Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Inter Parliamentary Union meeting gives Uganda new tourism frontiers

Apart from being the first time an East African country is hosting the 126th Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference, the meeting of parliamentarians from around the world in Kampala, also comes in the year when Uganda celebrates her 50th anniversary. What’s more, it is the first time Uganda’s parliament has ever had a female speaker, Rebecca Kadaga. These milestones make it an historical event, worth all the attention it is receiving.

The attention has been matched by the glamour and buzz outside of the summit’s main docket - discussing maternal health and.

Hosting the IPU did not come easily and many Ugandan officials believe it is a big opportunity for the country. The spokesperson for IPU organising committee Michael Bayiga Lulume (MP) says it is an occasion to showcase Uganda, and capitalise on it being named as the top tourist site by Lonely planet, the world’s largest travel guide book and digital media publisher recently.

“People come here knowing they will get time to relax and go site seeing. That means they come with money to spend while in the country,” Lulume said. “We are encouraging them to go to town and check our entertainment spots and other fun places – we want them to spend as much as possible.”

But it is not Ugandans dreaming of the success of the event, the visitors too, are taking note of the beauty of the country. Choi Young-Hee, a Korean Member of Parliament says, “Since the country is close to the equator, I thought it would be so hot. But I am mesmerised by your weather. It is so beautiful. I also like the natural environment and that your hotels are not enormous like those in Korea. The structure of hotels here have a good ambience – the simplicity is relaxing.”

She adds, “I was also amused at how so many people are living in small houses that are iron sheet roofed. Yet uphill along the road from the airport are a few luxurious houses that looked like palaces. I am hoping that I will be able to see more of the country.”

All booked up
The delegates who have shot up from the expected 1,400 to over 2,500 will have to eat food, need rooms to sleep in and transport to move around in. And all of it is benefitting the local economy.

Hotel rooms in Serena, Imperial Royale and other neighbouring hotels have been booked. At these hotels, a buzz of activity hums constantly as delegates are ferried in and out. At Serena Hotel in particular, the rooms have all been fully booked. And hosting over 2,500 guests means more demand for food items, which benefits from the supplier to the hotel.

The delegates have also visited Jinja, Entebbe to see different sites as well as to see the equator. And Ranny Ismail, a parliamentary spokeswoman, says some guests have booked to stay at Mweya, Para lodge among other places during the Easter holiday. Lulume says there are over 100 exhibitors who are not paying for the space occupied by their stalls, and local vendors are benefitting too. As it is a common practice for tourists to buy souvenirs, their market and profit seems a sure thing. “Common people have also been allowed to exhibit their products. The majority of them are women since we wanted this sect to benefit more and the benefit from this is direct.” Ismail, tasked with being in charge of entertainment, excursion, exhibition and gifts supplements says, “Our culture is rich and interesting so they have lots of crafts to choose from. And they (delegates) are buying them.”  

What some of the delegates knew about Uganda
Berenice Auffiet, Switzerland
I didn’t know a thing about Uganda apart from that it is an African country. So when I came, I expected to see lots of flowers and other vegetation. On reaching here I found it refreshing. And I like the people a lot – they are very nice and polite

Choi Young-Hee, Korean Member of Parliament
The first thing anyone in Korea’s older generation thinks of when they hear the name Uganda is Idi Amin because of his incredible character. In fact in Korea doing something swiftly is referred to as “Entebbe strategy or strategist” because of 1970s raid on Entebbe by Israel Defense Forces (IDF). We also think of Lake Victoria and yearn to see it as it is taught in Geography.

Castelier Pieyve Bernard, Switzerland, IPU staff
I didn’t know much about Uganda before I came here. I just knew the geographical location and that it has Lake Victoria and that was it. Even as I came, I had no expectations because I came to work. I have been here for two weeks but barely gotten time to walk around because I came to work. But one thing I have liked is the weather. And the people are very friendly. It makes it easy to be here.


  1. Backward we traveled to reclaim the day
    Before we fell, like Icarus, undone;
    All we find are altars in decay
    And profane words scrawled black across the sun.
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