Woman tourism leader in Uganda makes it into ADWTA Hall of Fame

UGANDA (eTN) – The African Diaspora World Tourism Awards (ADWTA) ceremony is the first ever awards ceremony honoring trailblazers in black culture and heritage as an influence on tourism. It is designed in appreciation of the service and dedication of leaders from around the world who have significantly impacted tourism and inspired the exploration of black culture and heritage sites around the globe. The Awards ceremony was held on April 27, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Atlanta Airport Marriott.

The awards recognized those leaders in two parts: “Who’s Who” and “Hall of Fame” in Black Culture and Heritage Tourism. The “Who’s Who” category recognized professionals who have done outstanding work in various cultural and tourism fields. The “Hall of Fame” category was for notables who have made legendary contributions that have significantly impacted black culture and heritage tourism development.

Maria Baryamujura, Founder & CEO of Community Based Tourism Initiatives (COBATI), a local tourism NGO in Uganda, was among those inducted into the inaugural African Diaspora World Tourism Awards Hall of Fame. Maria was recognized for her “outstanding contributions and dedicated service in Cultural Heritage Tourism.” Maria’s name had been formally submitted by Kitty Pope, after receiving the nomination from this correspondent who felt that Maria deserved this level of global recognition for her outstanding work in the tourism, conservation, and community service fields in Uganda. Other notable honorees included the former Prime Minister of the Bermuda Dr. Ewart Brown.

The official African Diaspora World Tourism Awards gala ceremony took place in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and were hosted by multi Emmy Award-winning Monica Kaufman, TV personality. Prior to this event, there was an Africana Extravaganza of cultural performances and an exhibition of a Travel Expo. The awards event were pre-kicked by the screening of Bob Marley’s granddaughter Donisha’s new travel documentary, “Rasta: A Soul’s Journey.”

Kitty Pope, Co-publisher and Publication Editor of AfricanDiasporaTourism.com, is the creator and Executive Director of African Diaspora World Tourism Awards. These awards are produced by AfricanDiasporaTourism.com in association with the A.D King Foundation, a non-profit organization recognizing the commitment, contributions, and legacy of the late civil right activist and philosopher, the Reverend Alfred Daniel King, brother of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Maria Baryamujura has been at the forefront of tourism development in Uganda for the last 30 years, with a passion for promoting tourism and a sustainable environment for community development. Maria’s work has been recognized locally and internationally. She has been an Ashoka Fellow since 2006, and she was a finalist in the World Bank Development Marketplace 2000 Innovative Competition, as well as a recipient of the Award of Excellence from the government of Uganda in recognition of her contribution to tourism and women empowerment in Uganda. Maria’s work was also recognized by the Commonwealth Business Council/Africa Magazine in 2008 in the category of “Leader in Social Innovation” for promoting business initiatives that can contribute to the success of the African economy. Maria also received an award “For outstanding contribution to improving the lives of others for a better Uganda.” She was nominated by the New Vision readers among “Ugandans Making a Difference” through taking initiative in tackling their communities’ problems in different spheres through social projects.

As a founder of COBATI, Maria has created a niche as a capacity developer for communities to come up with innovative ideas that generate income through sustainable tourism. Her field of specialization is community-based tourism with a focus on poverty reduction, environmental conservation, and rural women empowerment. She is an advocate for increased awareness of players in the tourism sector and of the opportunities that can be generated if Uganda and Africa in general, provided market-driven programs that protect the environment, preserve cultural heritage, and contribute to sustainable economic development. Her work entails working with rural communities especially to preserve and protect the environment and cultural heritage.

Maria has trained rural communities in the sustainable use of natural resources and in generating income through homestead tourism, handicrafts, and improving the household environment to a level at which rural homesteads can host tourists seeking to interact with nature and culture.

Her unique model of community tourism revolves around households and communities, and their environment. It is centered on conservation, sustainable use, improved livelihoods, education, and good leadership. It also promotes responsible tourism practices and attracts travelers who are mindful about local people’s livelihoods, environment, and culture. Her current work promoting tourism and cultural heritage within the Nubian community in Bombo is supported by the MTN Uganda Foundation. Maria is a Trustee of the Uganda Wildlife Education Center and a Board member of Greenwatch Uganda. Warmest congratulations to Maria for this outstanding accomplishment.