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New Tourism Association Launched Based on Sustainable Values

ESTOA Launch - image courtesy of T.Ofungi

On March 24, 2022, a new tourism association was launched at Latitude 0° hotel Makindye Kampala, Uganda, premised on the principles of sustainability. Exclusive Sustainable Tour Operators Association (ESTOA) – not to be confused with ESTOA: Leaders in Project Delivery – comes in the form of a tourism fold with the main focus on creating a tourism sector that is sustainably cautious in all operations.

In theme with their vision to be “a thriving tourism sector based on sustainable values, presenting the country’s uniqueness to the rest of the world,” the venue of the Latitude hotel l was carefully selected as it practices sustainable tourism with zero plastic use in the hotel.

The launch was presided over by Jimmy Kigozi, Principal Tourism Officer at the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities. Speaking on behalf of the Minister, Honorable Tom Butiime Kigozi said: “It is indeed the right time to launch ESTOA, as tourism is getting out of the COVID-19 shocks, the sector/s players need to be equipped with knowledge and skills to facilitate company resilience and survival in order to operate responsibly and be able to thrive for the benefit of the host communities and hence sustainability. In line with our mission and vision as the ministry responsible for tourism development, we are ready to support ESTOA to achieve its objectives in order to groom a highly responsible private sector and tourism industry in Uganda. As you may be aware, in the last few years, the concept of sustainability has become an integral part of planning and developing any destination.

“ESTOA has exhibited the spirit of togetherness.”

“And readiness to collaborate with government agencies, development partners, other associations, the communities, and all stakeholders as one of their core values in order to preserve and protect the country’s resources for future generations to enjoy.”

As one of their upcoming immediate activations, ESTOA plans to undertake a tree planting campaign countrywide, and in this, they will be trying to encourage clients to visit Uganda without feeling guilty since this would take care of compensation for their carbon footprint especially those that use long haul flights which are unavoidable at the moment.

“This aligns very well with the new brand that was launched by UTB [Uganda Tourism Board]. I’m glad to know that ESTOA is ready to work with UTB to support and promote the new brand image. It is the right time to escalate the sustainability agenda in Uganda as the world is opening up and the fact that clients are more sensitive in regard to their contribution and prefer to visit sustainable destinations,” added Kigozi as he congratulated the new association with the following  quote from Paul Polma – ‘Looking at the world through a sustainability lens not only helps us ‘future proof’ our supply chain, it also fuels innovation and drives brand growth.’”

ESTOA executives are comprised of Bonifence Byamukama ,Chairman; Ntale Robert, Vice Chairman; katarina Betram, Secretary; and Yvonne Higendorf, Treasurer; as well as Manda Innocent, member; and Ntale Benedict, member. What’s more, all the executives are members of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) including former AUTO CEO, Gloria Tumwesigye, a certified  Sustainable Tourism Development Trainer at the secretariat in true dictum of sustainability.

Bonifence has previously served as President of the umbrella body of tourism, Uganda Tour Operators Association (UTOA), as chairman of Association of Uganda Tour Operators Association (AUTO), as President of the East African Tourism Platform, along with several other boards.

The last couple of years have witnessed the emergence of several associations including the Young Tour Operators Association, Women in Tourism, Uganda Guides Association, and the Tourism Federation whose steam blew out shortly after it was first heard of via WhatsApp, comprised mainly of sabbatical politicians.

Bonifence maintains that ESTOA is not in any way a breakaway from AUTO and has opened membership to any individual or company that shares the same vision.

However, judging by the recent spat between the AUTO leadership and Uganda Tourism Board over the unveiling of the Explore Uganda brand that the AUTO leadership boycotted the launch over allegedly being sidelined during brand development, ESTOA has taken a more reconciliatory line, in a veiled reference to AUTO, stating at the launch: “ESTOA has promised to work closely with tourism enterprises that are registered and licensed by [the] Uganda Tourism Board who are ready to join hands to promote Uganda as a sustainable destination in a professional manner.”

AUTO remains Uganda’s oldest tour operators’ association and a leading advocate for the private sector with representation at the Uganda Tourism Board and at private sector foundations. It famously celebrating 20 years in 2015.

With the silver jubilee totally muted in 2020 ostensibly due to the COVID-19 pandemic lock down, perhaps ESTOA is a reminder to commemorate Uganda and reclaim bragging rights to sustainable tourism.

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Tony Ofungi - eTN Uganda

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