Tourism represents a significant economic activity in Uganda and provides great opportunities for economic growth, employment and sustainable development, the president of Mt Elgon Tourism EXPO, 2023 has said.
Mrs Rachael Kakungulu Kilama noted that there was need for humanity to use the earth sustainably because tourism is vulnerable to Climate Change and various risks, such as natural hazards, economic downturns, health epidemics and market fluctuations.
“Due to its highly climate-sensitive nature, Uganda tourism is a hotspot for major impacts of climate change that will affect tourism destinations across the region and exacerbate natural hazards, as well as other associated risks,” said Mrs Kilama 2 November at a tree planting lessons organised by the Tourism Expo in conjunction with Mt Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise [METGE].
The theme of the Tourism Expo was ‘Destination East, the gate way for responsible and sustainable tourism, destination east ‘.
Sustainable tourism refers to tourism that meets the needs of present tourists and host destinations while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future.
This means that management of resources through fulfilling economic, social and aesthetic needs while maintaining cultural Integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems”.
Mrs Kilama revealed that the Elgon Tourism’s sustainable tourism and climate change lessons were part of the three day Tourism Expo for Eastern region that started on 31 and ended on 2 November at Courts View Hotel in Mbale.
She emphasised that the Elgon Tourism Expo first of its kind in Eastern Uganda was organised and funded by stakeholders because the Ministry of Tourism declined to fund it.
She said further that the Elgon Tourism Expo will be held every year in Mbale and that its aim will be to strengthen the capacity of the people to cope with climate change impacts in the tourism sector in the region.
Mr John Hun Wick, a tourism investor in Mt Elgon conservation area said the main objective of the Elgon tourism EXPO was to assist innovative partnerships and approaches in the tourism sector that promote adaptation to climate change and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
He revealed that the three main areas of intervention are to encourage people to plant trees around their homes and start Climate change and community tourism initiatives
Mr Muhammad Mukasa, the chairman of the Elgon Tourism Expo said the 2023 Elgon Tourism Expo brought together stakeholders in the tourism sector including high-value target consumers and destination sellers and travel service providers under one roof.
“We had cultural showcases at the Expo that included captivating performances, arts, crafts and a celebration of the region’s cultural diversity, touring Mbale’s finest Hotels and adventure activities like hikes, heritage tours, and adventures to appreciate the Elgon region’s natural splendor and planting of trees at Wanale Health Center III,” said Mr ukase who doubles as the Executive Director Ndalambi group, tour and tourism group of Companies.
Mr George Sikoyo, the executive director METGE said increased awareness of the issues surrounding climate change, deforestation and the preservation of natural resources will help to contribute to sustainable tourism growth, and that those in the industry need to understand the concept.
Mr Sikoyo said tourism is a huge part of the global culture, allowing us to explore different parts of the world, meet people from different walks of life, and experience new traditions and activities.
“And since tourism brings many benefits to both travellers and communities, it can generally be seen as a force for good,” said Mr Sikoyo.
He added that “However the industry is changing, we’re becoming more and more aware of the threat of climate change and our role in escalating it. Natural and man-made catastrophes are inevitable but we can do something to reduce these for sustainable tourism”,
He revealed that Uganda’s sustainable travel is is based on three factors; Society, Economy and environment and that each eleement may be individually sustainable yet unquestionably influence the others.
“If the economy grows, culture will change, and when culture changes, the environmental practices will shift,” Mr Sikoyo said.
The Elgon tourism and business Expo mainly emphasized in engaging in Eco-tourism in destinations like national parks, forests and reserves.
Sustainable tourism in Uganda is one of the factors which has helped to increase Safaris to Uganda and the Ugandan government has greatly helped in putting in place many policies which have helped in promoting sustainable tourism in Uganda like the millennium development goals (MDGs), promotion of good environmental practices, engaging the communities in sustainable tourism development and limiting damage by the tourists.