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World Cup offers vital lessons for Ugandan tourism

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Added 15th July 2018 03:17 PM

It was clear from the onset that Russians were out in force to be at their best during this World Cup period

World Cup offers vital lessons for Ugandan tourism

It was clear from the onset that Russians were out in force to be at their best during this World Cup period

By Ben Misagga

When I landed at Domodedovo Airport Moscow, to go watch the on-going Fifa World Cup, it was out of my love for football. Since 2010, I set myself a goal to watch every global football event for as long as I could.

In South Africa [2010] everything was so tight and sensitive. It was as if the hosts on a test to prove they can accommodate the world. The 2014 edition in Brazil was a bit chaotic and locals seemed to enjoy the game more than the visitors.

I have always been a keen follower of the English mainstream press but their cynical build-up to the tournament left me questioning whether it was worthy attending this World Cup. I'm sure you heard about the so-called racism and economic sanctions by Western powers. Ordinarily, that would worry any first-time visitor.

Nonetheless, I had already made up my mind even though I had reservations. So, nothing prepared me for what to experience when I landed in Moscow on June 16.

However, it took only minutes upon landing for the World Cup feeling to sink in. For starters, Russia has endured a bit of isolation from the West and this was their perfect opportunity to market their nation, especially in tourism, hospitality and security.

For visitors like me, all I required was the Fan ID, match ticket and passport to open the floodgates to Russia's sights and sounds.

It was clear from the onset that Russians were out in force to be at their best during this World Cup period. Virtually everywhere I visited, they were more than happy to receive me and other visitors. Their hospitality would make one wish going Moscow every holiday.

As everyone goes about their business, virtual security cameras and checks ensure everyone is at peace from what i know the CCTV cameras read faces in real time and deliver all migration data immidiately. Everything is digitalised right from the restaurant menu to access to the 80,000-seater Luzhniki stadium where I booked to watch the Mexico versus Germany game.

Of course, there were these nagging ticket hoarders all over, who were willing to buy match tickets for twice as much before selling them off at a higher price.

The other drawback to the Moscow experience is that everything is bought in roubles, the Russian currency. Comprehending the exchange rate and how the rouble operates here was a challenge of its own. But i believe it's a security set up because you have to buy Roubles in a place where CCTV cameras are fitted that would make monitoring of visitors easy.


The sight of Moscow River makes the most beautiful part of this world and the embankments are a sight to behold.

A stroll through the streets of Moscow is akin to a forest picnic because there are so many trees and the breath of fresh air was enlivening. I asked myself; Isn't this the Moscow that was doomed to be a pollution disaster? How i wish we can start planning our city along the great River Nile banks

The Vladimir Lenin mausoleum, Alexander Pushkin museum as well as the Gorky park are some of major attractions that left me awed.

Here is a city discredited for being racist but in the seven days I spent there, there was no single incident to suggest so.

Lessons for Uganda

Most importantly, my week-long visit got me wondering why we cannot do some basics back home in regards to security (CCTV)and tourism.

What struck me most that each time I introduced myself as a Ugandan to the Russians, they would ask about wildlife, especially the gorillas in Bwindi. Some even knew about Namugongo martyrs shrine. They were also curious about exploring business opportunities here (coffee and vanilla) they import from South America but we have it , especially in the field of technology. However, many had no idea whether or not Uganda has an embassy in Moscow.

This was a clear indication that we have not done much as a country to market the potential of our attractions.

We may not have the capacity to host such a global event that attracts millions of visitors but we can specialise on our strengths.

For instance, Moscow isn't the most weather-friendly but the huge numbers of trees make the city healthy and beautiful to live in. I learnt that it is illegal to cut a tree there without authority from the Lord of rings the mayor.

Security wise, we may not afford to place security cameras across over Kampala and its surroundings the way Moscow is; but I noted that Global Positioning System (GPS) there makes committing a crime almost impossible. I believe would be a cheaper alternative for Kampala.

From a sporting context, imagine if Uganda teamed with our East African neighbours to host the Nations Cup; I'm sure the rest of the continent would get to know our potential.

It is all about marketing and maximising potential.

From what I saw, I would love to go back to Moscow again.

Writer is SC Villa president

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