Uganda is set to hold its very first gorilla festival with an aim of further promoting the country as a preferred tourist destination. The Minister of State for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda made the revelation on Tuesday while launching the ‘Tulambule’ awareness and tourism campaign for the year 2018.
In an exclusive interview with SoftPower News, the Minister says that the festival will market Uganda and increase visibility to its many mountain gorillas to the world.
“This festival is about marketing but one of the things we want to tell the world is that Uganda has the highest number of gorillas in the world,” the Minister said.
“We will tell the world that our gorillas can be viewed at the lowest possible rates and demonstrate our commitment to conservation,” he added.
The festival is set to take place in Uganda’s mountain gorilla habitat in Kigezi subregion between June 29 and July 6 during the Tulambule south western Uganda leg.
According to Minister Kiwanda, the gorilla festival is an opportunity for Ugandans to understand and appreciate the value of conserving the rare primates.
Uganda is home to over 400 mountain gorillas located in the Bwindi impenetrable forest which forms part of the Virunga massif that encompasses Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo.
Gorillas are the biggest tourism product contributing about USD 10 million (Shs 34 billion) to Uganda’s tourism earnings.
During the festival, newly born gorillas will be officially named.
“We are going to package a series of events for the festival but naming will be part of them. We have always named the gorillas but we haven’t been hyping it and we want to use the festival to hype it more and increase our visibility,” Kiwanda told SoftPower News.
In a bid to draw global attention to Uganda’s gorillas, government will involve foreign press through familiarization trips to Bwindi. That way, different articles in international media will entice prospective tourists to come and enjoy the once in a lifetime experience.
Stephen Asiimwe, the Executive Director of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), the entity responsible for marketing destination Uganda says that Uganda has a comparative advantage to neighboring Rwanda and DRC given its additional diverse attraction.
“The festival is not just about gorillas. It is about the Batwa experience in Bwindi, the tree climbing lions, Mgahinga and Bwindi national parks, Mount Muhabura and Lake Bunyonyi,” Asiimwe told SoftPower News.
“A tourist goes through many national parks to get to the gorillas, so we have much more to offer than Rwanda. We have 10 national parks, various attractions, and 26 international flights coming to Uganda compared to Rwanda which has only 4 tourism products,” he said.
Tourism remains Uganda’s biggest earner of foreign revenue. In the financial year 2015/16, Uganda earned USD 1.3 billion from tourism, representing 23.5% of the total exports.