Today, 21st October 2019, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators launched the “Tourism Excellence Uganda” project in a meeting held at Skyz Hotel in Naguru, attended by various stakeholders in the tourism industry.
The project was launched in partnership with Europe-based sustainability company Tourcert and Kenya’s Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda (STTA) with whom AUTO will be implementing specific further training on sustainability practices. The sponsored training will target AUTO’s over 300 member companies to inspire them towards responsible tourism business practices.
This project is supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and it initially included a train-the-trainer programme which enables AUTO to accompany tour operators on their journey to sustainable economic development in the future.
Speaking at the launch, the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board, Lilly Ajarova who was the Chief Guest, congratulated AUTO for leading this initiative and affirmed Government’s commitment and support. “Tourism is one of the pillar sectors of Uganda’s economy. It can and must play a key role in delivering sustainable solutions for our country, our environment, and people.”
The Board Treasurer of AUTO Charlotte Kamugisha in her remarks mentioned that the Tourism Excellence Uganda project will help in influencing a positive shift and equip the association’s members with the adequate skills to run their businesses in the most responsible way, in respect of the environment and the communities that live therein.
Gloria Tumwesigye the CEO of the country’s tour operators’ umbrella, passionately called upon tourism stakeholders to rethink the tourism they develop. “The tourism we practice should be about making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit, and this is the form of tourism we must all advocate for today; whether as tourism associations, tour operators, hoteliers, governments, civil society, local people and tourists. We must take responsibility and take action to make tourism more sustainable,” Ms. Tumwesigye said.
It is without a doubt that the tourism industry competes with other activities for resources (both directly and indirectly), but it can also complement those same activities and this is where tour operators and tourism players should present firm ground.
“Since tour operators work with a large number of different partners including hotels, incoming agencies, tour guides who provide various partial services, they have a decisive influence on the quality of the country’s tourism product. We believe that you, safari companies, have a strong role to play in ensuring that the service providers you work with promote responsible tourism so that future generations can also enjoy and discover our planet,” Marco Giraldo the Tourcert CEO told stakeholders at the launch.
Ms. Judy Kepher-Gona of STTA encouraged tour companies to demand a lot from themselves and search for financially viable ways of operating their individual businesses, that are environmentally sustainable and socially correct. “We must be in a continuous dialogue with our partners and customers to continuously improve our services, reduce our negative impacts on the natural environment and improve the lives of host communities,” Judy added.
Uganda is known for its beautiful nature, its unique flora and fauna and the wealth of its cultural heritage making it a very attractive tourist destination. In order to put tourism on a sustainable path that strengthens local value addition and preserves natural resources and ethnic heritage, the country must focus on sustainable tourism development.
Some of the key questions to be asked during the project include:
As the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the corresponding 169 SDG targets offer the world a new direction, tourism as an economic powerhouse has the potential to contribute, directly or indirectly to specific goals like ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and fixing climate change.
The Tourism Excellence Uganda project will also be unveiled at the association’s 24th AGM after which the first set of training will commence on the 19th and 20th of November 2019.