The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Uganda together with the rest of the Tourism fraternity converged in Kampala on 27th September 2022, to mark World Tourism Day.
Celebrated globally, World Tourism Day is meant to raise awareness of the importance of tourism. This event is promoted annually by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
The celebrations were held at Sheraton Hotel under the theme “rethinking tourism” as the country looks to invest more of its resources in marketing itself as the safest travel destination in the world.
Under the new destination brand “explore Uganda”, the Pearl of Africa recently launched by President Museveni, Uganda seeks to increase tourism earnings. Uganda’s domestic tourism increased from 15% (2020) to 34% by the end of 2021.
Paul Hatanga, the Coordinator for Greater Virunga Landscape discussed the local engagement of WWF as a development partner to local tourism and being among the main funding sources for the conservation of the landscape in Uganda.
“There is beauty that we see here in the wildlife, glaciers, landscapes but there is also beauty in the experience of getting up the mountain but we have also been thinking as WWF of how to support the initiatives of Uganda Tourism Board, Wildlife Authority to diversify beyond what is obvious,” he added.
“Of recent we have looked at supporting the communities adjacent to these protected areas, we have partnered with the Local Community based Organisations to develop a product called from the Garden to the Camp which is a coffee experience because Rwenzori is really rich as well just not in glaciers and experience but also in the uniqueness of the agricultural products that come from there”.
Hatanga also pointed at WWF as among the NGOs testing local tourism development as a way to conserve wildlife and contribute to economic development in Uganda. Tourism offers one of the most sustainable means of making substantial economic returns from investing in wildlife conservation.
“WWF has been involved in support programs for quite a number of years, in programs like the international gorilla conservation program to ensure the long-term survival of the now endangered mountain gorillas. Here in the mountainous forests of central Africa live the last remaining mountain gorillas,” he said.
We understand most local people can’t manage some safaris (like the gorilla and chimpanzee safaris) as they’re a bit expensive since they include buying permits for trekking the aforementioned apes but these should be among the other attractions that locals should benefit from.
“As we think about increasing participation, I come from Kisoro and Kigezi extra areas but I can tell you that very few people have had an experience of visiting these parks, or seeing these gorillas, I think we have a challenge of how do we Ugandanise tourism to local that if external tourists are going to visit these places, the locals get to benefit from the experience,” he remarked.
Countries rely on domestic tourism as a tool to reduce poverty, improve infrastructure, generate employment, and most importantly to drive economic growth. The activities of domestic tourists create economic importance as the money spent on domestic tourism feeds back into that particular country’s economy, providing itself with a more viable and prosperous economy.
And Uganda is an exceptionally endowed tourism destination, with the best climate, political stability, strong biodiversity, rich history, most friendly people and cultural tradition.