Tourism is one of the biggest contributors to Uganda’s economy.
Majority of Uganda’s tourists come from the western world. However, this market is very fragile especially in times of security threats where majority keep away until the situation normalises.
It’s against this background that Ugandan tourism stakeholders have been encouraged to promote the country to fellow Africans if they are to fully harness the potential of their tourist attractions.
Ikechi Uko, a Nigerian travel business consultant, tourism development expert and organizer of the Akwaaba African Travel Market, the only international travel fair in West Africa, while meeting tourism stakeholders on Monday at Golden Tulip Hotel in Kampala argued that Africans are more resilient and do not have specific seasons for travel.
“I know Uganda has for long depended on the Western world for tourists. They have supplied you and will probably continue to do so for a long time to come. But remember there are 1.2billion people in Africa that you can reach out to so as to supplement that. Most African accommodation facilities remain closed for close to half a year because business is slow as a result of foreign visitors being away,” he explained.
Ikechi who was in Uganda at the invitation of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) CEO further warned that whenever there are security threats in a particular destination, travel advisories issued by foreign countries often affect tourism as visitors stay away till the situation normalizes.
This he said isn’t an issue if a country properly marketed itself to fellow African countries.
“Africans are the most resilient race. If a bomb went off here today, all the non-Africans would leave and not come back until they are very sure that it is safe. Africans on the other hand, once the place is cleared up, will return to their everyday lives as if nothing happened. You need to look into that direction if you are to grow your tourism industry,” Ikechi said.
To drive his point home, Ikechi gave the example of Ethiopian Airlines, currently considered the only profitable airline in Africa.
He said the airline is buttressed by the fact that it flies to 54 destinations on the African continent.
He however urged tourism stakeholders to package Uganda in such a way that it appeals to the Africans.
He explained that Africans will not be on the lookout for the same things that non Africans want.
“Nigerians are not going to come and look at gorillas or chimpanzees. Yes, we may see the gorilla… but that is while on our way to another place. You have to find something unique about Uganda. You have a rich history; a country where people paid the highest price for God. Until I came here, I never knew that Kizito was not a Nigerian name. Every Catholic that was in my school had a brother who was Kizito,” he said.
Adding, “You already have your brand alive in Nigeria. All you need to do is feed it a little and it will run on its own. There is Idi Amin, probably the second most popular man on the African continent after Nelson Mandela. Dark Tourism has power. We can come specifically for Amin and then leave saying, ‘never again’ in the same way we do it in Rwanda and in South Africa.”
Lilly Ajarova, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) CEO told participants that Uganda had a plan in place that entailed aggressively marketing Uganda to different markets.
“While we are strengthening our position in markets outside Africa, there are opportunities that exist within the continent. We are looking to explore and develop different products to suit the needs of the different African tourists. We did a market survey that showed that Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria are our biggest source markets on the continent. Nigeria is especially big in terms of religious tourism and we are looking at doing more there,” she noted.
She also disclosed that Uganda would be participating in the Akwaaba Travel Market that takes place from September 22 – 24, 2019 in Lagos Nigeria.
“Uganda doesn’t have an airline that flies to Lagos now. That means you will have to do most of the aggressive marketing from here. In a country of 200million people, surely you can always find 50,000 that can visit you. But you have to remember that as Nigerians, we are traders… if you have nothing to sell to me, I will not come,” Ikechi advised.