tourism promotion? uganda has it all except, apparently, the ‘capacity’ to turn potential into reality


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IN the month of May, after the Innovation Africa Digital conference at the Speke Resort Munyonyo, I wrote an article about how Uganda needs to stop missing events and meetings, so we bag more benefits from them.
In that article, I wrote “in September, Uganda will be hosting another massive gathering of ICT people, at ‘Capacity Africa 2017’. They were here last year and loved it so much they chose to return instead of rotate to another African country.”
They did – and were here from last weekend.
Some of them might still be here, though many have flown out.
I attended the Conference, at the Kampala Serena Hotel, and even got to be a Speaker, besides interacting with Managing Directors, Chief Executive Officers and other high-sounding titles of companies engaged in providing internet access around the world.
More importantly, I pushed and prodded the visitors to go out and spend their money on tourism, entertainment, and shopping of local products.
At last year’s version of the event, I took some people to tourist hotspots like Bwindi and Jinja, and they told a few of their friends about it so we benefitted from the word of mouth factor.
I will deliberately not name anyone in this particular article, so that all the people involved stop and think about their lives, as I am thinking about mine.
I was flummoxed one evening when I bumped into one of the topmost Tourism Promotion people in Uganda at the entrance of the Serena as I was walking towards the marquee holding an evening drinks reception event for the delegates.
“Chief!” he said, after finishing a lengthy phone call with one of his superiors as I listened in, “What’s happening here?”
I told him. I wasn’t arrogant enough to assume that he had read, at random, one of my articles that mentioned ’tourism’ and ‘Uganda’, or that he had a Google alerts system set up for those two words posted online together.
Now that I have typed that sentence out, I am going to suggest to him that this would be a good use of his government-provided internet access. It would enable him to monitor all online mention of ‘tourism’ and ‘Uganda’, so he can take advantage of all opportunities and ideas and whatnot around those two.
I urged him to walk with me and led him down the Serena walkway to a point where we could look down onto the marquee, which was full of people buzzing with drinks and hor d’ouvres.
After I told him what we were doing he saw no reason whatsoever to take the conversation further along his line of work, and left.
Very late into that night, I met five of the delegates who had come in early so they could go to see Mountain Gorillas and had spent the week enthusing about the experience.
Minutes later, I met another delegate from Spain whose favourite holiday destination was Cape Town until last weekend when he arrived in Uganda.
“You guys!” he shouted above the music and in between dropping kisses onto the cheeks of one of the ladies in the group, “This country is amazing! You don’t know what you have got here! The weather is always great! The people are wonderful – beautiful (another kiss on the cheek)! And you have wildlife and rivers and lakes?!!! This is my favourite country in the world!”
He is coming back on holiday. I confirmed this with him the next day as we drank water in clearer circumstances.
But then, shortly after that a young Ugandan fresh out of university approached me with an angry tale about a delegate he had met on the flight into Uganda who was excited to be coming to Kampala.
This young Ugandan was having breakfast at the Acacia Mall when he spotted the fellow alighting from a boda boda, on the roadside.
He was astonished and went over to find out what was happening with this foreigner, then noticed that he was wearing a shirt bearing the hotel logo.
His luggage had gone missing, the delegate explained, and he was now searching for a forex bureau so he could change money and buy some clothes for the week.
The young Ugandan helped with directions and watched the delegate leave, and berated me – ME – over issues such as:
Why did the prestigious hotel NOT give this guy forex services, instead of sending him out on his own? By the time they had provided a shirt for him, surely they could have enquired into how to solve his problem for him. Why is there no ready information everywhere – right from the airport – about where to find things like forex bureaux? How is it possible that a delegate to a Conference of this nature can get onto a boda boda so casually and be gallivanting around town without…

 

I cut him short. 

Next week he will be meeting with the top Tourism official to state his questions directly to him, in my absence. I will be too busy emailing as many of those delegates as possible, inviting them back here on private visits and encouraging them to enjoy Uganda at length in the near future.

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Uganda! don’t let the sun go down on another opportunity at the next eclipse


THIS week people in the United States enjoyed a solar eclipse so much that even I got a notification on Monday evening that I needed to prepare to look up into the sky right here in Kampala.

I thought it incredulous that we could be expected to see a solar eclipse in the middle of the night, and straight away forgot to look up at the appointed hour. Americans, including those Ugandans who have changed citizenship and location, created surprisingly excited chatter that made me focus on more important things than my WhatsApp groups.

Having survived the experience without a hitch, I was slightly irritated on Wednesday morning to receive a link to a story advising Americans not to throw away their solar eclipse viewing glasses, but to collect them for Uganda.

The impression the headline created in my mind was that I belong to a country of hand-me-downs for almost anything and everything. Considering that we had our solar eclipse before America did, surely we should be counted as being more advanced at least in that one respect? (please calm down – my tongue is stuck fast within cheek there).

I mean, we made our own solar eclipse viewing devices back then without anyone handing stuff down to us!

The cloud of resentment under which I approached the story was quickly eclipsed by a bright spark of hope at the news that we, in Uganda, would soon be having ANOTHER eclipse viewing event, but not of the solar kind.

Next year, Uganda will enjoy a Total Lunar Eclipse!

Uganda Eclipse

Now, this is not exciting news simply for the scientific value or for meteorological enthusiasm, if that’s the phrase an educated person would choose.

That story I read told me about a group of enthusiasts called Astronomers Without Borders, who are excited about such things. It is a global community with membership in most countries round the world. Uganda has two (2) members listed there, and bigger economies have hundreds of them.

Opportunity? But of course!

Not to hire tents and chairs and drive them to locations for speeches to be held starting with an LC 1 Chairman granting permission for the gathering to happen – NO!

This is a direct, automatic opportunity for our Tourism marketing people to go directly to everybody who might be interested in viewing the Total Lunar Eclipse in Uganda and invite them here with special packages and privileges. 

Restaurants and hotels must immediately begin designing special offers for all these people – who are even listed by name, if you choose to find them using the internet.

And we don’t even have to work hard at it. We can copy directly from what the Americans have just done – within seconds of checking I found a website that predicted that millions would be traveling to and around the country just to catch their solar eclipse.

One fellow suggested that, “The sum estimate from (his) analysis is that between 1.85 and 7.4 million people will visit the path of totality on eclipse day.” – that’s on https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/.

A couple of other websites detailed many different ways in which they marketed or could market merchandising and experiences and hundreds of other economy-boosting things that made the eclipse a money-making activity for hundreds of Americans and their businesses!

What are we doing, ladies and gentlemen?  

We have had these conversations before, and it is scary to imagine that we still might not get it right.

There are few excuses – especially when the internet tells you that the Lunar Eclipse will happen on Friday, July 27, 2018 at exactly 11:21pm.

“This total lunar eclipse is fully visible in Kampala. The total lunar eclipse is sometimes called a blood moon, as the Moon turns red,” reads on website – basically writing out our Tourism Marketing copy for us!

We have a one-year head start, organisations like the Uganda Tourism Board and Astronomers Without Borders, and lessons from other countries that have just done this. 

Surely – what more do we need?

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


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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.