UCOTA has run two separate test tours for many of its new member products around Queen Elizabeth National Park to approve them as new members of UCOTA and for integration into Pearls of Uganda. The test tours are meant to prepare community tourism enterprises to practice handling guests and the operational processes of running a small tourism enterprise.
The first trip was made up of staff members from UCOTA and USAID-STAR and visited 8 different community tourism enterprises in 3 days. The communities included: Rubona Women Basket Weavers Association, BBC Honey, Kogere Village Guest Farm, Kikorongo Women Group, Katwe Tourism Information Centre, Nyazi’ibiri Community Eco Campsite, Foundation for Youth Development Agro-Tour Walk, and House of Love Children’s Village. At each community, products were fully tested, evaluation forms were filled, and verbal feedback was given. After the team’s return to Kampala, follow-up calls were made to prepare communities for the second trip, which would include paying tourists. UCOTA also worked with graphic designers to create brochures and sell sheets for the new community member groups.
The second 3-day trip fromMarch 8-11, 2012, was advertised to internationals living in Uganda and attracted 6people including participants from America, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. Each participant was required to pay $250 to cover their accommodation, meals and and all activities, which included community cultural experiences as well as wildlife viewing. Participants were told that this would be a special trip, where they would be the first real tourists at many of these sites, and so would be asked to participate in providing in-depth feedback as “voluntourists.” Many were interested to learn about the lives of people living near the national parks, and the work they do to promote conservation, including community cultural experiences as well as wildlife viewing. In the end, they were overwhelmed by what the communities offered, and one of them remarked that “[this trip] exceeded my expectations.”
Moving forward, UCOTA will help these communities to go through the participants’ comments and continue to help these communities improve their products and services. Participant suggestions included clearer signage for the communities (which UCOTA and USAID-STAR will be putting up this quarter) and more marketing efforts.
This tour was the second one of its kind that UCOTA and USAID-STAR have organized in two years. Many of these communities participated in the UCOTA CTE Development Training Program in STAR I and have developed into wonderful, functioning tourism enterprises and as a result have been integrated into UCOTA’s Pearls of Uganda program. UCOTA’s next step to improving the performance of these enterprise will be to hold a Uganda in-bound operator FAM trip run under the Pearls of Uganda program.