By Arinda Nsheeka Wilfred

The Uganda tourism industry is targeting 4 Million tourists per year by 2020, a nice idea and one of the steps that could drive the country to the middle income status.

Uganda is gifted with a lot of tourist attractions, ranging from mountain gorillas, national parks,  flora and fauna to mention but a few.
Countries around Africa, take an example of our closest neighbors, Rwanda. They have got little to present when compared to Uganda in terms of tourist attractions but it is earning  a lot from tourism than us .
Well, a tourist may come to Uganda interested to trek gorillas, or doing something else but the way he or she is treated will either bring him or her back, or never come back.
Tourist guides and Operators play an important role in keeping the tourists here and ministry of tourism must cooperate with these people to bring ends meet. When tourists land in the country, tour operators and guides represent the country when handling them, and whatever they say or do with these tourists will either promote our country or else defame her.
The ministry of tourism must not underestimate the power of tourist guides and operators, like most folks do. The guides’ duty is not to give a running commentary but also play many important roles.
If one fully understands tourism industry, he or she will know that the role of tourist guides has become more important, critical and apprehensive in moving tourism to be the country’s top foreign exchange earner.
But it’s very unfortunate that these tour guides and operators who lead, and take care of  the tourists are not regulated in a country that expects 4 Million tourists by 2020.
We, as Ugandans must influence these tourists to stay longer here, visit more places while they are here, or return to Uganda in the near future. These tourists, if they get a positive experience in Uganda will be our best promoters to influence their families, friends and relatives to make Uganda their holiday destination.
Most of these tourists have happy memories and positive experiences when on holiday.
But if something negative happens? A fall? An accident? A medical emergency? Loss of their travel documents? Their first respondent is the trained tour guide who can assist and change that negative experience into a positive one.
Uganda’s ministry of tourism has a lot to do, in regard to making sure that the vision of of our country getting 4 Million tourists by 2020 comes true.
In a country with hundreds of quack tour guides and operators, tourism will continue to crawl. We must  not forget  that Uganda ministry of tourism doesn’t know the number of these tourists guides and operators.
It would be important to know these folks, train them, and give them permits, maybe Crack down unauthorized operators and guides.
These people are mandated to make tourists feel at home, and failure to do that, Uganda will be losing a lot of revenue.
The tourism industry in Uganda can only mature, grow and promote the values of culture, customs and heritage if these folks are regulated.
I would recommend  the ministry of tourism to sponsor and  train these guides and operators, and go ahead to regulate them  if our vision 2020 is to come true.
According to the Uganda Bureau of statistics (UBOS) international visitors to Uganda increased from 1,302,802 in 2015 to 1,322,522 in 2016 indicating a 1.5 %increase. But this is little in a country with such tourist attractions.
Uganda was in recent years named by the cable news network (CNN) an American pay television news channel,  to be  among  the best tourism countries in the world that that one should  visit! That was one of the best free adverts Uganda has had, and must be taken as an advantage.
Every Ugandan citizen involved in tourism, from the tour couch driver, tour guides, restaurants, service providers, tour operators and all other stakeholders – should play an important role in order for us to achieve our objective of 4 Million tourists by 2020.
Singularly or as a nation, let’s work together to promote Uganda’s tourism.
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