Uganda has been highlighted among the top places to visit in the world by various media outlets including CNN who posted a story on Kidepo Valley as one of Africa’s top National Parks, the National Geographic and Fodor’s Travel also listed Uganda among the top travel destinations for 2019.
Speaking at a media brief held at Golden Tulip Hotel in Kampala yesterday, Tourism State Minister, Godfrey Kiwanda noted that these recognition’s symbolize the confidence gained by Uganda as a top travel destination.
Adding that the recognition’s “are based on a solid foundation of her natural and cultural endowments but equally important on the efforts by government to invest in infrastructure, a liberal economic environment and maintaining political stability.”
“I salute the achievements of Ugandans on the world stage. The year 2018 will be remembered for the pride and glory Miss Uganda, Quinn Abenakyo brought when she was crowned Miss World Africa,” Hon Kiwanda said.
The world got to know that the real pearls are from Uganda and that as a Ministry of Tourism, Uganda re affirms her support and will work with Miss Uganda pageant to ensure that Quinn Abenakyo has a fruitful time during her reign, Kiwanda added.
The Minister also congratulated the reigning Miss Tourism and thanked her for representing Uganda at the just concluded Miss Tourism World just were held in Malaysia.
“These beauty initiatives will be supported in 2019 as vehicles to promote tourism on both the domestic and international stage,” Kiwanda added.
Mr. Kiwanda also recognized Joshua Cheptegei and Stella Chesang who won Gold at the Common Wealth Games, adding that, sports is a strong promotional vehicle for the country.
The Minister also made mention of Government investment in International PR and Destination Marketing representatives focusing on the USA market, German Speaking Europe, the UK and Ireland. He noted that the results of this strategy had not only been impressive but had also led to increase in the number of tourist arrivals to Uganda.
He said 2018 was so far the best tourism year as Uganda had registered 1.850,000 (million) tourist arrivals through Entebbe International Airport as per Civil Aviation Authority figures, adding that he was awaiting arrival figures from other entry points into Uganda like Mpondwe, Busia, Malaba, Katuna, Nimule and others for a final figure to be known.
However, this did not go down well with industry experts, who took a swipe at the Minister.
Mr. Deo Nyanzi asked, why the Ministry’s statements were not qualified with numbers and also queried why the Minister is hesitant to share the 2018 sector performance figures.
Another Tour Operator/ Lodge Owner, Civy Tumusiime asked how many of the tourists had visited the parks. This was however clarified by Mr. Sam Mwandha, the Executive Director, Uganda Wildlife Authority who said that numbers had gone up by 14% with 266,000 visiting in 2017 compared to 304,000 who visited in 2018.
When you compare these figures with what the Minister shared, you find several gaps, Deo Nyanzi added.
On his part, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre Executive Director, Mr. James Musinguzi said the centre had registered an 8.3% increase in visitor numbers (338,826) in 2018 and are working hard for a 10% increase in 2019.
For the Chimpanzee Conservation Trust, Mr. Eric Ntalo said that visitors to Ngamba Island had increased from 3,870 in 2017 to 4,526 in 2018.
Mr. Deo Nyanzi further, castigated the Ministry of Tourism and its associated Agencies for failing to portray Destination Uganda brand well, to which Ms Claire Mugabi, the Marketing Manager at Uganda Tourism Board agreed with him but added that, Branding Destination Uganda was top on the marketing plan/ agenda for 2019.
The Minister agreed that in as much as progress had been registered in areas such as infrastructural development, a lot still needed to be done, especially with tourism roads and more particularly in and around the national parks.
He was however, optimistic that that 2019 would be a great year for tourism Uganda since both domestic and international tourism had picked up as a result not only of the peace in country but also for efforts of the market destination representatives which have started yielding results.
Mr. Kiwanda said that, the target for Uganda was to add at least one million tourists (1,000,000) in addition to the latest arrivals.
Being mindful of the UN World Tourism Organization 2018 theme of “Tourism and the Digital Transformation,” the Minister urged Ugandans to continue sharing the Ugandan story by making use of the power of the digital era.