Tourism Police on the morning of Friday, January 25, arrested a quack tour operator who had fleeced a family of American tourists that had paid for a 15-day safari in Uganda.
According to Uganda Tourism Board Public Relations Manager, Sandra Natukunda, this followed a plea on Facebook by a friend of the American family named Hope Nankunda who posted their predicament that went viral.
“It’s with great anger that I choose to express my disappointment in this Tour Company.
They received thousands of dollars from a kind family that came all the way from Boston to tour Uganda the ‘Pearl of Africa’.
“The case has been reported at Rubirizi police station under Reference No. 08/24/01/2019 and am also following up with the Tourism Police but I would appreciate it so much if the Tourism fraternity can stand and speak against this kind of act. My friends are stuck in Queen Elizabeth National Park At Enganzi Lodge,” said Hope, a Kampala-based social worker.
After receiving the funds, efforts to follow up on the reservations for the safari were futile as the fraudsters stopped responding to mail and switched off their phones.
The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) quickly set up a committee after calling an emergency meeting of stakeholders .
The team then conducted an operation led by Commandant Tourism Police Frank Mwesigwa, and UTB Quality Assurance Manager Semakula Samora, together with Gloria Tumwesigye, CEO of (AUTO)Association of Uganda Tour Operators, leading to the arrest of suspect Micheal Ahabwe the so-called Director of the Mushra Travel Agency. He was arrested near his home in Lubowa and detained at the Lubowa Police station located along Entebbe road.
This comes at a time when the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities is reviewing the “Tourism Act” of 2008 with Cyber fraud/crime high on the agenda. The vice has increasingly dogged the tourism sector with several cases received by AUTO secretariat in the recent past including a couple that were taken to see baboons instead of gorillas, only to realize later that they had been duped when they shared their photos with friends.
It was a happy ending as Hope eventually confirmed on her FaceBook wall that the tourists were able to continue with their safari.
“I would like to thank the Uganda Tourism Board and the #TourismPolice for their great commitment to ensure that the Fraud case raised gets the attention it rightfully deserves.
They have been been very supportive and dedicated to clearing the name of the Tourism Industry. That’s a credit and I must say you have done well and promoted justice.”
The tourists eventually had to secure gorilla permits afresh in order to access Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with the help of Sam Mugisha of BIC Tours.
Tourists are advised to always do due diligence with UTB or the Uganda Tourists Association and its trade associations, eg., AUTO before they book.