A team from Kenya that includes tourism trade operators and media are seeking business support and partnership with their counterparts in Uganda. This follows their 10-day visit of various tourism sites in Uganda.
The visit aimed at boosting cross border tourism focused on building linkages that will encourage tourists from Kenya to explore adventure, leisure, business and cultural attractions that Uganda has to offer.
The trade team visited Namugongo Martyrs shrine and museum, Ndere cultural centre for cultural experience, Kibale national park, Queen Elizabeth national park and Bwindi Impenetrable National park and the nightlife experiences across the country.
Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) Chief Executive Officer, Lilly Ajarova at the debrief meeting with the trade teams explained that Uganda was working with Kenya tourism stakeholders to grow the tourism numbers and duration of stay for visitors in the country. This, she said requires aggressive marketing of the country based on what is experienced first-hand.
“This familiarization trip is designed to give the Kenyan trade partners the opportunity to explore Uganda. The trip presents a first-hand feel of the unique attractions and cultural experience by the trade teams which will better appreciation of the products offered,” she said.
Eliud Oyalo, managing director, Imagine Africa Safaris from Kenya said that they had come to Uganda to see the tourism products and experiences the country has to offer so that they can collectively work together in exposing them to both the Kenyan and international markets.
“My experience was amazing and Uganda indeed has a very good tourism product which he has never seen anywhere else from the gorillas, chimpanzees, the culture and just the scenery alone,” Oyalo intimated.
He however noted that the ministry of tourism, private sector and UTB still have a lot of work to do to develop the tourism sector especially in product development, value addition on the various sites and a lot of hidden gems that need to be exposed so that both the domestic and international markets can know them.
“Uganda is still lacking in a number of areas like marketing; all these products need more exposure to both local and international markets in order for Uganda to have a tourism component that can play at per with Kenya and Tanzania and this can be started by simply being active on social media,” Oyalo said.
Yvonne Nyokabi Muteru, senior sales consultant at Game Watchers Safaris in Nairobi described her experience in Uganda as magical.
“You have a magical country; the hills, valleys, crater lakes, gorillas, chimpanzees. It is just a breathtaking country and I feel that with the right guidelines and proper resources in the various tourist spots, it would do well in bringing in more guests into the country,” Muteru said.
She however noted that more emphasis needs to be put on branding and marketing of tourist attractions and therefore encouraged Ugandans to also be involved on the marketing in marketing their country themselves because it is from this that we can develop the economy which consequently trickles down to the residents.
Other key areas the Kenya tour operators cited which need improvement were the hospitality industry where they noted that customer service is highly lacking, poor infrastructure in most of the tourism sites especially in terms of access
roads where the roads are very narrow, inaccessible and bumpy especially those heading to the national parks and poor internet connectivity in most areas.
Ajarova welcomed the criticism from the Kenyans and acknowledged that indeed our services are still very poor and as a regulator, they are taking serious steps to ensure that they catch up with Kenya in terms of services and infrastructure.
“The next step we are moving to is accommodation because we know it is terrible. We had started grading and classification of accommodation facilities about six years ago but we didn’t do it very well because we were using Ugandan standards. But from January 2023, we are going to use a digitized system for classification of our accommodation facilities which is going to be faster and more convenient.,” Ajarova said.
She added, “So by next year, everyone should be able to know what star each accommodation facility in the country is because right now none of the accommodation facilities in Uganda is graded.”
The trade partners will work together to develop attractive tourism packages that will benefit both destinations (Uganda and Kenya) in terms of business.
UTB has been running a campaign to reposition Uganda as a leading tourism destination in Africa under a new thematic brand dubbed ‘Explore Uganda, The Pearl of Africa’ and Uganda is banking on this refreshed destination brand identity to increase tourist arrivals as the global travel industry recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.