The Association of Uganda Tour Operators has this week kickstarted trainings for tour operators in Uganda along a journey to sustainable tourism development.
In the 2-day training that was held in Kampala at Hotel Africana, over 150 tour operators were taught the first module of “Tourism Excellence Uganda”.
Launched slightly over a month ago (on 21st October 2019) Tourism Excellence Uganda project is currently being championed by AUTO among Ugandan tour operators in partnership with sustainability qualification and certification companies; Germany-based Tourcert based and Kenya-based Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda (STTA). The project is co-funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and Tourcert.
The first set of training this week have been a precursor for several other group trainings and the individual company mentorship programs over a series of years in the future.
While opening the workshop on Tuesday (19th November 2019) the CEO of Uganda’s leading tour operators’ body, Gloria Tumwesigye mentioned that members of AUTO would receive specific further training on sustainability practices to inspire them towards responsible tourism business practices.
“Uganda is known for its beautiful nature, its unique flora and fauna and the wealth of its cultural heritage making us 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, our Tourism Excellence Uganda project will be focused on sustainable tourism development,” Ms. Tumwesigye added.
The training which was facilitated by STTA provided a demystified explanation of sustainability. “You have to see sustainability as a management tool, rather than a complex and complicated theory. It has everything to do with how you run your businesses and influences the quality of your tourism services,” said Judy Kepher Gona STTA’s Executive Director.
“Sustainability is the new luxury, and the new excellence”, Judy passionately added.
As part of the training, AUTO members received management tools that they would be able to use to improve the efficiency of their businesses, their relationships with stakeholders, and improve their sustainability.
“Businesses are failing today because they are not responding to global concerns. If we do not respond to these, our costs will be high, our image will be bad, we will be known as that destination that does not respect its environment, does not care for its host communities, does not consider its employees’ human rights; these are the global issues today, and we must adjust.” Brian Mugume, an AUTO Board Member spoke at the training.
“72% of global travelers according to a booking.com study are looking for eco-friendly travel experiences, but say they cannot find so many options, especially in Africa. This is a big share of the 1.3 million international travelers that we need to pick interest as tourism business operators”, Brian added.
AUTO’s sustainability project aims at improving its members’ quality management in line with corporate governance, better working practices, relationships with host communities, sensitivity to changing consumer issues, fair trade relations, human rights, and environmental factors.
The journey aims at leading as many AUTO members to sustainability certification and will continue to brand AUTO members as the leading and most professional tour companies in Uganda.
Tourism competes with other activities for resources (both directly and indirectly), but it can also complement those same activities and this is where, as tour operators and tourism players in Uganda we must present firm ground.
As the discussion on Climate Change continues to dominate the global debate, the tourism sector has been earmarked to contribute to all the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); but more specifically Goal 8 which relates to decent workforce, Goal 12 which speaks about sustainable consumption and production and Goal 14 which focuses on life underwater.
AUTO which is the voice of Uganda’s leading tour companies was founded in 1995 and remains a respected player in Africa’s tourism with over 300 registered businesses.