By Paul Ndiho, Washington DC
Tourism in Africa is rising and organizations like the Africa Travel Association (ATA) are working hard to sustain this growth, by spreading the word about places to visit in Africa. More than 600 delegates from over 30 countries are expected to attend this year’s Africa Travel Association’s world congress in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
The goal is to promote tourism, share, and experience the unique attractions Uganda offers beyond gorilla tracking, which remains the backbone of the country’s tourism industry. Edward Bergman is the Africa Travel Association’s executive director.
“Uganda of course has incredible tourism potential and has amazing tourism attractions and sights. The people are warm and hospitable, it‘s a destination where there is an increasingly growing demand for tourism, and we want to help to bring increased attention to Uganda’s tourism but also it is a very important country in Africa.
Hon. Maria Mutagamba, Uganda’s Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has pledged her full support to the ATA and has reassured the international community that the anti-homosexuality act signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni in February, was struck down by the Nation’s Constitutional Court in August and is no longer in place.
“I want to assure all the people in America and all over the world that Uganda is a democratic country. The anti-homosexuality act was a private members bill, which came to parliament and because of the excitement at the time, and our parliament passed it. Subsequently, it was signed into law by the president. But logic prevailed and when the Judiciary came in, they analyzed the grounds and it was nullified. As government we respected their decision. And so, the law is no longer in place. I want to assure everybody, to please come to Uganda. Whether you have an inclination to homosexuality or gay people or whatever or gay that is none of our business. Please come and visit our beautiful country.”
Mr. Stephen Asiimwe, the chief executive officer of Uganda Tourism Board, a government agency that is essentially charged with promoting tourism says that Uganda is gifted by nature.
“Tourism, for Uganda particularly is a very broad concept. I will begin with the most visited issue in Uganda, which is wildlife and nature. We are home to the world’s largest concentration of primates. We are looking at chimps, monkeys, baboons, apes and mountain gorillas.
Susan Muhwezi, ATA’s Uganda chapter president, says tourists should come to Uganda because of its beautiful people, its beautiful culture, the dances, the different tribes and the diversity that cannot found anywhere else.
“I am here to invite the American citizens, the tour operators, and the travelers and anyone who’s interested to realize their dream, to see the best-kept secret of Africa.”
Babra Vanhelleputte, chairperson of the Uganda Association of Tour Operators says Uganda has many unique qualities.
“We have a varied culture and very rich, we have over 56 tribes, and each one has their own dress, their own language, their own food. We have a very hospitable people, very beautiful country, all year-round summer-like conditions.”
Kelley MacTavishan, an American citizen and proprietor of Pearl of Africa Tours and travel, has lived and worked in Uganda for the last 23 years. She says that timing of this 39th congress could not have come at a better time.
“So going to Uganda with an open heart and a good mind gets you far because the people are extremely generous, very friendly, and very giving. So the weather and the people and the climate and the clothing are fabulous.”
Tourism analysts say this world class event will serve as a catalyst to promote Uganda’s investment both in international and regional tourism.