Tourism is the highest foreign exchange earner in Uganda overtaking Agriculture. Given its contribution to the Gross Domestic product, tourism is not full developed in Uganda due to several reasons. Uganda is endowed with several attractions such as the rare mountain gorillas, the source of river Nile which is the longest river on planet earth, Lake Victoria which is the largest lake in Africa, beautiful national park, hospitable people among others and this should make it one of the sought after countries to visit in Africa.
It should be remembered that the history of Uganda as a country has not been favourable for the development of this tourism sector. Its from 1986 that relative security returned to the country resulting into the growth we see now. Before that, the country was engulfed in political insecurity that led to the destruction of tourism infrastructures such as roads, hotels among others. Animals in national park were killed and others poached to extinction. For example the White Rhinos were all poached to extinction during Amin’s regime. The same insecurity led to the dismissal of Indians who could have invested in the tourism sector and as a result, the economy collapsed amidst a bad image for the country.
Having established relative security in Uganda, the National Resistance Government has not committed enough funds to promote and market the tourism industry. Although all the paper work needed for this were put in plan such as the Tourism Master plan, less has been done and achieved. The Uganda Tourism Board which is in charge of marketing and promoting Uganda as a tourism destination is underfunded compared to other countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. This therefore leaves the private sector to do the marketing with less support from the government. There is however good will from the government as our tourism budget has been increasing over the years and we hope that with time, more will be channelled to this cause.
The government of Uganda tends to prioritise other sectors than tourism yet tourism is the leading foreign exchange earner. Sectors like security and defence, agriculture, roads and infrastructure take a lions share of the countries budget leaving tourism with almost none. The discovery and exploitation of oil in the Albertine lift valley has not only put the life of wild animals at risk but is seen as a sector that will bring more forex to Uganda compared to tourism and this has instead changed the attention, government had for tourism.
Uganda’s tourism is facing competition from our neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Because of political stability in Tanzania and Kenya, these two countries have done so much in promoting their countries, wildlife conservation and as such, there is more to see in their National parks compared to Uganda. These two countries have managed to develop good roads, constructing hotels and lodges, training of manpower all of which are key in as far as tourism is concerned. This has in turn resulted in the reduction of the overall price of the tourism product compared to Uganda.
Major roads to Uganda’s National park have been in a sorry state for along time but the government has now stepped up efforts to have them developed. An example is the Kagadi section of the road that links Murchison Falls National park to Kibale forest national Park. While it is only about four hundred kilometres, one can take up to a whole day to reach either destination. Most road to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park save the high ways are also in a sorry state and one needs a four wheel drive car to navigate such roads. The government is doing alot on this and most roads are under construction. Private planes companies have also come on board to fly clients who do not want to drive long distance. Fly Uganda and Aerolink have prayed a great role in flying tourists to Uganda National parks to the extent that Aerolink has daily flights to most national parks at affordable prices.
Uganda has had many failed campaigns where lots of funds have been invested and wasted. These have not in any way helped in increasing the number of tourists coming to the country. One of the flopped campaigns was the Gifted by nature promotion where lots of money was paid to advertise Uganda on CNN, BBC and other Televisions and this lasted for few days yet the money spent was enormous. That notwithstanding, the government has relied on mountain gorillas to promote Uganda yet the country has more resources and attractions for tourists. It is because of this that people only come to Uganda for mountain gorilla only to discover that they could have spent more days had they been aware of this. Still with mountain gorillas, Uganda faces stiff competition from Rwanda due to the fact that Rwanda’s gorilla are close to the Airport so one does not have to drive for many hours to reach them as it is for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park for Uganda.