By Geoffrey Baluku
What products does Uganda have?
Among the numerous products we have mentioned that Uganda has we can break them down specifically as follows:
1) In the Albertine Rift which will include Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Kisoro, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kibale Forest, Rwenzori Mountains, Lake Bunyonyi, Semliki etc this region is the largest and most popular tourism region of Uganda therefore it may be broken down into other sub regions to allow it to be better explored.
Existing Activities: include bird watching, game drives, water based activities on Kazinga Channel, Chimpanzee tracking, gorilla trekking, fishing on Lakes George and Edward, salt mines, community groups, the pygmies etc.
2) Murchison Falls National Park which constitutes the northern circuit and this park has always been reknown for the traditional game drives, launch trip, primate walks at KaniyoPabidi, birding on the Royal Mile in Budongo, Top of Murchison Falls, fishing as well as the delta cruises.
The rhino sanctuary has also added to the product. Murchison Falls National Park is the largest park and has the potential to offer the best safari experiences to the tourists and even the high end traveler who does not wish to spend a lot of time driving can me accommodated via small charter crafts if only the existing two airstrips can get enlarged and if possible tarmac them to allow for medium size jets to land there.
3) Kibale Forest National Park – Here we get chimpanzee walks, the primate habituation experience, night walks, Bigodi Swamp walk, Crater Lakes, Tour of Tea estates etc.
4) Mount Rwenzori Nation Park Park – has the mountain treks and short walks, but with few trained guides, poorly provisioned and dilapidated facilities with very poor sanitation conditions.
What products does Uganda wish to sell?
Niche Tourism; so as to become the niche market for adventure activities, bird watching, culture and community tourism, mountain hiking and climbing, water sport, wellness centres in Semliki, house boats, boat rides, Kampala as a conference and meeting city.
Increased average stay within Uganda to heighten the tourism dollar spent per client, night game drives, bush camps, canopy tours, balloon safaris, bush dinners and sun downers, cruises on the Lake Victoria as well as River Nile in both Jinja and the delta area of Murchison Falls National Park, wellness centres at hot springs of Semliki, boat rides on lake Albert.
What is needed to improve Uganda tourism
Interest information and resource centre, restaurants, house boats, boat rides, additional walks, toilets along the circuits.
Uganda Tourism Association has a proposal on sanitation facilities along the tourist circuits. However, due to the capital intensive nature of the project, we are seeking funding from East Africa Tourism Platform/ Trademark East Africa, NGO’s that can fund this on a purely commercial basis.
Training of community guides, organized community groups that can provide equipment for rental to tourists who wish to partake of an activity in the area, home stay experiences, development of marketing materials, maps, build good roads, improve condition of airstrips/ airfields and introduce cheaper scheduled flights to the park areas so as to shorten the long driving distances to our parks.
There is also need to reinstate the national carrier for Uganda to provide direct flights, convenient and affordable travel fares from source markets regionally and internationally and also up grade Kasese airfield to international airport status and implement the decision to enable tourists arrive there directly.
Improve visibility by putting signage on the roads, position tourist police along the road side to allow tourists to report any misbehavior by tour operators like those leaving them on the road side stranded.
Night game drives in all parks plus bush camping and more circuits in the Murchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park areas.
Simplify merchant (Visa & Master cards) banking to increase the tourist spend. Reduce the risk of losing cash and the inconvenience of carrying large wards of money.
There is also need for additional access points on the Rwenzori. Additional activities and a business development plan for Rwenzori.
About the author
Geoffrey Baluku is a tour operator in Uganda running among other things www.africagorillatreks.com a website dedicated to publishing content on gorrilas and Ugandan tourism at large.