Tour operators in Uganda are experiencing a very hard working environment especially this year. The sky-rocketing prices of fuel, falling of the dollar and general cost of living in Uganda took up most of the possible profits we as UTA (Uganda Tourism Association) members could have earned.
This is as a result of foreign visitors, unlike Ugandans, plan and pay for these safaris a year in advance. Since we had received their monies in advance, we had no choice but to execute their safaris.
The above and the obvious lack of interest by government to market Uganda as a tourism destination has caused a reduction on the need needs for a quick action.
The worst news for UTA members is that Uganda has been suspended from the World Tourism Organization for not paying dues. WTO membership plays a very important role in the global tourism industry in general and lack of membership will see Uganda fall deeper in trouble as a country and will be affecting the industry that has created jobs, (17 per cent of the employable labour) earns the highest forex incomes, etc. Lack of membership also clouds the credibility of Ugandan tour operators in the eyes of suppliers from other countries, and will cause us to lose out on thousands of dollars worth of business.
The Uganda tour operators are expecting the parliament to convene and discuss this issue as a matter of urgency but being something that has nothing to do with their votes we do not have hope that this will be discussed even a year from now.
With our exploding population, Uganda’s biggest challenges will be severe unemployment and destruction of our ecosystem. The President of Uganda and environmentalists should make use of the recommendations from the majority of advisers to use tourism as a tool to fight poverty. The World Bank has discovered that tourism creates more jobs as compared to any other industries especially in the developing world.
It is the only area where we stand potentially high since we are among the top 10 countries in terms bio-diversity which bio-diversity means relative abundance of flora and fauna as well as the ecosystem which is facing a risk of extinction now. We should learn both conservation and strategic marketing from our neighbours like Tanzania and Kenya who have managed to reach more tourists.
Just as a reminder, Uganda has the highest density of primates including the mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, Olive Baboons, to mention but a few) of any country on earth. Kibale Forest and Bwindi National Park have the two most soughtafter primates in the world.
Other attractions that Uganda has not yet developed is the Lake Victoria and its Islands as well as a good number of Lakes, mountains etc. If Uganda capitalizes on these unique attractions in addition to its diverse culture and good weather, the country can reach out to a good number of tourists.
In conclusion, tourism is a significant tool in alleviating povert. Tourism has the highest trickle down effect as compared to any other sector in a given country. On average a tourist spends between USD150 to 250 per day they spend in Uganda and this expenditure will increase depending on the duration of the visit.