In 2,000, the number of Ugandans visiting parks stood at 15, 00 whereas in 2009, the number increased to 14, 000.
The number of students visiting parks in Uganda stood at 1,100 in 2000 and it rose to 1,4000 in 2009.
However this number is still low compared to the number of international arrivals. Tourist arrivals in Uganda increased from 512,000 in 2004 to 844,000 in 2008, an increase of 65% in five years, according to information availed by Tourism Uganda.
In a move to promote domestic tourism, the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry in partnership with USAID-Star programme and the private sector are coming up with different measures to promote local tourism.
According to Ambassador Julius Onen, the permanent secretary Ministry of Tourism, they want to partner with the private sector to avail affordable transport and accommodation in the parks. He said they plan to work with private bus operators to ensure that they reduce on transport costs to the parks since many Ugandans cannot afford to hire cars.
“Currently we are negotiating with private bus owners to start plying routes to parks. We are also looking at a possibility of the ministry purchasing its own bus,” Onen told East African Business Week during the launch of domestic tourism in Queen Elizabeth National Park, western Uganda recently.
He said they are partnering with the private sector to provide affordable accommodation such as constructing hostels for people who cannot afford high end lodges. “We are also exploring the possibility of ‘Home Stay’ where visitors can stay with families to make it even cheaper,” said Onen. “The concept of Home Stay has been successful in some countries so we want to adopt that,” he said.
Besides accommodation, they are coming up with cheaper packages for Ugandans and tourists from the East African region. For instance whereas a foreigner pays $500 (Ush1m) for a permit, a Ugandan now is charged only UShs250, 000 ($125). Onen also said residents in the E. African region will soon be treated as local tourists.
Currently, there are also family and corporate packages for visiting parks. For instance Kyambura Game Lodge in Queen Elizabeth NP has a weekend package for two people where they charge $519. The package includes transport to and from Kampala, accommodation, food, and a game drive.
Mr Baguma Cuthbert, the Executive Director Uganda Tourism Board, said they are targeting 100, 000 local tourists in the next five years and 200, 000 students.
“We plan to open up regional tourist offices to ensure that information is readily available to our intended domestic visitors and work hand in hand with service providers to ensure that they are attractive, affordable products for consumption,” noted Baguma.
He said they intend to sensitize the public about tourism and change people’s attitude. “Traditionally, our people believe staying at home is associated with good manners. It’s such attitude that Ugandans need to change,” Baguma said.