By Titus Kakembo
At this time of the year, parties are like nsenene (grasshoppers) in season and hoteliers have evidently got off their proverbial laurels and flung open the doors of a brand new facility called Onomo in Nakasero, Kampala. The Association of Uganda Tour Operators had their end-of-year party there and guzzled all tribes of wines, whiskies and juices.
Like the chairperson, Civvy Tumusiime, all the guests swaggered into the high rise building with the grace of a peacock in Kidepo Valley National Park. Speeches were made to the effect of the industry staggering back to its feet.
“Resilience is our second name,” announced Tumusiime. “The attractions have increased during the lockdown. Good enough new structures like our host have opened their doors to domestic and foreign guests.”
Deep breaths were taken in as the tour guides gazed at the swimming pool, the surrounding scenery of hills like Kololo and toasted to a fast recovery – come 2022.
“We are having more inquiries, bookings and suggestions online,” said Tumusiime. “The trick is for all of you to have your COVID-19 jabs. Tourists need assurance of not being infected. And most of all, the industry wants you alive.”
Bloggers, tour guides, hoteliers, drivers, guides and tourism journalists could be seen beaming with smiles. Voices got louder with every sip of whatever beverage was being sipped. Handshakes were slowly replaced with elbow bumps.
“I am single and very searching!” announced a lady clutching a glass of sparkling wine.
Eyes turned her way. Winks followed.
“Searcher, what are your hobbies?” asked a suitor. “If I marry you, our reception will be here at Onomo. And the honeymoon in Murchison Falls National Park.”
“Would you accept a polygamous marriage?” followed another. “Will you accompany me for a two days’ trip to Sesse Island for starters? The venue would be Brovad Sands Lodge. We will see the sun go down and listen to the tide slap the shores… ”
The searcher was overwhelmed by the responses. She declared the application closed and that she was now in the vetting process.
As men proposed and offered a treat, the waiters sauntered about with more glasses of wine on trays balancing on their fingers. Others served tender chicken dusted with spices. Pork skewers followed. A stationary bicycle kept frying popcorn throughout the occasion.
Asked what the qualities of a good tour guide is made the president of Uganda tour Guides Association, Jackson Mwere, run his fingers through his hair in search of the answer.
“First – one should be able to converse with the tourists,” noted Mwere. “They should also be good storytellers, have knowledge of the given area and be able to improvise where something is lacking. Say if a lion is desired, but cannot be spotted, enable the tourist to appreciate other attractions like the birds, primates or waterbodies.”
Uganda Hotel Owners Association CEO Jean Byamugisha summed up the evening, saying tourists want an authentic experience and personal fulfilment.
“They want to be entertained and thrilled at the same time,” said Byamugisha. “Generally, they seek adventure, challenge and to learn the history of a destination.”