Lets Attract Tourists
Vision, November 3, 1999
KAMPALA—The TV personality Oprah Winfrey has been invited by the
Uganda Tourist Board to track mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Oprah Winfrey had been planning to visit Bwindi until the March massacre and in a
recent show portrayed Uganda as one of the ten most dangerous countries in the world.
This is a travesty. Uganda is far less dangerous than Somalia or Colombia, Kenya or
South Africa. The problem is one of perception.
Recently a bus was attacked and a doctor killed on the Bwera road near Queen Elizabeth
Park. Latest information indicates that these were mere armed robbers although initial
inaccurate reports said they were ADF rebels. Queen Elizabeth Park is infinitely safer
than Nairobi or Johannesburg where armed robbers kill people every day.
Tourists who visit QE or Murchison Falls Parks are constantly amazed at how beautiful
and peaceful they are.
Government needs to go on an intensive public relations drive to make international
tourists aware of this. Getting Oprah Winfrey here would be a great publicity stunt.
But more importantly, government needs to avoid unnecessarily alienating tourists.
The introduction of visa charges this year has been a disincentive to tourists. Kenya
has scrapped them and Uganda should as well.
Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Uganda and no-one is saying the law should be
changed. But do we need to shout about it? Isnt it better to let the status quo
persist where many ambassadors and prominent visitors to Uganda have been gay but no-one
has harassed them? Tourism has been going through a tough time in Uganda yet there is
still huge potential to develop the industry. The Ministry of Tourism is to be
congratulated for this new initiative but government should avoid shooting itself in the
foot by unnecessarily alienating tourists.
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