By David Mugabe
Tourism promoters are now courting destination marketeering as a way of driving mass numbers to Uganda as a premier destination.
Destination marketers are specialized groups that team up with a network of tour agents that then market specific country tourism products.
On Monday, Marasa and Uganda Tourism Board hosted a group of German journalists from leading media agencies at a dinner in Entebbe.
Corne Schalkwyk from Marasa said the initiative was part of efforts to ensure the industry gets the right professional people to explain Uganda to high end markets like Germany.
Germany is currently the most stable economic state in the Eurozone and has been helping to bail out several countries that have faced the economic meltdown of the past four years.
Tourists at the border of Uganda and Congo
“There is a whole economy that will be evolved once this is developed,” noted Schalkwyk.
UTB is looking to the promise of the sh5b from government to step up its marketing efforts.
Hanna Kleber, chief executive of KPRN, a German destination marketing firm that brought the group of German journalists explained that using specialized marketing teams help build trusts and then professionally link up tour operators with their counter parts from the other potential markets.
“Germans have a lot of money and they are prepared to spend on holiday,” noted Kleber.
Most of the German journalists who traversed the country in a seven day safari mostly to Queen Elizabeth and to Bwindi impenetrable forest for gorilla tracking were mesmerized about the freshness and unique attributes of Uganda.
“I have travelled around the world, I have been to Africa and many places but I have never seen lions lying around on a tree,” said Klebber of the tree climbing lions found only in Uganda.
But Klebber stressed that for the country to actualize this uniqueness, a more consistent push must be put into focused marketing.
Before coming to Uganda, some of the journalists carried with them the old myths about Uganda mostly associated with the Idi Amin era. But they said they were blown off by the country of which they only saw one region (western).
“The nature, the gorillas stand out, Uganda is unique spot on the world map,” said Freddy Langer, a German journalist.
Klebber said the use of destination marketers had supported several markets including South Africa which saw a 14% growth of German tourists into the country by the end of 2013.
“It is important to get the consumer on the one side and then the trade on the other hand and march them,” noted Klebber.
The strategy will be to focus on a few key tourism experiences that will be promoted to the unique and high end German markets.
There are tourism products that are uniquely in Uganda compared to her East African neighbours.
These include a larger share of the mountain gorillas, white water rafting, The River Nile, Rwenzori mountain ranges.
John Ssempebwa, Uganda Tourism Board deputy chief executive said more collaboration with the private sector as well as a progressive and proactive approach from the civil service will see the industry turned around in a short time.
“Change will come,” noted Ssempebwa.
Amos Wekesa, chief executive of Great Lakes Safaris reiterated that several products yet to be developed will make Uganda an out rightly unique destination including the yet to be fully exploited River Nile.
Wekesa observed that one year of consistent marketing will see mountain gorilla permits completely sold out. Wekesa called for more of infrastructure especially in the tourism areas.