In our continued support and pursuance for relevancy of our communities we were honored to attend the African Travel Association Congress in Uganda. It was slated for the 11th to the 16 of November 2014. This was the 39th world annual congress.
Permit me to highlight majorly the new and catching products that were of more benefit to Community Tourism practitioners.
The congress featured;
- Learning and professional development in areas of Branding and marketing as well as product development.
- The Uganda International Tourism Expo which showcased the East African Tourism products and services and this was held at the Uganda Museum.
- The Young Professionals program which brought on board students from various tourism related institutions to share on the opportunities and potentials as they bond with the chosen paths of profession and careers.
- The African Culinary Experiences and Adventure Tours all through the days of the congress where well facilitated and those enthusiastic in any or all or the disciplines should have well documented these fellowships.
The ATA conference attracted delegates from 19 countries 18 of which were African and the other was America this was from the delegates report. These included government representatives, civil society, media and Private sector among others not forgetting us the Community members.
|KECOBAT/UCOTA team at ATA|
From the community perspective we should admit that there is always room to do better. It was successful if we run by the program and we shall wait for the briefs from the other foreign dignitaries. Admittedly, “we have lots of potential but as local practitioners, have never learnt to pull in the same direction when there is need. This, we must correct and also our people love doing things the last minute mainly because they want to take advantage of the confusion, that is not good. If we help Uganda grow, we shall eventually grow as well as individuals” reported Amos Wekesa one of the Tourism Professionals in the Region.
The new and endearing presentation in the congress was the spotlight on the Faith based travel. The presentation was made by One Reverend Nicholas S. Richards a Minister with the global outreach, Abyssinian’s Baptist Church. He noted that the Faith- Based Travelers especially in the United States and Europe represent a very strong market segment of the Tourism Market in Africa. He discussed and showed a documentary on the typology, opportunities and context of this niche market. Africa is a cradle of mankind and has very strong traditions with key faiths in the world. Too, there are very many missionaries and philanthropists willing to come and explore Africa but also sharing the beauty of this continent and the people therein. Areas like Ethiopia, Egypt and all those in the Nile Valley have featured favorite on the list of destinations in this Niche.
He charged all participants to strategize and open their minds to this option.
From the community, we can deduce that we have the stock and this can be explored and exploited. The communities need these people to help them become better. Key in here is to position our communities to be able to receive these missionaries and philanthropists, to meet their expectations but most of all be visible and relevant with in their profiling. There is need for transparency and accountability for the resources to reach the grass root persons who are in most cases the children, the elderly and the women.
The other cases presented that related to the communities where themed under Tourism Cares; empowering communities. It looked at ways in which Tourism improved livelihood (Economic, Environmental and Social.)
Thomas Armitt presented some of the best practices in West Africa specifically Sierra Leones where he has been for the last 10 years and Maria Baryamujura gave the cases for Uganda.
The presence of the media and their work in all this is worth appreciating. Thanks to the organizers for recognizing them. Our biggest gain is going to come from the coverage the region is receiving through all the bloggers, writers and the general media.
They have something to write about to counter EBOLA which featured as the biggest challenge to the industry at the time of the ATA congress.
Gross appreciations to all stakeholders and publics in this but most of all my Community Tourism Fraternity (KECOBAT/ UCOTA) for enabling me in terms of time to learn and share with others. We are relevant.
By Lule Godfrey Ssemwanga.