Uganda continues to shine and get recognised for the beauty it possesses. However, the country’s tourism marketing strategy can be refined so that the country can gain from its potential To analysts, the sector needs all the goodwill it can get but most of all, proactive promoters that look beyond the perks that come with their jobs.
The Tourism Sector Annual Performance report for the Financial Year (FY) of 2016/17 was recently released one year later. This is likely to affect planning and projection if sector leaders and players are to base their decisions on old information for the dynamic sector that is tourism.
For the period reflected in the report, Uganda has been recognised internationally and the country can use these rewards to scale up its promotion so that it can attain business value from it
According to the report, the international recognition and accolades received by the country are not by accident, but are due to the efforts of the Ministry, other supporting sectors of the economy and the favourable political environment.
US-based Cable News Network (CNN) named Uganda among the world’s top five tourism destinations for 2017. “This is attributed to Uganda’s outdoor sanctuary of crater lakes, silverback mountain gorilla, white-sand beaches on lake islands, thundering waterfalls and national parks. Kidepo Valley National Park was nominated for World Travel Awards in the category ‘Africa’s leading National Park 2017’.
The Rough Guides, a UK-based leading travel publisher ranked Uganda as the best country to visit in Africa and the fourth best country to visit in the world in 2017.”
The report adds, “Cable News Network has in July 2017 named Kidepo Valley National Park as one of three parks for to enjoy safari experiences in Africa.
InterNations, a network of international guides, in April 2017 ranked Uganda the most welcoming country to raise a family in, after conducting a survey of 3,000 families who live and work abroad.
Respondents were completely satisfied with the warm attitude of Ugandans towards foreign families.
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Growth in numbers
“In just a decade, annual tourist numbers have soared from close to 650,000 in 2007 to more than 1.3 million visitors in 2016 (a growth of 106 per cent). The majority of international tourists (close to 80 per cent)) arrive from Africa followed by Europe, Asia and America,” the tourism sector report states, in part.
It adds that the average length of stay has remained stable for close to a decade at about 7.2 days. Around 55 per cent of visitors were aged between 20 and 39 years and 35.4 percent were aged between 40 and 59 years.
“As such, the sector generates the bulk of export revenues for the country followed by remittances from abroad and provides direct and indirect employment to over 500,000 people.”
The strides the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities is registering are remarkable but definitely much more can be achieved, particularly consummate to the tourism products motherland Uganda has.
“During this 8th Sector review conference, I look forward to a fellowship in examining our previous undertakings our progress in the financial year 2016//117, and the informed rationalisation of strategies to support the tourism sectors’ enhanced contribution to enterprise growth, job creation and reduction of poverty,” the minister states.
Uganda should pick a leaf from Kenya’s tourism sector, which releases a sector report on a quarterly basis. From Uganda’s sector performance, the minister of tourism, Ephraim Kamuntu states that the tourism sector earned the country US$11.37 billion, or Shs6.17 trillion as contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
It employed six per cent of the total labour force. One of the highlights in the sector report is progress towards achieving four million arrivals by 2020 through an average annual growth of close to 32 per cent.
“These strategies are focusing on investing in our tourism source markets that present the greatest potential for growth. During the period under review, Uganda welcomed 1.323 million international visitors who brought in more than $11.37 billion into the economy, which contributed to Uganda’s socioeconomic transformation,” explains Doreen Katusiime, the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the tourism ministry.
The report focuses on an assessment of progress against the Sector’s commitments made against the National Development Plan (NDP) 2015//116 – 2019//220, approved Ministerial Policy Statement for the financial year as well as the Budget Speech of 2016//117.
Uganda’s marketing strategy has received mixed reviews. According to the report, in the Financial Year 2016/17, combined efforts were put on domestic tourism with the launch of a countrywide domestic tourism campaign dubbed ‘Let’s explore’ or Tulambule, in Luganda, a local language.
“Tulambule has been highly successful in encouraging Ugandans to visit and experience the beauty of their own country. All the regions of the country were visited and promoted and the campaign that later branched out to Tulambule Wild targeting promotion of Uganda’s national parks,” the report states, in part.
It adds that future regional campaigns include Twende Uganda which will encourage East African nationals to visit Uganda, as well as Destination Uganda which is aimed at attracting tourists from all over the world.
Uganda hosted the first Africa Birding Expo in Entebbe in November 2016, and as well as the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (PPOATE)) in February 2017 which were attended by over 100 international buyers.
“In a drive to promote Uganda around the world, Government contracted three Public Relations//Destination Market Representative firms to promote Uganda in key tourist source markets. The firms have achieved great success in giving Uganda a good image in the three markets of UK and Ireland, German-speaking Europe, and North America. Uganda received twelve groups of media personalities to provide coverage for the country,” the report further states.
More effort required
However, sector players are not satisfied with effort Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), the statutory body responsible for promoting Uganda as a tourism destination.
Tour and travel operator, Amos Wekesa, submits that despite Uganda’s beauty, UTB officials are not keen on doing their job, missing various opportunities to strategically position the Pearl of Africa.
The report seems to point a positive trajectory where it states that Uganda’s tourist attractions featured on the public screens at some of the busiest streets such as Times Square in New York City and Trafalgar Square in London.
“Additionally, Uganda featured in the print media in the source markets. These and other efforts have yielded significant results for example the number of tourist arrivals from the American market has increased by 17 per cent. We plan to continue with this working strategy and expand to our emerging markets of China and Nigeria. In order to enhance promotion, Government started efforts to position Uganda as a regional hub for meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE),” the report further reads.
Plans for growth
It adds that MICE has potential to augment conventional natural and cultural heritage based tourism and during the financial year, the MICE strategy was developed and efforts are being made to establish a MICE bureau in FY 2017/18 to implement the policy.
Still on promotion and marketing, UTB plans to pull up its socks in the FY 2017/18 through participation in five international and three regional events in order to consolidate the gains realised by PR representation in UK and Ireland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland as well as the United States and Canada.
Targeted domestic sites
The promotion plan also includes government promoting domestic tourism through events such as World Tourism Day celebrations, Miss Tourism 2017 Competitions and Namugongo Martyrs day celebrations and regional tourism cluster development.
In the same year, 2017/18, the sector lead players have plans to focus on completing the Master plan for Source of the Nile, start on the refurbishment of Mugaba palace; constructing the second floor of the Pier Restaurant and rehabilitation of animal exhibits at UWEC, construction of Nyero Interpretation Centre in Kumi District.
According to the report, there are plans to also instal two stainless steel ropes on the final leg to Margherita peak, construct handrails as you approach the rock area of Elena camp, constructing five resting shades and toilets at Omuko Mujungu, Nyamuleju and Omwihembe, Fresh field pass and Kichuchu.
“The sector also targets to complete student centers in Murchison falls and Queen Elizabeth conservation areas, complete a visitor Information Center in Bwindi Mgahinga conservation area, construct staff houses in Kidepo valley, Mount Elgon, Lake Mburo and Kibale conservation areas, complete Kanjokya office building and carry out boundary marking in Mt Elgon Conservation Area,” the report further states.