ENTEBBE – Qatar Airways has made its maiden flight to Uganda. Flight QR536 landed at Entebbe AirportWednesday a few minutes past 1.00pm.On board the non stop flight from Doha was the company’s Chef Executive Officer Akbar Al baker and foreign journalists.
The Qatar entourage was met by State minister for transport Stephen Chebrot. The minister encouraged Qatar Airways to also venture into cargo flights so that Uganda can be able to export its fresh produce to the Middle East.
Akbar said demand from all over the world prompted their entry into the market. “ Passenger demand prompted this new route and I’m excited that we are able to bring our award- winning Five start services to Uganda for the first time.”
Meanwhile, Uganda has been rated as the number one country to visit next year by Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guidebook and digital media publisher.Lonely Planet which has been publishing tourism guidebooksfor about 40 years, released its list of best destinations in the world over the weekend.
Uganda emerged as the number one destination following a survey that included opinions from travellers, bloggers and tweeters and votes by a panel of in-house travel experts.
ganda topped the list of top 10 countries ahead of Myanmar (Burma), Ukraine, Jordan, Denmark, Bhutan, Cuba, New Caledonia, Taiwan and Switzerland.
The book cites some must-see places as the Ssese Islands, Lake Bunyonyi and Jinja. It also talks aboutUganda’s national parks with luxury lodges, outdoor camping, game viewing and Kampala which is one of Africa’s safest capital cities.
The tourist guide also points out to intending tourists to witness next year (2012), when Uganda will be marking 50 years of independence.
Lonely Planet said: “It’s taken nasty dictatorships and a brutal civil war to keep Uganda off the tourist radar, but stability is returning and it won’t be long before visitors come flocking back.After all, this is the source of the River Nile – that mythical place explorers sought since Roman times. It’s also where savannah meets the vast lakes of East Africa and where snow-capped mountains bear down on sprawling jungles.”
Also, Lonely Planet recommends Uganda as a holiday destination for adventure travel to track gorillas, water rafting and mountain trekking. Also, there are other pleasures offered in the tranquil beaches of the country’s numerous lakes.
Amos Wekesa, the president of the Uganda Tourism Association, said Uganda should prepare itself for an increase in tourist numbers following the global ranking.
He said the challenge ahead is for Uganda to train tour guides in order to take advantage of the job opportunities that will come with the anticipated increase in the number of tourists.
Wekesa said Uganda has an absolute advantage in tourism over her neighbours in the East African region.
“Uganda has the highest density of primates such as gorillas, chimpanzees and baboons in East Africa. However, the country’s tourism potential is untapped yet the sector can market Uganda globally,” Wekesa said.
He also suggested that the Government increases the budgetary allocation to the tourism sector in order to develop it; as well as revamping the tourism bodies with competent personnel.
Currently, Uganda receives about 500,000 tourists and earns over $650m in revenue from tourism every year.
Uganda invests $300,000 in tourism annually, which is the lowest among the East African countries. For instance, Kenya invests $23m, Tanzania invests $10m and Rwanda $5m.
Uganda’s potential to attract tourists will also be boosted by this year’s international survey that found Kampala to be one of the cheapest cities in Africa to live in for expatriates.
Ranked at position 202 in the world, Kampala fares a lot better than Tanzania’s Dar-es-Salaam (187) and Kenya’s Nairobi (108).
This gives Kampala an edge over its East African counterparts as an attraction for highly-skilled foreign labour.