The ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has reported an impressive score in its sector’s implementation of the NRM Manifesto 2016-2021.
“Out of 17 commitments, 15 were significantly achieved and two partially achieved. We, therefore, rate ourselves at 92%,” reads its official presentation on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.
The presentation made by the minister Tom Butime was one of the four made on the first day of the Manifesto Week 2021 at the Office of the President auditorium, Kampala. The week’s events closed on May 11.
The report starts by rhetoricising and answering “Why tourism?” It states that tourism is making a significant contribution to Uganda’s Vision 2040 of transforming Uganda into a middle-income country; describes tourism as a unifying force, bringing together people of different nationalities, religions, regions and professions for tourism experience; and asserts that the rewards of tourism go far beyond revenue calculations.
Some of the economic benefits of tourism are employment – direct, indirect; foreign exchange earnings; government revenues; infrastructure and communications development; source of investment, opportunities and innovations; and facilities for local population. The social benefits include, but not limited to, gender equality and inclusiveness; control of rural-to-urban drift; promotion of ‘national values’; and promotion of sustainability.
ACHIEVEMENTS PER COMMITMENT
- Increase funding tourism promotion and marketing to enhance presence in the existing tourism source markets of Europe, USA and intensify in new ones such as China:
Among the sector’s achievements across the five years, the report stated: Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) budget increased from Shs 10bn in 2015/16 to Shs 26bn in FY 2020/21; Government undertook market activations and deployed six Market Destination Representation (MDR) firms in the core markets UK & Ireland, China, Japan, North America, UAE, German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland); numbers of leisure visitors from the American market increased by 10% annually since 2016 until the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020; and visitation to national parks and other selected tourist sites increased by over 8.4% annually.
- Brand Uganda and its tourism products, and improve its image abroad:
The Pearl of Africa destination brand has been developed and is soon to be unveiled. This will enhance destination Uganda’s visibility in domestic, regional and international markets.
UTB is running promotional videos and actively engaged in national conference and events to provide pre, during and post-event promotional packages. Domestic tourism has been intensified through the 'Tulambule' and 'Take on the Pearl' campaigns across the country. Tourism promotional videos are aired regularly in the media and at major conferences held in the country.
- Upgrade the Uganda Hotel and Tourism Training Institute (UHTTI) in Jinja to international standards:
The UHTTI is being upgraded with a new three-star training application hotel. Construction and equipping of two training labs (kitchens and restaurants) are near completion.
Government reviewed and improved the national tourism and hospitality curriculum to improve quality of training. Construction of instructional facilities and library is on course. Professional development of UHTTI staff is ongoing.
- Assess the possibility of establishing a national airline with the aim of facilitating the development of Entebbe International Airport into a regional hub, direct connectivity of the country to the major existing and upcoming markets for tourists to Uganda, and promoting the export of high-value agricultural products:
In this respect, Uganda Airlines has been revived and this has improved accessibility from the tourist source markets. There is improved convenience and reduced cost of air travel; and the number of visitors from the neighboring countries increased by 3.2% in 2019.
- Enhance wildlife conservation and preservation of cultural heritage:
Government enacted the Wildlife Act, 2019 that provides for Penalties for Wildlife Crimes including curbing source of transit for illegal trade in wildlife products. Regulations on Revenue Sharing and Compensation have been completed and are awaiting gazettement.
There was recognizable wildlife population recovery. For example:
- Elephant population increased from only 2,000 in 1983 to 8,342 in 2020;
- Mountain gorillas in Bwindi alone have increased from only 298 in 1993 to over 459 by 2018;
- Buffalos have increased from 25,000 in 1982 to now 38,367 in 2020;
- Uganda kob has increased from 40,000 in 1982 to 146,250 in 2020, surpassing the post-independence numbers of about 70,000.
Ten companies were licensed to operate wildlife-related enterprises and are providing employment and foreign exchange to the country. Revenue sharing funds into communities amounted to Shs 22.4 billion over the last five years.
Revenue accrued from sport (trophy) hunting amounted to US$1,632,861 (about Shs 5.8 billion). Visitors to protected areas rose from 215,558 in 2015 to 323,861 in 2019. Unfortunately, the numbers fell in 2020 due to impacts of COVID-19.
The sector maintained the National Museum and Regional Museums and Sites of Kabale, Wedelai, Soroti, Fort Lugard, Bweyorere, Nyero, Kapir, Mukongoro and Moroto.
Government also established Soroti Regional Museum. Development of cultural heritage sites including Mugaba Palace (Ankole King’s Palace in Mbarara) is ongoing. The International Museum Day is celebrated annually to showcase Uganda’s cultural heritage resources and sensitize Ugandans on the need for cultural heritage conservation. Land titles for important cultural heritage sites have been secured.
- Expand and develop Uganda Martyrs’ shrines Namugongo into an elaborate and interconnected tourism centre and trail:
Seventy percent of targeted works are completed at the Namugongo-based shrines. A police station, a command centre, resuscitation center, washrooms, a two-in-one gate with an observational tower, a baggage scanner, lagoon, and the basilica are completed. Pavilions B and C with conference facilities, washrooms, a parking yard, electrical works and pavilion seats, a presbytery and grottos, among others, are completed.
- Re-develop the Source of the Nile as a world-class tourist attraction site and turn it into a modern international and domestic tourism centre:
A 20-year Master Plan for development has been completed. A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is also completed. An implementation/action plan is completed. The implementation phase has commenced with solar security lights and signage installed.
- Undertake a tourism product diversification:
The ministry installed a zip line at Kisizi falls with better trails and an information centre. Trails for Mt. Rwenzori were improves, eith resting points, ladders and a new trail (Bukulungu trail) was opened up to increase on mountaineering experience in the park. A total of 1,536km of trail network, 140km of tourism track and 597km of boardwalks were maintained in Protected Areas.
A modern gate for Queen Elizabeth National Park was constructed. Five buses and three modern tourist launch boats were procured to enhance the tourist experience.
Wildlife was translocated to various parks and more gorillas groups were habituated. This exercise included:
- Introduction of 36 giraffes to the southern bank of Murchison Falls NP from the northern sector.
- Introduction of 15 giraffes to the Lake Mburo National Park from the Northern sector of Murchison Falls NP. These have now multiplied to 32.
- Movement of 110 Uganda kobs from Murchison Falls NP to Kidepo Valley National Park.
- Movement of 46 zebras and 31 topis from Lake Mburo ranches to Katonga Wildlife Reserve.
- Movement of 14 giraffes from Murchison Falls National Park to Kidepo Valley NP.
- Movement of 92 impalas from Lake Mburo ranches to Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve.
- Movement of 29 giraffes from Murchison Falls National Park to Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve.
In addition, coffee and sports tourism were promoted and launched as tourism products. A behind-the-scenes experience has been developed at Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC). The development of Kagulu Hills and Bishop Hannington sites in Busoga is ongoing.
- Excavate about 30km of trenches every year to reduce human-wildlife conflicts and erect an electric fence in some sections of the parks:
Electric fencing of 18km for Murchison Falls (Oyam and Nwoya districts) and 43km in Queen Elizabeth (Rubirizi and Kasese districts) is completed, while electric fencing of other areas is ongoing.
A 12km-long and 150m-wide tea buffer is being created at Nkuringo to address community livelihoods and human-wildlife conflicts. Planting of 164km of Mauritius thorns along protected area boundaries and ensuring appropriate maintenance of all Mauritius thorn fences is ongoing.
Excavation of 125km of wildlife-deterrent trenches and maintaining another 409km of trenches is ongoing, and so is installation of over 2,000 beehives to deter elephants. The ministry also captured and translocated 69 crocodiles from various places in the country to national parks.
- Develop infrastructure on Mt. Rwenzori by attracting investors to establish cable cars and zip lines:
In this respect, a pre-feasibility study was conducted for the proposed Mt. Rwenzori Cable Car project, and the feasibility study stage is planned before sourcing investment partners.
- Support the regional tourism promotion clusters and associations to enhance compliance to set standards, joint marketing, self-regulation, capacity building and development of the gift and crafts industry:
Thirteen Tourism Clusters Events were supported including regional fairs, Buganda tourism expo, Busoga Initiative, Kigezi Cluster, and Eastern Tourism Forum. Culture and faith-based initiatives have been supported; the same with Wildlife Clubs.
Affordable accommodation including home stays, dormitories and campsites has been established. Miss Tourism, Musical Events, Beach Front Management, and Island Tourism have been promoted. Food Festivals, and Tourism Fairs also supported.
- Support the media to play an effective positive role in the promotion and marketing of tourism within the country and abroad. This will minimize negative and sensational reporting in the media:
A sector working group was established with a subcommittee on media and crisis management to enhance media engagement. The media has been supported to undertake familiarization trips to various tourism sites to appreciate the potential as well as understand the risks of negative media on tourism. In order to reach out to more Ugandans, domestic tourism promotional videos were produced and aired through various media platforms.
- Invest in and promote sports to enhance the marketing of Uganda when our sportsmen and sportswomen excel:
UTB has embarked on promotion of the Pearl of Africa as a sports tourism destination through international media exposure. It appointed Joshua Cheptegei as a Sports Tourism Ambassador. Athletes who excel are recruited and or promoted within the Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger force.
- Establish and operationalize an international and domestic tourism circuit on Lake Victoria by supporting the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre to establish a marina on Lake Victoria:
A pier restaurant and beach have been established at UWEC. Animal exhibits/enclosures have been designed and constructed and old ones renovated at UWEC.
A boat was procured to support the tourism circuit in terms of visitor experience along the circuit. CCTV cameras and Radio Call system were installed to enhance security of tourists and animals at UWEC. Electric fencing of Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary was supported.
- Support the design and re-development of Kabaka’s Lake in Kampala as an international urban tourism site:
The ministry and Buganda Kingdom have conceptualized the Buganda Cultural Heritage Circuit that will include the Lubiri, Kabaka's Lake and Kasubi Tombs. The development phase of this circuit was hampered by COVID-19 and will commence when resources become available.
- Design and construct a high-level bridge at Murchison Falls, as additional scenery for tourism promotion:
Feasibility studies commenced and development will be informed by the feasibility studies outcome. The bridge on the Nile linking southern and northern sectors of the national park is near completion.
- Encourage public-private partnerships in the development of tourism:
The exclusion zones in Protected Areas were reduced and private investors encouraged to invest in tourism facilities in the parks. Since 2016, five concessions were renewed for various tourism activities. Eight new concessions were awarded and signed for accommodation development in Lake Mburo, Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls national parks. Contract negotiations are ongoing for concessions with nine companies for accommodation in protected areas.
The ministry reported some challenges, such as encroachment on conservation areas and cultural heritage sites; invasive species infestation of wildlife habitats due to climate change; human-wildlife conflicts due to recovery of wildlife populations and increase of human population; negative travel advisories due to disease outbreaks and isolated cases of lawlessness; limited financing due to competing national needs; and the COVID-19 pandemic which has hit the sector hardest, leading to heavy losses of revenue and jobs.