In Summary
  • Ugandans think that tourism is a reserve for foreigners
  • Ugandan’s are waking up to the fact that tourism is so much more than national parks and mountains

While all efforts are being made towards attracting foreign tourists, the potential in domestic tourism has largely been ignored.

Many Ugandans are not really convinced of the benefits of travelling within the boundaries of their country. Instead, an ideal holiday, for a middle-class family, is on the beaches on Mombasa, Dar-es-Salaam, or even Dubai.

Tour companies not interested
Mr Eric Ntalo, marketing and public relations manager with Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust, says tour companies are to blame.

“I will be honest with you; tour companies do not promote domestic tourism because the income base of many Ugandans is limited,” he says, adding, “The cheapest tour package they offer costs Shs300,000, yet running a tour company comes with such costs as transportation, lodging, and overhead. To meet these costs, tour companies would rather have one foreign tourist paying $500 for a tour, than two Ugandans paying Shs600,000.”

For the past three years, tour operators have been petitioning the government to scrap value added tax (VAT) on upcountry lodges because operators spend a lot on maintaining roads to the tourist sites and on improving communication services in the sites. A cut in the VAT could ensure that low-earning Ugandans can also have the chance to visit the beautiful sites in their country.

The attitude of Ugandans
Mr Allan Kanyike, the operations manager, Miss Tourism Uganda, says many Ugandans think that tourism is a reserve for foreigners.

A Ugandan with an average monthly income of Shs500,000 will find it hard to part with Shs300,000 to visit a tourist attraction, and even considers it an extravagant venture.

“These same people will spend Shs500,000-700,000 in one night at a night club. We need to do a lot more to convince Ugandans that their country is beautiful and worth touring,” he says.

“According to Uganda Domestic Tourism Study, beaches, nightclubs, and Namugongo Shrine, rank high, with each attracting 780,000, 570,000, 500,000 persons annually, respectively. The others are Kyadondo Rugby grounds, The Kabaka’s coronation celebration, and end-of-year prayers, which attract 300,000 people each,” he explains.

What is being done to promote domestic tourism?
Many Ugandan’s are waking up to the fact that tourism is so much more than national parks and mountains, starting different initiatives, to encourage the public to move around the country to enjoy the culture, sites, sounds, food, drinks, and landscape Uganda has to offer.

Mr Vincent Mugaba, public relations officer, Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), says a number of initiatives are being promoted to attract local tourists.

“Just recently, we had the Uganda Travel Month campaign, the Ondaba Initiative, KoiKoi Instagram, that are already mobilising Ugandans to explore and their country. Tourism means moving away from your normal place of abode to another place for at least, 24 hours for purposes of leisure or business. When you do that you spend on transport, food, and much more. With more people travelling around this beautiful nation, the numbers of domestic tourists is high,” he explains.

He says UTB has worked with the Church and Uganda Muslim Supreme Council to develop the Uganda Martyrs Trail in a move to encourage faith tourism on a national and international scale.

“This would not have been possible without the support of different faiths. The media is also a major partner in sharing tourism information with the public and we are working in partnership with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWE), and Uganda Hotels Owners Association (UHOA) to ensure that people know about our tourist sites,” he says.

There is so much that Uganda can offer to the local tourism, from the sandy beaches of Ssesse Islands to the plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park, snowy slopes of the Mountains of the moon, cool waters of River Nile, Mt Elgon and the Imbalu traditional ceremony, the wildlife plains of Kidepo and Murchison National Parks. Uganda is truly the Pearl of Africa, and its citizens should enjoy it.

gnantum@ug.nationmedia.com