By Fiona Kamukama
The tourism industry worldwide is major contributor to the economic growth of different governments of which Uganda is inclusive. It is no surprise that Uganda is a major Tourist attraction in Africa and worldwide, Uganda is endowed with a rich biodiversity and cultural abundance. Dubbed “the pearl of Africa” by Sir. Churchill Winston, it was also listed as one the best tourism destinations in the world by CNN’s Travel Article published on January, 1st 2023.
The tourism industry, therefore, has the potential to grow and boom within Uganda’s economy and this can well be harnessed by the active participation and involvement of the youth. Youth are beaming with energy and are using modern technology to promote domestic tourism.
It should be noted that like in many countries world over, Covid-19 negatively affected the tourism industry by disrupting international and local travels yet travelling is a key element in tourism. According to the Ministry of Wildlife, Tourism and Antiquities (MWTA), there was a 69.3% decline in foreign visitors to Uganda as reported by the end of the year 2020, a 31% decrease in hotel occupancy rate, ending the year 2020 and all this was reflected by 67.75% foreign exchange earnings as well as the loss of jobs by approximately 70% of individuals working within the tourism industry by the year ending 2020.
By the end of Covid-19, the sector had an uphill task to climb to emerge from the ruins of the post Covid-19 effect. The Ministry of Tourism and its agencies that include Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the Uganda Hotel and Tourism Training Institute (UHTTI), among others, came up with the Explore Uganda program but also revitalized existing tourism programs and activities. We have all witnessed and experienced the two editions of Explore Uganda that have already been rolled out. These are the Explore Elgon and Explore West campaigns and these have greatly breathed life into the sector that had been brought to its knees following the outbreak of Covid-19.
Uganda boosts with a population of about 47 million people with the majority being youth. It is therefore, fitting to say that the future of Uganda’s tourism industry is on track. The youth are employed within the sector, some are proprietors of companies within the industry as well as photography and videography not forgetting participation as tourists. Youth have broken the financial constraints and embraced tourism activities such as the Explore Uganda campaign, Vumbula Uganda festival as well as visiting national parks and cultural sites around the country. We have youth from the Miss Tourism pageant championing the different tourism attractions in the different regions of Uganda. This has helped debunk the notion that tourism activities are very expensive and only foreigners and the rich can afford it.
It is no secret that the media has been awash with videos, photos, memes, and tweets showing various young people having a good time in one or many tourist attractions within the country. The youthful generation is quick to embrace technology and therefore the right generation to stir this industry in the right direction. Many youth use social media platforms such as twitter, Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, among others, and have used these to promote domestic and international tourism through publicizing activities such as tubing, beach parties, festivals, biking, hiking, bungee jumping, safari and camping.
The writer is a Tourism student at Makerere University