By David Mugabe
Tourism promoters are on a charm offensive wooing travel agents and tourists from North America to enable them get the actual on-ground reality about Uganda as a peaceful and beautiful travel destination.
Last week, Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) hosted 11 travel agents from Canada as part of efforts to sell the country but also to counter the often negative western media portrayals that has played a part in curtailing the sector’s growth not only in Uganda but also across Africa.
Uganda was on major news channels in February and early March following the passing of anti-gay legislation that is hugely popular at home but has since drawn wide western condemnation including threats of aid slash.
But the European states have since backtracked opting for dialogue other than the knee-jerk reactions and unilateral cutting of ties.
Stephen Asiimwe, UTB chief asked the visiting travel specialists that are part of a multimillion dollar tour firm that promotes African destinations to bring American and Canadian tourists to savour the country’s abundance.
“Here you only get snow on top of the mountain, enjoy your adventure,” noted Asiimwe at a dinner hosted in honour of the tourists at the Carnival Restaurant in Naguru, outside Kampala.
Daniel Gordon Brown, the team’s senior destination officer noted that Uganda’s tourism industry has a fabulous potential that needs to be exploited.
“I tell the team, the most important thing you will meet in your trip is that these are the friendliest people in Africa,” said Brown.
Brown asked the country to jealously protect their heritage and diversity.
“You guys have all these animals, you better protect them, there is more money in travel and tourism than in anything else,” noted Brown.
Tourism minister Maria Mutagamba hailed the Canadian team for venturing out to find out on their own the positive things about the country.
“Be our ambassadors, there is nothing like what is being portrayed, have the best of this country,” said Mutagamba.
Dr Andrew Seguya, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) chief who was part of the team that initiated the visit of the Americans and Canadians travel agents said by avoiding mass tourism, the country is preserving its heritage that is why, a limited number of visitors are allowed in the parks, especially around the gorillas.
“It is a place where “silver meets gold”-the silver back gorilla and the golden monkeys are all found here,” said Seguya
Seguya invited global and neighbouring tourists to come and see the Murchison falls- the most powerful water falls in the world alongside the world’s longest River Nile-with 30% in Uganda.
The diplomatic team form Uganda’s embassy in Canada including the ambassador Alintuma Nsambu observed that they are beginning to see the spirit of cooperation. They asked the travel agents to give their honest opinion about Uganda “because we want to improve.”
Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Ambassador James Mugume called for more symbiosis between Uganda and Canada saying the country looks forward to having more tourists form North America.