Will Uganda’s tourism sector be revived by the ‘Explore Uganda’ campaign?

Uganda recently created a new tourism destination brand called Explore Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, which capitalizes on the country’s global image as one of the most well-equipped destinations and promises visitors an unforgettable trip.

President Yoweri Museveni launched the brand identity in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, recently. Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Uganda’s tourism marketing and regulatory organization, created the brand.

“Uganda is without a doubt lovely,” said Lilly Ajarova, Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board. Beautiful in every way. Yes, everyone knows Uganda is and has always been the Pearl of Africa, but there was a lack of clarity and consistency about what kind of pearls Uganda possesses if it is the Pearl of Africa.

“It was therefore critical that all stakeholders are aligned on what makes Uganda the pearl of Africa and how we unpack that to the various travel markets/segments around the world” to achieve our number one objective of “sustainably promoting Uganda as a competitive tourism destination for inclusive development.”

“If you think about it, when you invite someone to come visit you, all you’re asking them to do is keep an eye on you for a few days.” An invitation to ‘explore,’ on the other hand, is essentially an encouragement to indulge.

To indulge; to delve into; to deep-dive; to explore and rediscover the pearl’s depth, range, and variety of charms,” Ajarova added.

For years, presenting Uganda as a tourist destination meant relying on the region’s most well-known attractions: the renowned mountain gorillas and, most likely, the big five wildlife, which include tree climbing lions.

Uganda Gorilla Tours can be done in Bwindi Forest, as previously stated, and this is the only destination that many tourists are familiar with, implying that the East African nation’s diverse communities, modern cities, and remote community tourism experiences have remained obscured to all but the most adventurous explorer.

This is no longer the case. Uganda Tourism Board’s new marketing strategy, which is a visible break from the status quo, presents a country with qualities few outside visitors could expect, and serves as a sign of what’s to come out of African destinations in a post-pandemic competitive environment.

A monkey, a giraffe, or a cheetah on the hunt may be seen, but they make up a small portion of the material, which is largely dominated by scenes of Ugandans participating in a variety of outdoor adventures, cultural, and urban activities in their own nation. The new pitch is to stay longer and experience Uganda’s various regions beyond the gorillas and the Big 5.

The commercial, which debuted less than a week ago, coincided with the destination’s rebranding as “Explore Uganda, Africa’s Pearl.”

“That tourism brand is the outcome of a very comprehensive study that took place over time,” Uganda’s Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Tom Butime, stated in a recent local news broadcast, adding that the survey revealed tourists stayed longer in Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda than in Uganda.

Butime claims that previous branding failed to stand out due to poorly executed campaigns in the past and a lack of unity around the notion of “pearl of Africa.”

“We also worked with some market researchers in North America and Europe, and we know that people are interested in more than simply wildlife right now,” Ajarova added. “It was critical to be able to position ourselves as a competitive destination.”

Uganda tourist firms and veterans who spoke with Skift expressed confidence and praise for the new story and branding efforts.

This year, the three-year campaign will focus on local and regional African markets, before expanding to international markets in 2023.

The future of tourism in Africa is also regional.
Uganda’s tourist industry had been increasing at least 20% yearly for a decade before Covid-19 struck, with slightly over 1.5 million visitors and $1.6 billion in tourism earnings in 2019.

According to the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, this all changed in 2020, when the pandemic pushed the country back to 2005, with only a third of those tourists and a 72.7 percent drop in tourism revenue.

“We had slightly over 500,000 in 2021; we are trying to quadruple that figure this year,” Uganda Tourism Board executive director Ajarova said.

Vaccines are on their way, and Ajarova said the country’s current goal is to vaccinate the majority of its adult population by the end of the year.

Since the attacks in Kampala in November 2021, the US State Department has issued a “Reconsider Travel” advice to Uganda. However, Ajarova stated that the warning was not new.

“Again, it’s the way we’re viewed, you know, countries on the African continent,” Ajarova explained. “But, you know, it’s not what’s on the grounds in reality.” As a result, we’ve essentially delegated duty to our diplomatic partners.

As more residents and Africans have taken to exploring their backyards, the early local and regional tourism appeal has created a buffer for Uganda’s tourism firms.

“We have been luckier than others,” Wilber Begumisa, an expert in handling Gorilla Safaris in Africa for Gorilla Trek Africa Limited, says. “We started receiving a stream of tourists from the region, then foreign tourists.”

‘The fluctuating flow of tourists over the last 18 months has helped to keep the company afloat,’ he continued.

Lemala Camps’ Uganda location has seen a combination of guests and record-breaking revenue, according to Haigh.

“We made more money in January this year than we have in any year since the resort opened,” said Haigh of Wildwaters Lodge. “And it’s been paid for.”

Ajarova, the director of the Uganda Tourism Board, confirmed the push for community involvement in tourism. “As we work to develop various types of adventure, communities will be heavily involved in the new product development process, from culture to adventure activities.”

It’s all part of Uganda tourism’s mission to attract a growing number of domestic, regional, and international travelers looking for meaningful experiences by encouraging slower, more immersive exploration.

“I love the challenge of the word ‘explore,’ because it literally challenges people to have a deeper experience of a destination than the superficial one,” said Haigh of Lemala Camps. “That, in my opinion, is what our future will be all about.”

He praised Uganda’s unusual geography, which he described as a “roof of Africa” where Lake Victoria feeds into the powerful River Nile, which passes past different Ugandan lakes on its route to Alexandria, Egypt.

He also mentioned the extensive foliage, moderate climate, and variety of wildlife found in Uganda, as well as the country’s strategic location on the Equator, cultural diversity, community tourism, peace, and security.

Uganda’s unique position in anthropogenic history as the home of humanity, he added, should be explored, documented, and marketed as a tourist attraction.

The rebranding is a key part of UTB’s Strategic Plan (FY 2020/21 – 2024/25) to “sustainably promote Uganda as a competitive tourist destination for inclusive development,” with the strategic goal of “sustainably increasing the volume and value of tourism in Uganda.”

UTB is targeting five primary objectives as part of this plan: increasing tourist arrivals, increasing tourism investment and job creation, strengthening the tourism destination’s competitiveness, improving tourism data collection and access, and improving internal efficiency and effectiveness.

UTB also aims to recover from the impact of the pandemic, which caused us to lose up to USD1 billion in revenue in 2020, by reaching pre-pandemic levels of $1.45 billion and growing that further to USD 1.862 billion, recovering tourism’s contribution to total employment at 667,600 people (6.3 percent of total employment), increasing inbound tourism revenues per visitor from USD1,036 to USD1,500, and recovering the average number of international tourist arrivals from the United States, Europe, and Asia.



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