By Boaz Opio
Way back in 2012, Uganda was ranked the number one tourist destination by Lonely Planet, the largest travel guide book publisher in the world. This is because the small land locked country has a tropical climate, with normal temperatures ranging from 21-25°C (70- 77°F), supporting ‘flourishing’ fauna and flora, stunning vistas of snowcapped mountains on the summits of Elgon and Rwenzori attracting visitors all year round. But all these natural treasures have started to wane in the face of increasing global average temperatures.
So far this year’s combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for February 2017 was 0.98°C (1.76°F) above the 20th century average of 12.1°C (53.9°F)—the second highest for February in the 138-year period of record. While the latest news from UNMA - Uganda National Meteorological Authority already shows abnormal average temperature rise.
“During the period 21st-31st March 2017, the country experienced warm to hot conditions with average maximum temperatures ranging from 24.50C to 33.80C. These average maximum temperatures were recorded at Kabale and Wadelai weather stations respectively. Overall, the highest of the observed daily maximum temperatures of 36.90C occurred at Wadelai weather station,” reads a statement at the weather-overlooking parastatal.
The above statement is not only a statement but means a change in the environment, and the ecosystem, impacting on the decisions of tourist visiting the country. This in turn leads to a decline in the performance of Tourism sector which in fact Uganda is experiencing since 2012.
Uganda Tourism Board, an organisation charged with responsibility to oversee the performance of the once lucrative sector notices that tourism “could perform better” if the natural environment of Uganda is preserved—if rainforests reduce lumbering down for burning charcoal and obtaining firewood; if the renewable energy options such as solar energy, wind energy and biogas potentials are fully exploited.
According to a report published by Daily Monitor in Jan 13, 2016, Uganda Wild Life Authority blamed the declining Tourism in Uganda to negative publicity. This very negative publicity they are talking about comes as a result of facts in the ground.
The report reveals that UWA (Uganda Wild-life Authority) collected revenue of Shs42.6b, a decline of 24 per cent from Shs56b in 2013/14. As a result, UWA posted a deficit of Shs13b compared to the surplus of Shs4b reported in 2013/14.
“Management explained that in the financial year 2014-2015 there was a drop in the number of tourists visiting the protected areas from approximately 220,005 to 196,768 visitors (11% decrease) especially due to factors beyond management’s control and negative publicity,” the report reads.
Isn’t “negative publicity” rather a wrong narrative of the strong relationship climate has with tourism? Would the right narrative not rather be “Climate is Changing Uganda’s Tourism Potential?”
In a newspaper article titled “What is Killing Uganda’s Tourism?” published by Daily Monitor, a government owned newspaper, the Tourism Board spokesperson Vincent Mugaba, argued that Uganda is not the only country facing declining tourist numbers. “Our immediate neighbours, who actually spend a lot on marketing their countries, have been equally affected to.”
During the 45th Climate Outlook Forum for the Greater Horn of Africa held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 5 to 8th February 2017, the national, regional and international climate scientists reviewed the state of the global climate system and its implications on the seasonal rainfall over the East African region. It was observed that the major physical conditions likely to influence the weather conditions over Uganda and the rest of the East African region for the forecast period of March to May 2017.
So, what is truly killing Uganda’s tourism sector? Rising Global Temperatures due to immense carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by day and night. This means there is no magic bullet to restoring Uganda’s dwindling attraction except committed efforts that cut the amount of carbon we emit. This will also preserve tropical forests.
Promoting alternative renewable energy solutions will reduce greenhouse gas emission by 22 percent as Uganda already pledged in its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted to UNFCCC. These efforts will increase the country’s tourism potential by restoring lasting beauty in a cooler planet where global temperatures are constrained below the 1.5-degree benchmark agreed in Paris Climate agreement.