Uganda’s tourism industry weathered the storm of the economic decline of 2007 by maintaining its annual gross growth of 15% into 2011 and emerging the fastest growing industry contributing 24% of the total foreign exchange earnings.
There were 842, 000 arrivals in 2009, rising to over 900, 000 in 2010 which increased foreign earnings from $165.3m in 2001 to over $600m and at least $700m by the close of 2011, according to the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB).
UTB marketing manager Edwin Muzahura says “We want to develop our local domestic tourism so we are not affected by world economic trends like the market meltdown of the previous two years.”
Tourists come to experience Uganda’s Culture, national parks and other unique activities offered, says Cuthbert Baguma, the UTB executive director.
“However, the mountain gorillas are a unique attraction, which at the moment can only be found in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo,” he says. “So we get a lot of tourists for this.”
Endangered Mountain gorillas account for about $320m annually and UTB has adopted them as a national identity.
Uganda has a unique biodiversity (flora and fauna), a beautiful weather and is home to 10% of the world’s bird species and the caldera mountains: Mt. Elgon.
Uganda also has 6.8% of the world butterfly species, 7.8% of the world mammals, 53.9% of the mountain gorilla population, the source of the largest river in Africa; River Nile, with the most thrilling rafting opportunities.
UTB’s aggressive marketing through trade fairs like the UK bird-watching fair where 1, 200 birds were showcased, the World travel market in UK, the International Tourism Exhibition in Berlin and relative peace in Uganda, explain the industry’s growth.
To attract local tourists in 2010, UTB promoted Martyr’s, Independence and World Tourism Day celebrations, respectively.
UTB also appointed Moses Kipsiro, a gold medallist at the 2010 Olympics in India and Susan Kerunen, the best African Kora award artist in 2008 and 2009, as goodwill ambassadors.
“We believe they will be a key marketing tool for our country,” Baguma says, predicting arrivals would rise from between 1.5 million to 2 million in five years.
Compiled by Jackie