By Abdul-Nasser Ssemugabi
Kampala — The China Africa Friendship Association Uganda (CAFAU) launched the inaugural Dragon Boat festival due May 28, aiming, among others, to boost sports tourism in Uganda.
The event, the first in Africa, will pit local rowers against Chinese at the Uganda Wildlife Centre in Entebbe, with build-up events like medical camps and training sessions to acquaint competitors with the arena, rules and safety coming a week prior.
“The Chinese celebrate this event every May 28 but most of those living in Uganda can’t go back home for the festival, that’s a great entry point for us to even attract others to Uganda,” said Hon. Godfrey Kiwanda, the state minister for tourism, during the media launch at Arirang Hotel in Nakasero Tuesday evening.
“The Chinese population is bigger than that of Africa meaning their market is still virgin; so we need to penetrate it through social engagements. That’s the gist of this sports festival–interesting millions of tourists who will come as participants and supporters.”
Sports tourism is travel which involves either observing or participating in a sporting event, (or both). With events like the Olympics, Fifa World Cup, F1 Grand Prix, the World Cross Country Championships, city marathons, among others, it is a fast-growing sector of the global travel industry, fetching an estimated US$7.68 billion.
Zheng Zhuqiang, the Chinese ambassador to Uganda, said the dragon boat festival started over 2000 years ago to honour patriotic poet Qu Yuan. It has grown into one of the most important traditional festivals in China through history. Every May and June, such races are held in China and around the world.
In Britain, dragon boat racing is one of the fastest growing and most exciting water sports. The British Dragon Boat Racing Association (BDA) runs a National League calendar for racing crews across the country plus the National Championships held annually at the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham. The BDA, as reported on their website, is responsible for all aspects of the sport from community development to managing British teams racing abroad.
Minister Kiwanda said through the success of such event, Uganda’s target of four million tourists by 2020 is achievable. The Chinese Embassy, Finance Trust, Arirang Hotel and other partners have dedicated Shs120m to the event.