By Ian Katusiime
In a comment published in The New Vision, President Yoweri Museveni said that Uganda was a “better destination” than Spain and castigated the Uganda Tourism Board for not properly marketing the country and referring to it as ‘Uganda Suppression Board’. Museveni’s remarks juxtaposing the two nations have kicked up quite a storm on the international scene.
The story has already been carried by Daily Mail, a leading tabloid in the United Kingdom (UK) giving the President’s comments further significance. The newspaper quoted most of the highlights of Museveni’s op-ed such as Spain being too hot and humid during the summer compared to Uganda which has a mild climate that is “very good for the human beings.” However the paper advised its readers that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office warns against all travel to the region of north eastern Uganda except to Kidepo Valley National Park.
Daily Mail also lauded Uganda for its ability to contain previous three outbreaks of the deadly virus that has decimated parts of West Africa with the death toll now at over 5,000. The recent outbreak of Marburg which was also brought under control by Ugandan authorities is also noted in the report.
In what looks like tit for tat when Spanish Prime minister Mariano Rajoy chided Uganda two years ago through a text message advising his Finance Minister to negotiate for better bailouts for Spanish banks, there must be an underlying reason as to why Museveni singled out Spain to scorn as a subject of comparison between the two countries and their varying tourism sectors.
In The Guardian, one of the most widely read mainstream papers in the UK and with a strong online presence the world over, Museveni’s interesting comparison as some would say, featured in a nine paragraph article where the President’s rebuke of Uganda’s tourism authorities for just promoting only some chimpanzees and so on got keen emphasis.
In spite of Museveni’s argument that “Uganda is a good place on the globe where you go and have a nice life”, the story in the same paper highlighted the incident when Uganda drew international condemnation for passing anti-homosexuality legislation that prescribed a life sentence for those who engaged in it until the law was thrown out by the Constitutional court.
Comments on The Guardian website however scoffed at Museveni’s suggestion with many attacking him for being authoritarian as a President and accusing the country of having a generally hostile atmosphere towards the Lesbians Gay Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) community.
A Gurdian poll was also trending online asking readers on what was a better tourist destination between Spain and Uganda. However results indicated Uganda beat Spain with a massive 76% compared to the latter’s 24%.
Uganda’s leading tourist sites.
One of Uganda’s most prized tourism attractions is its famed gorillas. Located in Kabale, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to about 320 mountain gorillas which is half of the world’s gorilla population. Considering that there are 346 bird species, more than 200 butterfly species and 324 species of trees, it is no wonder that Museveni is comparing Uganda among the very best when it comes to tourism potential.
The biological diversity of Bwindi Impenetrable Park has had tourists flocking into the country from all corners of the world to marvel at the beauty and nature that Uganda is gifted with. A significant portion of this has been from Western Europe and Spain too.
Since most Western tourists are fascinated by activities like bird watching and with Uganda being home to a variety of bird species, it is true what the President said that the country is indeed not harnessing its true potential for tourism.
Considering the fact that Spain’s major tourist attractions are plazas, art galleries museums and palaces, one can trace the source of Museveni’s motivation when extolling the gifts of nature that Uganda is bestowed with. Ten sprawling national park raking in more than 100,000 tourists every year, beautiful waterfalls, the source of the Nile and warm sunny climate, it’s a stark contrast to Spain in terms of nature and the beauty it can offer. Unlike Uganda, Spain has to indulge its tourists on mainly artificial creations such as art galleries and palaces.
Therefore the President’s claim about Uganda being a better destination than Spain for tourists is not really farfetched. About two years ago, Uganda was recognised by Lonely Planet as the world’s number one tourist destination which is no mean feat by any standards.
Uganda’s reputation obviously precedes it and unfortunate incidents such as brutal crackdown by the Police on opposition activities, poor management and little funding of the tourism sector and mysterious murders will continue to affect its tourism potential but not all is lost as Uganda Tourism Board can use the many gifts Uganda is endowed with to make tourism even Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner.