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UTB to use Valentine’s day to boost domestic tourism

UWEC zoo.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The tourism sector in Uganda is taking advantage of the growing culture of marking Valentine’s day to support the revival of the sector from a two-year underperformance caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The planned activities include a two-kilometer walk in Kampala, which the sector leaders have named the Love Walk.  This will be concurrently held across several countries in Africa on February 12, with the main idea of “telling the African story by Africa across Africa.”

Apart from relating the events with Valentine’s day, it is a Pan-African event because Uganda and other African countries want to unite and grow their industries together but also approach the pandemic problem jointly.

The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities says business has been catching up recently as the effects of the pandemic as well as the restrictions against it ease.

Before the pandemic, the annual number of visitors into the country had grown to more than 1.6 million bringing in 1.2 billion dollars (4.2 trillion shillings) before falling to 32,000 visitors.

The State Minister of Tourism, Martin Mugarra Bahinduka says by the end of this year, the tourist numbers in the country should have gone up again to at least 1 million.

Last week, President Museveni commissioned the tourism revival program dubbed rebranding the pearl, which was aimed at informing the world that Uganda was now safe to visit and that the sector was fully open.

This followed the full re-opening of the economy with the curfew also lifted.

Uganda Tourism Association says that lifting all the restrictions will speed up the recovery. Peter Mwanja, the Secretary-General Uganda Tourism Association and also proprietor Later Events, says all African countries were affected by the pandemic though at varying levels because of the nature of the sectors.

Mwanja stressed the importance of African countries to unite against the pandemic and other forces that affect the continent’s development.

The “Love walk” will now be a platform on which regional and continental issues regarding tourism revival will be tackled by the continent.

Uganda Tourism Board says the platform will help Uganda attract tourism opportunities by closely working with other countries.

According to the figures at the ministry, the recent revival of the sector has largely been boosted by domestic tourists who have been visiting protected areas and hotels.

UTB Marketing Manager, Claire Mugabi says they are now leading the industry to focus more on packages targeted at domestic and regional tourism, where Uganda seems to have a big advantage.

She says this will be helped by the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

The “Love Walk” activities which are planned to continue throughout the year will also be used to help the different countries showcase their potential.

With virtual events likely to continue, players in the MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) tourism will have to find ways of repositioning the business segment.

Barbara Adoso Vanhelleputte, the team leader of MICE Uganda says that over the last two years, it has been proved that Africa is a large market that can be harnessed.

Jean-Philippe Bittencourt, the Managing Director Sheraton Kampala Hotel, says that it was actually the domestic market that kept the hotel industry in Uganda up during the peak of the pandemic. He says that this has shown that there is a need for the accommodation and hospitality industry as a whole to plan better for the domestic market.

He hopes that this trend of Ugandans discovering their country will continue to grow into a culture, and not end with the pandemic.

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