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Uganda tourism begins lift off.

Uganda may not have the same reputation as Kenya when it comes to international tourism but a host of new initiatives could see that start to change.

Conscious of the myriad attractions that the once war-torn country has to offer, the Uganda Government has begun to channel resources into the tourist industry and signs of a boom are already beginning to show.

In 1995, tourism in Uganda grew by 34% with 193,000 visitors, a growth scarcely anticipated a few years ago. "In 1996 we estimate there will be a total of 250,000 visitors to Uganda," says Mr Ben Otto, Permanent Secretary in the Ugandan Ministry of Tourism. This estimate is based on an average increase of 20% in Uganda's tourism since 1986. Next year should see an even larger number of visitors as further improvements get underway.

Energetic tourists who visit the country today can experience the thrill of white water rafting at the Bujagali Falls near Jinja where the rapids are comparable to those on the Zambezi. Plans are also on being made to introduce para-gliding on the slopes of Mount Elgon. If you prefer a slightly less hectic schedule, walking trails and fishing are also on the agenda, plus hot air ballooning in some parks.

Undoubtedly however, Uganda's most unique attraction is still the primates, the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and the chimpanzee in the Chambura Gorge and Kibale Forest.

The varied landscape also contains a wide and exciting diversity of fauna and flora and the environment provides a perfect opportunity to spot the usual wildlife attractions such as elephants and lions.

Until now, Uganda's infrastructure has not been on a par with neighbouring Kenya but huge investments have been put into refurbishing properties to an international standard as well as building new hotels.

The 264-room Sheraton Kampala has completed a $6m investment to upgrade two floors to executive standard and it is now considered one of the top three Sheratons in Africa. The Grand Imperial Hotel also offers luxury accommodation right in the heart of Kampala. Other hotels, including the Nile Hotel International, Hotel Equatoria, Speke Hotel, Windsor Lake Victoria Hotel and the Botanical Beach Hotel in Entebbe, have all been upgraded. Protea Hotels will shortly be opening a new resort too, The Ranch on the Lake.

Africa's new hot spot?

Accommodation in the national parks has not been neglected either. Mweya Safari Lodge in the Queen Elizabeth National Park is being upgraded in a $4m programme. In Murchison's Falls National Park, the Nile Safari Camp and the Sambiya River Lodge offer first class accommodation while the Paraa Lodge, due to open in early 1997, is being refurbished by Sarova Hotels.

In Lake Mburo National Park, Hot Ice has established a tented camp and work is also being carried out on a lodge, while Safari Seekers is developing Rwonyo Rest Camp. In Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Abercrombie and Kent operate the Buhoma Gorilla Lodge and Mantana have a tented camp. In addition tourist camps are being established in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park.

That Uganda is about to become an African hot-spot is clear: Tour operators no longer feel nervous about the country's political stability and increasing numbers of brochures are starting to feature this spectacular destination among their colourful pages. The future looks bright for both visitors and locals.
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Author:Foottit, Claire
Publication:African Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Jan 1, 1997
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