Restarting tourism: How a team of four hopes to restore hope in Uganda’s local and foreign visitors
As the country gradually opens up to business, tourism in Uganda is slowly opening up too under strict standard operation procedures. A team of four tourism enthusiasts hopes to use social media to drum up excitement for Ugandans and foreign tourists to hit the road once more under a campaign dubbed Visit Uganda Tomorrow. JONATHAN KAMOGA caught up with one of the team members and JONATHAN BENAIAH.
What is the motive of the trips/campaign?
Our 2 Wild Weeks On The Road activation is part of a Visit Uganda Tomorrow Campaign, which was soft launched through a YouTube short film in April at a time when the global travel & tourism sector was just coming to reality with the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have dubbed this The Best Job Ever, which will be a discovery road trip geared towards geo-referencing content to showcase accessible attractions and activities for local and international visitors. The trip intends to inform but also bring back memories of some favourite wild zones and cause hope for both tourists and tourism professionals of the better days that are soon to come. Around this time every year, the tourism business in Uganda are the busiest; this is often the time when the country reaps the biggest amount of revenue from this multifaceted sector as many tourists flock to enjoy their long summer holidays in African countries like ours.
We are a team of 4 passionate creatives, who hope to use their skill to showcase some of Uganda’s beauty harnessing the power of the digital age and most of all promoting a culture of travel and to inspire not only foreign tourists but our fellow Ugandans to pick on the interest to traverse our country. If this 14-day wild roundtrip can publicize and inspire as many people to travel and put the glamour of Uganda’s flourishing wild side to the world, then we would be are happy we have met our targets.
How are you going to conduct it?
We have approached this as 4 creatives, traveling for 14 days on 4 wheels in partnership with carefully selected safari lodges and accommodations. On most of the days, we will be waking up early to catch the sunrise before we head out to the field to capture some of the rarest sightings in the little-known Ugandan countryside before retiring with the sunset. We look forward to unearthing the beauty in the amazing landscapes, wildlife, and cultures.
Our initial goal was to LIVE stream this whole campaign on digital media but there’s still a challenge in signal reception across the country, and we do not want to make empty promises. I believe this presents an opportunity for telecom companies to boost their network coverage especially in the countryside to allow tourists in the future to share their experiences in real-time and also LIVE stream some of their journeys to friends and family at home which we believe goes a very long way in pushing destination visibility out there. High value yet free marketing for us through word of mouth. We will try however to hold a special tour of Sipi Falls on the first day of the trip (Saturday 18th July 2020 at 2PM GMT+3) with two local guides.
The campaign is intentionally centered on Social Media, as we believe that platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram currently have a captive audience that tourism professionals and agencies can feed useful content to keep potential travelers dreaming about our beautiful destination. We will use #VisitUgandaTomorrow as our main hashtag supported by two other hashtags #RestartTourism and #TravelTomorrow. We have rallied countless tourism professionals and previous local and international tourists to also share their past experiences using these hashtags as we slowly move into an easing period.
At the end of it all, we hope to share a story of our experiences on the road in video, photo and written form.
How do you feel about it personally?
For someone as passionate to show the world my beautiful homeland, I would be kidding if I said I don’t have butterflies in my tummy every single morning! We are used to being on the road as tourism professionals and these have been some of the toughest months ever. I am super pumped by the thought to be back on the wild dirt roads for a cause as noble as sharing a bit of the limitless beauty of my country. I am over the moon, to say the least.
What places are you visiting and what informed them?
Last week the hashtags were already trending, thanks to all our friends, partners, media colleagues and previous visitors to Uganda. The trip officially kicks off on 18th July 2020 and will start with a visit to the unpopular east. We will drive through the northeastern corner and continue to northwestern Uganda wrapping it up with the popular west before returning to Kampala on the 31st of July. It is a self-guided tour with the help of key informers guides who we will meet at different destinations to offer the less-known Information.
The highlights include Sipi Falls, Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, Moroto, Kidepo Valley National Park, the mighty Murchison Falls, the currently vulnerable Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, down to Semliki, past the Kibale area and ending in Queen Elizabeth National Park. As you can see our selection includes some familiar names and couple of hidden treasures especially in the underrated Eastern region which we have for a long time been advocating for to be included in the tourist circuit and on tour operator itineraries. We have a couple of unpopular wild reserves which will help in opening up people’s eyes to some new products and destinations to visit post-lockdown in addition to the dominant destinations on the western side of the country. Unfortunately, with primate tourism still on hold, we cannot explore the chimpanzee and gorilla parks at the moment. However, together with the lads we have been joking about a second season that would be led by our female colleagues.
Our choice of lodge partners features a mix of African architecture. We wanted to taste some lower range, midrange as well as high-end properties, especially those with a link to sustainability and conservation practices. Some were selected due to their newness in the market, and who doesn’t want to experience something new. We have a mix of both locally owned and foreign owned facilities.
We call upon everyone in Uganda and beyond to keep an eye on our social media accounts, follow the hashtags but also contribute plenty of content as we promote the beauty of this land free of charge.
Brian O. Jonathan, an aerial photographer and tourism enthusiast
Charles Mwesigwa, our campaign manager
The man behind the wheels, Brian Ahereza who is also a content creator.