Posted January 27, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Tourism ~ 6,258 views



By Isaac Sebakijje — In the wake of development, Uganda is proactively looking for new source markets and investments for the emerging hospitality and tourism sector.  In November last year, John Ssempebwa, the deputy CEO of Uganda Tourism  Board announced that public relations firms will be used to market Uganda starting with UK, Germany and the USA.  It is obvious that the beginning of year 2015 is seeing more emphasis placed on targeting the lucrative American market.

Today, Marlina Moreno, the Los Angeles based American female model/TV host/entrepreneur has been appointed to promote Uganda tourism in the United States.  This is the first time in the history of the sector that the leadership is experimenting with an approach like this. Whether the more traditional Ugandans agree with this or not, the fact remains that models and other celebrities have a broader marketing appeal especially in the Americas.

For example, Super-star singer Rihanna has been used to successfully promote holidays to Barbados. Coincidentally, Barbados is her country of birth as well. Singer Lady Gaga promotes Japanese tourism and footballer (soccer) superstar David Beckham was used in advertisements to promote tourism in California. The list is endless. Therefore, with Marlina’s introduction to leading tourism sights in Uganda along with photos, videos, travel articles and documentaries thereafter, she may attract wider audiences to Americans who know little or nothing l about the Pearl of Africa. However, it will depend on her demographic reach. In other words, the American degree of fascination with her and her personal connection with them will dictate the effectiveness of Marlina as a tourism ambassador.

Before Marlina came on the scene, several actions geared towards promoting and marketing Uganda in the USA were already in motion. Earlier last year, it was reported that the Uganda Embassy in Washington DC collaborated with the National Tour Association (NTA) to advance tourism in Uganda.   NTA is the leading business-building association for professionals serving customers traveling to, from and within North America. This collaboration was initiated by Uganda’s Ambassador to the United States Oliver Wonekha and Stephen B. Richer, NTA’s Public Affairs Advocate.

What makes this collaboration more relevant to Uganda is that the National Tour Association (NTA) works in partnership with the New York based Africa Travel Association (ATA).  Africa Travel Association is a leading global trade association promoting travel and tourism to Africa. Furthermore, ATA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Uganda North American Association (UNAA) to advocate, market, and promote Uganda as a world-class tourism destination. UNAA is the largest formal USA based association of Ugandans in the diaspora. UNAA hosts annual premier networking events in different US cities that brings together a spectrum of public and private Ugandans in and out of the USA.

On November 11th, to 16th, 2014, ATA held its 39th Annual World Congress event in Kampala which was hosted by Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA). The event brought to Uganda, hundreds of delegates from around the world including leading tour operators from the United States. The event was preceded by the ATA and MTWA North American Road Show across America with stops in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., New York, and Toronto (Canada). The objective was to establish business relationships and linkages between American tour operators, travel specialists, media and the Uganda tourism industry.  According to Susan Muhwezi, the President of ATA Uganda Chapter at the time, ATA’s event in Kampala was the ultimate eye opener of the world to Uganda.

During Big Birding Week which ran from November 27th to December 6th 2014, Uganda took yet another opportunity to promote tourism to America through its rich diversity of birds. This event was organized by Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Nature Uganda and Uganda Bird Guides Club. This event linked Uganda with leading bird watchers and influential organizations from around the world. The main ones included Tim Appleton, the organizer of the world’s largest bird fair in the UK; Dominic Mitchell, founder and managing editor of Bird Watch, Europe’s leading monthly magazine and Bill Thompson, the editor and co-publisher of Bird Watcher’s Digest, which is one of North America’s birding magazines. According to the 2009 U.S. census, there are an estimated 60 million American birdwatchers.  This huge number of bird watchers makes it a worthwhile pursuit for Uganda to tap into this market. With over 1000 bird species, Uganda is considered to be a birder’s paradise.

As part of tourism and investment campaign, the diaspora community has also been targeted as part of the equation. African Development Bank estimates $1billion to be injected in Uganda’s economy by diaspora remittances this year. Therefore, Uganda government ministries and agencies are increasingly stepping up efforts to harness these funds into development. The Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Investment Authority and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have particularly been at the forefront of these efforts. When the Ugandan Diaspora Community gathered in Kampala for their annual holidays in December 2014, the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) in partnership with other government ministries and the private sector hosted its seventh “Home is Best” summit at Churchill Hotel in Gulu district. According to John Musajjakawa of UIA, these summits support the Uganda diaspora to actively participate in private investment.

The Home Best summit coincided with the 4th Annual Uganda Diaspora Social Networking Gala which was held at Kampala Serena hotel on December 30th, 2015 which included a Diaspora Business Breakfast meeting. According to the USA based event planner Ronnie Mayanja, the gala is intended to bring together Ugandans who live and work abroad by celebrating their achievements overseas, strengthen their links with the homeland and encourage them to become contributors to Uganda’s progress while inspiring the next generation of Ugandan leaders.

Uganda’s and indeed Africa’s tourism industry is an important vehicle for spurring investments not only in the sector but other industries as well. Generally, tourists can turn into investors once they realize the economic potential. Today, investment opportunities exist in every area of Uganda’s hospitality and tourism sector. This included establishment of hospitality industry schools and a national airline.

The world is discovering Uganda and, in turn, Uganda is proactively discovering the world like never before. Decades of turmoil and economic decay seem relatively distant today than during the reigns of terror over thirty years ago. With the surrender of Dominic Ongwen, a senior commander of Joseph Kony’s messianic rebel group, it seems that Uganda is close to claiming total victory over this rebel threat as well. The country is destined to become a most desired tourist destination in the region.

Since 2011, the tourism industry has been gathering accolades, awards and positive ratings by world industry organizations and publications.  For instance, in 2012 Lonely Planet picked Uganda as the world’s best country to visit. In 2013, National Geographic picked Uganda as one of the top travel destinations in the world. The African Economist survey applauded Uganda as being one of the friendliest nations in Africa. The recent poll conducted by Guardian in UK placed Uganda ahead of Spain as a tourist destination and the list goes on.

Success of this tourism marketing campaign will ultimately depend on many factors that provide Uganda with the capacity to deliver tourism products and services efficiently and competitively as well as providing a supportive business and diaspora environment.

The writer is an hotelier and tourism professional

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.



    This is good information we also need to improve on the educational approach to include sports. This will attract tourists in terms of competition and also provide employments for example sports sitting and parking plus accommodation this will further promote domestic tourism.


    Uganda needs to be serious… have performance indicators for All ambassadors. Simple. Scholarships won, funding brought in, tourists sent in, Ugandan linkage meetings organised in their respective countries, Ugandan travels facilitated etcthey will wake up

You must be logged in to post a comment.