‘For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life – plant, bird, insect, reptile, beast – for vast scale… Uganda is truly the pearl of Africa’ were the words used by Sir Winston Churchill, in his book “My African Journey” to describe the beautiful tourist attractions of Uganda. Therefore, Uganda is no ordinary safari destination but an experience worthy living.
Uganda is where the East African savannah meets the West African jungle. This impossibly lush country offers one a unique opportunity to observe lions prowling the open plains in the morning and track chimpanzees through the rainforest undergrowth the same afternoon, then the next day navigate tropical channels teeming with hippopotamus and crocodiles before setting off into the misty mountains to stare deep into the eyes of a mountain gorilla. Uganda – with its unique blend of savannah and forest creatures, its rare wealth of mountain and lake habitats – is simply dazzling. Uganda’s offers the most stunning scenery on the continent that includes sparkling lakes, lofty mountains, mysterious forests and game parks swarming with game. The private sector is encouraged to set up new tourist facilities in these locations bearing in mind the need to blend in with the contiguous scenery.
Uganda’s eco-friendliness is attested to by the recent mushrooming of community-based eco-tourism projects at the grassroots level. Uganda’s reputation as ‘Africa’s Friendliest Country’ stems partly from the tradition of hospitality common to its culturally diverse populace, and partly from the remarkably low level of crime and hassle directed at tourists. The country’s population is united in providing a warm welcome to foreign guests, so even in the smallest of villages local people will go out of their way to make tourists feel at home. Despite all the glamour outlined about, Uganda is a relatively newcomer to today’s international tourism scene, which has benefited both the country’s natural environment and the tourism experience it offers. The country has avoided the trap of courting the mass market and instead has followed the path of eco-tourism, which ensures that any growth in the visitor numbers is sustainable and that development is not detrimental to Uganda’s natural environment and local culture. This profile is intended to provide the potential investor with an overview of Uganda’s tourism sector, the existing attractions, Government plans and policy for the sector, the level of exploitation and the potential investment opportunities that exist.
The information provided therein may not be entirely exhaustive, additional sources have been provided under useful contacts for further reference. 2. Key Services in the sector 2.1 Accommodation It is estimated that Uganda has a total of approximately 1300 registered establishments offering accommodation. These establishments have approximately 20,000 rooms with close to 30,000 beds. It suffices to note that Uganda’s average room occupancy rates for 2009 were 29.9%; In other words, on average 29.9% of the rooms are occupied every month. While the average room rate was US$11 per bed per night (for all establishments), thus the total earned revenue was estimated to be US$15m that year. The 2009 bed space utilization on the other hand is estimated at 25%, implying that since 2005 room and bed space utilization has been below 50%. Of these 1300 establishments, approximately 600 are in the tourism-centric districts with about 80 being used by international tourists or foreign residents and most of them are located in Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja.
These establishments have a high average room rate and occupancy rate of US$44 and 26% respectively which is four-fold high than national average room rate and double the national average occupancy rate. The occupancy rate for the tourist standard hotels and lodges is highest in Kampala, averaging 45% compared to 22% for all other focal areas. Uganda has limited ‘high end’ accommodation along the basic tourists’ circuit of Murchison, Kibale, Queen Elizabeth, and Bwindi, which has 400 rooms of 2-star plus range for a daily tourist population of about 700 and 1-star range camping site for 1600 tourists. Thus making Uganda a ‘low-end’ tourist destination and being dominated by ‘backpackers’ and ‘overlanders’. The low share of foreign non-African hotel ownership in Uganda compared to Kenya and Tanzania (Table 1) can be attributed to this. However, of late there have been significant foreign investments in the hotel industry namely Serena Hotel, the Green Wilderness Group (Semliki Safari Lodge) and Emin Pasha Hotel.