How Uganda can exploit on Chinese tourism

June 12, 2017

Ugandan government through its tourism strategy is supporting the tourism sector to reap the benefits of growth in visitor numbers while managing the pressures this places on businesses, communities and infrastructure.The tourism strategy both aligns and coordinates the government in Kampala efforts supporting the sector to boost the economic contribution of tourism across the country and plan for the future.The strategy complements the industry led growth framework developed to address low growth and a declining share of tourism activity.It is clear the strategy focuses on various challenges such as attracting the right mix of visitors in places like Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth National Park, ensuring visitors have a high quality experience in places like Jinja and supporting regions like Eastern Uganda, Northern Uganda and Western Uganda to respond to and benefit from increasing visitor numbers.It is designed to help the sector attract high-value visitors and investment, not only to tourism hotspots during peak seasons, but to a range of regions and throughout the year. Thats the reason why your blogger feels Uganda, a country he loves and knows all too well, should focus on marketing pearl of Africa as Winston Churchill described Uganda, to the Chinese.Chinese tourism around Africa is experiencing a boom, the numbers of tourists are increasing and the types of tourism diversifying. But Uganda will need a more culturally sensitive approach than traditional marketing to capitalise on this emerging market.Uganda is competing for this market. It’s not the only African country that is trying to benefit from Chinese tourism, in fact Uganda is only attracting few of Chinese outbound travel in East Africa compared to Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, its main competitors in the region. However, China is likely to Uganda’s largest visitor market if right strategies are put in place.The increase in Chinese tourists is set to continue in East Africa. Arrivals in 2016 grew by more than 15% compared with 2015, and in South African countries the growth rate was even higher. In 2016, the amount that Chinese tourists spent in East Africa amounted to an average of $4,765 per person according to the data in my possession.It is not surprising that various African countries are investing to maximise the economic benefits from this market especially against the background of a declining resources sector and poor climatic conditions that has affected millions of African farmers.A report on the Chinese tourist boom finds that Chinese outbound tourism has risen close to 150 million travellers in 2016. This is expected to growth to more than a quarter billion in the next eight year. Expenditure by tourists will grow to half a trillion dollar over the same period.Overall, the Chinese traveller is evolving. Until recently most used travel packages, but over the past few years they are becoming more experienced independent travellers. This means that they want interesting and culturally appropriate experiences.

Uganda therefore should target Chinese millennials, a vibrant and young generation that is well-educated, speaks fluent English and is highly connected through the internet which will get attracted to particular interests from the Ugandan tourism industry. Chinese tourists use digital media to plan for their travel and Uganda’s tourism stakeholders need to take keen of that.Uganda needs to ensure that the tourism experience is what Chinese tourists want. Some other destinations offer better deals, such as the on arrival-visa policy and also enhance open borders with East African Single Visa which if well marketed will encourage more travel.The tourism industry in partnership with Kampala government is currently addressing this with tourism businesses enhancing their knowledge of digital platforms, learning about Chinese language, social media channels, and creating Chinese language web pages. Tourism operators in Uganda need to adjust their experiences specifically for the Chinese market to improve the food and dining experiences and to offer more in Mandarin and other Chinese languages.Going forward, there is the potential to attract more Chinese brands to Uganda, including Chinese-owned hotel chains that offer very different experiences from traditional Western world hotels, Chinese clothing brands, and entertainment experiences that are popular in China. This will improve the satisfaction of Chinese tourists. For those familiar with Kampala, you’d agree with me that a Chinese traveler walking in to a club that plays Chinese music, offers services in Chinese in areas like Kololo or Muyenga will definitely make sense than going to places like Club Silk.In order for Uganda to share the benefits of Chinese tourism it has to be linked to other investment. Often Chinese visitors will holiday in Uganda and on their trip look for information about an investment property or business.Uganda can also benefit in terms of protecting its natural environment. One of the main attractions for Chinese tourists is the clean and green environment and native animals which Uganda is immensely blessed with. For example, out of all bird species found in Africa, Uganda has more than 52% of then and out of all bird species found in the world more than 10% are found in Uganda.Chinese visitors could be actively engaged in nature conservation activities like Mountain Gorilla initiative. As Chinese travellers become more independent, Uganda has opportunities to entice a proportion of them to engage with local culture and the environment as well as contributing to economic activities outside the main tourist centres. Me think that it is the time to plan for how the vast Chinese market can generate the greatest overall value to Uganda. This could be by targeting young millennials, environmental or cultural special interest markets, or any other sub-group that generates benefits beyond the sheer numbers entering the country through Entebbe International Airport. By proper planning, it means targeting Chinese market segments to maximise the return for Uganda.

Contador Harrison