And finally Kiprotich arrived to a true heroes welcome. After all, he had broken a 40 year old jinx in a breathtaking fashion. Nonchalantly grabbing and carrying the Ugandan flag as he gallantly ran to the finishing line – Oh boy! It was a sight to behold!, the golden boy guaranteed Uganda a priceless moment to be marketed across the world by all leading media houses at no fee.
Being a tweep, I caught all the action on my timeline via @kasujja, @dailymonitor, @newvisionwire @Guide2Uganda, @ugandatourstrav, @RedPepperUG
I recollect that when Moses Kipsiro bagged the two gold medals at the commonwealth games in India, the Uganda Tourism Board moved to appoint him a goodwill ambassador to promote our tourism industry. What more could Stephen Kiprotich do to deserve such honour or even more like he is getting?
The political turmoil in the 1970’s and 1980’s caused Uganda to lag behind neighboring Kenya and Tanzania as they took center stage as prime tourist destinations. However, things are changing, and very first. The rule of President Yoweri Museveni since 1986 came with a new era of relative stability which has seen the country enjoy steady economic growth.
Uganda, a safe and friendly country with fairly well-developed tourist infrastructure that showcase her broad diversity of wildlife notably being home to half to the world’s surviving mountain gorillas and over 600 species of birds which represents half of Africa’s bird species making it a birdwatcher’s paradise has staged a major come back in the tourism industry. It is this magnificence for variety of form and for the profusion of brilliant life that the legendary Winston Churchill referred to Uganda as the “Pearl of Africa”. Otherwise also referred by @UgandaToursTrav and many others as “Africa condensed”
Statistics indicate that Uganda received 1,151,000 visitor arrivals in 2011 which attracted $805 million in foreign exchange indicating an increase from 2010 when only $662 million was fetched.
With key tourist sites namely the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Source of the Nile at Jinja, Lake Mburo National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Lake Bunyonyi, Kibale Forest National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Mount Elgon National Park, Sipi Falls and so much more which together provide a unique blend of tourism products, the Lonely Planet ranked Uganda as the world’s most preferred destination for the year 2012.
Although well-endowed, why then is the country lagging behind despite the peace the country is enjoying? Several players in the industry credit this to lack of facilitation to market the country as a preferred tourism destination of choice in major source markets such as the UK, Germany, USA etc and poor roads among others.
In as much as I appreciate the point of limited funds, I find marketing the “Kiprotich” way rather interesting and nerve grabbing. Kenyans have used it successfully. Invest more funds in sports as has been promised in the past and let’s get more Kiprotichs crossing the line with our flags high. The government should also construct a tourism ring road and airfields connecting all key tourism sites. In addition, the government should grant tax incentives to aviation companies and tour operators to enable them invest in more flexible tourism tours to beat the competition offered by competitors in the region.
Kiprotich has set the tone. It is time to harness our tourism potential. Besides, it is our duty to share with the rest of the world this beautiful “Pearl of Africa”.