As the tourism sector continues to flourish in the country, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, has unveiled another tourism product, aimed at appreciating the culture of the Batwa people in South western Uganda.
Dubbed Batwa Bwindi Forest Experience, the tourism product was Friday launched by Tourism Minister, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Rubuguri Town Council in Kisoro district.
The Minister used the event to appeal to Ugandans to find innovative ways and means to continue tapping into the various tourism opportunities, saying the potential of the sector is yet to be fully exploited.
He added that culture is an important aspect of people’s lives and that it should be harnessed for development especially through cultural tourism, before further noting that cultural tourism has a potential of preserving culture and heritage.
“Our rich cultural heritage is our greater asset, we should therefore protect it and harness it for our survival through tourism and I am pleased that we are here today, to put only a small portion of our rich culture to tourism market for the benefit of the Batwa people and this great nation,” Kamuntu said.
He reiterated that the tourism sector is currently generating USD 1.5b in foreign exchange annually which according to him, is more than what coffee and any other commodity exported by Uganda earns.
The Batwa are one of the last groups of short-statured people also known as ‘pygmy’ people, and until Bwindi rainforest was gazetted as a national park, they lived a hunter, gatherer lifestyle in the forest.
Kamuntu said he was pleased to learn that proceeds from the Bwindi Batwa Forest Experience will mainly benefit the Batwa community thus improving on their standards of living.
“I am very glad that the proceeds from the Bwindi Batwa Forest Experience will target mainly the Batwa. There is a great will by government to continue improving the conditions of all Ugandans,” Kamuntu said.
On his part, Sam Mwandha, the Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) said that the Authority recognizes that the community of the area ought to benefit from the parks and thus, pledged to come up with strategies of ensuring that the benefit from the launched product.
“The proceeds from the Bwindi Batwa Forest Experience will mainly target the Batwa Community in order to uplift their wellbeing and alleviate poverty,” Mwandha said.
He revealed that UWA will waive park entry fees for tourists who purchase gorilla trekking permits and want to undertake Batwa Forest Experience on the day before and after their gorilla trek.