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UTB to Use Diplomatic Missions to Boost Tourism

The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) is actively seeking to harness the potential of the country’s diplomatic missions abroad to significantly boost tourism growth. During the four-day Joint Regional Economic and Commercial Diplomacy Retreat, held with heads of Uganda’s missions in neighboring countries, UTB CEO Lilly Ajarova highlighted the pivotal role these missions can play in promoting Uganda’s tourism sector.

The retreat, focused on enhancing economic growth and development, gathered representatives from Uganda’s ‘Ring States’—Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, DR Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, and Burundi. Ajarova emphasized the importance of branding, marketing, and attracting investors to Uganda’s Explore Uganda campaign. “We are calling upon our missions abroad to support us in our tourism efforts, particularly in the areas of branding and marketing, as well as attracting investors to our Explore Uganda campaign,” Ajarova said.

Progress Amidst Challenges

Despite the significant setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Uganda has made remarkable strides in tourism development. From being relatively unknown, Uganda emerged as the 10th best destination on the continent for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) in 2018. The country has since climbed to the seventh position and aims to break into the top five destinations in Africa. The recent addition of the Speke Resort and Convention Center has further enhanced Uganda’s ability to host large-scale conferences and attract more international travelers.

Ajarova expressed confidence in the potential of diplomatic missions to drive Uganda toward its goal of becoming a leading tourism destination in Africa. “We count on our missions abroad to help us achieve this goal by identifying opportunities, lobbying for Uganda to host international meetings, and supporting our Explore Uganda destination brand,” she stated.

A New Framework for Economic Diplomacy

Ambassador Richard Kabonero, Head of Regional Economic Cooperation, underscored the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ commitment to promoting economic growth through a new framework of commercial diplomacy. This initiative is designed to guide Uganda’s missions abroad in marketing the country, increasing exports, attracting foreign direct investments, and boosting tourism.

The initial phase of this program will involve 10 missions and two consulates in regions with high investment potential. Kabonero highlighted the need for measurable results, which will inform the scaling up of the initiative to all 37 of Uganda’s missions worldwide. Addressing non-tariff barriers (NTBs) such as standards, competition, and compliance with regional trade protocols is also a priority, alongside tackling tariff barriers, infrastructure challenges, and standards and certification issues to enhance exports.

Enhancing Data and Communications

Data affordability and improved communication infrastructure are critical components of this growth strategy. Julianne Mweheire, Director of Industry Affairs and Content Development at the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), noted a significant shift in data consumption trends, driven by an increase in video communication. Since 2019, the cost of data in Uganda has decreased by 51%, making it relatively affordable at $0.86 per GB compared to neighboring countries.

Despite these advancements, smartphone penetration remains low due to high taxes on digital devices. Vincent Bagiire, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, advocated for a reduction in the 40% tax on smartphones, arguing that this would lead to greater smartphone adoption, higher data usage, and increased tax revenues for the Uganda Revenue Authority.

Also read: UTB Strikes Partnership with Emirates Airlines to Promote Uganda Tourism

Collaborating for a Brighter Future

The retreat also featured presentations from key figures such as Abel Kagumire, Commissioner for Customs at URA, Patricia Bageine Ejalu, Deputy Director of Standards at the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, and Ben Kajuna, Director of Transport at the Ministry of Works and Transport. Their insights further enriched the discussions on how to advance Uganda’s economic and tourism goals.

With the continued support and collaboration of Uganda’s diplomatic missions, the country is well-positioned to enhance its tourism offerings, attract significant investments, and achieve sustainable economic growth.

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