marketing Uganda requires more common sense, imagination, preparation and seriousness


Jakob_World_Cross_Country
Photo from https://www.sportstalenthub.com

AS a child I always found the examinations titled ‘General Paper’ intriguing and useful. I don’t recall really studying for it, but had to answer questions on a wide range of things that I always found more interesting than the regular subjects we were examined on.

I recall questions like, ‘What are the advantages to a country of hosting the World Cup?’ and answering them with relish even though I had no memory of class notes to rely on in providing my answers.

When I asked around for the rationale of this paper I was told that it was designed to broaden our scope of thinking; to make us more imaginative.

Later on in life, right up till last weekend, I often ponder that particular question and feel a little flabbergasted that we don’t appear to study this subject seriously enough.

Last Sunday the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) World Cross Country Championships 2017 were held in Kampala, as most people resident here only realised on the day itself.

There was a hue and cry in most circles about the lack of publicity – with at least one newspaper article published in the same space that had carried stories about this event for a number of weeks.

I was too busy to assess why the publicity was low in Kampala or Uganda, and I wasn’t clear about the communication objectives of the organisers of this – the biggest global sporting event Uganda had ever hosted. Ever.

Most countries try to ensure that global sporting events of this nature are heavily attended so that they showcase to the world at large how fun-loving, vibrant, colourful, entertaining and high-spirited their citizens are.

Sports, in general, makes the worlds of television, tourism, investment and marketing go round.

Anyone who doesn’t understand that sentence there must be stopped from getting involved in any initiative to do with Sports, Tourism, Investment and National Marketing at ANY level. From the managers of the events themselves to the people who should have sold hundreds of Rolexes to everyone who came into Uganda to be part of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships 2017.

The complaints about lack of publicity made sense on some level but cannot be blamed on the organisers themselves. The announcement that Kampala would host these races was made back in November 2014, and it was made public in the media and on the internet.

Still, for some reason there are Ugandans who believe that we constantly need to be reminded about things that we have already been told. Those are the same ones who will tell you that when you agree to hold a business meeting with them, you must additionally send them frequent reminders about the meeting.

We need fewer of these Ugandans in existence. More importantly, we need fewer of them in positions of authority and in the private sector.

Instead, we need to culture and develop Ugandans who will read all newspaper articles carefully with a view to identifying opportunities where they lie. Serious Ugandans, on reading back in 2014 that we would be hosting the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, would have taken many sensible steps.

Besides those who would have stepped up their training, like Kiplimo, and aimed to win a Gold Medal without paying for an air ticket to participate for glory in a far off land, the rest should have locked in the contacts of the IAAF (which sent, perhaps, a hundred officials) and the individual teams – the biggest number ever at 59 teams of more than 550 athletes.

A simple internet search reveals the email addresses of most of these teams within three clicks.

After getting those contacts, any hotel or tour company or rolex stand should have sent them offers and invitations directly to take up product and service offerings. And that only if the official organisations were incapable, unwilling or unable (for reasons that cannot be stated politely) to make the necessary connections.

In organised societies, the reasons large events such as these are managed by professionals running the national organisations in charge of marketing, investment and tourism, is because every time the world is focused on one country for an event it means billions of eyes and dollars are pointed there.

It was good that the website www.visituganda.com was visible on the bibs of the runners, but after that the people in charge should have ensured that the photos of the race winners as they cross the finishing line are posted EVERYWHERE AROUND THE WORLD.

Our planning for events of a national nature needs to be more pointed and take into account the objectives for which these events are staged in the first place.

Perhaps we need more of these people to study ‘General Paper’ – common sense studies that build the imagination.

tourism is everybody’s business – on world tourism day


baby-gorillaWHOEVER in Uganda coined the phrase “Tourism is everybody’s business” meant very well and should be explained better.
Tourism IS everybody’s business, in any nation that values the business of tourism.
We, all of us and everybody, plug into tourism both as beneficiaries and contributors to the business in more ways than most people actually recognise, and if we all stopped to think about it starting this World Tourism Day then we would all be the better for it.
Follow the path of Mr. & Mrs. Joe and Mary Tourist, from a foreign country of your choosing.
Before they actually make their holiday plans and decide on a country to visit, they are most likely going to do a little bit of research on the countries on the list. Regardless of what their passion is – be it walking with gorillas, trotting alongside chimpanzees, whitewater rafting, zip-lining in the Mabira, eating muchomo and Rolleggs, or going on game-heavy drives, they will want to check which country has the best offers.
The offers they will google for will not only be activity related but the additional things as well – security, hospitality and friendliness, efficiency, the general atmosphere and so on and so forth.
They will not restrict their google search to what the governments or politicians or hotels and restaurants say, but they will also check what the bloggers post and the tweeps from the different countries say, as well as what other people say about Ugandans in general.
That’s the ‘Word of Mouth’ element.
Their source of tourism information will also include ‘everybody’, as ‘everybody’ will have operated as country marketing and public relations officer by way of what they say about the country.
After the bookings are done, Mr. & Mrs. Joe and Mary Tourist head over to the country and arrive at the airport or border crossing point. Of course the people that they interact with are principally the government and commercial officials that handle their transportation and other things, but there are other aspects of their arrival into the country that ‘everybody’ has an input into.
See, the ordinary travellers in the various queues and in the same general area as our tourists form part of the pleasurable (or otherwise) experience that the tourists enjoy. I’ve been to countries where I’ve seen people turn their faces to the side and spitting heavy amounts of disgusting material onto the floor, with no-one batting an eyelid. I mentally began preparing to cut short that particular trip right there as soon as it had began, just because of that experience.
When the officials at these various desks are polite and courteous Joe and Mary Tourist will not be surprised because they expect them to be so – they are being paid and have been trained to be this way. When the ordinary people milling about them are also polite and courteous then our tourist couple will be writing blog posts, tweets and WhatsApp messages back home saying, “This place is great!”
Meanwhile, those polite and courteous everyday people that smile at Joe and Mary Tourist with no ulterior motive have no idea that their demeanour is marketing Uganda much more than a paid television campaign probably would.
And, in most cases, they do not realise that their unintentional efforts get rewarded directly by way of Joe and Mary Tourist spending money.
First, the bookings they make always attract a certain amount of taxation that goes into the coffers that the government collects from to build roads, fund schools and hospitals, and spend on other essentials such as defence and security.
Then, when Joe and Mary Tourist buy a cup of freshly ground Ugandan coffee on arrival at Entebbe International airport, or pork ribs at a stop en route from Entebbe to Kampala, or take a taste at a roadside market of their first washed and massive fresh and organic fruits and vegetables grown right here in Uganda, the money they spend goes straight into the economy, having originated from whatever country they flew in from.
Plus, everything they consume and purchase is in most cases grown or manufactured or processed by locals who find themselves earning a living because Joe and Mary Tourist have chosen to visit Uganda,
That is very different from the money you and I spend while we go about life in Uganda, because all we are doing is re-distributing the wealth that is already within the economy. A thousand Uganda Shillings in my pocket right now at my typing desk in Kahangwe, Hoima may go to the receptionist at Shiyaya Tours & Travel to pay for something there but that doesn’t change the amount of money in circulation within the Ugandan economy. But when Joe and Mary Tourist bring in a thousand Uganda Shillings from their country of origin they are increasing the amount of money in circulation inside the Ugandan economy.
Besides the amounts that we get to keep in our pockets as direct earnings from Mr. & Mrs. Joe and Mary Tourist, a certain portion of the money they spend goes into the coffers of the government because the various bits of that money are taxed by way of VAT and other commercial taxes levied on all these items – from the drinks and eats they consume to the crafts they buy and the fuel used to convey them from place to place.
So the beneficiary of tourism is not just the commercial entities engaged in tourism and the people employed directly by the sector.
Understanding this chain of benefits from the tourist to the ordinary Ugandan is an essential part of the efforts of the Competitiveness Enterprise and Development Project (CEDP) intervention in tourism.
Creating this understanding among ordinary Ugandans will better gear us to directly identifying what opportunities are available to us as a result of increased tourism, as well as how we can directly contribute to that increased tourism.
The World Bank alongside CEDP, has invested US$1.5million in hiring three PR and Marketing firms to promote Uganda as a tourism destination – specifically in the UK and Northern Ireland, Germany and parts of Europe, and the United States of America.
The efforts of these PR and Marketing firms will result in increased numbers that must be met with increased production and servicing across the industry – right from the additional mouths to feed to the need for much higher quality products – accommodation, transport, activities and more.
The performance indicators for the CEDP initiative are an increase of tourists to 1,500,000 (one million five hundred thousand) international visitors into Uganda, up from 945,000 in 2010 and 1,206,000 in 2013.
As those PR and Marketing firms go about doing their promotion and representation of Uganda abroad, we – the private sector – should be finding out what else Joe and Mary Tourist might be interested in, so we offer it to them almost intuitively and have them saying the right things about Uganda to their friends and relatives and perpetuating the Word of Mouth cycle.
Because Joe and Mary Tourist, once they have visited Uganda, will join the team ‘Marketing Uganda.
You see, Tourism is everybody’s business – including the tourists themselves.

katwe is our land of opportunity, and phionah mutesi will be our queen


If you didn’t read this first one here about the Queen of Katwe, then start there.
THE day is finally upon us, more or less. On October 1 and 2, the movie ‘Queen of Katwe’ will premiere in Kampala, Uganda, and it will make its European debut at the BFI Film Festival in London on October 9, 2016 – Independence Day!
This is not an occasion for us to scramble for tickets to attend the event and show off our newest purchase of imported clothing and make up – NO!
 So far, with the limited time available to an individual human being such as myself, reading through the tens of thousands of positive comments about the movie and its themes, focus, content and elements reminds me of what I said on these pages back in January – let’s wake up and use the opportunity given to us by the gallant Phionah Mutesi and her supporters in this cause.
The movie premiered in Toronto, Canada at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and will enjoy what is called a “limited release” in North America on September 23, 2016. A “limited release” in the world of entertainment means that the movie will play in selected theatres across North America (the United States of America) so that the film owners and promoters gauge exactly how well it will be received before they blitz it full on to the rest of the world.
Not only that – from the comments it is receiving, this movie might make it to the Oscars…meaning that if we play our cards right we might be mentioned at the world’s most watched movie event some time next year – watched live in more than 200 countries last year.
This is not a joke, and it is not a minor achievement either, so our involvement should not be just tweeting and posting it to Facebook, #Uganda! Start planning how to promote this country’s offerings to those 200 countries at the next Oscars, lazima.
There are some short-sighted (mentally) people who have failed to see this for what it is and have therefore not even done the most simple of tasks like even creating a Map of Katwe…
Where is Katwe, exactly? Where is the house in which Phionah Mutesi was raised? Where is the first chess board she used ever, in her now globally famous life? What did she eat as a child growing up that made her so intelligent? Was it a Rolleggs (pronounced Rolex, but no-one ever sued for trademark infringement because of pronunciation)?
Should we be tagging our Rolleggs promotion onto the movie ‘Queen of Katwe’? Of course – THAT is what this opportunity means. The forward thinking people in charge of promoting Uganda, or interested in making some money out of both global and local events will see this.
See, while some characters here were making fun of Uganda’s Rolleggs activities last month, others were launching the dish in European capitals so well that we have in the last three weeks seen organic photographs of Rolleggs vans, menu cards and billboards taken in Denmark, Washington DC and London.

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Viral photograph sent by WhatsApp

My sincere hope is that those were taken in establishments owned by Ugandans who will be sending some of that money here to invest on the Stock Exchange or in poultry farms in the village, but even if that is not the case, we still have what economists call backward linkages.

Thank God that while the majority of us sleep or gripe when these things happen, there are some who spot the smallest sliver of opportunity and turn it into massive returns. The photograph from London (I think it was) showed a menu board offering up the Rolleggs as “Ugandan street food”.
That may look like a small matter but the chain of events involves someone walking down the street and spotting this then thinking, “This ‘Uganda’ place has street food? Interesting. I should Google it…”
Which means we should be working at making sure that when someone googles “Uganda” henceforth, they find the right things to make them gather up their money and bring it over here as tourists or business people or shoppers or hungry people with a penchant for Rolleggs in their different formats.
If, on their flight down here in an aeroplane that has in-flight video options, they watch the movie that is hot off the reels (‘Queen of Katwe’), they will spot David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga wearing those beautiful Ugandan outfits and will figure that they should get themselves some of those while they are here.
As they think that they will be listening to the soundtrack and even though Alicia Keys has stolen the show by recording “Back to Life” spontaneously to much acclaim, she has said A LOT about Uganda. She even posted a photograph of herself wearing a gomesi, so our designers should be stitching up a storm to receive all her fans’ orders for their own editions of that beautiful dress style, along with other clothing as colourfully depicted by all the actors in the movie.
Have our Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Export Promotion Board and Uganda National Bureau of Standards been holding meetings and workshops with the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda to actualise these possibilities?
Maybe.
Ask them. Send them emails asking them how YOU can benefit and get involved in turning this potential and possibility into actuality and profit.
The whole of Canada is now talking about Queen of Katwe and Uganda, so get in touch with the Canadian High Commission to establish what queries they are getting about Uganda so you are in position to respond and deliver whatever the Canadians find interesting in Uganda basing on what aspect of the movie excited them.
After the entire world has watched it, really, what will our excuse be? It’s bad enough that more than half of the movie was filmed in South Africa…let’s not have the same percentage of the opportunity and benefit go elsewhere as well.
YOU are a resident of Katwe. Phionah Mutesi is YOUR Queen.
PHIONA-MUTESI

visa fees into Uganda lowered by 50%, making Uganda tourism the cheapest thrill in Africa…another missed opportunity


The first part of that headline above is the kind of thing we call another missed opportunity.

Today is July 21, 2016.

I am approaching the highly exciting news that Uganda has amended the cost of single entry visas payable on arrival at ports of entry from US$100 to US$50, effective today.
This piece of news is of great economic significance for the entire country at large as it makes us more attractive for tourists in general because it enables our tour operators to offer more competitive packages (especially when you consider that you get a lot more wildlife and other tourism-related experiences for your bucks when you spend in Uganda compared to other countries in the region).
It also brings to an end many months of agonising, lobbying and jostling with the government to lower these fees – which were increased in July last year from US$50 to US$100.
I am not here to talk about the tourism aspects of the announcement, but the COMMUNICATION around it – because THAT  has made the excitement of this announcement is as tasty as a soggy piece of photocopying paper.
Which WAS the ‘official communication’ around this – A BLACK AND WHITE PAGE OF PHOTOCOPYING PAPER with not even a watermark to indicate that it was a genuine and authoritative government document. If it wasn’t for the two holes that indicate that a punching machine was used to make the document appropriate for insertion into a file, one would not believe it to be official.
Here it is:
Tourism Visa Fees Lowered
See, ‘Circular 3, 2016’ is on a letterhead of the Directorate of Citizenship & Immigration Control whose email address (which I am copying this link to) is imm@africaonline.co.ug – a domain that is surprisingly ‘co.ug’ rather than ‘go.ug’ that would make you believe it is run by the government.
Maybe the ‘co.ug’ means it is businesslike? No – the email address bounces back mail!
I swear  – see:
Anyway, the sogginess of the announcement is mostly because the people announcing it have taken that annoyingly lazy and ubiquitous path of scanning a document and WhatsApping it around and claiming to have communicated.
The missed opportunity here is massive – which reminds me of the saying often attributed to Thomas Alva Edison, that inventor of things such as the lightbulb: “We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work,” he is reputed to have said!
Whoever is in charge of announcing this Single Entry Visa change was clearly afraid of doing a little bit of work around it.
This is the kind of announcement that needs:
  1. To be accompanied by images and graphics of happy, smiling tourists of all ethnicities very excitedly receiving change or balance at Entebbe airport as they pay for their entry visa, with mountain gorillas and other wildlife in the backdrop waiting to receive them.
  2. To go into funny video memes depicting the excitement at paying much less to holiday in Uganda.
  3. To be translated into as many languages as exist countrywide and then circulated to all embassies.
  4. To get posted online onto ALL government websites.
  5. To get posted online onto ALL websites of Ugandan embassies and foreign missions.
  6. To be given to ALL tour and travel and hospitality companies to share no their platforms and websites.
  7. To be made colourful and vibrant and welcoming and enticing – which even nursery schools do when they paint their walls in bright colours and use smiling cartoon characters, so that parents and children alike choose them rather than a mango tree…
  8. To be carried VERY LOUDLY AND PROMINENTLY by the Uganda Tourism Board, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, and everybody with an interest in seeing our tourism numbers grow.
  9. To be given to the three Tourism Marketing and Public Relations Promotion Firms contracted a few months ago to promote Uganda, so that they make a big meal out of it in those markets they are covering – the UK and Northern Ireland, Germany and Europe, and the United States.
It is not too late to salvage this and do all the above.
For God and My Country.
Update: @PaulKaheru asked for a sample poster and I have to share this, below, which was released an hour or so after this blog post and would have made for a much, much, much better announcement than the letter sent by WhatsApp – so kudos to the Minister:
Hon Frank Tumwebaze Visa Fees Lowered
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take up opportunities in tourism NOW, since Uganda has signed up international PR firms to promote our tourism


AS our Members of Parliament made their vows at the start of the week my mind was on two unrelated events on either side of their solemn activity, creating a sandwich of thoughts that I am quite happy to share here.
The MPs have sworn to work for us with the help of God.
Their combined job, as the Legislature, is to be representative of the people of Uganda; make the laws that we want to be used to govern us; and check the Executive we have chosen to come up with policies under which our society will be managed in a manner that will enable us to prosper.
Some of these Parliamentarians will be asked to join the Executive, while most will stay in the House where they will meet regularly to consider the affairs of the Nation in Plenary, through Committees, Caucuses, and getting feedback directly from us, their employers, directly or indirectly through the media and other channels.
For the next five years we will keep reminding the Parliamentarians of the humility they showed us during the campaigns and the ‘down-to-earth’ antics they adopted to convince us they are “of the people”, so that they don’t go off on lofty tangents that have nothing to do with us.
We will bring many issues before them and push them to deliver on them within their mandate. My first issue for them is what, for me, sandwiched their swearing-in – and it is an issue all Ugandans need to take up in whatever way they can.
Rewind to the first event: Over the weekend I was in Adjumani to pay my last respects at the burial of the wife of Mohammed Kabba, a friend and colleague. In the midst of his anguish and grief, Mohammed, a passionate Patriot with surprisingly diverse interests, took the opportunity to show us the ‘Adjumani Tree’.
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The ‘Adjumani Tree’. Photo by Simon Kaheru
He said the tree, a Tamarind, was many decades old, and it stood grandly in the courtyard of the Adjumani mosque providing shade to the mourners and a nice stand for a number of bicycles. The legend in Adjumani is that the tree marks the spot where, back in the day, the Madi (I believe they were) who had serious disagreements with each other would congregate to reconcile.
Whereas normally the Madi walked around holding axes, when they got to the Adjumani tree for a reconciliation ceremony they were required to take spears with them – the purpose for which I have not yet established.
In the backdrop of this little tale and its location was Deputy Prime Minister and one-time Minister of Tourism, Gen. Moses Ali. I walked over to him to make the appropriately respectful sounds, and mentioned that that spot could easily be turned into a tourism attraction. I left that thought there to proceed with the solemn issues at hand.
Had I more time on my hands I would have spent it going into some detail over the missed opportunities in Adjumani just because they had not recognised this tree as a potential tourism attraction.
On our drive up to the district we took the first of two turns left to Adjumani. We eventually discovered that this was a “security road” and is not generally in use now that the Atiak road is so well-tarmacked and the road from there to Adjumani is a much better grade of murram (laterite).
The thick, bushy vegetation beside this disused road keeps you searching hopefully for the sight of wildlife, and wistfully at possible forest trails that would be full of thrills and adventure, a massive campsite just waiting for tents, campfires and people.
Cue to the second event, two days later, sandwiching the MPs oaths – Uganda signing contracts with international Tourism Public Relations firms.
I was part of the process, in some small way, and proudly so because I believe strongly in the power of communication and the need for appropriate marketing. As the ceremony was taking place, I fielded a few questions from friends within the travel industry who were concerned that the US$1.5million was going elsewhere rather than to firms such as my own.
The firms, which my partners have written about here, are Kamageo, KPRN Networks, and PHG Consulting. Each is handling a different market, respectively: the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland; Germany, Austria and Switzerland; and North America. (I suspect I will be talking or writing more about this later on, judging from some of the comments I’ve seen on various platforms elsewhere).
The fears were besides the point, I explained, because the work to be done by the foreign marketing and PR firms is specifically within the realm of tourism and travel in those markets where they operate for the cardinal objective of increasing the number of tourists coming to Uganda.
That doesn’t leave us helpless or in a sitting position waiting for tourists to arrive; if we all identify tourist attractions and opportunities such as the Adjumani tree, and get our respective local leaders and entrepreneurs to develop them, then we will give these PR firms a lot more to work with as they storm the travel industry and media in Europe and the United States.
On the Adjumani Tree alone, if we can unearth the legend of reconciliation and, perhaps, get a few warring politicians to meet at that tree and emerge as best of friends, perhaps we can convince thousands or millions of unhappy siblings, couples and politicians to make reconciliation pilgrimages there?
Every district, Constituency and probably village has a likely tourism attraction that needs to be identified, developed, and then promoted – which is exactly what the foreign marketing and PR firms need in order to give us more value for the dollars being spent.
As the MPs take up their seats in those pews, have them think of this so they make it government policy and ensure it is implemented, just as we all should wherever we are in Uganda.
Find your spot in this tourism sector and occupy it.