A new season is upon us, COVID- 19 is here, fast spreading, affecting not just our health but also the economy. The impact is felt across the world, as countries upon its arrival had to shut down their borders to all travelers, businesses were closed and civilization came to a halt in the effort to fight the spread of the virus.
The resulting effect has left countries with no other option but to consider “what next” for the economy in order to drive growth. For Uganda, Local tourism can drive growth and the onus is upon the Government and relevant stakeholders to take necessary steps in making it a Money Maker.
To help stakeholders make informed decisions, I have highlighted major issue areas for deliberation;
1. Culture and Customer Service
Hospitality is a people business ,whether you want it or not without the right culture and attitude, it cannot thrive. Our culture should promote our tourism and the truth is we still struggle with it ,The involvement of everyone right from the villages will be key, what has been done is more of the urban marketing for the A class of Kampala.. What we see here is an imbalance of fun and profits for the rich than the poor
We love to serve people who don’t look like us , the color and the rich .If we could only serve everyone equally no matter where you are from , your status quo could add some momentum in our domestic tourism . Failure to be consistent and provide equal customer service delivery to all ,we can not generate repeat business or referral. Lowering prices doesn’t necessarily lead to great service most likely it will degrade the service.
2.Poor vs rich me
This kind of perception has set the standards that tourism is for the rich. Who sets these standards ?We encourage more city people to visit the upcountry than encourage people living in the upcountry to visit the cities. This gap has to close so we visit Uganda as Ugandans not just for the status quo.
3. Government initiatives
There is a lot UTB ,UTA,UHOA etc has to do to get Ugandans on the road. UTB has made celebrity bus tours in different parts of the country to promote domestic tourism I guess. With Covid 19 here and domestic tourism still on people’s talking points , was this campaign successful? Again to me it only appealed to only a small section of Ugandans not for all. It’s only in Uganda where you can’t find a tourist welcome center either by district or region. We need the districts or regions to have passion and promote this to their own people first. If you can’t love your own village or town no one will. Lesotho is one of the countries where every citizen knows every tourist attraction in their area or country with passion ,you will argue that Lesotho is a small country but so are our districts.
4. Local or domestic rates
We have fallen short on this one either by pretense or knowingly. Many facilities claim to have domestic rates but they are not visible or employees working in these facilities won’t mention anything about it to local travelers. I understand the upselling in hotels but we must maintain our commitment to the local travelers not only when your occupancy is low or there is scarcity of business. The local rate and availability must always be blocked off for the local traveler. This is how you build love and trust not when you are only in need.
The love to tour our country is supported by money, patriotism or both? We have to appreciate our surroundings and this should never be driven by money but love for what we have.We have to identify those things that can drive us from one side of the country to the other. Food, attractions.dressing,sports, music, education, our way of life . The communities should be willing to share these details to travelers with true love, passion and care.
We all know without passion nothing can be done , passion moves everything. The travelers , the facility owners , the employees ..Everyone who gets involved in tourism must have true passion for the industry.
7.Service vs Money
Service first before the money. Once service is fixed the money will come.Consistent service is key, all players have to be geared up for this . We need to see a competition of service with everyone that is consistent so the passion of local travel is uplifted.
Every district should be empowered so it can empower its own people from that same location to embrace tourism .Tourism should energize fun but also make a living for the people in that area. Let the fun lead them to money making.
Ayub Kato is a Customer service & Hospitality Consultant, with Smiling Faces International
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