Ugandans turned up in numbers for the #ExploreWest tourism campaign that kicked off on Wednesday 12th April running till Sunday 16th April 2023.
Organized by the Ministry of Tourism and its partners, the 5-day event aimed at boosting local tourism in the Western region of Uganda after the Covid-19 pandemic was kicked off at the Uganda Museum by Hon. Martin Mugarra Bahinduka, the state minister for tourism, officials from the Tourism Ministry Departments and Agencies, Explore Uganda Ambassadors among other people.
Western Uganda is a region that is known for its stunning natural beauty, diverse wildlife, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant communities
The trail Caravan set off from the Uganda Museum in Kampala at 10 am stopovers at the Equator in Kayabwe and Lukaya along the Kampala Masaka highway before stopping in Mbarara to view Zebras at Lake Mburo National Park and the long-horned Ankole cows at an authentic farm life at Kimihingo Agro Tourism Farm next to Lake Mburo.
The agro-tourism program at the farm offers a unique opportunity to learn about sustainable cattle-keeping practices while enjoying the beauty of rural living before s culture evening at Igongo Cultural Centre.
Kickboxer Moses Golola, Comedians Patrick Salvado, Madrat, Chicco, and Jjajja Bruce among other celebrities were part of the caravan that kept entertaining the crowds during the various stopovers and the entire trail.
Day 1 was crowned in Mbarara with a stunning Explore West Nightlife Experience at Shooters Bar and Grill where the team lightened up the party with performances by Top Western Uganda singer Ray G.
Next after Mbarara, Explore West will today Thursday 13th move to Mugaba Palace, Ankole Tea Estate, Kyambura gorge, Katunguru Bridge, and finally a grand entry into Queen Elizabeth National Park where a boat cruise and evening game drives will happen with tourists
Day 2, will be crowned at Queen Elizabeth Park’s Tembo Canteen with a camp and Comedy Night.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent easing of the lockdown, Uganda had to refocus its tourism market by targeting the local market.
Data from the Ministry of Tourism indicate that in 2022, Uganda registered 360,000 visitors to the national parks, up from 320,000 in 2019 before Covid-19 hit the world.
Uganda Wildlife Conservation and Education Centre registered over 400,000 visitors also during the same period, and in both cases, the majority of the visitors were Ugandans.
Martin Mugarra, the state minister for tourism earlier this week during the launch of the campaign said Ugandans have appreciated the country’s tourism potential and are now traveling more than foreigners.
“We believe if this trend continues defiantly, we will be able to sustain this sector,” he said.
He said the campaign that started with Explore East where Ugandans summited Mountain Elgon and other tourism sites within the region now heads to the West and asked Ugandans to turn in large numbers to explore the region.
Martin Mugarra, Tourism State Minister
“This time around we are encouraging Ugandans to travel with us to get the experience to share and talk about it. I think Elgon was a very good experience and success and it has inspired us to go on this campaign.
The reason why we are concentrating on the domestic tourism campaign is that Covid taught us the only way we can have a resilient tourism sector moving forward, is to focus on the domestic market we are seeing the achievements and we want to thank the Ugandans,” he said.
Uganda has one of the youngest populations globally, which the minister said will play a big part in determining the future of tourism in the country.
“We see potential and we have a very young population and we want to encourage them to travel because if you don’t travel now then I don’t know when you will travel,” he said.
The campaign is expected to head north after the Western tour, with both Murchison Falls National Park and the pristine Kidepo Valley National Park in sight.
“We are not ending with this Explore West. We shall be doing Explore Northern Uganda before June, and we shall also be doing a mini hike of Mt. Rwenzori just for the domestic tourism component,” Mugarra said.
What is on offer?
For travel freaks, the itinerary is thick with wild ventures, ranging from the expansive Queen Elizabeth National Park to the Ankole and Toro cultural sites to wild night parties going deep into the night.
Vivian Lyanzi, the commissioner for tourism and wildlife at the Ministry of Tourism said, “For a very long time, we thought of tourism as a foreign (muzungu) thing, it’s them who move around. It’s our time to take advantage of this beauty and enjoy it as we are supposed to enjoy it in this very country.
As we enjoy, one of the greatest values that tourism creates is resource transfer from the tourists to centers and finally communities.”
The tour presents a very rich April experience that starts with the long Easter break starting next weekend. A few days after Easter, fun lovers will step on the road. All one needs is money for accommodation and feeding, while the ministry and partners take care of your transportation and park access fee, which Uganda Wildlife Authority has waived off during the tour.