Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Local participation good for Tourism

Visitors are drawn to Uganda by the natural beauty, wildlife, warm hospitality offered by the citizens of this East African country and the rich culture that continues to make Uganda a popular tourist destination. With the knowledge that tourism has the potential to contribute significantly on an ongoing basis to the economy of Uganda, the powers that be need to place emphasis not only to the development of the country’s infrastructure and tourism facilities but also to improve the lives of local people, protect their environment and offer a better future.

Long and short term development plans should be developed so that tourism and its benefits are spread within local areas.

For tourism to be developed in a sustainable manner, efforts should be made to ensure enjoyment for the tourist and minimum impact or disruption for the local communities and environment. Tourism investments are too often imposed from the outside, and the potential for sustainable forms of tourism is weakened. Unless local people begin feeling tourism in their pockets and on their tables, all efforts may be put to waste.

To ensure community involvement and to safeguard local cultures, sustainable tourism development should therefore involve all stakeholders in tourism development at all appropriate levels, facilitate the development of tourism services that are planned, managed and reviewed by the host community, ensure that tourism revenue stays in the host communities so as to enhance livelihoods and generate a profitable source of income.

There is need to also emphasize the use of work with new technology, natural resource management and marketing concepts. Ideally, participatory planning and implementation should be part of the processes. What has often disturbed me is to see that Uganda Wildlife Authority, custodians of all National Parks in Uganda, are the very people that have given this country a raw deal. Cases in point range from the Gorilla Permit monopoly deal, the hunting contract given to a private investor last year among others.

A time has come when these private investors should consider building symbiotic relationships with the locals staying close to the protected areas if they expect guests to be safe. The biggest challenge is when locals finally realize (as they have already realized) that they got a raw deal from particular investments. It is happening in Bwindi; where a private investor was supposed to be giving back some financial contribution to the locals under a lease arrangement.

However, it has come to my knowledge that members from the very community are now complaining that the  investor keeps on claiming that they have more guests on complementary arrangement than the paying guest meaning that the locals have not benefited from the deal.

A few months back I was one of those who questioned the rationale of Uganda Wildlife Authority awarding a Gorilla Monopoly deal to a private investor by using the community as a conduit. For this the investor and a few un patriotic individuals tried to intimidate and even decided to sue me.

I stood firm in my thinking and up to today nothing has moved an inch and history is beginning to judge me right. This goes on to show tendencies of open robbery.

At one time a local was asked why he had stolen some items from a tourist, and he replied: They say we should benefit from tourism so am just benefiting. If am also to remind you of a Chinese proverb that goes; you do not teach people to eat, you just give them food, similarly the locals of Bwindi and other areas in Uganda should not just be taught how to smile at tourists, but should be given a reason to do so!

Involving local people is surely one of the missing ingredients undermining the success of Uganda’s tourism industry. Non Governmental Organizations and some donor agencies have tried to work with local people identifying their needs and supplying them with what they want. But without private sector input, the sustainability of these initiatives is questionable.

Two key forces are driving the development of tourism i.e the new tourists and the new private sector initiatives. The new tourists are waking up to calls of the media as well as to the hard reality that it’s not business as usual. There is growing demand for more contact with locals and a safer and cleaner environment. We have to deviate from the known practice of a few reaping the benefits because tourism is for all and people are for tourism.

The Ministry of Tourism through its line department of UWA should not just give people fish but should teach them how to fish.UWA needs to do is to train the locals to effectively manage the resources in their areas.

1 comment:

  1. Congrates!

    Thanks for the effort you took to expand upon this post so thoroughly.

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