your restaurant, hotel or feature review is the future of Uganda’s tourism industry – go out and do one today


THIS Easter weekend we are all taking off another holiday and will mostly be spending our time at leisure in different ways but with one common thread – there will be celebration accompanied by food.
That food will be consumed either at home or in restaurants and hotels, and this is where we should pause for a minute before taking another bite.
I write and talk a lot about tourism for a number of reasons, one of which is the benefits to the entire country that arise out of tourism if we all understand it as a revenue earner and do it right that way.
The tourism sectors of all serious countries around the world are given top priority for economic growth because they involve a wide range of sectors that benefit very many segments of people – from the farmers that grow the food that gets served in those hotels and restaurants, to the people who work there, and those that own them.
Last year I embarked on a mini-project of my own after realising there was a shortfall that I could help fill, and now must share this so that more people out there join in. A while back during an official visit to a strange country I found myself without dinner plans on one evening and needed to do some research to establish where to go.
tripadvisor logo.png
I got to tripadvisor.com, which I had used to make my travel arrangements, and the options were overwhelming but I was glad to have so many to choose from and whet my appetite at the same time.
At the start of last year I found myself in the same position in upcountry Uganda and went straight to the trusted tripadvisor.com only to find that the town I was in did not even exist! I was nonplussed especially when I drove out of my hotel and found there were many options in that town I could have browsed through from the comfort of my hotel room.
That website, tripadvisor.com, receives 350million unique visitors a month – ten times the population of Uganda.
Surprisingly, in that town even the large establishments with names that appeared to be international in nature did not exist on tripadvisor.com!
tripadvisor.com Restaurant Expert BadgeSo I began doing reviews of my own, which I found were just a drop in the ocean since there are 320million other reviews on that site.
Why?
Because the travel industry operates on word of mouth and tools like tripadvisor.com have enabled that word of mouth to travel like wildfire. Word of mouth, in the tourism sector, is valuable because it originates from ordinary people who are believed to be authentic, objective and impartial.
Many of the reviews tell the truth about the locations, so that if they are lousy the establishments themselves get to know and must fix their issues.
In fact, many of these hotels and restaurants get online because they have to respond to negative criticism – and then they find that they have to build their profiles and then they begin marketing themselves more seriously.tripadvisor.com Senior Contributor Badge
Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is exactly what the internet is for – for us to create and upload content to improve our lives and our environment, not just for us to download other people’s content so we admire their lives and their environment.
So last year I kicked off on this mini-project of reviewing as many eateries as possible and set myself a target that I am yet to achieve. I will not review the large hotels and restaurants alone, because they have large marketing departments and people to speak up for them in many big ways. I will, however, focus on the smaller establishments so that they get visibility on the global stage.
tripadvisor.com Attraction Expert BadgeAnd that is what you guys need to join in on – this weekend as you go about enjoying Easter, do a review of every restaurant or hotel that you visit, and upload it to tripadvisor.com. Nothing complicated – just rate the place, the service, the food and the price (by clicking on the stars or radio buttons online), and then write two or three sentences in whatever language you want. Reviews are not restricted to the big-time places only – if you are going to lunch at your favourite Rolex stand or Mulokony joint today, or if lunch is at the pork joint in your village (envy demon, get thee behind me!) you can still review those places and put them on the map as well.
The difference that will make to our tourism efforts will be massive – I know because with my feeble efforts I am now a highly-rated online reviewer and I get asked many questions by people wishing to visit Uganda, the answers to which I hope help them make the decision to actually visit!tripadvisor.com Readership Badge
If you are scared of tripadvisor.com, go to Google Maps and become a local guide – which works the very same way. Click on the name of an establishment, type out what you think about it, and submit.
tripadvisor.com Senior Photographer BadgeYOU might be the reason a couple of tourists choose to visit Uganda one day months from now, spending the money that the government will use to equip a hospital where your father might require life-saving surgery.
Enjoy the experience – and Happy Easter!
tripadvisor.com Helpful Reviewer Badge

Uganda! we can still reap large from the sowing of the barcelona legends last year


LAST year we talked excitedly, some of us, about the Barcelona Legends soccer team coming to Uganda to play an exhibition game, and we actually pulled it off as a country!
There was a little hitch in the beginning but we (the country Uganda) quickly overcame it thanks to there being more good Ugandans than bad ones, and by December we were registering success.
The Legends played at Nambole Stadium against the Uganda Cranes AllStars – a team specially built for that charity match – and got thrashed 5-3 in a thrilling game that gave us legend Patrick Kluivert scoring a magnificent goal shot from nearby the halfway line.
The goal was so classy that goal.com featured it under the headline, ‘Move Over Messi; Kluivert Scores The Goal Of The Season!’
They left after a week, and that seemed to be it. Some people complained a little on social media platforms and called the arrangement a rip off because of who the Legends were – since they expected a game with Barcelona FC, and others said the President and Uganda Tourism Board had wasted money having offered to fund the exhibition game.
The complaints came from people who were not appraised about the reason for the Barcelona Legends game.
See, during their time here the Barcelona Legends went gorilla tracking and visited a couple of other tourism hotspots, as well as Kampala’s very lively night scene; and they interacted with many of our children under a programme with UNICEF, as well as through a scouting initiative.
All the while, they were tweeting their experiences, and getting coverage in the international media, and updating their Facebook pages – official and personal – with

Barcelona-legends-in-Bwindi-Forest
Photo: http://www.showbizuganda.com

details about this fantastic place with its magnificent tourism offerings and great, hospitable, generous, talented people.

All thanks to Tourism’s Amos Wekesa and Basketball’s Ambrose Tashobya, the two fellows who put their backs and elbows into ensuring the Legends’ plan went through, so that we reap benefits as a country.
The charity game, aka exhibition match, was just that; staged for various reasons: 1. To enable Uganda to showcase our good tourism offerings through celebrities who have a large global following; 2. To give us a platform for our soccer talent to show itself – as it did that week and on game day itself; 3. To create positive talking points around Uganda, rather than the usual negative kaboozi we sometimes like to attract and portray; 4. To open the minds of the large following of Barcelona FC to Uganda, and therefore the minds of anyone who even googles Barcelona since their results would show up the word Uganda at some point in time.
Kluivert’s goal was a major bonus for us; he tweeted a video of his goal on December 14, 2015 to his 790,000 followers and it was re-tweeted 5,096 times and got 4,227 likes within a short while. Among the people who commented was Luis Garcia with his 270,000 followers (then) watching. The video itself, by now, must have garnered more than 10million views – all saying “Uganda” in positive light.
Think about this: that goal and even the game being talked about on goal.com and other such websites gave all the Ugandan soccer players in that game visibility on the world’s premier online soccer platforms – which many of them don’t enjoy every day.
FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) has 17million followers, most of whom saw these tweets from their former players, the Legends, just as each of the major Legends’ millions of followers.
Not only that, though – Amos Wekesa, because of his intimate involvement in getting the Barcelona Legends game under way, has been off to Barcelona to push the ‘Visit Uganda for tourism’ agenda with such success that in a few weeks time you will be hearing more

Barcelona Legends in Uganda
From L-R: Ambrose Tashobya, Rayco Garcia, Edgar Davids & Amos Wekesa at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel. (Photo: http://www.safari-uganda.com)

 

about an airline called Air Europa (I won’t spoil that story by telling it prematurely), owned by Jose Jose ‘Pepe’ Hidalgo.

All this is coming to me now because the official fifteen-minute video of the Barcelona Legends visit to Uganda is finally ready for airing. It is not a video for us to gawk over here in Uganda, no. It is a video that will promote Uganda. It contains footage of the Legends enjoying themselves in this country, for anyone watching it to imagine themselves doing just that over here.
And, I have been told, the video is going to be aired soon on Barcelona TV, which has about 400million viewers worldwide, and to television stations in all Spanish speaking countries worldwide which could mean 800million viewers (probably NOT counting the United States). Besides those two, the video is also going to be aired on the French and Dutch national televisions under arrangements made by the promoters of individual Barcelona Legend players.
On top of that, the reason the promoters of the charity exhibition game undertook the venture was to set up a footballing academy here to take Ugandan players onto the bigger global stage and to give Ugandan coaches a higher level of exposure. You might have seen mention in the papers of one Geoffrey ‘Baba’ Kizito being snapped up by the Spanish team Malaga?
There is more to come.
Which is why I am changing focus this week, and hoping my compatriots do the same and wake up out of our slumber. We need to learn a bit of Spanish now, so that we make use of the opportunities being opened up by the Barcelona Legends; we need to get in touch with agents in Spain and make contacts with potential counterparts there so we absorb the tourists and businesspeople bound to take an interest in this part of the world, now that a window has been opened up.
We need to study Spain and find out what they like so that we can give it to them over here. If the Spanish like their food rich and creamy, then we need to set up menu options in specific (or ALL) restaurants for those who might make the decision to come to Uganda.
If they like dancing a certain type of dance and cannot do without it, then let’s open up those dancing rooms for them so they are not too homesick when they visit.
Actually, start with the basics and someone set up a website or a series of guide books with translations from Spanish to our local Ugandan dialects – if even 1% of all the numbers quoted above actually board a plane to Uganda (aboard Air Europa?) you will be assured of good sales!
Eventually, we will forgive the Prime Minister of Spain for his “Spain is not Uganda” comment if he contributes to his nationals coming here as tourists or businesspeople buying up our processed goods to sell in Spain and beyond, and we do enough to receive them for a neat profit.

proudly displaying the glorious beauty of the crested crane of Uganda and my own heritage


I WOKE up this Saturday to the usual avalanche of overnight WhatsApp messages, and as usual focused on the timely morning ones in the groups I value most, among which was the question: “Guyz help wiz de spelling of Crested Crane in Luga flow”.

What he meant, this friend of mine aged more or less the same as I but who obviously spends a lot of time with very young, poorly educated people, was: “Friends, kindly furnish me with the correct spelling of the word for ‘Crested Crane’ in our beloved Luganda as written by our ancestors?”

I deciphered his meaning and responded quickly with, “Engaali“, which another friend shortly thereafter corrected to “Eng’aali” – because “ng'”

Handwriting
ng’

replaces that combination letter
we use in Luganda. It gave him great pleasure to make this correction, since I am always giving my pals grief by correcting their English (with the exception of the first question of the day).

I conceded, but with the explanation that I did not have the combination letter on my keyboard and also that the spelling was acceptable my way in some contexts.

Then I concluded with: (“My grandfather was Mawesano”).

The Crested Crane is also called “Entuha” in Runyakitara languages or dialects, and shortly after my WhatsApp convo one of my cousins called Sentuwa came to mind as a shelving project his workshop, Derrick Furniture and Fittings, had made designs for last year has being looked over by an artist who was going to essay it in clay and paints.

That went by quickly until many hours later when I received a call that came in during a five-minute gap in which I was free to take it.

The caller was called Maximo Beyongyera, a young man who worked at Sentuwa’s Derrick F & F, and he was calling to make a delivery.

I have met Maximo only once, on the day he came over with Sentuwa (I use the name on its own here quite deliberately) to consider the shelving project. He is a young man, and was rather quiet on the day as we walked around talking about design and carpentry and entrepreneurship. If you knew my cousin and I together you would understand Maximo’s silence.

I had to draw him out at the end of the day to talk a little bit about his background and interest in design. He was authentic and quite keen, and very, very interested in proving that Ugandans could make the very best of things as other nationalities – hence his employment in a carpentry workshop. In which particular workshop, I must add, he was clearly well-placed, as most carpentry workshops don’t come with artists but Sentuwa is an Accountant who was also behind an IT company, so his things were bound to be different and interesting.

Our project didn’t take off, for some reason, but a couple of weeks ago Maximo wrote me an email telling me he had left Derrick F & F, and apologising over the shelving project not getting done. That was odd, as I didn’t think it was his fault or that it was his place to issue an apology.

Even more odd, but very pleasantly so, was the rest of his email which stated that since he left the employ of my cousin, “since you are a lover of art, I have been keeping an art work which I wanted to hand over to you on the day of our project’s completion because I wanted to create a relationship as far as creative art is concerned.”

I was immediately moved by the passion this employee was putting into his work, may God bless him wherever he goes only for him to continue with:

“I have attached three art works for you to choose one and take it for free and I know you will like them.”

I was licked!

mosaics
Photos and Art Pieces by Maximo Beyongyera

I found it hard to choose, but replied with gratitude and asked what the market value of the other two pieces would be, hoping that I could snap them up myself or find him some serious buyers.

The value was serious numbers – which made the offer of a free one cause me to take an even deeper breath of gratitude to him and whoever raised him!

Eventually, I found time to go over to collect my (absolutely free!) art piece from the showroom where they were kept but the caretakers there didn’t have clear instructions, so I left empty handed but having informed Maximo.

And today, he called me to make a delivery, asking that I make appropriate arrangements for him not to be turned away on arrival.

He did not want a transport refund, or even hint at compensation. He was taking off personal time to personally deliver a highly valuable work of art that he had personally created as a personal gift to be given to me as a memoir for a project that had not taken off.

I got back home in a hurry to place the piece in its appointed position, and everyone present marvelled at its composition – a mixed media piece with a shiny, glassy veneer on top of a pin board material, put together in mosaic.

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Maximo’s chosen art piece (Photo: Simon Kaheru)

In the evening, as I told my little family the story of how the art piece had arrived into our lives, I noticed the resemblance between Sentuwa’s name and the word Entuha – yet earlier this morning I did wonder fleetingly what link there was between Entuha and Eng’aali in our Bantu languages.

Well, right now Maximo Beyongyera’s piece is in a place of honour right opposite another Crested Crane by one Alfred Businge of Masindi,

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Businge’s art piece (Photo: Simon Kaheru)

whose resilience I applaud since making a living off fine art in Masindi cannot be easy.

Maximo Beyongyera’s other pieces are on display in a showroom on Old Port Bell Road, opposite the Petro Fuel Station, in Shop No. 1. But if you call him up on 0705768063 you can snap up one of the other two or commission him to do something bespoke for you.

I have seen a couple of Crested Cranes within my neighbourhood, but none has perched within my garden yet. Still, I am thankful to Maximo Beyongyera and Alfred Businge for their talent as I now have two of the birds right in my daily living space.

here’s to the angels that are our nurses; God bless you richly!


#IND2016 SKAHERU4

EVERY year since 2010 I think deeply about the medical profession. Those thoughts arise because of an experience I underwent in a hospital in Kampala, brought on by the neglect of one medical person and reversed, death to life, by the astuteness of another.
That story in full will be told another day; this story, though, is about my experiences in two hospitals last week, and a resolution to give more to the nursing profession than I, personally, have done in the recent past.
I have always had a soft spot for nurses, courtesy of my upbringing as well as bits of foreign folklore that positioned them as kind, caring, selfless individuals who tend to us during our most painful and uncomfortable times.
This foreign folklore is part of my resolution, since I am going to pay more attention to International Nurses Day – an official United Nations day that falls on May 12 – the anniversary of the world’s most famous nurse, Ms. Florence Nightingale.
As a child I heard a lot about Ms. Nightingale but she was nothing in comparison to my own favourite nurses – three aunts of mine whose dedication to their work sometimes brought tears to my eyes.
Their gentle but firm manner both at home and at work, and their solemn yet jovial attitude even in the most difficult of situations made our more serious childhood illnesses pass like a breeze when we were brought before them – which was rare, because they dealt with a much higher scale of illness and treatment than we normally suffered.
But every time we were at their wards the calls of “Sister Baguma!”, “Sister Muwonge!” and “Sister Byabakama!” were made in such earnest faith that it was obvious even to our young minds that these were serious women with means and influence.
I missed them all sorely last week as I turned up at the Uganda Heart Institute to help with a medical emergency just after midnight. Hours later, I was grateful that there were others – many others – like them.
Such was my fixation the first day that when I recognised a nurse I had in the past known to be among the most efficient at another hospital, walking through the corridors at Mulago, I panicked a little that she had left her duty station and there were likely people there who badly needed her attention and care.
I calmed down on working out that we were now the beneficiaries of her skills, and   listened as the corridor lit up with earnest faithful calls of, “Sister Assiya!”
A day or so later, we were at Nakasero Hospital for some medical tests and my patient, in the waiting area seats, was trying to squirm his way into a comfortable position befitting of his role, when a nurse walking briskly past turned back and declared:
“But that patient is not comfortable!”
Within three minutes, she had identified a free consultation room with an unused bed and laid my patient out there so he could wait for his test results and follow-on treatment in some comfort.
Reading her name off her name tag confirmed that I had never met her before – the name “Sister Abbie” would have resounded; when I bumped into her a few hours later she didn’t really recall the incident – providing care was routine for her, or she had much more important cases under her belt from that morning alone.
The difference her kind intervention made to my patient’s life could probably have bought him a few more months or years – but even the extra hours of comfort he had that morning alone made her an angel in our eyes.
It is for these angels that I will find a small contribution, besides calling your attention to May 12, International Nurses Day. The theme #IND2016 SKAHERU3of the day is ‘Nurses: A force for change – Improving health systems’ resilience’.
In the International Council of Nurses document circulated to nurses worldwide to guide the observance of this year’s International Nurses Day, I found the definition: “Resilience: the capacity to recover from difficulties.”
This made my heart applaud nurses even more because these are people whose basic work environment is fraught with difficulties. They are surrounded by the sick, the wounded, the angry, the anguished, the dirty, the needy, the dying. Every day. All the time.
They are surrounded by people who expect them to be kind, and selfless, and caring, and loving, and attentive, and all-knowing, and patient. They are surrounded by people who themselves are impatient, and unhappy, and angry, and uncertain, and anxious, and distracted, and selfish.
Yet they do their work every day and when they are irritable or flare up in anger we are quick to condemn them. We look past them hoping for ‘the Doctor’, yet they are the ones holding up health systems and holding our sick in their arms the world over.

 

These nurses are our angels right here on earth; let’s treat them that way, each of us doing the little we can to help them help us live easier lives.