In the last week alone, the Cable News Network – CNN; the International Tourism Board – ITB, Berlin; and, Rough Guides – all international organizations with considerable influence in highlighting the tourism performance and potential of all countries, have all come in glowing tribute to our tourism characteristics and quality.
CNN puts our tourism excellence as one of the global five, in as much as ITB, too, puts it as the top five in Africa, in the eminence in its tourist flora and fauna. Our own Uganda Tourist Board – UTB – gives out figures for visitors as of 2015 at 500,000. With the improvement of areas in the infrastructure, relevant to attracting tourists from all over the world, that figure can rise to treble that.
Indeed, in the region, the attraction for tourists to destinations in Kenya, for example, would be an added boon to our own potential. As Kenya is gearing to attract up to four million tourists in the next four years, we should be looking to having a good deal of those visitors sampling our own sites.
The early 20th Century British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was pat on when he described Uganda as the Pearl of Africa. It embodies almost the whole range of the global temperate regions: from the cold glacial region in the Rwenzori Mountain Range to the Savannah Plains of Kidepo National Park.
In that range of expanse, you find the mountain gorillas of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to elephant and giraffe wildlife in plains in the north and north east of the country to the bird sanctuaries in the some of the tropical forests areas.
That apart, we have the scenic beauty of the River Nile and its mesmerizing Murchison Falls to the mountain climbing ranges of Mount Elgon and of Moroto and Napak. All these are found within a friendly all-year round climate and temperature that has no extremes.
With this natural gift from God, we should do all that is credible to get all our advantages for the improvement of the economy, and for the benefit for all the people. The onus is on the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife and, especially UTB, to bring Government to appreciate its role in enhancing all the attributes necessary for the sector to grow even beyond what it is now. Understandably, at the moment, tourism is the biggest foreign exchange earner, but it could do better.
Talk of improvement and works in the infrastructure is already on the cards, but it should be extended to those areas that attract the ordinary tourist. Alongside, this is the need for the tourists to feel a sense of peace and security while they are in the country. The moment, a tourist comes to understand that the political climate is unfavorable and likely to affect their going up and down those areas they are interested in touring, they will merely keep away. So, things like; civilian killings and corruption, will simply underscore Uganda’s character of “A smiling beauty in darkness”, as UTB’s Steven Asiimwe puts it.