The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) event was opened by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, in Mauritius.
According to a press statement released by Gessa Simplicious, head of Public Relations at the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), the Uganda delegation was led by the Honorable Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities (Retired) Col. Butime, who was joined by UTB Board Director Mr. Mwanja Paul Patrick and UTB CEO Lilly Ajarova, among others. The team rolled out the country’s “Explore Uganda, The Pearl of Africa” brand to the delegates and sealed the country’s commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism. This has opened opportunities for collaboration of Uganda with the global tourism community.
Uganda recognizes the significance of striking a harmonious balance between tourism growth and environmental conservation. Through active participation in this UNWTO meeting, Uganda reaffirmed its commitment to promote sustainable tourism practices that benefit local communities, protect natural resources, and preserve cultural heritage.
In his welcome remarks, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili stated: “The UNWTO Agenda for Africa had been adapted. Our vision for African tourism is one of strong governance, more education, and more and better jobs. To achieve it, we aim to promote innovation, advocate for Brand Africa, facilitate travel, and unlock growth through investment and public-private partnerships.”
Uganda’s Minister of Tourism, Hon. Tom Butime, on the sidelines of the event explained that the country’s participation in the UNWTO activities reflects Uganda’s unwavering commitment to preserve its natural treasures, promote cultural exchange, and empower local communities through responsible tourism practices. “We are thrilled to collaborate with the global tourism community and contribute actively to the shared vision of sustainable tourism development,” he said.
As a member of UNWTO, Uganda is poised to benefit from a plethora of advantages, including access to valuable tourism research and data, technical assistance, capacity-building initiatives, and opportunities for networking with industry leaders from around the world. Additionally, Uganda’s membership will bolster its reputation as a top-notch tourist destination, attracting even more visitors seeking unforgettable experiences.
UNWTO latest data indicates that tourism across Africa is returning to pre pandemic numbers with international arrivals across Africa back to 88% of pre-pandemic levels at the end of the first quarter of this year. Globally, international tourism receipts reached US$1 billion in 2022, a 50% growth compared to 2021.
UTB CEO Ajarova noted: “Uganda continues to recover from the challenges posed by the global pandemic. The UNWTO membership will serve as a catalyst for rejuvenating the tourism sector. fostering economic growth and providing livelihood opportunities for local communities.”
The meeting realigned the sector’s role as a driver of development and opportunity across the region. Special discussion was given to the opportunities tourism presents such as jobs and investments.
Uganda Tour Operators Association Driving Sustainability
At the maiden Annual General Meeting (AGM) for Exclusive Sustainable Uganda Tour Operators Association (ESTOA) held on July 28 at the Kampala Serena Hotel, the membership used the event to roll out its “No Plastic Campaign!” opting to use glass bottles instead of single-use mineral water bottles. The intention is to change the common usage of the ubiquitous single-use plastic bottles that have been a detriment to urban municipalities through clogging drainage systems, breeding mosquitoes, and even ending up in lakes, rivers, and wetlands.
The AGM commenced with the Chairman’s report presented by Chairman Bonifence Byamukama (CEO of Lake Kitandara Tours), Treasurer’s report by Yvonne Hilgendorf (CEO of Manya Africa Tours), and the Strategic Plan.
“Our vision is that all hotels and lodges change to that (glass bottles). Therefore, Aquelle bottling company who was at the event came with a range of glass bottle products and its big 18 liter water tank which can be used in tourism vehicles,” said Yvonne to this ETN correspondent.
Other business partners presented specialized solutions for financing business – “My Gorilla App” and “My Gorilla Family – which gives an all-access pass to the home of more than 50% of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. Costantino Tessarrin of Destination Jungle presented ongoing activities at Bugoma Forest and the 5-acre tree planting project. Tinka John of KAFRED (Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development) at Bigodi Wetland on the fringes of Kibale Forest National Park, also announced that ESTOA had planted 170 trees with several tour companies participating since August of last year.
The whole event was crowned by a networking cocktail event and the unveiling of ESTOAs “Go green own bamboo bottle” which can be bought by tour operators for their clients. “We have offered a range of products and solutions for all our members and hope that more and more companies will follow us on this journey,” added Yvonne.
Future projects of ESTOA include tree planting on a large scale in Mt. Elgon as well as lion conservation and waste management in Queen Elizabeth in collaboration with the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
In its second year since inception, ESTOA is running with a vision to make Uganda a more sustainable destination by providing workshops; training; and engaging embassies, non-governmental organizations, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), and Uganda Tourism Board (UTB).
“We are trying to find solutions for daily tour operations and for hotels and lodges at the same time. We also take part in all relevant tourism exhibitions in the world and offer our members a platform to market themselves. We as well help in licensing tour operators together with UTB so that they follow standards and procedures in Uganda,” ended Yvonne.
In the recent past, the tourism sector has embraced sustainable practices with the support of CBI Centre for the Promotion of Imports, a Dutch government sponsored organization whose mission is to support the transition toward inclusive and sustainable economies as well as SUNx Malta, a climate friendly travel system to help the global tourism sector transform to zero GHG emissions by 2050 which is backed by the Malta Tourism Authority. Its ambition is to create 100,000 Climate Friendly Champions by 2030. The Uganda chapter is being represented by this correspondent, and ESTOA makes for a great entry point.