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Uganda Gorilla Tourism : Essential for growth

Uganda Gorilla Tourism : Essential for growth

In Uganda, the 10th annual Tourism Sector Review Conference realizes 7.4%   growth  in tourist arrivals, attributed to  gorilla tourism

The Uganda Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities(MTWA) concluded the 10th Annual Sector Review Conference on the 18th September 2019  at Hotel Africana and Convention Centre, Kampala . Themed Tourism as a dynamic driver for social-economic transformation.

Presenting the report Director Tourism in the Tourism Ministry James Lutalo attributed the good performance of the sector way above the projected UGX 85 billion (USD 24Million)mainly to gorilla sales whereby 74 percent of the gorilla tracking permits were sold.

The current number of Gorilla permits available per day totals 142 in number distributed amongst 19 gorilla families in Bwindi and Mt. M’Gahinga National Parks.With demand expected to increase, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) plans to increase the tracking fee from USD 600 to USD 700 from July, 2020 as government is looking to diversify the tourism product in the areas of MICE Tourism ( Meetings Incentives Conferences and Events)by constructing a Convention Centre in Entebbe, investing in Cable cars on Mount Ruwenzori pending feasibility studies,developing Lake Victoria for navigation and developing Source of The Nile as a world class tourism site.

In general, international visitor arrivals increased by 7.4 percent from 1,402,409 in 2017 to 1,505,669 in 2018 generating US$ 1.6 billion in forex earnings compared to US$ 1.45 billion in 2017. Growth was driven by Europe (13.8%), the Americas (9.2%), Asia (10.2%) and Middle East (9.7%) markets.

Foreign non-resident category for example increased by 22.5 percent in Financial year  2018/19 There was also an improvement in infrastructure and facilities in protected areas.

Visitors to national parks increased by 14 percent to 325,345 visitors in 2018 whereas visitors to the selected tourist sites (UWEC, National Museum and the Source of the Nile) rose by 19 percent amounting to 581,616 visitors.

Lutalo also   attributed the increment to contracting of Destination Marketing Representatives in Europe and Americas and automation of revenue collection.

Other developments in the sector included the assenting to the Wildlife Act by His Excellency the President, creation of 5 CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) border points, review of the  Greening of Tourism Act, inspection and supervision of 16 wildlife user rights holders.

The government had also carried out 328 marine patrols and arrested poachers, wildlife health monitoring and research and disease surveillance reporting no cases of diseases with the exception of a few cases of injuries to wildlife.

On promotion he commended the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) for concluding 12 familiarisation trips to improve awareness, promoting domestic drives and attaining  International Convention and Congresses membership, partnering with the Federation of Uganda Football Associations( FUFA) during the recent Africa Cup of Nations in promotion of tourism, setting guidelines for agrotourism.

Other areas highlighted in the report included cultural heritage conservation, skills development and quality assurance of tourism standards and progress and implementation of recommendations from the 9th sector review.

The conference had earlier been opened by guest of honor the Rt. Honorable Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugumda who was welcomed by Minister for Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA) Professor Ephraim Kamuntu and junior Tourism Minister Hon. Kiwanda Suubi.

Fresh from  the Government Annual Performance Report a week ago that meets to assess  progress in general against government in the National Development  Plan (NDP)  and party manifesto implementation, Rugunda fondly referred to as ‘ndugu’(brother in kiswahili) , said that government has beefed up security in the national parks through collaboration between the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF), Tourism Police and ranger forces, ensured community benefits to the neighboring districts and protected areas surrounding the national parks . In addition, he said that the UWA has instituted measures to mitigate human-wildlife conflict through construction of electric fencing and trenches to protect against stray elephants and other wildlife and development of transport including prioritizing the major tourism and oil roads and revival of the national airline.

Addressing delegates, The Permanent Secretary (MTWA) Doreen Kamusiime noted that  ‘ while international visitors are increasing, enticing them to stay longer and even make repeated visits is still a challenge for the industry, as the average length of stay has stagnated at 7 days. Our industry is operating in an increasingly competitive regional and global environment. Maintaining a strong growth trajectory while delivering a memorable experience for visitors requires the industry to continue diversifying, expanding and marketing its offerings to match changing visitor expectations as well as those of visitors from the new source markets’. She assured the delegates that the  Ministry and the Sector Agencies will continue to collaborate and work with the private sector and all other players, to fast-track the implementation of interventions that promote tourism, wildlife and cultural heritage conservation for socio-economic development and transformation of the country.

Other speakers included  Elsie Attafuah UNDP Resident Representative to Uganda, Moses Kibirige Private Sector Specialist  representing World Bank who in his keynote address highlighted support to the tourism sector including funding the acquisition of three 45 seater boats and five 62 seater buses to promote domestic tourism as well as successfully managing the ‘Matching Grant’ facility to the private sector through Private Sector Foundation of Uganda(PSFU).

The Executive Director,” Space for Giants’ Conservation organization, Oliver Poole reaffirmed the need to ensure that we have world-class facilities in Uganda. He emphasized that the need for right materials in construction with minimal environmental impact,, solar power lighting and right staffing. He announced that 90 operators were willing to develop 26 sites in Uganda including luxury a boat on the Nile River in Murchison Falls National Park.

Also represented were the Parliamentary Committee on Tourism Chairman Hon. Kasule Sebunya and  his committee, heads of Ministries ,Departments and Agencies including National Planning Authority,Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Tourism Board, ,Uganda Wildlife Education Centre,   Uganda Tourism Association, Association of Uganda Tour Operators Association, Uganda Safari Guides Association , Hotel and Catering Association , Hotel Tourism and Training Institution ,Hotel Owners Association ,media representatives and invited private sector players.

After a whole day of deliberations,  a wrap  session of the following action points to  was conducted by Commissioner Tourism Dr. A Bereiga Akankwasa :

  1. Improve hospitality skills of tourism players along the tourism value chain
  2. Strengthen and diversify tourism products range
  3. Strengthen conservation of natural and cultural heritage
  4. Improve tourism infrastructure including air, water and road transport
  5. Strengthen quality assurance and regulation of the sector including marine tourism
  6. Aggressive promotion and marketing of the destination domestically, regionally and internationally

The conference was closed by honorable Kamuntu who recognized that great strides had been made in the strategic areas especially, aggressive marketing and promotion, product diversification and hospitality skills development along the tourism value chain. Uganda Airlines he said, was the latest addition to the efforts of improving connectivity and promotion of the Pearl of Africa. He concluded by recommending that the public sector must continue to lead as the private sector must drive the sector on how well we are advancing from a peasant to development-oriented economy. The conference ended with a cocktail hosted by the Tourism Ministry at the poolside.

Uganda Tourism is a member of the African Tourism Board.

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