Uganda launches destination campaign to boost tourism

by Abbas Muhamad
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As the world starts to recover from the effects of Covid-19 pandemic and opening up borders and skies to global tourism, Uganda has refreshed its tourism destination brand promise, with the unveiling of a new brand identity that promises domestic, regional and global tourists; an adventure of a lifetime.

The brand was developed by Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Uganda’s tourism marketing and regulatory agency.

The campaign that was launched by President Yoweri Museveni seeks to encourage both the local and international tourists to traverse, rediscover and explore Uganda, the Pearl of Africa.

The Pearl of Africa draws upon Uganda’s global reputation as one of the most endowed destinations, famous for its thousands of plant and wildlife attractions, as well as vast and beautiful landscapes, temperate climate, warm people, and cultural diversity.

In his speech at the launch, Museveni noted some of the features that make Uganda a unique travel destination, including among others the equator which influences the beautiful weather experienced in the country.

“The fact that we are located right on the equator influences our weather. This weather where we are always outdoors, we do not need air conditioning; we don’t have to warm the weather or cool it. God does it for us,” he said.

Museveni said Covid-19 has not gravely affected Uganda as it was the case in many other countries and so tourists should feel safe to explore this destination.

“We have not suffered so much as other people in the world. This should interest more foreigners to come and know how we have managed to fight HIV/AIDS, Ebola and Covid-19. This should be emphasized because they will feel safe and travel here,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities, Uganda’s tourism sector and the economy at large lost shs 3.891 trillion due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

While appearing before Parliament’s Tourism and Trade Committee which was investigating the impact of the second wave of Coronavirus on the tourism sector in 2021, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Doreen Katusiime, said foreign visitors to Uganda plummeted by 69.3% as to 473,085 from 1,546,620 visitors reported in 2019.

The tourist arrivals in 2020 dwindled to the levels of as far back as 2005.

“The foreign exchange earnings dropped threefold in the year 2020 from USD1.6bn approximately Shs5.655bn that Uganda earned from foreign tourists in 2019 to $500M equivalent to shs1.767Tn in 2020,” said Katusiime.

The Uganda Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer, Lilly Ajarova said the campaign seeks to reemphasize Uganda’s rare and precious range of tourism attractions to the world, thereby earning destination Uganda competitive market share. 

“Uganda is no doubt beautiful. Beautiful beyond measure. Yes, everyone knew that Uganda is and has always been the Pearl of Africa, – but there was a lack of clarity and consistency on, if Uganda is the Pearl of Africa- what pearls does it have to offer for each of the various travel segments and preferences,” she said,

To win the market place to achieve their objective of “Sustainably Promoting Uganda as a Competitive Tourism Destination for Inclusive Development,” Ajarova said it was important that all stakeholders are aligned on what makes Uganda the Pearl of Africa and how does the country unpack that to the various travel markets/segments around the world.

Before the new brand, there were a number of campaigns by various stakeholders, most of which were built around “Visit Uganda” as a call to action, something that Ajarova says did not appropriately capture the uniqueness of Uganda’s attractions.

According to the officials from the Ministry, Uganda registered booking cancellation in over 90% of hotel facilities due to the impact of the pandemic. 

This led to a loss of revenue amounting to $320.8M about shsh1.19Tn in addition to other business losses.

At least 70% of the workers in the tourism industry had lost their jobs and 91% of the tourism entities had downsized their workforce by the end of June 2020 due to the financial hit caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the government.

As part of the recovery recommendations, the Ministry has asked Parliament to revise the over 20 taxes, licenses and fees which presently are being levied on the sector.

This rebranding is an essential component of UTB’s Strategic Plan (FY 2020/21 – 2024/25) that seeks to “Sustainably promote Uganda as a competitive tourism destination for inclusive development” with a strategic goal to “sustainably increase the volume and value of tourism in Uganda.”

Under this plan, UTB is pursuing five major objectives, including; the increase of tourist arrivals, investment and job creation in the tourism sector and increase the competitiveness of the tourism destination, among others.

The Minister of Tourism, Tom Butime said that before the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism in Uganda was on a strong and positive trajectory, reading in Foreign Exchange earnings and accounting for 7.7% of GDP and about 6.3% of all formal employment in the country.

“The launch of the brand is part of a response to the recovery after this dreadful pandemic. We are getting back into the market with a unified message and a clear promise and call to action. The launch of the destination brand is both vital to the restarting and rebuilding of the tourism sector as it provides a positive, recognizable and firm assurance of the beauty we radiate as a people and landscape of Uganda,” he said.

 He said the destination brand and the marketing activities that shall follow it are not in isolation.

“They complement other existing initiatives by the government to improve our product offering, improve the consumer experience and therefore, widen opportunities for the private sector as well as quicken the pace of recovery,” said Butime.

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