Last week H.E. President Museveni launched PRESTO, his Presidential Initiative for Sustainable Tourism in London, at a small tourism exhibition at Central Hall Westminster. The hall was filled with many tour operators, potential investors, businessmen, press, Ugandans and other Africans from the Diaspora. The exhibition portrayed the beauty of Uganda through postures and pictures of wildlife, flora and fauna as well as the cultural tradition such as a large banner reading “Irresistible Uganda” depicting a gorgeous Karamajong girl. This was complimented by the display of many handicrafts which the public was eager to buy. Ugandan coffee and tea was being served to add to not only the feasting of the eyes but also to give the public a taste of the “Pearl of Africa.”
The President had mandated his Principal Private Secretary, Hon. Grace Akello to organise this exhibition and in doing so was assisted by a Ugandan born international marketing consultant Willy Mutenza, who also organised the first Uganda Convention in London last year. The launch of PRESTO in London followed Uganda’s attendance of the Brussels Expo Holiday Fair in Belgium earlier this month which was supported by Brussels Airlines and the Brussels Embassy with assistance of Amb. Mirjam Blaak.
This initiative is to enhance sustainable tourism in Uganda and follows the creation of a new Ministerial Portfolio of the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Heritage which hitherto has been run as a subsidiary function in a number of Ministries. Both the Minister Hon. Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu and his Permanent Secretary, Amb. Patrick Mugoya were present during the launch as well as other members of the entourage of the President Hon. Dr. Crispus Kyonga, Minister for Defence and Hon. Henry Okello Oryem, Minister of Foreign Affairs, his Permanent Secretary, Amb. James Mugume and two Members of Parliament, Lt Gen Wamala Katumba and others.
The President enthusiastically stated: “While tourism is about travel, Uganda’s 5-year National Development Plan (NDP) recognises the Tourism Sector as one of the “Primary Growth Drivers of the Economy” that directly creates employment and investment opportunities, generates national and household income, brings in foreign exchange and creates market for local products at source. Tourism is in essence the opening of a window of opportunities into Uganda. At global level tourism is one the worlds most traded services, with a high potential for a multiplier effect at national level. 880 million tourists worldwide generate US$ 852 billion.
The President chose London as the venue for the launch as the UK generates the majority of tourism arrivals in Uganda followed by Germany. Uganda¹s strategy focuses on high-quality tourism which does not degrade the environment in order to ensure sustainability to perpetuity. Last year Uganda received a number of accolades such as:
1. Uganda was voted Number One Tourism Destination for 2012 by the Lonely Planet.
2. Mt. Rwenzori as among the top hiking places in Africa and in the world,
3. Virunga Volcanoes as ³a must-see-place for 2012², among the 20 places one has to visit in their lifetime.
4. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, famous for its mountain gorillas, was voted the number one birding site in Africa. Murchison Falls was also ranked among top 10 birding sites in Africa.
5. The famous ³tree climbing lions in Ishasha in Queen Elisabeth National Park was the photo of the month in the National Geographic Magazine.
The President emphasised that Uganda is endowed with unique and rich ecological and cultural resources, a hidden treasure still to be discovered by the rest of the world. Uganda is one of the biodiversity rich countries with 18,783 species of flora and fauna.
“Uganda¹s outstanding traditional hospitality and warm welcome should encourage all of you present here to come and visit and possibly invest in Uganda,” the President¹s words before declaring PRESTO launched and invited the public to ask questions.