Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Uganda a Birding Hub

Uganda has been declared a preferred bird watching destination 2013/14 a development expected to promote birding and uphold the country as a major tourist destination.

The declaration by the government was made after Birdlife International, a global programme on conservation and protection of birds and their habitats, and Nature Uganda announced that there were 34 important bird watching areas in Uganda, with diverse bird species.

“Allow me to declare Uganda a preferred bird watching destination as we begin our journey through the next 50 years as we mark the country’s independence jubilee celebrations,” the Minister for Tourism, Ms Maria Mutagamba, said during the launch of the birding campaign that attracted various birders and guides at Kasenge Forest Resort Beach in Mukono District at the weekend.

Ms Mutagamba said they had been priding in the recent accolades by Lonely Planet, which voted Uganda as the best tourism destination for 2012 and Africa Bird Club, which voted Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Africa’s number one birding site.

The minister said the accolades provide an important avenue for showcasing Uganda’s rich bird diversity, accounting for 10 per cent of the world’s total bird species and 50 per cent of Africa’s bird species population.

Tourism boost
The executive director of Uganda Tourism Board, Mr Cuthbert Baguma, said as the year closes in, it was important to start promoting the country as a major bird destination.
Mr Baguma said they were forming a crisis management committee to respond to all negative publicity on either social media as well as other media outlets.

Rwanda Named Among Top Tourist Destinations

Rwanda has been ranked among top 10 world adventurous places for 2013, according to Globe Spots, an international travel guide for tourists. The travel guide on Monday released a list of 10 countries in the world that are of classic travel for great sights and convenient travel, adventurous places for those who are going above and beyond, seeking out the best travel and hardcore places for those who are willing to travel anywhere just for the buzz.

According to the web portal, Rwanda was ranked sixth globally. Portugal comes number one on the list, followed by Mozambique, Kyrgyzstan, Panama, Armenia, Cuba, Ukraine, Malawi and Canada in that order. Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Rica Rwigamba, head of tourism and conservation at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said that the ranking provides confidence to tourists.
"In Rwanda we have much more to offer to tourists beyond the mountain gorillas. And we are proud of that. We are committed to showcase Rwanda's beauty to the world," she said.

According to Globe Spots website, there is more to visit in Rwanda than gorillas and Genocide sites, such as stunning ubiquitous mountains, national parks, excellent lake beaches, great culture, and a dynamic capital city.
"The country has a lot to offer its visitors and is working really hard to convince them to forget about its dreadful past. And with its incredibly well-paved roads, clean and safe streets, and friendly helpful people, Rwanda makes a perfectly smooth introduction to Africa," it says.

For the fifth year, the travel guide magazine has captured what's happening on the travel scene. As usual, they focused on destinations they think will be hot - or at least should be.

Since the beginning of 2012, the country hosted about 493,744 visitors, representing an increase of 22 per cent compared to the same period in 2011.
It recorded a remarkable 16 per cent increase in leisure visitors as well as an eight per cent increase in business visitors.

Last year, the tourism industry generated $252 million in revenues. Tourist sites in Rwanda include mountain gorillas, canopy walk, national museums, Lake Kivu, bird watching, Congo Nile trail, Akagera and Nyungwe National parks, culture, among others.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Discounted Gorilla Permits as we celebrate Uganda’s 50th Independence anniversary

The management of Uganda Wildlife Authority(UWA) has launched a Gorilla tracking promotion to coincide with Uganda’s 50th Independence anniversary celebrations to enable potential visitors enjoy the same gorilla experience at subsidized rates.
A statement from the acting Executive Director, promotional prices will apply for visitors wishing to track gorillas within the months of November 2012, April 2013 and May 2013.Foreign Non Residents will pay US $ 350 for a permit, Foreign Residents US$300 and East Africans will part with U sh 150,000 a permit. The promotion is aimed at giving back to UWA’s esteemed customers during this celebration period.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Birds or Gorillas: Which Tourism Activity Brings More Revenue in Uganda?

Birds are increasingly becoming the main creature flying Uganda's tourism industry high. Conservationists and tour operators who have monitored the sector for some time now say birders spend more than gorilla tourists.

The executive director at Nature Uganda says, on average a birdwatcher spends not less than $4,000 per trip compared to other travellers whose spending stands at $1,500. Statistics by Nature Uganda show that in 2008, less than 2,000 birders spent about $6m, nearly twice the $3.3m spent on gorilla tracking in Uganda - with the average spending for a birder standing at $3,000 per trip compared to other travellers at $700 per trip.

The explanation for this high spending by birders is that whereas both gorillas and birds attract high-end travellers, birders stay longer in the country. "The best birding itinerary is not less than 14 days, yet a gorilla tourist spends at most three days in the country." Of the three days, two are spent on the road to or from Kampala and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national park (where gorilla tourism is currently done), a distance of about 460km from the capital Kampala. In fact some tourists prefer chartering a plane from Entebbe to Bwindi to track the gorilla in a single day and catch the next flight back to their country.

That revelation, which is shared by many tourism players, raises questions as to why the country pays little attention towards supporting the bird industry. Gorilla tracking is fronted as the main tourism attraction of the country, proof of this being the international campaign of 'Friend a Gorilla' in late September 2009, where film stars flew into the country to grace the occasion.

However, other players say it is farfetched to claim that birds bring in more money than gorillas. The executive director of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), calls it 'politicking.' "Let them show us figures," Seguya said in a telephone interview. "For me, the gorilla money I see it and bank it, but I haven't seen that money they claim birds make," he added. Statistics from UWA show that revenue from gorilla permits has been increasing over the years from Shs 7.4bn ($2.8m at the current exchange rate) in 2008/09 to Shs 9.6bn ($3.7m), Shs 11bn ($4.2m) and 15.2bn ($5.8m) in 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12 respectively.

This is income to UWA alone -without the money spent by gorilla tourists on transport, accommodation, etc, and it accounts for over 50% of UWA's revenue. This is because a gorilla permit costs $500 for foreigners during peak season and $350 (slightly above Shs 900,000) in low season. To Byaruhanga, however, these gorilla figures are only blinding people to 'focus on small things because they are seeing hard cash', yet the potential of tourism lies with birds. "We have focused on gorillas as if it's the best thing that has ever happened to Uganda. We are almost being called a gorilla country because that is what we have marketed," Byaruhanga says. "It is not about the hard cash you get from the receipts that matters a lot. It is not about the money in the bank. We should be able to know how much money is poured in the economy by each tourism activity," he adds.
Uganda is regarded as Africa's best destination for birders and other nature enthusiasts. The country, which is the size of UK, boasts of over 1,058 bird species, which is 11% of the globe's total, and 50% of Africa's. This diversity is attributed to its various habitats, which include arid, semi-desert, savannahs, lowland and montane rainforests, wetlands, volcanoes and an Afro-alpine zone. The African Bird Club ranks Uganda as home to two of the top 10 birding sites on the continent -with Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national park and Murchison Falls national park among the top ten.

However, despite such rankings and the diversity of bird species, the country continues to attract a paltry number of birders. There are about 10 million birders moving around the world annually, and according to Byaruhanga, if Uganda can attract even 1% (100,000) of these birders, it is capable of making $4bn ($1.5m) annually from birds.

The communications officer, USAID Tourism for Biodiversity Programme, also believes birds have the potential to turn around Uganda's tourism sector. Rwamwiri says that birds, unlike gorillas, have no limitation on number of tourists that can visit them. "Gorilla visitation is limited to eight people, yet a single bird can be seen by unlimited tourists. The birds form a great deal of diversification. They can be watched even outside protected areas," Rwamwiri told The Observer.
According to a USAID-STAR (Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift) study of 2010, some 77% of international tour operators rely on local tour operators to package their trips, meaning that a significant portion of revenue from birding vacations sold remain within the country.

Trip Advisor Certifies Bwindi National Park

Trip Advisor, one of the world’s largest and most credible travel websites has awarded Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in south - western Uganda with a Certificate of Excellence.

On the certificate signed by Christine Peterson, President of Trip Advisor, Bwindi was honoured as a business that consistently earns top ratings. “With a rating of 5.0 Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has earned a place among the very best. This award, which is given only to the most exceptional performers in Trip Advisor’s global business community, is significant achievement deserving of recognition from both travelers and staff,” the certificate reads in part.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site, located in south-western Uganda and home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas. It is also home to the colobus monkeys, chimpanzees and a variety of bird species.

Trip Advisor recognizes the power of travellers’ feedback. The Conservation Area Manager for Bwindi Impenetrable Conservation Area, Pontious Ezuma, this certificate is a testimony to the high standards. This is another recognition of Uganda after Lonely Planet, one of the biggest and oldest guidebooks for travelers surprised the world when it chose Uganda as a favourite and top world destination to visit this year.