By Titus Kakembo
According to the World Trade Organisation, about one billion tourists trotted the globe this year. And given a common visa for tourists destined to East Africa, the tourism ministry is identifying ways of attracting more tourists to spend more time and money in the country.
Home-stays is one of the ways the ministry is using to keep tourists around for longer periods. Through home-stays, a tourist pays a fee to live with his or her hosts.
Commenting about the Home-stay product, the ministry’s spokesperson Vivian Liaz says: ‘‘It provides affordable and secure accommodation options for today’s enlightened tourists.”
She adds: “This is besides providing a new source of income, offering quality accommodation and enabling the visitors have a unique opportunity to be embedded in Uganda’s rich cultures.”
“The home-stays product enlightens guests about our rich culture and history,” says Juma Abdallah, a member of the Nubian community in Bombo, where the product has been pioneered.
“Since the product started, our craft prices have shot up,” says Nusura Ibrahim, a member of the Nubian Community Association.
“A mat that used to cost sh20,000, now costs sh100,000. The demand for wall hangings, table mats and necklaces has also shot up.”
The Nubian community in Bombo town is reportedly minting lots of cash from crafts sold to tourists
The home-stay service is fast becoming popular and the host families’ attitude towards wildlife and its conservation is fast changing.
“This has made the women to work together to meet the mass demand for dozens of products. It takes between 7-14 days to make one mat,” says Halima Ramadhan, a member of the Nubian community.
“Customers now ask for individual designs. Our products are becoming popular as gifts for weddings, birthdays and anniversaries.”
“Until home-stay tourism was introduced, weaving skills were being passed on from mothers to their daughters in their homes. But apprentices are now being trained at the Nubian Community workshop in Bombo. There, we share ideas and get to know what is desired on the market,” adds Ramadhan.
The mats are made from dyed reeds and papyrus. According to locals, guests are excited about the local food, coffee and attires of the Nubian community.
Tour operators using the Great North Road always urge their clients to stop by Bombo town.
“Some tourists like eating dura, while sitting on mats. It is good the home-stay product is becoming a key driver for socioeconomic progress among the Nubian community,” says Nasur Abdalah, the former governor of Central Uganda.
A tour around Bombo town reveals what home-stay guests have in store. In their village groups, women have turned into entrepreneurs making table, floor mats and cone baskets for cash.