Africa has long been the home of the Safari. While this has paid dividends in the past, the modern tourist is more discerning. Uganda has a new campaign that demonstrates how African destinations may sustainably differentiate themselves.
Some African destinations are vulnerable to tourism fatigue. Viewing lions and elephants is fantastic, but some tourists get over the hype and expect more.
So Uganda is going a different route. They can prioritise local and regional tourism in the short term. On the other hand, they will be prepared for adventure and community-based tourism in the future.
For years, marketing Uganda as a destination relied on the region’s most recognizable assets. They famed the mountain gorilla and the Big Five wildlife. The East African nation’s various communities, bustling cities, and remote community tourism experiences remained obscured.
That narrative has evolved in recent months. Uganda Tourism Board’s new marketing campaign deviates from the status quo. The would highlight aspects of the country that few outside visitors expect. They offer a preview of what’s to come from African attractions in the post-pandemic competitive tourism business.
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While viewers may glimpse a monkey, a giraffe, or a cheetah on the prowl, the material is primarily scenes of Ugandans engaging in various outdoor adventures. They showcase their cultural and urban activities in their nation. The new pitch is to stay longer and experience Uganda’s different regions beyond the gorillas and the Big 5.
There is now an emphasis on more engaging adventure experiences. Actives such as river rafting trips, hiking in the gorilla forest, eating a dish of matooke, or mashed green bananas. Kampala has bustling nightlife scenes with tribe visits for that authentic feel.
The campaign goes as far as depicting millennials partying by a riverfront infinity pool at a luxury lodge. The promotion was launched concurrently with the destination’s rebranding as “Explore Uganda, The Pearl of Africa.”
The belief is that tourists spend more time in Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda than in Uganda. Prior branding failed to differentiate itself due to poorly executed campaigns.
There was a lack of cohesion around the notion of Pearl of Africa. Uganda has also partnered with several market researchers based in North America and Europe.
The modern visitor has evolved, and it is no longer merely wildlife that interests people. Thus, to present Uganda as a competitive destination, it was critical to highlight the additional attractions available.
Uganda tourist entrepreneurs and industry veterans expressed hope and support for the new narrative and branding efforts. The three-year campaign will begin with a focus on local and regional African markets.
It will then expand globally in 2023. Uganda Tourism Organisation (UTA), a trade association representing the private sector, initially opposed the campaign, stating it was not consulted on the new branding.
The COVID Effect
When Covid-19 struck, Uganda’s tourist industry grew at a rate of at least 20% per year for a decade—peaking at just over 1.5 million visitors and $1.6 billion in tourism revenue in 2019. Naturally, everything reversed in 2020, when the epidemic returned the country to 2005, with only a third of those visits and a 72.7 per cent reduction in tourism revenue, according to the Uganda Ministry of Tourism.
With the world opening up, Uganda saw slightly over 500,000 in 2021 and is expecting to double that figure this year. Vaccines are ready, and the country has stated that it intends to immunize the majority of its adult population by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the US State Department’s “Reconsider Travel” advice for Uganda has continued since the November 2021 bombings in Kampala.
Again, this perception affects other countries throughout the African continent.
However, this is not the case as Uganda is mainly safe for tourists leaving diplomatic missions responsible for resolving such issues. Local and regional tourism initially offered a cushion for Uganda’s tourism industry as more locals and Africans began visiting their backyards.
On the other hand, Uganda has been fortunate that they have started to receive a stream of tourists from the region, followed by foreign tourists. The fluctuating visitor flow over the last 18 months has aided in the sustainability of the tourist sector. Still, it has also enabled it to operate and, to a degree, maintain its community and conservation efforts.
Adventure Tourism a Game Changer for Community Tourism
Vos’ Kara-Tunga Tours recently teamed with six Ugandan and Dutch enterprises to establish Adventure Tourism Uganda. They will develop new cycling paths in national parks and cross-border adventure and cultural routes connecting Northeast Uganda to Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
Additionally, guides are training to satisfy future demands from outdoor travellers and capitalize on potential prospects. The Uganda Tourism Board and Uganda Wildlife Authority have endorsed the initiative.
Vos stated that the change toward community-based tourism in Uganda and distributing the economic benefits of tourism to locals began right before the epidemic. It was exacerbated by the pandemic’s consequences and the contemporary tourist demand for immersive experiences that have a direct positive influence on the host community.
Beyond wildlife spotting, the push for adventure and rural tourism is especially promising for Uganda’s remote areas, where climate change threatens the pastoral way of life. Tourism can help diversify community income and mitigate damage to natural resources.
For a country like Uganda, one of the youngest in the world, with a rapidly expanding population and rapid loss of wildness, tourism is a game-changer
Ajarova of the Uganda Tourism Board confirmed the aim for community involvement in tourism. Communities will be heavily involved in the production of new products ranging from cultural to adventure activities as they pursue the development of various types of adventure.
This contributes to Uganda tourism’s goal of promoting slower, more immersive exploration and attracting an increasing number of domestic, regional, and worldwide travellers seeking meaningful experiences.