Uganda joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International World Tourism Day on 27th September 2020, with a call for increased involvement of rural communities in the tourism value chain.
Held under the theme, “Tourism and Rural Development”, this year’s celebrations highlighted the benefits of including locals in tourism, especially the rural communities that host various tourist attractions across the country.
The celebrations were hosted at Nyaika Hotel in Fort Portal – Tourism city by the King of Tooro, His Majesty Omukama Oyo Kabamba Iguru Rukiidi IV.
In attendance, were a number of dignitaries including Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Col. Tom Butime; Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Doreen Katusiime; Resident Representative, UNDP to Uganda, Elsie G. Attafuah; Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Chief Executive Officer, Lilly Ajarova. Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director, Sam Mwandha and Uganda Wildlife Education Center, Executive Director Dr James Musinguzi. Also in attendance were cabinet members of the Tooro Kingdom, local government leadership, cultural groups and tourism private sector; among others.
Addressing guests and His subjects, His Majesty King Oyo congratulated Ugandans and the International Community upon celebrating World Tourism Day and also passed on his most sincere sympathies to all those especially operating in the tourism fraternity for the losses suffered, since the outbreak of the pandemic.
“I congratulate you all upon celebrating the international World Tourism Day and also thank the Government of Uganda for commemorating the day together with the Tooro Kingdom for the first time ever in the history of the Kingdom. I would also like to express my solidarity with all those that were affected and or infected by Covid-19 and extend my sincere condolences to all those that have lost their loved ones,” he said.
The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) CEO, Lilly Ajarova appreciated King Oyo for enabling World Tourism Day activities take place in the Kingdom and also congratulated him upon his 25th anniversary as the King of Toro.
‘’Tooro Kingdom is home to some of the greatest tourism assets and attractions that make Uganda, the Pearl of Africa. We would like to thank you for always supporting all the activities in the development of tourism in the region,” she told the King.
Ajarova said that given Uganda’s diversity of tourism assets and attractions, UTB, together with other sector stakeholders, was ready to shape Uganda into the most preferred destination in the whole world Post Covid-19 recovery “The Tourism and travel sector has been the most impacted of all sectors by the Covid-19 global pandemic, therefore the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Uganda Tourism Board and all other agencies in the private sector are working hard to ensure tourism in Uganda recovers while we put in place whatever is required to have the sector back.
“We have also gone a step ahead working with the ministry and other sector stakeholders to put in place Standard Operating Procedures and make sure they are fully observed,” she said.
She added that UTB had won the recognition of international Organizations and peers such as the African Tourism Board which recently awarded UTB the Safe seal among others. “With the recent reopening of borders, this endorses us as the safest travel destination in the whole world,” she concluded. The Resident Representative, UNDP Uganda, Elsie G. Attafuah congratulated the Kingdom and Uganda upon celebrating the World Tourism Day.
She said, “As UNDP, it’s my delight to warmly welcome you to this particular day, and also thank you all for coming to Fort Portal City to commemorate World Tourism Day. I once again welcome all of you to the land of Empaako, the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains, Nyakasura falls, prestige crater lakes, beautiful sceneries, rich cultural heritage, and the land of the most delicious traditional foods.”
She added, “As we travelled from Kampala to Kibaale Forest National Park, we witnessed venden slopes, extensive miles of tea plantations, and astonishing holy baboons in the national park thus, the world must see this beauty, we must brand our Country as the best tourism destination in Africa and the world and also call upon all Ugandans to marvel around the beautiful Pearl Of Africa”.
Attafuah also revealed that the UNDP has put together a stimulus package worth EURO 6 Million for the tourism sector through the Uganda Development Bank in partnership with the European Union among several other benefits to boost Uganda’s tourism sector.
The Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Rtd Col. Tom Butime noted that many rural communities have shown that tourism is a lifeline thus the need to fully unleash its true force.
“Not only is this sector a leading source of employment, especially for women and young people but it also provides the most vulnerable regions with opportunities for territorial and socio-economic cohesion.
“It should also be everyone’s responsibility to support rural communities’ conservation efforts, including those preserving endangered species, ancient customs, and foods as well as those preserving unique natural and cultural heritage,” he said.
In his remarks, Butime noted that the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has prioritized the development of tourism infrastructure in the National Development Plan (NDP) III and this included the establishment of Water dams in selected savannah wildlife protected areas, among them Toro Semuliki Wildlife Reserve.
“The Ministry has also prioritized the development of new tourist attraction sites profiled by region to include new products such as community tourism and enhancement of adventure tourism by developing hiking, climbing, and cable cars in the Rwenzori Mountains among others.
We are therefore confident Your Majesty that at the end of its implementation, a significant change in people’s welfare and standards of living will be evident especially the community groups that are well organized,” Butime concluded.
Among other activities held in commemoration of the World Tourism Day, was a tree planting session held at the Tooro Kingdom Palace with the arch planter being, King Oyo followed by the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (RTD) Hon Col. Tom Butime, UTB Chief Executive Officer Lilly Ajarova, United Nations Development Program Country Coordinator –Rosa Malango and many more in Fort Portal Tourism City, Western Uganda. Other activities held included the pet naming ceremony of the Batooro and a tour of key attractions in the Tooro region including the; Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru, Sempaya Hotsprings in Semuliki National Park, Top of the World and the Tooro Palace.
BY FRANK SEMATA