KAMPALA– Uganda should turn to the drawing board and make comparative studies to review strategies that were adopted in the 1960’s, modify them for better positioning in the international tourism market now.
The country is competing against new destinations and new products a call for exhibition of quality and unique marketing.
Interest information and resource centre, modern stop-over points, restaurants, house boats, boat rides, additional walks and toilets along the circuits must be major priorities.
Training of community guides, organizing community groups to provide equipment that can be rented to tourists who may wish to take part in an activity in the area, home stay experiences and development of marketing materials.
The development of key maps, construction of good roads, improvement in the condition of airstrips and airfields and introduction of cheaper scheduled flights to the national park areas so as to shorten the long driving distances should also be considered by tourism sector holders.
There is also need to reinstate the national carrier for Uganda to provide direct flights, convenient and affordable travel fares from source markets and up grade Kasese, Jinja and Arua airfields to international airport status and implement the decision to enable tourists arrive there directly.
The image can as well be boosted by putting tourism signage on the roads to improve visibility, position tourist police at key road sites to allow tourists to report any misbehavior by tour operators like those that usually leave them on the road side stranded.
Night game drives in all parks, bush camping and more circuits in the Murchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park areas should as well be put in place, to support the growing numbers.
Simplification of merchant like Visa and Master cards banking to increase the tourist expenditures and reduce the risk of losing cash and the inconvenience of carrying large wards of money.
According to Mr. Geoffrey Baluku of Baluku’s Guide and the general secretary of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), there is also a need for additional access points, activities and a business development plan for the Rwenzori Mountains as well.
“Training of existing and new tour guides as well as hospitality staff. Encouraging the local media and NGO’s to become partners in the tourism awareness process at all levels, promotion of the involvement of the private sector in the provision of training, are key other areas that need adequate attention,” notes Baluku.
He adds that the government can as well encourage capacity building among the previously neglected small and medium tourism enterprises and emerging entrepreneurs.
To the safety and security part of tourists, Baluku suggests that the provision of adequate information to visitors that will help improve their safety and security, in line with a section for Tourism Police under the Uganda Police Force should be created and given facilitation like an office and vehicle.
“This will help not only in effective prosecution for cases where tourists are involved but will also build confidence of and among the tourists,” he stresses.
To improve the country’s tourism image, there is need for product development through emphasizing the development of products that offer good potential for development take like cultural forms of tourism, cruise tourism, sports tourism, conference and incentive travel. There is a need to diversify the Ugandan Tourism product and not over market or over develop the tourism attractions.
Baluku explains that an agent review of the government’s financial contribution to tourism should be conducted as well as the process of determining such contribution.
“A dedicated tourism development fund should be established to provide funds for tourism enterprises and local community activities not catered for by existing state financing agencies. Such a fund should be subject to regular auditing and scrutiny,” he emphasizes.
He contends that training airport taxis operators and other disadvantaged transport operators should be considered in order to enhance their services and allow them to play an important role in Uganda’s tourism industry. “Investors that come up with products that helps to diversify the tourism product like cruise boats on Lake Victoria should be supported and encouraged.
Baluku insists that to compete with other destinations, the private sector must be supported by significant government spending in marketing the country. “This is not happening in Uganda.”
East African neighbors including Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda spend significantly more on promoting themselves as a tourism destination and consequently boost far higher tourist earnings.
Kenya’s tourism marketing budget for the 2011/2012 financial year has been set at Kenya Sh1.4 billion as compared Uganda’s Ush600 million (about $300,000).
Uganda has an incredible tourism product but the world will not find out about us without a serious GOU commitment to promote Uganda.
Currently the country has too many sectors (government departments) doing the same job in the name of promoting/marketing tourism. Among these are Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the Uganda Tourism Board. This continues to pose a danger of diluting the marketing and promotional efforts at the international level with the consequent wastage of valuable resources.
International marketing should be the responsibility of the Uganda Tourism Board though marketing and promotion plans can be developed jointly not only with the afore-mentioned but also with the private sector such as the tour operators, hoteliers and local communities