Uganda Tourism Board got a boost last week when the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage, Maria Mutagamba, confirmed Mr. Stephen Asiimwe as the new executive director.
He replaces Mr. Cuthbert Baguma who has been at the helm of the country’s premier tourism promotion agency for quite some time.
Mr. Asiimwe will be deputized by Mr. John Ssempebwa who together, the duo, will try to steer the budding and potentially rich tourism.
Mr. Asiimwe has been the Managing Director and Editor in Chief of the East African Business Week Newspaper that operates in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia.
He brings a rich experience leadership, management, consultancy in various fields, marketing, human resource, journalism and management of professionals.
In an interview, an ecstatic Mr. Asiimwe pleaded to promote domestic tourism and encourage local investors to inject their money into sector to recreate the country as favorite tourism destination.
“Tourism is potentially the biggest foreign exchange earner for the country. There is so much to offer as a country but the country has been internally and externally silent,” Mr. Asiimwe stated.
The new team according to MR. Asiimwe wants to ensure that tourism contributes the highest foreign exchange earning to the economy, increase employment and to also ensure it boosts social transformation in the country.
Mr. Asiimwe explained that while there are remarkable achievements registered over the years, a lot needs to be done in branding, marketing and publicizing the country’s tourism potential and promoting internal tourism.
To start with, Mr. Asiimwe and his team have set their eyes on attracting investment in tourism from local business people and to engage government to spend more on tourism.
“Uganda spends less on tourism as compared to other African countries yet the receipts are huge. That’s going to be the priority for the team and the board,” he optimistically said.
He said his reign will involve engaging the whole nation and working with regional partners, conservation groups, local government, cultural institutions and the media and as per the country’s tourism master plan which is embedded in the country’s ambitious Vision2040.
“We are going to work with other countries on key tourism issues including the single tourism visa which will help grow the region,” he specified.
Uganda has a number of cultural and historical sites that are not being utilized due a number of reasons including sloppiness of government in reviving and marketing these tourism viable sites.
“We have a complete strategy to work with cultural institutions to revive such sites. Plans are underway with ministry and other stakeholders to see how to develop these sites,” he indicated.
“Uganda receives 1.2 million tourists as of 2012. We want to see that this number is doubled and quadrupled in the next four years,” he said adding that local investors should take keen interest in putting their money in tourism sector.
“Local people should be the biggest investors in construction of hotels, restaurants, accommodation facilities, transport, services, ICT and tour guides. When you over market and there is no capacity it can affect you negatively,” he noted saying that capacity building through training is another priority which will take center stage in his administration reign.
As a matter of routine in his daily work, Uganda Tourism Board will benefit from his demonstrated leadership abilities where he is well-positioned to developing, overseeing, supervising, implementing developing long and short term strategies, annual work programmes, budgets, procedures and systems.
Mr. Asiimwe is a multi-disciplined, skilled and experienced business manager. He is a pioneer media practitioner having worked as a journalist with the New Vision for 10 years, manager, marketer, businessman and editor.
He has built two media concerns in six Eastern African countries in the last 10 years and these are the East African Procurement News as Editor in Chief and managing Director and Editor in Chief of the East African Business Week since May 2005.
He is pursuing an MA in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) with the Development Associates International (DAI) and the Uganda Christian University (UCU).
He also has a BA in Political Science and Sociology Makerere University (1990-1993), a Post Graduate training in Management, Media, Education, Marketing and also has an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters awarded to him by the United Graduate College and Seminary, based in Tennessee, USA.
This was in recognition of being a founding member and best practices in business and developmental journalism.
He is also an international faculty with the Haggai Institute of Advanced Leadership based in the US. He is writer, editor, teacher, trainer, speaker, lobbyist and strategist.