Tourism in Uganda has taken a back seat for a long time, earning and the label ‘neglected’. Although budgets are drafted annually, they always end up being debate topics with no follow-up. This is beginning to change.
Uganda is blessed in abundance with natural resources that can be found all over the country. The Pearl of Africa is embodied with sandy beaches, scenic lakes, the historic river Nile, Ruwenzori Mountains of the Moon, Lake Victoria, and forests filled with globally rare Primates, Birds, savannahs filled with an abundance of wildlife and views to live for. It’s no surprise that every year the number of tourists visiting different sceneries is steadily on the rise. The country is once again becoming a popular destination recovering from decades of violence and political turmoil.
On Monday 16th May 2016, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni endorsed and launched three Public Relations and Marketing Firms, namely PHG, Kamageo and KPRN Network. The three firms were tasked to represent Uganda’s interests in North America, the United Kingdom(UK), Ireland and Germany. These are lucrative but untapped tourism key source markets for Uganda.
At a cost of approximately US$1.5 million annually, the foreign-based publicist firms will provide marketing, sales representation, and public relations services in the aforementioned markets. In a bid to popularize Uganda’s existing and upcoming tourism products and services such as religious tourism, the venture will bolster Uganda’s visibility and also attract more tourists– given the tourism industry’s total contribution(including wider effects from investment, the supply chain and induced income impacts) GDP of UGX7, 270.5 billion in 2015 (9.0%of GDP) that is projected to rise by 1.4% to UGX7,372 billion, (8.6% of GDP) in 2016.
In November last year, the visit of His Holiness, Pope Francis to Uganda played an important role in the recognition of the country as one of the religious tourism destinations in the world and also led to an upgrade of the Namugongo Martyrs shrines.
“In 2015, the direct contribution of Travel& Tourism to the GDP was UGX2, 982.1 bn (3.7%of GDP). This is forecast to rise by 0.7% to UGX 3 002.7bn in 2016,” says Stephen Asiimwe, Executive Director Uganda Tourism Board. He adds that this contribution reflects the economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel agents, airlines, entertainment, leisure, and transportation services.
States and their respective bodies have now turned to overseas Public Relations and Lobbyist firms to provide an alternative strategy. Over the years, many countries have adopted the same. For instance, in 2014, the government of Rwanda through its investment body – Rwanda Development board courted the services of Solimar International, a Washington DC-based tourism firm and UK-based, Kamageo to draw attention to the tourism potential of Rwanda in the UK, North America, and central Europe under the country’s “Remarkable Rwanda” flagship campaign.
In the wake of the Garissa terror attacks in northeastern Kenya, by the deadly Al-Shabaab extremist groups, the country experiences a drastic drop in the tourism sector. This prompted the Kenyan government through its Ministry of East African Affairs to seek the services of Grayling PR and events consulting companies to promote the country’s tourism sector across the US, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asian Pacific. It should be noted that the Kenyan government is having ongoing talks to launch a global tourism campaign worth Kenya Sh5.2 billion. The crusade will target Europe, America, Asia (China and India), and, Africa (Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, and Ethiopia).
According to the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Uganda’s representation in foreign countries has mainly been through trade exhibitions like the World Travel Market (WTM) London, Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) Berlin and the just concluded Indaba, South Africa.
“Destination marketing is a very complicated thing. In Uganda, tourism is now our top export and quickly becoming a major employer. Globally, tourism is among the top revenue generators. The agencies commissioned by the President will be our mouthpiece in each of these markets,” says James Tumusiime, UTB Board Chairman.
Statistics from UTB indicated that tourism created 464,500 direct jobs in 2015 (3.1% of total employment), while investments in the sector created 1,173,000 jobs (7.8% of total employment).
The World Bank-funded project under the stewardship of Competitiveness and Enterprise Development Project (CEDP), will also build the local tourism sector capacity to match that of their international counterparts.
Quoting H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, “Uganda is easy to market. We are an all year round destination with great weather, a variety of tourist attractions including mountains with snow all through the year.”