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When the Uganda Wildlife Authority decided to take a couple of opinion leaders for a trip to tourist areas during the Easter season of 2010, the aim was to attract Ugandans to know more about their country.
Two years later, more Ugandans are getting interested in the event, says Lillian Nsubuga, the Public Relations Officer of UWA.
Ben Mwine, the former Managing Director of Power FM, was part of the visit. From there, he conceived the idea of the Easter Wildlife road trip, which became an annual event that involves members of the public paying a small fee to visit Uganda's tourist attractions over the Easter period.
"I had last visited Queen Elizabeth national park in 1990 as part of a P.7 tour from Nakasero Primary School," Mwine says. He adds that the 2010 visit made him realize how beautiful Uganda was and how "there were many Ugandans who had never bothered to visit the
parks because of the misconception that it was too expensive." It is this that pushed him to ask UWA to partner with Power FM and promote domestic tourism through the Easter wildlife road trip. This was in 2010. That year, according to Nsubuga, 30 individuals, 18 of whom were fully sponsored, were part of the road trip.
Mwine's statement shows that if given the opportunity, Ugandans are interested in visiting the country's tourist attractions. Through the road trips and other efforts, tourism actors hope to alleviate factors that hinder domestic tourism.
"We hope to demystify tourism for Ugandans through such road trips," a staff from USAID Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Region (STAR) says. USAID STAR has since 2010 partnered with UWA and Power FM to organize the Easter wildlife road trip.
The USAID STAR staff explains: "Having been shown how to organize transport, where to find accommodation and what park fees to pay, we hope the people that are part of these road trips can come back with other people".
Nsubuga says this goal has been met. "After the 2010 road trip, two participants organized retreats for senior management of their different organizations in Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth national parks."
She also says that the number of Ugandans visiting national parks has increased, and so has the number of individuals participating in the Easter wildlife road trip. In 2011, 50 people participated in the Easter wildlife road trip (14 were fully sponsored by UWA and USAID STAR) and this year, 45 people (five of whom were fully sponsored) participated.
This year's road trip was diversified to include a trip to the North (the trips have often consisted of visits to Western Uganda). Those that participate in the Easter wildlife road trip pay a small fee - it was Shs 500,000 for this year's participants - and they are transported, accommodated, fed and have their park fees paid.
By Diana Nabiruma: The Observer Newspaper, 19 April 2012
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