USAID-Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift (USAID-STAR)

08/2009 to 8/2012

Program Goal / Need:
Ugandas economy traditionally relies on small-scale agricultural products like coffee, tea, cotton, and grains, while tourism serves as the largest non-traditional export. In the 1960s, Uganda was the main tourist destination in East Africa and it relied heavily on tourism for economic growth. However, during the 1970s and 80s, Uganda’s image as a tourist destination was severely damaged by natural resource depletion, an exodus of trained personnel, the destruction of tourism infrastructure, and poaching. With political instability and civil unrest behind it, Uganda is enjoying strong economic growth and making progress toward biodiversity conservation and redevelopment of its national parks. Despite this, the pressure on parks from encroachment and poaching remains high due in part to the lack of financial benefits from the park for its neighboring communities.

Program Description:
With Uganda’s wealth of tourism assets—the highest diversity of primates in Africa, a growing list of over one thousand bird species, diverse cultural attractions, and an extraordinary variety of landscapes from savannas to tropical forests to ice caped mountains—there is significant potential for tourism to contribute to biodiversity conservation, economic growth, employment and poverty reduction. To achieve these goals a comprehensive approach to tourism was needed, one that actively involved stakeholders from all aspects of the tourism and conservation sectors to enhance tourism in and around Uganda’s national parks, strengthen the communities bordering the parks to benefit from tourism and to link activities and attractions to the national and international tourism value chain.

Program Results:

Enterprise development, training and workforce development

Average 27% increase in household income in targeted communities

Average 16% increase in tourism revenue for targeted existing community tourism enterprises

Increase of revenue in the first year of operations for new start-up community tourism enterprises equivalent to the average household income of over 15 households in the community.

42 Community Tourism Enterprises completing full Solimar tourism business training program along with 103 supporting organizations.

Secured business linkages between small tourism enterprises and national tourism operators and accommodation providers.

Increase revenue and funding for conservation activities

Increased funding for conservation by $1.9 million and leveraged support to the program by over $4 million.

Enhance the capacity of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Community Tourism Association and others to realize greater revenues for them and their stakeholders.

Increase partnerships and communication in support of conservation and tourism

Brought together the media, Hollywood celebrities, travel & tourism business, government and conservation groups to launch the ‘Friend-a-Gorilla’ campaign, generating over $2 million worth of free international media coverage and strengthening industry partnerships.

Established Tourism Media Awards, increasing media coverage of tourism and conservation in the country by over 100%.

Marketing & Branding for Destinations and Enterprises

Created ‘Pearls of Uganda’ an award-winning marketing program for community tourism enterprises, that links communities to markets. 120 private sector tourism businesses from Uganda signed up to support the program.

Promotion of Uganda, through development of the first “Destination Uganda” guide of the country for the tourism trade, creation of the national tourism song “Oh Uganda,”

Destination marketing campaign for Queen Elizabeth National park that increased overall park visitation by 16% and domestic visitation by 23% in one year.

Creation of Uganda Wildlife Authority Web-portal that boosted visitation to their site by over 200% and increased the number of page views by over 500% with an average visit of about 6 minutes (above industry average).