Uganda is truly the pearl of Africa’ were the words used by Sir Winston Churchill, in his book “My African Journey” to describe the beautiful country. Uganda is where the East African savannah meets the West African jungle. This impossibly lush country offers one a unique opportunity to observe lions prowling the open plains in the morning and track chimpanzees through the rainforest undergrowth the same afternoon, then the next day navigate tropical channels teeming with hippopotamus and crocodiles before setting off into the misty mountains to stare deep into the eyes of a mountain gorilla. Uganda – with its unique blend of savannah and forest creatures, its rare wealth of mountain and lake habitats – is simply dazzling. Uganda’s offers the most stunning scenery on the continent that includes sparkling lakes, lofty mountains, mysterious forests and game parks swarming with game. The private sector is encouraged to set up new tourist facilities in these locations bearing in mind the need to blend in with the contiguous scenery. Uganda’s eco-friendliness is attested to by the recent mushrooming of community-based eco-tourism projects at the grassroots level.
Uganda’s reputation as ‘Africa’s Friendliest Country’ stems partly from the tradition of hospitality common to its culturally diverse populace, and partly from the remarkably low level of crime and hassle directed at tourists. The country’s population is united in providing a warm welcome to foreign guests, so even in the smallest of villages local people will go out of their way to make tourists feel at home.
Despite all the glamour outlined about, Uganda is a relatively newcomer to today’s international tourism scene, which has benefited both the country’s natural environment and the tourism experience it offers. The country has avoided the trap of courting the mass market and instead has followed the path of eco-tourism, which ensures that any growth in the visitor numbers is sustainable and that development is not detrimental to Uganda’s natural environment and local culture.
This profile is intended to provide the potential investor with an overview of Uganda’s tourism sector, the existing attractions, Government plans and policy for the sector, the level of exploitation and the potential investment opportunities that exist. The information provided therein may not be entirely exhaustive, additional sources have been provided under useful contacts for further reference.
It is estimated that Uganda has a total of approximately 1300 registered establishments offering accommodation. Uganda has limited ‘high end’ accommodation along the basic tourists’ circuit of Murchison, Kibale, Queen Elizabeth, and Bwindi, which has 400 rooms of 2-star plus range for a daily tourist population of about 700 and 1-star range camping site for 1600 tourists. Thus making Uganda a ‘low-end’ tourist destination and being dominated by ‘backpackers’ and ‘overlanders’. The low share of foreign non-African hotel ownership in Uganda compared to Kenya and Tanzania can be attributed to this. However, of late there have been significant foreign investments in the hotel industry namely Serena Hotel, the Green Wilderness Group (Semliki Safari Lodge) and Emin Pasha Hotel.
According to DTIS, Uganda’s annual capacity of incoming international seats in 2005 from four airlines (British Airways, Emirates, SN Brussels and KLM) is 110,000, when compared to approximately 3.5m incoming seats to Nairobi via 21 international airlines, is very low. However, this annual capacity has been enhanced greatly via twelve airlines now operating scheduled international flights, which signifies increased demand and confidence. Including airlines operating through major regional hubs (Addis Ababa, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Cairo and Dar es Salaam), total capacity is 249,000 incoming seats per annum. Refer to Annex 7 for key players. There was a continuous increase in the number of non-resident visitor arrivals through Entebbe Airport since 2005. Although there was 24 percent decline in 2009 compared to 2008.
Travel agents and tour operators (including car hire companies) are key service providers in the tourism trade. There are approximately, 162 tour operators and 151 travel agencies operating in Uganda, of which 143 and 151, respectively, were based in Kampala. Of the 160 or so registered tour operators, only 35 are current members of the Association of Ugandan Tour Operators (AUTO) see Annex 9, all of whom are linked to medical facilities in Kampala including private clinics and emergency evacuation facilities. Only 16 are formally licensed (by MTTI) tour operators, conforming to standards set out in the existing tourism legislation. MTTI is responsible for registering and licensing both types of enterprises.