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Uganda Tourism Board Seals Deal With UEGCL To Package & Market Karuma, Isimba Hydro-power Dams As Tourism Products

Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) and Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL) have signed a partnership to package and market the 600MW Karuma HyrdoPower Dam and the 183MW Isimba HydroPower Dam as superstructure/infrastructure tourism products.

Isimba which was commissioned on 21 March 2019 and Karuma which is expected to be commissioned June next year, are all owned by the Government of Uganda and managed by UEGCL.

Lilly Ajarova, the UTB Chief Executive Officer and Hon. Daudi Migereko, the Board Chairman signed on behalf of UTB while Dr Eng. Harrison Mutikanga, the UEGCL Chief Executive Officer and Proscovia Margaret Njuki, the power Board Chairperson signed on behalf of the power generation company.

The MoU covers tourism product development and marketing, namely:  

  1. Institute a study to evaluate the potential of transforming Karuma and Isimba hydropower into tourism destinations. UTB will provide support to UEGCL in developing terms of reference for the study in (a) above while UEGCL will source for a budget to conduct the study in (b) above.
  2. Both parties will conduct joint site excursions and familiarization trips to the hydropower stations.
  3. UEGCL with the support of UTB shall develop promotional content including photographs and or videos for Karuma and Isimba Hydropower stations while UTB will provide support to UEGCL by promoting Karuma and Isimba tourism products to both domestic and foreign tourists via various platforms at her disposal.
  4. UTB will assist with coordination with other key stakeholders in the tourism sector on this project including but not limited to Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Hotels Owners Association, Association of Uganda Tour Operators among others to further sell the tourism potential of the two projects.
  5. The two agencies will organize joint benchmarking visits to other similar tourism destinations with existing related hydropower projects such as Three Gorges in China, Victoria Falls in Zambia, Niagara Falls in Canada among others.
  6. UTB will assist UEGCL in the standardising of products and tourist services at Karuma and Isimba Tourism sites.
  7. UTB and UEGCL will create links on their respective websites highlighting destination Uganda and its various tourism products and features.  

This MOU shall run for three (3) years from the date of signature. Some of the tourism products/activities being considered for development by UEGCL at the two dams include:  

  • Project construction videos/photos, Exhibition rooms (plant models, rocks) at the visitors’ centre auditorium
  • Guided Plant Tours
  • Boat cruises, sport fishing and bird viewing on the reservoir lake at Isimba  
  • Setting up of hotel/conference/shopping mall/Restaurant facilities
  • Setting up Project Souvenir shops at different locations like the Airport, Park hotels and any other strategic location as advised by UTB
  • Integrating plant tours with existing tourism facilities within the vicinity of the dams
  • Setting up of the Karuma Power Plant Resort” close to the tailrace outfall

Tourism product diversification

Speaking after the singing, Lilly Ajarova, the Uganda Tourism Board CEO thanked the management of UEGCL for picking interest in tourism and for reaching out to UTB to form this value-adding partnership.

“This MoU marks the beginning of an important journey for Uganda. When brought to fruition, the successful development of Karuma HPP and Isimba HPP into tourism sites will further diversify our tourism portfolio and therefore contribute to our core objectives i.e., sustainably increasing the volume (numbers) and value (earnings) of tourism to Uganda and by extension, Ugandan households, and livelihoods, through the creation of jobs and increased tax revenue’’.

“The diversification and promotion of tourism products beyond wildlife tourism to include among others, religious, cultural, culinary (food) and now infrastructure tourism, is very important to us as a sector and certainly as UTB. That is why, in our Strategic Plan 2020/21-2024/25 – UTB has prioritised collaborating with tourism site owners, the private sector and other MDAs to develop and package diversified tourism products to prolong the length of stay at a destination, thereby increasing tourism earnings,” said Ajarova. especially for the domestic market.

Dr. Eng. Harrison Mutikanga, speaking on behalf of UEGCL said that the MoU is in line with UEGCL’s Five Year Strategic Plan (2018 -2023) that among others focuses on the key objective of enhancing its business portfolio.

He intimated that utilization of the vast hydropower assets as a Tourism product will go a long way in unlocking the infrastructure tourism potential in Uganda. This is premised on the fact that the hydropower stations have unique features both on the surface and underground.

Key to note was the fact that Tourism at hydropower sites was not new as this has been demonstrated at the Three Gorges hydropower site in China, Livingstone site in Zambia, and Niagara Falls hydropower site in Canada.

“As UEGCL, we pledge total commitment to the partnership,” said Mutikanga.

Hon. Daudi Migereko said that the MoU is part of UTB’s strategic cooperation agenda with key public, private and non-profit agencies and organisations whose work has a direct impact on tourism.

“In line with this partnership strategy, UTB has already inked a number of MoU’s with agencies such as Uganda Airlines, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC)  and the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) to promote Brand Destination Uganda. Other than the government, UTB has severally collaborated with the private sector, cultural and religious institutions to develop, package, profile and market several tourism attractions and assets to the domestic market,” he said.   

A recent World Bank study— Statistical and Economic Analysis of Uganda’s Tourism Expenditure and Motivation Survey 2019 established that adding one additional night to all Ugandan tourists has been found to directly add USD67 million to tourism industry earnings or USD166 million in direct and indirect earnings, an equivalent of between 0.3 per cent and 0.7 per cent of GDP.

The same study reported that every USD1 spent by a foreign tourist generates an average of USD2.5 of GDP- both directly and indirectly along the value chain. This compares well with the USD 2.3 of GDP generated per USD1 earned from traditional exports from Uganda.  

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