Modern Tourism in Uganda Today

As an internship student at Tristar Africa Skimmer Safaris, I have been to several training camps but this one at Mestil Hotel & Residence was mainstream and an eye opener. I didn’t just go because the company delegated me but instead curiosity was an additional driver in me though it seemed like I was company driven.  You see, in the past years, tourism was believed to be white simply because the highest percentage of tour companies targeted white or rather western tourists and forgot about the local tourists who could or could have add value to the tourism business.
During this training dubbed “The Business Clinic”, the first presentation by Amos Wekesa who happens to be a board member in the Association of Uganda Tour Operators cycled within tackling the question of “What and where to gain from in the tourism business specifically in Uganda?” I was overwhelmed by the presentation that clearly left no stone un turned for it made me realize that when opportunity meets preparedness, there is always a rapid explosion leading to ones’ success. As Amos presented, I was able to keenly note down remarkable solutions to the struggling tourism development in Uganda and they are summarized below.
What to do

  • Create stability to reach more clients locally and internationally which gives you broad local and foreign markets.
  • Be curious at all times by waking up to learn or study new developments in the tourism industry globally.
  • Have a bigger picture of what your tour company specializes on and should be long term.
  • Always aspire to grow and plant a seed of tourism by nurturing other young and vibrant individuals with passion for tourism.
  • Think about tourism outside primates and start to incorporate culture, nature and anything that can be attractive to anyone provided it respects and does not intrude anyone’s privacy. For example, Gorilla permits for the first time in the history of Uganda’s tourism industry have been sold out in advance for the months of July and August 2018 and bookings for 2019 are almost being initiated.
  • Write standard articles about travel, leisure and accommodation facilities while expressing your innermost mind and you will get paid for it I assure you.
  • Promote the tourism sector as a whole not just your personal company in all available platforms like social media, meeting and training forums among others.
  • Create presence online and do self-education to help you understand every client you do business with.
  • Think and focus on one direction by being the first to believe in your brand along the international standards like attaining insurance cover.
  • Always partner with other tour companies and remember to give back to the community for they are the root of blessings and valuable support.

Where to gain from
Primarily, everyone starts up a travel company with the aim of gaining profits daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly. There is a possibility of you overwhelmingly profiting provided you carefully consider the following;

  • Value the clients’ satisfaction and your workers.
  • Always pay your bills to avoid debt accumulation.
  • Motivate workers in a more professional manner.
  • Have a mentorship spirit.
  • Work hard and be trustworthy.
  • Be visionary and think beyond boundaries.
  • Always pray to strengthen your working spirit.

I must solely confess that simple and realistic ideas when put to work will secure for you a permanent spot in the tourism industry let alone profits.
Planning a safari and knowledge Management
In every single business, product knowledge is key and the best tool to approach success. In this case it is tourism business. This 2nd phase of the presentation was stimulated by Herbert Byaruhanga, the Vice President Association of Uganda Tour Operators who opened up his presentation and geared up my concentration level in particular by highlighting that, majority of clients or tourists will want someone passionate, experienced and knowledgeable to plan for their safaris. So for you to properly understand the product, the following should be on your finger tips every now and then;
How to have product knowledge

  • Be a tourist yourself first prior to taking your clients to that specific destination they intend to visit.
  • Carry out research and have a library at home or even your office. The books should be about travel, tourism and hospitality management.
  • Befriend and relate with tour guides internally and externally. They can always give you valuable information to plan a memorable safari that you may not know.
  • Make it a point to employ strictly knowledgeable people. If someone lacks knowledge or expertise, nurture them till they are ready provided passion is driving him/her.
  • Keep inviting trainers to your company to keep training your workers which improves on their working abilities.

Planning for a Safari
After you have invested in product knowledge, every reasonable person would love to use a legally registered company no matter the sector but for this case it is tourism. Note that clients will consider the following factors before giving you the business so;

  • Make sure your company is legally registered to operate within the country and beyond.
  • Develop your safari packages genuinely.
  • Remember to deliver your services as per website and itinerary.

Before you plan, cost and make reservations,

  • Know that the clients are the ones to initiate the idea of their destination before you starting on the itinerary.
  • Consider professional guides with adequate knowledge about the product the tourists want to visit.
  • Most western tourists especially Americans will want to use a company that has acquired insurance cover so make it appoint to do so.
  • Have contacts of hotel and restaurant managers for appropriately safe accommodations.
  • Make sure that the accommodation facilities available are to the clients’ satisfaction by understanding their grading. You are required to be there to know in person before clients arrive.
  • Develop activities of the day from when the safari starts to when it ends.
  • Select the right attractions depending on the energy levels and health of the clients. Feel free to professionally find out from them before you start planning.
  • Know the quality of attractions in terms of accessibility, safety and the local people of the community you are to deal with.
  • And lastly but not least, know the best time to do the tour to avoid disappointments inform of adding extra days, delays, illness and other bad weather problems.

With all the above, all you are left with is to show the natural side of you, emerge it with the professional one and you will have loyal, repeated and referred clients your entire life.
Insurance and Contract Management in Tour Operations
As I was seated wondering on who is going to be presenting next, a one respected Barbra A. Vanhellepute takes over the presentation from Herbert but she took it to a different and more dynamic dimension to talk to us about Insurance and contract management.
Randomly, a question pops out of my head asking myself why insurance? Little did I know she (Barbra) was going to ask the same question and do you want to know what happened after? Of course you do. She asked and gave these extremely important reasons out of which I had one obvious one that if she had directed the question to me, I was answering with it. You could have asked yourselves the same question certainly.
Why Insurance?
To keep your responsibility taken care of by someone else in case of;

  • Fires and explosions.
  • Emergency medical services for example, you get involved in car accident, an injury on a client in the forest and a wild animal attack among others.
  • Errors and omissions for example you give a client an assurance to spot a lion during a game drive and the lion decides to stay in the hideout, a client can decide to sue you.
  • Food and drink poisoning.
  • Theft of clients’ property during the trip.

Before acquiring insurance cover for your company, be very mindful and remember to negotiate as it is the nature of conducting business but again not to the extent that make it bite you and the client in the back. The following considerations should not at any moment be left out when in need of insurance;

  • Find insurance tailored for your environment and market.
  • Acquire insurance cover from legal and registered insurance companies like SATIB
  • Read and digest the document of contract before signing it.
  • All the jurisdictions involved should be Ugandan or of that country you are operating in by reading the fine print.
  • Always be confidential with any information.
  • Avoid frequenting courts of law since they are expensive.
  • Avoid the open-ended contracts.
  • Know the people you are liable to and how many in total.
  • And know when to get in and out.

For the professionals, insurance cover acquisition is like adding life to your business but the starters will find it a “business killer” which is why we are all required to start small while thinking big. Having the bigger picture on a long term scheme will deliver you to your dream position provided the professionalism aspect is tagged along like Benson Katumba Ssebina echoed during his presentation. Benson was the 4th presenter at the training with emphasis on professionalizing the tourism industry. The fact that we encounter elite class of clients will leave us with no other choice apart from joyfully embracing this brilliant idea.
The 5th presenter was Edson Birungi who urged us to start small and grow steadily provided we establish digital marketing platforms on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Websites among others to activate our online presence without having to incur travel costs. This is practical enough and many successful tour operators like Birungi himself can prove it well.
Closing remarks were heard from Eddy who summed it up by pointing out key issues that need to be addressed by tour operators to successful survive in the tourism business;

  • Have a constant cash flow.
  • Have narrow and wide products.
  • Do marketing especially online.
  • Have quality assurance.
  • Always benchmark (Do what other companies are doing but in a better way).
  • Professionally deal with bad reviews by being pro-active not reactive.
  • Maintain good working relationships with your clients by checking on them.
  • Portray a humble and pleasant lifestyle that causes confirmation of trust.

Well, we all know learning never stops and neither does it have an age bracket. So, I believe the more you learn, the younger you become brain wise. This Business Clinic training was tremendously fruitful to me and I couldn’t stop myself from sharing its outcome with you given the fact that knowledge sharing has never killed anyone but instead produced geniuses, incubated them and hatched creative tour operators leading to modernization of tourism in Uganda and across the globe.
By Justin Ekaru
Tristar Africa Skimmer Safaris