One would confidently state that a number of foreigners know about Uganda’s breathtaking beauty than the overwhelming majority of us the natives.
The reason for this sad state of affairs is not because Ugandans do not have the means to visit our beautiful natural environment, it is mostly because our tourism promotion agencies have focused their efforts on the international market.
To show that Ugandans have some money which they can spend on activities like travel, one needs to look at the recent report by the Bank of Uganda which showed that bank deposits grew during the lockdown, contrary to perceptions that people were actually poor.
On the other hand, one would be hard-pressed to identify a tourism promotion campaign that targeted the local market over the same period of time, even after the lockdown was lifted.
The advent of COVID-19 and the associated travel restrictions means that any tourism promotion agent worth their name has to rethink their strategy and focus on exploiting the domestic as well as the regional markets.
In many countries such as the United States, France, Spain where tourism is a big industry and mass employer, authorities have devised concepts such as Staycations – to mean vacations within one’s own country as opposed to going abroad, as a way to support their own tourism industries.
In an era where social media is immersive especially among the employed elites, Uganda’s tourism managers are yet to take advantage of these vast platforms, not only to showcase Uganda’s beauty but also to try to change the mindset of Ugandans to embrace domestic tourism.
Indeed, the mentality that tourism is a foreign concept continues to get propagated by our political leaders. President Yoweri Museveni for example recently announced that tourists were allowed to come into the country but would be expected to travel directly to the parks. Such attitudes do not favour the development of tourism in the country.
Because of limited focus on the domestic tourism industry, very few people know for example the fact that Kidepo National Park in Karamoja region was ranked as the third best National Park in Africa by CNN. The American TV network also ranked the conservation area as the most picturesque park in Africa.
Kidepo also has some of the rarest birds such as the Ostrich, the largest bird in the world as well as the Karamoja Apalis, to mention just two.
A change in tact that equally focuses attention of Ugandans as on foreigners would also help to promote the spirit of conservation.