Uganda was ranked among the top 16 travel destinations by CNN Travel in 2016. Such accolades in addition to the public relations and marketing firms that were hired in 2015 to represent Uganda in Europe and North America, the brand “Pearl of Africa” has gained position in the travel market.
Uganda wants to triple the number of tourist arrivals to boost its economy along with other major export sectors such as agriculture. Statistics from ministry of tourism indicate $ 1.35 billion were earned as foreign exchange and UGX 7.3 billion was added to Uganda’s growth domestic product in 2015/2016 financial year.
Uganda received 1.3 million tourists in 2015; we have high ambitions to bring in 4 million tourists by 2021, said the chief executive officer, Uganda Tourism Board, Stephen Asiimwe in an interview last year.
Considering the competition for wildlife based tourism, Uganda has a comparative advantage over Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda has half of the world’s mountain gorilla population and gorilla safaris in Bwindi remain number one wildlife encounter in Africa.
Besides gorillas, Uganda has river Nile, the longest in the world, Lake Victoria, Mt. Rwenzori, the 3rd tallest range in Africa, diverse wildlife and unique culture.
Despite tourism being a lucrative industry for Uganda as a top tourist destination, poor infrastructure remains a big challenge leading to low tourist access and flow to some of tourist sites and attractions within. Developing infrastructure such as car/bus stations, ferry ports, airport terminals and road networks connecting to remote national parks would create access and ease flow of travelers on Uganda safaris.
At the end of 2015, a group of 38 tourists from Germany were disappointed and cancelled their trip to Kalangala islands upon finding a Kalangala MV anchored by stones and rotten wood in water. The incident led to loss of dollars and created bad image for Ssesse Island as a leisure destination.
The incident was an eye opener for the government to improve tourist infrastructure and roads to take advantage of marketing efforts such as participation in international tourism exhibitions such as INDABA South Africa, ITB-Berlin, WTM-London, if tourist numbers were to be tripled by 2021.
Priority allocations are being made to energize road and air connectivity which is still a challenge. Recently a number of roads were constructed including 143 km Kamwengye-Nyakita which link Kibale forest national park to Bigodi wetland sanctuary.
The government has unveiled plans to construct new roads in northern Uganda, as well new aerodrome in Kasese while improving those that are available such as Pakuba near Murchison Falls National Park. Meanwhile according to the civil aviation Uganda, Entebbe airport is set for rehabilitation including new passenger terminals, arrival halls, and aircraft parking lot. Currently, Entebbe airport is faced with capacity, having experienced increase in passenger traffic from 781400 passengers in 2007 to 1.2 million passengers.