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By Isaac Sebakijje | Uganda Embraces Domestic Tourism As The Sector Emerges From Oblivion

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Posted October 6, 2013 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Domestic Tourism ~ 2,074 views

     

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Uganda celebrated World Tourism Day along with the rest of the world on Friday September 27, 2013. This is the day designated each year since 1980 by the United Nations to sensitize the international community about the relevance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values. World governments and private stakeholders in tourism celebrate the day with various special events and festivities.

Uganda’s venue for the 2013 event was Fort Portal with the theme, “Tourism and water: Protecting our common future”. The theme was intended to epitomize the need to protect Uganda’s and indeed the world’s water bodies since they are an essential part tourist attractions. The theme corresponded well with our country’s path for eco tourism; a system of responsible travel that conserves the environment and improves the well being of local people.

Demonstrable participation in events like this indicates that Uganda tourism is finally in a takeoff mode after decades of stagnation. Tourism is a vehicle for positive change and upliftment of communities. In her published statement on World Tourism Day, the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Maria Mutagamba urged Ugandans to visit and invest in tourism attraction areas.

On the same day, a statement read on behalf of President Museveni stated that we should not look at visitors only but also look at ourselves here as potential and actual
consumers of tourism in this country. These are very insightful statements from top leaders which must be taken beyond rhetoric. Also the Uganda Tourism Board together with other industry players has embarked on a campaign to promote domestic tourism. These collective steps equate with the recent launching of Miss Uganda Tourism Pageant which is primarily intended to build the domestic tourism portfolio.

Domestic tourism is non-seasonal. It is the pillar and safety net which supports the tourism industry throughout any given year. Tourism in Uganda is still translated by many as an industry that caters to the likes of foreign visitors who come in with foreign currencies to spend. The types who come on safaris, stay in five star hotels and expensive lodges, eat in expensive restaurants and buy loads of souvenirs to take home. The earlier we all step out of that mindset, the better. Times and economies have changed and tourism is susceptible to those changes.

We have seen recessions hitting economies of the most resourceful countries with devastating consequences. The most recent one is the Eurozone crisis, an area which is Uganda’s traditional tourist source. In times of economic difficulties, people make decisions of how best to spend their limited cash resources. Anything considered luxury such as spending on holidays and travel is eliminated. Also, periods of heightened global terrorism along with adverse travel advisories are notorious for keeping prospective visitors at bay.

When that happens, then Uganda’s expensive hotels, holiday beaches and safari parks sit idle crippling the industry and increasing unemployment. According the United Nations World Travel Organization, domestic tourism is an excellent shock-absorber especially in times of economic crises. Domestic tourism is an educational process for the environment since it plays a big role in influencing public viewpoints. It is a program where residents are persuaded to visit natural attractions within their own country.

By doing so, many begin to appreciate and enjoy what they see and become pro-active in protecting the same. The default thinking that a domestic tourist doesn’t offer the same degree of benefit is no longer valid in today’s revolving world economy. It remains the foundation of the industry in mature tourism systems around the world. For instance, Brazil earned $130 billion from domestic tourism in 2011. It may also come as a surprise to many that domestic tourism contributed 76% of South Africa’s total tourism volume in 2011 according to the Minister of Tourism.

The next time you visit Taj Mahal in India, The Great Wall in China, Disneyland in California, St. Peter’s Basilica in Italy or any of the world’s seven wonders, look around you and see how many locals are spending money on their own attractions. Once the local residents develop an appreciation and passion for the attractions in their countries, the tourism equation becomes complete.

As Uganda’s standards of living increase and the middle class emerges, more people are likely to have some disposable income that will enable them to engage in domestic touring. It is important to understand that there is no magic formula to developing domestic tourism and also both international and domestic tourism should complement each other. One should not be neglected in favour of the other. With professionalism, vision and creativity, there are unlimited proven ways of making Uganda tourism a success in the long run. The encompassing strategy lies in diversification of tourism products with authentic value for money.

This follows educating Ugandans on local attractions and products to address lack of tourism culture in our society. A few examples include introduction of affordable and accessible travel such as road, rail, and internal air transport. Organizing local and national domestic tourism exhibitions and events. Subsidizing rates or offering discounts for residents throughout the year in line with local earnings. Introducing low budget accommodations such as guest houses, inns including student hostels around the tourist attractions that appeal to local demand. This is simply a glimpse of what can be done to match other nations who have discovered the magic of domestic tourism.

In brief, success will centre on innovation, stakeholder participation and the offering of authentic, affordable experiences and packages that meet the needs of all potential local travelers and vacationers. At that point, Ugandans who seek expensive world class destinations for their holidays will realize that what they are looking for is affordably right here in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa.

The writer is an experienced hotelier and tourism professional and Founder of Impactafrica Trade & Investments. Email: impactafricati@gmail.com


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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