A COUPLE of years ago I visited a place called Tampere, in Finland. One of my stops there was the district business and tourism promotion office, which was very small yet quite efficient, as the Finns tend to make things.
I was intrigued by the concept of a district taking full charge of the promotion of its tourism at the local level, and when I returned I made mention of this to a couple of contacts at districts here.
The pleasant discovery I made was that there are district tourism officers in (some of?) our districts, whose job is to do just that – promote the tourism offerings of their localities.
The promotion of these tourism offerings involves both establishing them and making them more attractive; as well as marketing them to the general public both here in Uganda and, more importantly, abroad so that tourists come and visit.
The pleasure of that little discovery was short-lived as there was not much else to report about these people and their work – nothing that was visible to even someone as deliberately inquisitive as myself.
I haphazardly did a test run using a couple of districts and even timed how long it would take to set up a meaningful online presence using free tools such as google, gmail, twitter and facebook.
Of course, it was ridiculously easy. And then, as usual, I became ridiculously busy and dropped the idea that was threatening to burgeon into a project.
Last weekend the ghost of that idea returned to haunt me; as we were engrossed in discussions over the impending election campaigns by various presidential candidates I realised that our national attention was going to be taken away from Kampala and drawn to these districts for the next three months straight.
Day one of the campaigns had us all in Luweero, Rukungiri, Masaka and some other I cannot recall right now, but we were there via live television, WhatsApp, twitter, facebook, radio, television updates, newspaper reports, and direct conversation.
NONE of the district administration officials of the above districts, however, made an appearance anywhere in those reports, and neither did their districts.
Again, casual observers aside, even a deliberately inquisitive fellow such as yours truly had zero visibility of any information about these districts of a nature that would invite or compel me to invest or tour them.
The tens or hundreds of thousands of people gathered at those political rallies were exposed ONLY to political messaging, even though the districts could have established a method by which they would have placed advertising at the campaign rally locations promoting their offerings.
They could have used this chance to set up their websites or make them more vibrant, then opened social media accounts and deployed their District Information Officers to provide live updates of the day’s excitement while interspersing them with promotional messaging.
They could have had the candidates and their agents, mobilisers and organisations distribute promotional materials to all the people at the rallies.
Each district, ahead of the rallies, could make itself the focal point of all media coverage by hosting the media on an advance tour of their tourism hot spots, all the while speaking up the investment potential of their localities so they get onto the business pages.
On top of that, each district tourism and investment promotion officer should furnish the visiting candidate with a list of their available opportunities so that they get included in the campaign speeches in some positive format.
This could have a much better direct impact on a district’s economy, in my narrow, selfishly entrepreneurial opinion, than district officials grovelling for more funding from the Central Government.
This week has gone, and with it the above opportunities for the districts already. It’s not too late, though, for the ones ahead.
Get your act together and even, if need be, appoint some sort of tourism and investment development official to cover the duration of these campaigns.
If you have eight presidential candidates coming through your district, then you calculate the media and promotion exposure presence there in terms of a minimum of three days – the day before the rally, the day of the rally, and the day after the rally. That’s a total of twenty four days of media coverage and mentions!
Mind you, I am here talking about district tourism and investment promotion officers and hoping that the commercial entities in these areas are already taking advantage of the opportunities that these campaigns present – even though I am not seeing any evidence of that either. Not yet.