Broad Goal 2: Establishment of a Regional Tourism Coordination Network:
Kitara Foundation for Regional Tourism was established with a sole aim of contributing to the National Strategic Goal of a professional, regulated and sustainable tourism sector that helps to create jobs, increase foreign currency income, improve livelihoods and preserve natural and cultural resources.
Despite the sector’s rapid development in recent years, Uganda has not yet been able to make the most of its potential as an attractive, diverse travel destination. Potential for growth is particularly to be found in product development and marketing, infrastructure, practical training and continuing professional development, sector regulation and regional integration.
The characteristics of Western Uganda region and its tourism market potential make regional tourism cooperation necessary, and even essential. If International tourists visit the region, few would visit one district only. Normally they visit 2-3 or even 4-5 districts in one travel trip. The goal of the Tourism Coordination Strategy is to attract as many International tourists as possible to visit the region, because traveling around this region has been a very clear and attractive opportunity for international tourists who come to Uganda. In fact, the region accounts for over 70% of Uganda’s overall tourism industry.
For future visitors, the Network in the first place is reliable, and it can provide first-hand information. For tourism professionals or agencies, the network can provide a powerful platform to find working partners with each other, and they can take this platform to develop high-class tourism products tailored for international and local tourists. At the same time, the network also shoulders the important task on making new travel routes, which can provide new opportunities for Ugandan travel agencies, and will provide convenience for promotion of regional tourism. In order to maintain continuous high-level consultations, tourism industry leaders of the 33 Local governments (districts, cities and municipalities) will hold meeting once a year.
Each year, the network, involving tourism partners and stakeholders in the region will hold the largest tourism activity in the country, namely Kitara Tourism Exhibition (KTE) which will always be hosted in Fort Portal, the tourism capital of Uganda or rotated in various districts of the region. Participants from different districts who attend these annual events will share latest trends of Uganda’s tourism industry within the framework of a professional forum.
Uganda’s tourism market is currently growing fastest in the region, and at the same time also changing at the top speed with ever growing new demands, which requires the tourism industry to update and change all the time, and to develop corresponding products to meet with challenges. The role of Tourism Coordination Network as a regional coordinator will be increasingly strengthened, which prospectively will be reflected on the number of tourists to the region.
The Foundation plans to document comprehensive tourism information covering the entire region. This will involve mapping existing and potential tourism destinations in each district and documenting all tourism actors, partners and stakeholders in each district.
The Foundation also plans to launch series of seminars on tourism routes and product development in all participating districts. Summary reports from these seminars will always share communication services for tourism route executions, and suggestions in the field of brand and market service.
With the help of Uganda’s National Tourism Board, the Foundation could directly acquire real-time tourism tendency information about Uganda tourism market, and even the entire East Africa and the whole world. That information will play vital role in strategy planning.
The main goal of the Foundation is that the Foundation could evenly and fairly represent 33 districts in tourism on every event and project. The Foundation will help to maintain daily work communication with Uganda National Tourism Board and Ministry of Tourism, while keeping contact with district coordination desks in the 33 districts
The Foundation’s long-term target is to develop into a headquarter receiving trust from all parties who could spontaneously reach it as long as national and regional problems related to tourism occurred, and firmly believe they could receive effective and practical help. Of course the main task is to convey information to the district tourism bodies, precisely the information related with Uganda tourism products and other professional information. We believe that tourism and business relations based on long-run trust could only be established by mutual understanding.
The mission of the Foundation is to collect and share information and connect tourism stakeholders – business ventures, national tourism organizations and ministries. By promoting the region as a single and unique destination, the Foundation will support the cooperating districts to be more visible in the Uganda’s tourism market.
The Foundation is seated in Fort Portal City which is the Uganda’s Tourism City. Its work will be supported by the national tourism board and District tourism offices in each district. This cooperation is expected to result into an extended partner network in the business sphere in in the region.
At the Foundation we document the region’s geography, the region’s natural, cultural and tourism resources. One gets to know about the main characteristics of Kitara tourism and the travel habits of tourism visitors, tourism managers and tourism destinations. One learns about the most important tourism policy measures of the Ugandan government and the new technologies that help the development of tourism. Finally, one will even get tips of travel with recommended itineraries.
The Foundation will introduce its participants to the history and main goals of the Uganda National Tourism Board and the Regional Coordination. Participants will learn about the joint activities of all partners and tourism offices in each district in order to build the best tourism brand. Participating actors will always receive a summary of the development of tourism traffic in the region. We will share with on how the participating districts and destinations are maintaining their presence in the industry at different times.
At the Foundation, we will highlight the role that Ugandan government is playing in developing and marketing tourism industry. We will explain the stages that Uganda has gone through to become a regional leader in tourism. We will introduce the main drivers of development in order to understand the link between the major reforms of the government, the increasing living standard of the population and the impressive performance of Uganda’s tourism in the past times. We will provide reliable early forecasts about the different tourism seasons in the region. Finally, we will give useful advice on how players in tourism should prepare for the market in the Uganda’s tourism industry.
“Status of Tourism and Rural Development in Kitara Region”
Our emphasis is on the tourism sector’s huge potentiality of steering the economic development to bridge the gap between the people who come from small communities and big cities / towns in this region. How can we help rural communities to grow into large Tourism destinations in this region?
Just like many rural communities, tourism in Western Uganda means opportunity. It provides jobs and economic empowerment, including for women and youth. Tourism can give Western Uganda rural communities the ability to protect and promote their natural surroundings, as well as their culture and heritage. In doing so, it allows domestic visitors and foreign tourists to enjoy unique experiences in the region.
At Kitara Foundation we emphasize tourism sector’s importance for those communities that would otherwise be left behind.
According to United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), “Tourism and Rural Development” recognizes tourism as the ultimate cross-cutting sector that contributes to all of the SDGs. With coordination and solidarity, tourism can accelerate the achievement of Agenda2030.
Uganda is the Pearl of Africa and Kitara Region has most of the tourism sites and attractions that contribute to Uganda’s glory in terms of tourism and wildlife as the country offers a diversity of what all other destinations in the World have
Uganda as a preferred tourism destination given the beautiful attractions it has and our commitment is to develop tourism in this region is to ensure that Kitara region becomes the most preferred destination in Africa.
When you travel from Kampala to Fort Portal for example, you witness vended slopes, extensive miles of tea plantations, and astonishing holy baboons in the national park, thus, the world must see this beauty, we want to brand this region as the best tourism destination in Africa and the world and also call upon all Ugandans to marvel around the tourism capital in the beautiful Pearl of Africa.
The Foundation Has Identified the following needs for success of the regional tourism and hospitality sector in Kitara Region;
1. Community involvement and participation, hence need for sensitization about tourism and conservation of biodiversity
2. Access to the National Tourism Policy Frameworks is limited; there is need for providing tourism policy frameworks to all tourism actors and stakeholders
3. Existence of idle, undeveloped and undiscovered tourism resources in the region; this calls for mapping of tourism potential sites and activities (profiling)
4. There is limited linkages among tourism stakeholders and actors at all levels; hence need for Coordination with all the tourism stakeholders and partners in the region
5. Limited advocacy for tourism and hospitality development in the region, hence need for a regional tourism and hospitality private sector platform
6. There is limited capacity for tourism development in the region; hence need for advocating and attracting more tourism partners to the region
7. There is limited skills and capacity for tourism development among actors; hence need for Capacity building for tourism and hospitality actors in the region
8. There is limited capacity for tourism resource mobilization in the region; hence need for Resource mobilization capacity for all tourism actors
9. There is a level of competing forces in tourism leading to conflicts and misunderstandings sometimes affecting the guests to the region; hence need for Peace building and conflict management interventions among the tourism actors in the region
10. There is limited publicity and marketing of most rural tourism sites in the region; hence need for Building Public relations, marketing and advertising capacity of the region
11. There is poor infrastructure in the region limiting tourism circuits connectivity; hence need for Improvement of tourism infrastructure such as roads
12. Generally, there is underdevelopment of tourism products in the region; hence need for Tourism Product development, diversification and specialization.
Kitara Foundation has committed to undertake the following Key action points in partnership with district based Tourism actors;
1. Work with District Tourism offices to establish and Sustain the district-led platforms for more coordination, partnership, collaboration and sharing knowledge and information.
2. Mapping of tourism operators in each district, assist local operators in acquiring permits and other requirements from authorities.
3. Mapping and documenting all tourism sites in each district and advocate for their development
4. Engage with District Local Government, Uganda Wildlife Authority, National Forest Authority, Uganda Tourism Board and other established mechanisms.
5. Participate in community awareness activities, sensitization, capacity building and skilling the youth to labor market demanded skills in tourism.
7. Using the identified opportunities, improve on the required labor for the tourism sector in the region by equipping the youth with relevant and demanded skills.
7. Conduct targeted Advocacy for Improvement of infrastructure such as roads, hotels, museums, electricity, water and security in the region.
8. Work with all District Local Governments to ensure that all tourism private sector stakeholders are registered with District Community Development Offices and Sub County Community Development Offices.
9. Work with Private sector tourism stakeholders to spearhead communication and sensitization of District Local Governments and Sub Counties on the tourism and hospitality sector development in general.
10. Formalize a regional tourism Coordination Network for the sustainability of the coordination platforms, to streamline the communication and advocate for regional tourism development activities.
11. Implement Annual regional tourism stakeholder meetings/conferences, and related tourism promotion and marketing activities taking place in Fort Portal or rotational in different districts
12. Hold Annual Tourism Exhibitions (KTE) in the region which will always be hosted in Fort Portal involving participants from different districts (can be rotational).
13. Work with partners to boost Resource mobilization capacity for the tourism and hospitality industry actors in the region
14. Advocate for skilling in tourism and hospitality for stakeholders from freelance guides to operational staff, company management and company ownership.
15. Work with Government departments and District Local Governments to share policies related to tourism and conservation with all tourism stakeholders.
16. Development of online platforms where all mapped tourism sites are shared for use to the public and for unified marketing strategies.
17. Coordinate the Pro-active promotion of Public Private Partnerships in regional tourism development and investment.
18. Advocate for environmental conservation and preservation of culture by utilization of indigenous knowledge, planting of indigenous trees and protecting the African good cultures (Keep Africa green and Black campaigns).
19. Work with Stakeholders to diversify the regional tourist products by specialization through doing market research, benchmarking and trainings in tourism marketing.
20. Implement Justice and peace building activities among tourism stakeholders in the region and the tourists in the region
21. Implement a Tourists’ complaints and suggestions desk. Complaints and suggestions will be received from tourists to acknowledge, coordinate and communicate to the respective departments and authorities for consideration and processing with the relevant matters.
22. Promote Community Tourism to diversify and complement the mainstream tourism industry by identifying different tourism potentials such as in Agriculture, handcraft, cultural, entertainment and formation of Community tourism platforms such as Women in Tourism, Youths in Tourism, PWDs in Tourism in each district.
13. Implementation of Tourism Development promotion activities such as ‘‘Keep it Green’’ Campaign, Plant Your Age Campaign, Kitara Cultural Festival, Annual Tourism Appreciation Days, Annual Tourism Exhibition Days, Annual Tourism Talent Shows aimed at mobilizing communities for tourism and marketing the products to the national and international tourism markets
Identified Annual Tourism Development and Promotional Campaigns;
1. ‘‘Keep Africa Green’’ campaign is aimed at preserving African values and preserving Africa’s green environment in the face of tourism development. Both aspects (African values and Africa’s green environment) are exposed to high level risks by Tourism activities. A number of tourism activities expose our green African environment to a huge risk of degradation, but also Africa’s good cultures are at the same risk.
The campaign includes treating people kindly through upholding African ethics, values and training on African life skills; promoting good health, peace within communities, and creating sustainable livelihoods; and the actual environmental conservation.
Therefore, ‘‘Keep Africa Green’’ is a basic campaign which advocates for the establishment and promotion of culturally sensitive and environmentally sound practices. It exists to create economic hubs at community levels to preserve African cultural identity, improve community livelihoods and conserve the environment.
2. Kitara Annual Tourism Talent Show: Will feature young entrepreneurs running small tourism enterprises in the region.’ The show targets both the educated or skilled and the unskilled, with the goal of equipping them with the requisite tourism business skills to successfully run their businesses.
It is a campaign to search for entrepreneurship talent in tourism among youths in the Kitara Region. This campaign is designed to identify and promote fresh tourism talents in the region.
This show will give a platform to young tourism entrepreneurs in the region by recognizing and rewarding the participants that excel in the competition.
This initiative seeks to support the youth with tourism business-related-skills to enable them efficiently operate tourism businesses in this tourism region.
The show’s main goal is to inspire and stimulate the tourism entrepreneurship acumen among the youth as one of the ways to alleviate the high youth unemployment rate prevalent in the region and increase tourism potentials of the region.
3. Kitara Annual Tourism Development Appreciation Day: A day to recognize, appreciate and cement our partnerships in the Tourism Development Industry (both in the business and service arena). We do not often get time to reach to our partners, service providers, clients and suppliers to tell them how important they are to us in our businesses. Even writing a letter is as difficult as calling on phone or sending a text.
On this day, we meet one another to tell each other how important and valuable we are to one another, and to pledge our commitment to supporting each other on our next journey in the tourism development industry.
This annual event will attract stakeholders and partners in tourism development at National, regional and local levels both in business and service fields.
3. Kitara Annual Cultural Festival: Several cultural fairs and festivals have been run on National, Regional and local levels, but none has been meant to recognize and appreciate the unique historical features of Kitara Region as a cultural section on the globe. The Kitara Cultural Festival will be running each year under the theme “Appreciating who we are; celebrating Cultural Diversity”; The festival is an opportunity to showcase the different cultures that make the Kitara region so diverse and unique on this continent and in Uganda in particular.
“The fair will establish a platform where the different groups of Banyakitara can celebrate, appreciate and explore a diversity of cultures alongside their own.”
The event is inspired by key roles culture plays in the development of nations that it cannot be ignored. “Culture is a strong part of people’s lives. It influences our values, hopes and world view.”
At the Kitara Cultural Festival, the young generation will be given special focus through the school cultural quiz competitions. Schools both Primary and Secondary are invited to offer an opportunity to the young generation to learn about different cultures and be inspired.
The events come a few years after the Ministry of Tourism signed a memorandum of understanding with the Province of Hainan from China. They (Province of Hainan) want to bring tourists to Uganda and to many of them culture is the key attraction.”
We recognize the relevance of art and culture in social and economic development as well as individual human development. We envision a vibrant art and culture sector that is professional, creative and viable and contributes to social and economic development in Kitara region. Fair Missions is therefore dedicated to contribute to making Kitara region a significant hub for art and culture in Uganda and led by its values of respect, shared leadership, transparency, accountability, learning, and collaboration.
Kitara has different cultures than the rest of the regions of Uganda. In the rest of the country we read information, we read stories, books, in Uganda there are books, there is written information but there is something else in Kitara, we sit under the ancient tree and around the ancient fire place as the story-teller uses words to weave a tapestry in one’s mind with his or her words, we have art and cultural dance and music.
Children love to hear the adults speak and sing, they relate to them, relate to the characters in their tales, and love the gentle rhythm of the songs and the words that allow children to see the possibilities in life.
4. Kitara Annual Tourism Exhibition Day: The Kitara Tourism Exhibition is viewed as Uganda’s tourism signature event that brings together tourism stakeholders to one ideal meeting place to meet and network with exhibitors, buyers, investors and suppliers of services in the tourism sector from all over the country.
Even if we live in the age of social networks where it seems that human relationships are now entirely managed via the Internet, we should never underestimate the importance of human relations when talking about tourism industry
How can a tour operator, a tour entrepreneur or a blogger get in touch and meet potential partners and find new opportunities to collaborate? Participating in one of the Tourism Exhibitions.
It’s important to personally get to know other people working in the same industry or, in one world: networking. The reason is simple: it is easier to establish a good relationship of trust when talking face to face. After changing my way of contacting people, I saw the first positive results. So if you also want to find collaborations in the tourism industry, you need to go where they are.
Kitara Tourism Exhibition is an event entirely dedicated to actors of experiential tourism in areas such as tourism: culture, food, wine, sports, parks, community, volunteers and nature, etc.
Kitara Annual Tourism Exhibition will be the largest travel and hospitality conference for travel and hospitality actors in the region. This is where brands and tourism bureaus have the best chances to find the right partners to work with.
Our Home Fort Portal and its Tourism Potential
Fort Portal City located in Western Uganda (Kitara) region about 300km from Uganda’s Capital Kampala was launched as the Tourism Capital of Uganda on 1st July 2020.
Uganda’s tourism increased highly in the 2018/2019 financial year whereby 1,505,669 International tourists were registered and over $1.6 billion was received from international tourists, making the country’s tourism sector the top foreign exchange earner. Of this total number of tourists, over 70% visited Western Uganda, a region that accounts for over 75% of Uganda’s Natural Tourism destinations. Over 60% of the tourists visited more than two districts in the region. Beautiful people, beautiful nature, unique environment and serenity are some of the descriptions that spark people when they set foot in the region, particularly Fort Portal.
Fort Portal Tourism City at the foot of Rwenzori Mountains is currently known to be the gateway to various nature destinations including National Parks such as Kibale, Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori, Toro-Semuliki Wildlife reserves, Lake Mburo, Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga. It is famous for the stalagmites and Nyakasura waterfalls linked to the rich Chwezi culture.
Lying in mid-western Uganda, Fort Portal also Tooro kingdom’s capital is at the central position to the most beautiful sceneries and unique environment nature has to offer on earth giving access to numerous crater lakes, hills, mountains, endemic fauna and flora and one of the most beautiful, serene and hospitable people you can find, the Batooro that comprise the majority of the population.
Fort Portal has in the last couple of years been sought as Uganda’s pearl of Tourism since it’s strategically located in the heart of most of the major tourism sites and activities in the Albertine region prompting the government to consider it in the National Development Plan as that. Fort Portal is now a tourism or tourist city. In simple terms, a city is a place where people live that is larger or more important than a town or an area where many people live and work. Many people in Fort Portal engage in tourism related (tourism supported or supporting tourism) work.
The true definition of Fort Portal as a city entirely lies in “Tourism” thus the Tourism City title. By nature, location, environment and people, Fort Portal is unrivaled as being the heart of most of Uganda’s tourism sites and activities. Fort Portal is in other words the Tourism Capital of Uganda due to its natural instatement.
Fort Portal is strategically located in the heart of major tourism sites including the snowcapped mountains of the moon, commonly known as Rwenzori Mountains, Semuliki national park, Uganda’s largest Queen Elizabeth National Park, Home to gorillas and chimpanzees and a host of other primates, is a Centre of over 60 incredible crater lakes, the Mwenge and Kibaale natural forests, hills and rocks featuring over 400 species of birds, other animals and 1000s of flora species.
Fort Portal beholds of the most complete and all-inclusive climate with balanced weather throughout the year favoring stable farming and human settlement all year round.
Serenity and hospitability are the phenomena that make up tourism; all these are completely by nature found in Fort Portal on top of the Batooro people who are naturally hospitable, beautiful and the most peaceful ethnic group in Uganda creating a whole exciting welcoming tourism environment capped by the endless and numerous tourist activities and sites.
Amenities that make Fort Portal a special tourism applause include;
1. All major Roads from Fort Portal to other major towns and tourism sites are tarmacked namely; Fort portal-Kasese, Fort Portal-Ntoroko, Fort Portal-Bundibugyo, Fort Portal-Kampala, Fort Portal-Mbarara and Kamwenge road making those places easily accessible from Fort Portal.
2. Located in the centre; all the major tourism sites are not more than 4 hours away from Fort Portal at an average of 80KM/hr making it possible for most sites to and fro journeys daily from Fort Portal
3. Serene, peaceful and tranquil; Fort Portal has not experienced any form of violence and threats in many years making it the most secure place to settle for any tourist in Uganda.
4. The welcoming and hospitable nature of the Batooro people keeps any visitor comfortable giving a home away from home feel to tourists and volunteers from abroad spending days or months among the Tooro communities
5. With Fort Portal’s nature and environment, lots of fun activities can be created in different places in addition to the usual clubbing, bar going, ball games, motor games and athletics.
6. Fort Portal is geographically located in the windward side of Rwenzori mountains hence the most favorable weather there is
7. Fort Portal is also located on a high rise making it a no flood zone despite heavy rains evenly distributed throughout the year making it even safer.
8. Fort Portal is located in Kitara region with a long historical background raising from the time of the Batembuzi Dynasty, Chwezi dynasty to the current Bito Dynasty the rulers of Tooro Kingdom
9. Fort Portal and Tooro as a region has an exciting cultural background hosting over 15 tribes of natives and a vast religious background with over 7 religious denominations hence a rich area for both cultural and religious tourism.
Fort Portal due to its tourism city phenomenon will over the years be a unique metropolitan area with a blossoming hotel and hospitality industry holding hundreds of thousands of tourists at any single time from across the world boosting lots of other local businesses including majorly the transport and agriculture/food sectors;
Fort Portal is expected to be a fully-fledged tourism city by 2040 according to the government’s national development plan will be easily attained with increased government and private sector financing and focus on infrastructure development and providing incentives to intending tourism investors both local and international.
Fort Portal stands out to be unrivaled as the tourism destination in Uganda which provides huge potential for employment of the young workforce hence increasing the per capita income of the local households.
Tourism is potentially a huge investment in the area ranging from Training institutes for tourism and hospitality to real establishment of tourism attractions. Development of training institutes offers training to the youth on how to tap opportunities in the tourism industry. A recent survey in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo showed that inadequate skills significantly hamper local community participation in tourism within the region. Uganda alone has more than 400 tour companies, over 4,000 accommodation facilities, over 35,000 restaurants and eating houses as well as other enterprises in the entire value chain.
Fort Portal Tourism City needs to train its youths to become pragmatic to initiate their own enterprises and be able to fit in the labor market and make impactful contribution. The market for the graduates exists in tour and travel companies, accommodation establishments, transport industry and development of tourist attraction sites among others. In order to generate effective results, training institutes can train learners to become specialists in certain areas like food production, pastry and bakery, food and beverage services, housekeeping, events management, tour guiding and driving, hotel operations and marketing.
Fort Portal City enjoys a unique location in the Tourism Capital in the heart of the Pearl of Africa. This position gives Fort Portal a strategic commanding base for regional trade and investment. The people of Fort Portal –the Batooro are the friendliest you can find. The economy in the area also offers high returns on any investment thus making Fort Portal a preferred investment destination.
Tourism is a fast-growing sector supported by the fact that Uganda is ranked as a top tourist destination and one of only three countries with about 50% of the world’s known population of endangered mountain gorillas. (Source: Lonely planet 2012 and CNN 2016, which ranked Uganda among the top 16 holiday destinations in the world). Fort Portal is more privileged to have been crowned as the only tourism city known in the country, thus most tourists who come to Uganda admire to reach Fort Portal even before going to other tourist destinations.
Fort Portal Area and Tooro Region has a rich history of culture which is unfortunately fading out and may soon be forgotten. History and culture still play a great deal in shaping the future of Africa. We encourage especially youths to invest in preserving the cultural heritage and history of their area and can make profitable gains. There is great potential for partnering with government and other bodies in this area in establishment of museums and monuments in Fort Portal and the entire region.
Tourism Potential in Kitara Region (Western Uganda):
Kitara area lies across the Equator right in the heart of East Africa. The history of Kitara dates as far back as 1889 when Uganda was still a British protectorate and this region was nicknamed ‘the Switzerland of Africa’ because of the hilly nature and its unique vegetation and weather.
Kitara lies entirely between the two arms of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. To the far west it borders Zaire (former Belgian Congo). This border concedes with the western Rift Valley occupied from north to south by Lakes Albert, Edward, George and Kivu. On this border with Zaire exist also, the Rwenzori mountain ranges, the highest point of which (Mt Margarita) is 5,119 meters high. Further south west between Lake Edward and lake Kivu, there is the volcanic Muhabura range protruding from the rift Valley between 3,500 meters and 4,000 meters high.
On the other side Kitara borders Tanzania (former German East Africa). Boundary adjustments in 1910 between the British, the Belgians and the Germans fixed the southern limit of Uganda by including in Uganda, Kigezi which was formerly part of Belgian Congo and Bufumbira, formerly part of Germany East Africa. Kigezi was formerly part of Rwanda which together with Burundi and Tanganyika, formed German East Africa.
Generally, Kitara is a land of plateaus though in some areas there are hills which are 200 to 500 meters high. In most places, the hills are heavily eroded. In the extreme west, the ancient tabular areas still remain.
The Equator crosses Kitara region and the climate is equatorial but moderated by the altitude. In the region two dry seasons occur in the year. The highest temperatures occur on the Lake Albert flats while the lowest temperatures occur on the glaciated zone of Mt Rwenzori.
In the higher regions, the vegetation groups itself in levels such that the thick vegetation forest with under growth of liana appears at the bottom on the lower slopes. Mountain forest extends to about 3,200 meters and above this; there are bamboo groves and air pine prairie.
With its huge diversity of nature, culture and wildlife, Kitara Region (Western Uganda) offers ideal conditions for a strong tourism sector. The region accounts for over 70% of the country’s nature destinations.
Its landscapes range from rainforests and volcanic crater lakes to vast savannahs, snow-covered mountain ranges, tropical waterfalls and the hot springs. With over 10 tribes in the region, Kitara has a variety of cultures, languages and dialects, religious background, local cuisines, traditional clothing, foods, customs and beliefs.
Kitara is a unique destination for wildlife watching. It is home for the ‘Big Five’ (elephant, lion, rhinoceros, leopard and buffalo) and over 1,000 different bird species, Kitara is home to chimpanzees and more than half of the entire population of mountain gorillas still living in the wild. This makes Kitara one of the few places in the world where you can still encounter these endangered primates in their natural habitat.
The earliest man in Uganda lived around 60,000-50,000 B.C. This was the early Stone Age man known as Homo erectus. Traces of Homo erectus in Kitara were found at a place called Nsongezi in Isingiro District. The early man had the knowledge of making and using stone tools, especially the hand axe. Between 50,000 and 15,000 B.C, there emerged the middle Stone – Age man. During this period, man invented fire and more stone tools and began to become widely distributed. In Uganda, sites of the Middle Stone – Age man can be traced only at Nsongezi and Sango Bay in Rakai District.
The development of the present man is said to have taken place during the period 10,000 to 1,500 B.C. This falls within the Late Stone – Age period which is said to have lasted between some five hundred to six hundred years but traces of which still exist in most African societies. Between A.D. 500 and 1,500, other people began to migrate to Uganda from different parts of Africa. The first and largest group of such people was the Bantu. The earliest surviving inhabitants of the Bantu found in Uganda are the pygmean, Batwa and the Bambuti mostly found in Kitara region.
Apart from being known to be the home of the stout and majestic, bold, and hardworking Bantu ethnic groups, Kitara is also defined by green, interlocking and heavily-cultivated hills that range from 1,219 metres (3,999 ft) to 2,347 metres (7,700 ft) above sea level especially in far southwest Kigezi.
The region is home to the highly endangered animal species such as mountain gorillas in Bwindi National Park, and of the world’s most endangered birds such as the African hill babbler, cinnamon bracken warbler, chubb’s cistocola, doherty’s Bush shrike, malachite sunbird, Yellow belled waxbill, olive thrush, streaky seed eater, common stone chart, and grauers rush warbler.
The region is uniquely characterized by the African Great Lakes, which include Lake Bunyonyi, Lake Edward, Lake George, Lake Albert, Lake Mutanda and Lake Kyahafi. Kitara region is also the location of the volcanic mountains known as Muhavura Mountains. There are very high mountain ranges, particularly in Kabale district, Kisoro and Kasese. In the intervening valleys, often one finds expansive swampy areas, some of which, particularly those in Kigezi region and Ankole region, Butuku and Busongora have been reclaimed for pastureland.
Margherita Peak is at 5,109 metres above sea level on Mt Stanley in the Rwenzori Mountains and is Africa’s third highest mountain, however the real beauty is in the climb up the Kilembe route, the forests and valleys, the flora is diverse from giant heather trees and valleys of ferns. Climbing Margherita Peak is now technical due to the ever increasing number of crevasses. However, scaling the actual peak is more of a hard scramble than a climb and when it snows it is difficult, however the rewards and exhilaration of reaching the top is enormous as you look across Albert Peak to the DRC (Congo) then east across the spectra of the Rwenzori Mountains. This is a journey of 120km going through 5 different vegetation zones.
Apart from Tourism being a source of economic development, there are other positive effects on the region and its inhabitants. In the last two decades, visitor numbers in Uganda have risen rapidly – while 205,000 arrivals were recorded in 2001, as many as 1.5 million were registered in 2018. In 2018/19, the tourism sector turned over USD 1.6 billion, contributing an estimated 7.7 per cent to GDP and creating around 667,000 jobs both directly and indirectly.
Despite the sector’s rapid development in recent years, Uganda has not yet been able to make the most of its potential as an attractive, diverse travel destination. Potential for growth is particularly to be found in product development and marketing, infrastructure, practical training and continuing professional development, sector regulation and regional cooperation/integration.
Western Uganda is a rural community, with dirt roads that turn to sticky mud in the rainy season and dust in the dry season. Boda-Boda or taxi bikes share the road with bicycles, pedestrians and animals. As in most parts of Uganda, the community members struggle to meet their basic needs and strive to put their children in school. Main jobs include agriculture, hand craft making, brick making, selling fruits and vegetables, small-scale animal rearing and other manual labor jobs. All these make what Volunteers from abroad are looking for.
Major Tourism Potentials in the Region include;
1. Tourism sites development (Community tourism, religious tours, cultural tours, historical tours, canoeing/boat cruise, craft shops, agricultural tours, health tours, education tours, sports tours, nature tours eg. mountain hikes and nature walks)
2. Hotel industry (hotels, lodges, guest houses, restaurants, coffee shops, snacks centers, bars and night clubs)
3. Tour Guidance to various tourism destinations (transport and tour guides)
Other opportunities in tourism range from: –
1. Operating tour and travel circuits (bicycle tours, air balloon travel, marine activities on crater lakes
2. Development of specialized eco and community tourism facilities and faith-based tourism
3. Luxury tented camps and cottages
4. Walking Safaris in the wilderness areas and the volcanic craters
5. Canopy Walkways and sky trams
6. Abroad volunteer hosting is another lucrative business
7. Nature walks, game farming, game ranching and sport hunting
8. Mountaineering packages for Rwenzori mountains and Muhavura
9. Hot springs baths in Rwagimba and supporting facilities
10. Stop over facilities en-route to the national parks along major tourism circuits