KAMPALA, Uganda: Ugandans intending to tour national parks have reason to smile following the launch of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) ‘Tulambule Wild buses’.
The five state-of-the-art executive Scania buses funded by the World Bank through CEDEP and the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) to a tune of US$800,000 (Ugx1.3b), were commissioned on Tuesday.
The buses will greatly boost domestic tourism as they will ferry Ugandans to the notable destinations such as Murchison Falls, Lake Mburo, Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo and Kibaale National Parks. While commissioning the buses, the State Minister for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda Suubi Ssalongo said promotion of domestic tourism is in line with government programs aimed at increasing local revenue. Kiwanda explained that tourism is now among the top revenue earners to Uganda’s GDP. Kiwanda, also Mityana North MP also launched the Tulambule Wild Conservation Awareness campaign 2018 geared towards creating awareness among locals to conserve the parks.
UWA Board Chairman, Benjamin Otto said Tourism has for long worked as a smart driver to conservation awareness. “For conservation to thrive and be more appreciated by nationals and most importantly the communities that bear the brunt of wildlife conservation, there is need for an economic value incentive to be added,” Otto said at the event held at the Uganda Museum.
Otto said Tourism numbers are crucial because they drum up economic incentives that increase revenue both collected and shared with communities. “The buses being launched today are envisaged to bridge the gap of domestic tourism numbers to national parks and other touristic attractions in the country through affordable transport,” he added.
He told the gathering that included officials from PSFU, Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Wildlife Education Center, The World Bank, Tour operators, Tourism Police among others that UWA is not competing with any tour operator for tourist activities. “The buses are here to supplement and complement the services of tour operators and act as a bridge for an area with glaring deficiency.
This initiative helps us all; tour operators and UWA to conserve wildlife and have an even stronger visitor base to our parks. This is an exciting initiative that will attract the general public to the protected areas that we should all embrace,” he said. Otto warned against reckless driving while in the park or within the vicinity of the park. He described as very sad and unfortunate occurrences when a bus driver knocked and killed two elephants in the park.
UWA Executive Director, Dr. Andrew Seguya said the buses will enable Ugandans that do not have private cars to access the parks.
“There is a notion for example that access to the parks is expensive. It is not pricey to visit the parks as some nationals think. We do not treat fellow Ugandans like foreigners. We have subsidized costs to Ugandans and charged at the local currency of shillings– facilitate visitation and good relations,” he said.
Dr. Seguya said UWA had also acquired luxurious boats in Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls and Lake Mburo to see wildlife on water with enhanced comfort. “Affordable accommodation has been set up in parks like Queen Elizabeth to supplement the already available for middle income and high-end visitor clients,” he said.