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Uganda shines at World Travel Market

Uganda shines at World Travel Market ( Uganda once again reaffirmed itself as East Africa's number one tourist destination at this year's World Travel Market (WTM) exhibition held at Excel London from November 10-13, 2008.

From a survey conducted from the thousands of guests who visited the Ugandan stand, it was noted that Uganda was once again the most sought after destination in East Africa albeit the continuous under-funding to Tourism Uganda.

Uganda's success has come a long way. Efforts to make this year's show a success started in Kampala where the Uganda Tourist Board, on realizing its constraints, decided to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), Civil Aviation Authority, and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to market Uganda.

This was followed by a pre WTM event cocktail at Metro pole Hotel – Kampala on September 28, 2008 where AUTO presented a check of US$10,000 to the WTM 2008 organizing committee. Another cocktail meant for suppliers was held at Eclipse Restaurant in London. For the first time, Uganda had a storied stand and all participants from Uganda showed unity in purpose.

The several wholesalers who visited the Ugandan stand noted that over the past few years Uganda had become a “stand alone" destination. In the past, many international and regional tour operators offered Uganda as “an add on" extension to Kenya and Tanzania. However, now there is such a great demand by consumers to spend their entire time in Uganda as it is emerging as a long-haul destination especially for specialty tours. As tourists at all price levels become more sophisticated in the global market, value in addition to price becomes a critical element in the decision to visit one destination rather than another.

Also to note is the fact that international tourism and its markets are facing unprecedented change as a result of rapidly-evolving technologies, the credit crunch, and exchange rates that are now leading holiday makers to shun expensive foreign holidays.

Research from insurance specialist Tower Gate Bakers reveals, 65 percent of Britons will be switching to cheaper holidays over the next 12 months so as to beat the crunch. The credit crunch is an indicator that the development of tourism will continue to be driven by the attitudes of consumers in the source markets.

With the economic situation worsening, 2009 actually represents a golden opportunity for Uganda to strengthen the Uganda Tourist Board through implementation of the Tourism Act that was passed earlier this year.

Considering that Uganda is competing on the world market with the sole aim of penetrating it, it is necessary for emphasis to be put on quality products at competitive prices but most of all to offer the unique products with a Ugandan approach.

Government's full support is also needed to further promote Uganda's unique features at the upcoming exhibitions in Germany, Spain, Russia, Japan, and South Africa and also to explore the United States of America. This will enable Uganda to claim its rightful position as the most rewarding destination in East Africa.

When we challenge the impossible in life, we most often get the best possible. Companies known to share responsibility for this challenge of marketing Uganda are African Pearl Safaris, Abacus African Vacations, Acacia Safaris, Amazing Safaris, Asyanut Safaris, Atlas Tours, Bunyonyi Safaris, Brovad Tours, Crystal Tours, Jewel Safaris, Travelust, Lets Go Tours, Lake Kitandara Tours, and Metro pole Hotel. These companies deserve recognition for the service to promote Uganda.

The critical factor for Uganda's success at this year's show is accountability as everything else flows from that. The Uganda Tourist Board (Tourism Uganda) is yet to call members for a post-WTM meeting where a full report on accountability and future marketing plans will be unveiled.

Geoffrey Baluku Board Member Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) Cell: +256 752 975 961

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