There is economic power, the power that remains untapped. I have moved across the Uganda and indeed I agree with former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that Uganda is the Pearl of Africa. Moreover, the beauty that Churchill saw is quite small compared to the real beauty that exists in most parts of the country. Go to north, west, south, central and east – there is a tremendous beauty all through.
There is economic power that potentially exists throughout Uganda – the untapped tourism industry. Yet the tourism sector requires less capital in put and less sensitisation than any other sector. All that we need is to emphasise customer care to attract tourists.
I read an article by Mr Mapesa, the UWA chief executive officer. He stated that with no sufficient advertisement, the tourism industry contributed $ 340m to the economy in the last financial year. This means that both domestic and foreign tourists to various parts of the country are our marketers. This is good but not good enough.
I’m an ardent viewer of South Africa Broadcasting Television and I often watch advertisements from Kenya, and some times Rwanda being broadcast on the television. Hardly do I see any advert from our country, Uganda.
In the news papers, it is said that Kenya used to earn more than $1 billion annually. This is almost half Uganda’s entire annual budget. It is no surprise that Kenya earns much from tourism – the country really advertises.
On October 22, 2004, I wrote a article titled, Set priorities for tourism to boom that appeared as the letter of the day in local daily.
One of the hindrances I complained about then was the poor state of roads to tourist destinations. I also complained then that there were a few hotels in our national parks. For instance, we can only talk of Mweya Safari Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National park and nothing more.
Mr Charles Opolot and Frank Mugabi reported in the business news of a local daily an article titled, Government set to review national park deals, . attributing their story to remarks by the then Minister of State in charge of Tourism Jovino Akaki.
I’m also reliably informed that some funds have been solicited for repairing some of the roads. And even if the state of roads improve, the government should not relax. Improving the state of roads should be followed by adequate marketing of the tourism destinations throughout the country.
Of recent, the President has been talking about funding by prioritisation and not funding almost everything at a go where you end up with nothing to show on the ground. This is the right thing to do.
The economic growth we are experiencing today could have been even bigger had we used the approach the President is talking about. If funding prioritisation is effected, the tourism sector should be given top priority.
It is sad that our neighbour Kenya experienced political violence after presidential elections last year. The conflict caused unnecessary suffering to more than 300,000 Kenyans now living in internally displaced people’s in their own country Kenya, while others are living as refugees in Uganda.
This is not good for its tourism industry. However, this should provide an opportunity for Uganda to fill the vacuum. Remember how Kenya used the instability in Uganda in the 1970s and early 1980s to her benefit.
The recent hosting of Chogm has given a boost to the hotel industry and with the return of peace in the north, the tourism industry can only get better.