s tourism industry shined. In December, MSN, Microsoft’s leading internet portal, voted Uganda among the top 10 must-see places come 2013 and in here Mweya Safari Lodge was featured.
MSN stated that, although Uganda’s name has become synonymous due to brutal dictators and civil strife, it is a nation on the rise, and a place that has more recently boasted of a stable regime and rising prosperity.
It further recognized Uganda as a, country filled with some of the most stunning beauty on the globe, right from the headwaters of the Nile, which roar over mighty Murchison Falls to the peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains, which is one of the highest in Africa.What they forget to mention were her great Mountain Gorillas that have seen more gorilla trekking safari/gorilla tracking safari excursions increase in Uganda day by day.
Uganda went ahead to Flourish in international media
While MSN continued to praise and narrate more about Murchison falls’ marvelous beauty National Geographic in the same month of December, recognized Uganda as a home to some of the endangered rare mountain gorillas, which can be tracked at the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla Forest after acquiring a special permit.
The national geographic also complemented Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is home to the tree climbing lions and wide variety of wildlife species.On a Uganda safari to queen Elizabeth if you lodge at the beautiful Mweya Safari Lodge, you can ably watch hippos in the Kazinga Channel from the comfort of your room.
In December last year CNN International, the leading global all-news network , also highlighted the Kidepo Valley National Park a great Uganda safari destination, as the third park among Africa’s 10 best national parks where one would go for all your adrenalin-producing needs.
“Best for: Spectacular landscapes and great buffalo herds,” CNN explained in its appreciation, saying that Kidepo boosts of the sprawling savannah and soaring mountains and might be the most picturesque park in Africa.
It went on to say that those who take the trouble to get there are rewarded with phenomenal wildlife sightings and a level of exclusivity that can rarely be gained at any cost in other neighboring countries.
Remarkable figures experienced in 2012
Akankwasah Barirega, the principal wildlife officer, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife & Heritage, says Uganda’s tourism/Uganda safaris sector increased employment opportunities as the arrivals for the first time, in 2012, hit the million digit, and foreign exchange hit $805m from 600.
This presents a rear and rewarding opportunity, which according to Amos Wekesa, managing director of Great Lakes Safaris; Uganda should have used to its fullest advantage and driven a spirited marketing campaign.
In his words he said, “We have enjoyed a number of accolades and recognitions and as a country we needed to take advantage of this to go strong on marketing especially when our parks get recognised. Then we also lacked a communication strategy when we were hit by Marburg and Ebola. No one engaged international media. We should have gone out to CNN, Al- Jazeera to tell them Uganda was safe. You don’t know how many cancellations were made”.
More than wildlife
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Public Relations Manager, Lillian Nsubuga agrees and says that as the main body of tourism in Uganda, UWA will in its endeavors continue developing new tourist products so that tourists have a reason to stay longer in the national parks while visiting.
She explains, “In 2012, Experiential Tourism was launched while plans for implementing bird watching safari activities went into top gear with a series of joint training in bird guiding with the Uganda Bird Guides Association. UWA will also be introducing hot air balloons and a canopy walk. Several other options for new products are being studied and will be made public at the appropriate time.”
This all came at the backdrop of a year that began highly with Lonely Planet, one of the biggest and oldest online guidebooks for travelers, naming Uganda as the best destination in Africa.
And suddenly all of the eyes were turned to Uganda and tourists began considering it for their next holiday destination Nsubuga stated.
Last year saw Uganda being host for the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly for the first time since the organisation was formed. Nsubuga notes that many delegates participated in visiting to the national parks using various tour companies.
“It was a great opportunity to showcase our natural heritage especially the mountain gorillas. Delegates from many countries visited the gorillas and these included Sweden, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, Mexico, Australia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Canada, Hungary, USA, Finland and Qatar,” she added.
Uganda aggressively participated in two of Europe’s biggest travel fairs – ITB in Berlin and WTM in London. In Berlin, Uganda was voted third best exhibitor in the African region, which was such a great but new achievement.
Mr. Boniface Byamukama, chairman to the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, noted that this enabled them to plan as the tourism sector and reap from these accolades.
“We are working with the minister and have a plan for 2013. We are going to exhibit in Berlin in March, we will be in Madrid in February for yet another exhibition and in Holland later in January,” Byamukama aired out the plan to exhibit Uganda’s tourism potential to the world in the first quarter of this 2013.
He adds that the ministry has established tour operators training. Today there are about 130 tour operators registered under the Ministry of Tourism, which is a sharp rise from about 80 operators as this was about two years back.
Nsubuga reveals some of the tourism ministry’s plans for 2013by stating, “UWA will also be extremely aggressive in fighting poaching in the national parks especially of elephants. An Intelligence Unit that will be manned by 80 rangers will soon be set up, and these will be allocated to the different national parks. Their main job will be to gather useful intelligence that will help us in planning for security interventions,” the authority’s publicist disclosed.
She adds that new tourism markets would be sourced. “Currently, most of our marketing is done in Europe. We will look at beginning to carry out marketing in Asia, Australia and America, plus, increasing domestic tourism will also be a major objective for 2013,” she revealed.
Currently, its mostly Ugandan students who most visit the national parks but UWA will now target the corporate world through tailor-made tour packages for government agencies, international organizations and non-governmental organizations and entities.
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