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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