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Uganda Wants a Bigger Slice of African Tourism Market

The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) is set to hire public relations firms in Kenya, South Africa and West Africa to increase travel from the continent’s biggest outbound tourism markets.

Even though majority of international travellers to Uganda are Africans (Kenyans and Rwandans top the list), Uganda has been marketing its attractions in Europe and North America because European and American travellers stay longer and spend more, according to Stephen Asiimwe, the CEO of UTB. Uganda’s top 10 source markets are Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, United States, DR Congo, United Kingdom, South Sudan, Burundi, India and South Africa – in that order.

Last year, UTB hired reputable global public relations firms to market Destination Uganda in major Western source markets such as the US, UK and Germany – a move that led to an increase in visitor numbers from 1.3 million in 2015 to 1.4 million in 2016.

Now to keep interest in visiting Uganda strong, UTB’s new strategy is to lure more African travellers, especially the growing middle class in Kenya, South Africa and West Africa. “Starting early next year we are going to hire PR firms to market Uganda in Kenya, South Africa and West Africa,” Stephen Asiimwe, the CEO of UTB, told UBC Onine in an exclusive interview.

While Kenyans and Rwandans love Uganda because of its bustling entertainment scene, West Africans are interested in faith tourism while South Africans’ main motivators for travel to Uganda are culture and the country’s unique natural attractions.

For most international tourists, the biggest incentive for travel to Uganda is game viewing as the country is home to the African Big Five (lions, buffaloes, leopards, elephants and rhinos) as well as chimpanzees and the iconic, yet critically endangered mountain gorillas.

What’s more, with more than 50 tribes, Uganda’s cultural diversity creates variations in artistic performances and cultural practices, meaning that foreign visitors can enjoy lots of Uganda’s unique cultural activities and norms that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Uganda’s tourism has grown from a paltry 69,000 arrivals in 1990 to 1.4 million in 2016 and tourism is currently Uganda’s biggest industry with an economic contribution (direct, indirect and induced) of $1.4 billion in 2016.

And even though this year’s statistics are not yet available, Asiimwe is confident the industry has performed even better than last year.

“The Uganda Wildlife Authority has reported an increase in park visits and the aviation sector has grown exponentially, with airlines like Brussels launching daily flights to Entebbe (International Airport). We have also seen two five star hotels opening in Kampala (Golden Tulip and Pearl of Africa) and the hospitality sector has reported an increase in the number of bookings,” Asiimwe said, adding that Uganda now has 90 graded hotels and lodges (eight of them 5-star) and 18 international airlines flying to Entebbe International Airport.

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