Uganda this week dispatched over 200 delegates to Mombasa, Kenya for the second Uganda-Kenya Coast Tourism Conference.
John Mulimba, Uganda’s minister of state for Foreign Affairs, in charge of regional cooperation, and Martin Bahinduka Mugarra, state minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities led the delegation comprised of both private and public sector players.
"At the first conference, our minister of state recommended that this be an annual event, so we had no choice. For us, we thought we were organizing a one-off event, but the minister, in his wisdom, saw a very big opportunity," said Paul Mukumbya, consul general at the Uganda consulate in Mombasa.
Mukumbya emphasized that following the minister's directive the tourism gathering metamorphosed into an annual event, thus the second Uganda-Kenya Coast Tourism Conference.
The six-day event commenced on Monday, November 13 with a conference taking place at the stunning Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa in Mombasa under the theme’ Consolidating networks, synergies, and diversity to maximize the tourism potential between Uganda and the Kenya Coastal Region.'
Furthermore, building upon the theme of the conference, the two-day meeting has specific objectives; to assess progress since the 2022 conference, evaluate destination products, enhance synergies among key tourism players, explore investment opportunities, facilitate business networking, and promote the Entebbe-Mombasa Uganda Airlines route.
During the opening ceremony, Mulimba emphasized the strategic significance of the conference for both countries. He underscored their untapped potential and highlighted how exploration and global showcasing catalyzed by platforms like the 2nd Uganda-Kenya Tourism Conference can propel their growth.
"As you are aware, Uganda is endowed with unique safaris, rich cultural and historical heritage, a variety of attractions of flora and fauna, including the mountain gorillas, tree climbing lions, and over 1,063 bird species in national parks and protected areas spread across the country," Mulimba said.
He added: "On the other hand, the coastal region of Kenya is endowed with several tourism attractions from the historical Fort Jesus, beautiful beaches and resorts, marine national parks, elephant sanctuary, the dolphins, wildlife parks, slave caves and sacred forests, Vasco Da Gama Fort in Malindi, white sands, the coral reefs, diving and snorkeling among others."
The state minister however noted that there is still lack of enough information as far as the tourism products of the two countries are concerned.
"A big section of the population including tourism stakeholders is not aware of the rich and diverse products in each other’s countries even when the two countries remain each other’s top tourist source markets."
He therefore called on the tourism stakeholders to raise awareness about the tourism products in both countries to foster the increase of tourist numbers between Uganda and Kenya. Mukumbya explained that the tourism conference operates on a model of complementary not competition. He pointed out that both countries have unique tourism products that cannot be duplicated, but can be complemented to boost tourism numbers in both Uganda and Kenya.
To support a comprehensive understanding of the region's heritage and foster cross-border tourism between the two nations, the Ugandan delegation will be taken for excursions at the coast in Mombasa and Malindi from November 15 to 18 and their Kenyan counterparts will be brought to Uganda on a familiarization trip to experience different tourism products.
The trip to Uganda will be from November 22 to December 3, 2023, and will include visits to cultural and religious sites, such as the Ndere Centre and the Namugongo Martyrs Shrine. It will also cover heritage and wildlife parks including the Source of the Nile, Bwindi National Park, and Murchison Falls. Additionally, the Kenyan delegation will have the opportunity to experience the urban nightlife and other diverse tourism offerings in the Pearl of Africa.
"We can move beyond the 370,000 Kenyans who visited Uganda last year and the 150,000 Ugandans who visited Kenya last year. All we need is to work together to ensure that we make this partnership work."