By Titus Kakembo
“As Uganda Tourism Association (UTA), we have since learnt to package itineraries that suit different categories of tourists,” revealed UTA CEO Richard Kawere. “There are domestic tourists who want lots of partying, binging and blaring music.”
He revealed that although some of the tourists will enjoy gorilla tracking, bird watching, safari drives, and boat rides, at the end of it all, they want it spiced with music, food and beer.
“In the East African spirit, we expect merrymakers to return from neighbouring countries and storm Kampala, Mbarara, Gulu and Kabale,” Kawere predicted. “After several refresher courses during the two lockdowns, tour operators know what appeals to them.”
Social media platforms like YouTube have popularised Congolese and local love songs that appeal to a cross-section of travellers.
“Cocktail parties had on the boat floating on the might River Nile or Lake Victoria are bestsellers,” stressed Kawere. “That is where an exclusive photo is shot and shared on social media. They love them going viral…”
Another category of travellers is sex tourists who treasure places where they can make merry without any inhibitions. Before COVID-19, this was crowned by the annual Nyege Nyege festival in Jinja. Elderly and youthful travellers would book all the tickets a year in advance.
Texas in Mbarara and BJ’s in Gulu, like Kabalagala, the Kampala City red district, remain hot spots for sex tourism where travellers want to make merry without any inhibitions.
True to Kawere’s view, there are bars, nightclubs and lodges in different parts of the country targeting domestic and foreign tourists. They make fat fortunes ensuring maximum privacy by not allowing video or still photo cameras on a given property. There are those that attract diplomats, the business fraternity and celebrities.
This was revealed during COVID-19 Economic Resilience Recovery Response Program (CRRRP) beneficiaries meeting at Protea Hotel in Kampala recently.
The CEO of the Private Sector Foundation Uganda, Steven Asiimwe, urged the tourism industry to get out of the box and exploit the numerous opportunities out there.
“This skilling programme for entrepreneurs recovering from the impact of COVID-19 was scheduled to last six months, but it has been extended due to more demand from the beneficiaries who comprise more than 80% women. CRRRP benefactors ought to diversify sources of income and equip your staff with multiple skills to render your staff competitive at an international level,” said Asiimwe. “Tell the story of your craft and it will appeal. It might be waist beads worn in Buganda and Karamoja. Curious culture tourists will buy more.”
It was emphasised that tour guides ought to know the culture, mammals, birds and nightlife “hot spots” to deliver a whole package of what Uganda is endowed with.
“If you are a bird guide, delve into culture, reptiles, mammals, cuisines and geographical bodies,” stressed Asiimwe. “This is the only way you will be able to furnish your clients with the information desired. It may make some stay longer and ask for some more.”