Pilgrim Tourism is Big Business – let us harness it!

This is a reprint of Maria Baryamujura’s Letter of the Week that appeared in New Vision Uganda on February 15, 2014.

A big thank you to New Vision management for taking initiative to partner with the Catholic Church to create public awareness about the Uganda Martyrs and the upcoming golden jubilee celebrations of their canonization. From a tourism perspective, this is a great opportunity to diversify and enrich our tourism product beyond gorillas and for Uganda to spearhead religious/pilgrim tourism on the African Continent.

Uganda is very well positioned to prosper from religious/pilgrim tourism if serious planners take advantage of the numerous sites of religious historic significance dotted across the countryside to create religious tourist circuits targeting the numerous local, regional and international Christian pilgrims who annually come to Uganda to participate in the Martyr Day celebrations, they would be motivated to extend their pilgrimage to places of religious interest including,the Mapera landing site in Entebbe, Kibwetere massacre site in Kanungu, Polish Church &cemetery in Nyabyeya Masindi, Bishop Hannington’s murder site in Busoga, Daudi Okello & Jildo Irwa and Archibishop Janan Luwum memorial sites in Northern Uganda. The economic impact of religious tourism should not be underestimated, there is need to develop all potential pilgrimage sites and carefully develop them into viable tourism assets for the benefit of Ugandans and international pilgrims. Pilgrim tourism is serious business for the economies of countries like India, Saudi Arabia, Italy and Israel. Lourdes alone receives more than 5 million pilgrims from 140 different countries annually!

The longer tourists stay in a country the more they spend and in the process the benefits trickle down benefiting both who are directly and indirectly involved through the multiplier effect of tourism. Ugandans should start NOW planning how to tap from the pilgrim traffic for Martyrs Day 2014 and the Golden Jubilee celebrations in October.

The people living around Namugongo need to take advantage of their proximity to the Shrine to improve their livelihoods, since 1969 despite government providing a tarmac road and other amenities to the area, nothing much seems to have developed, yet innovative residents could have by now be providing quality hospitality services and products to the pilgrims right from their homes ! Martyrs Day 2013, pilgrims to Namugongo included 30 pilgrims from South Africa; 15 from Swaziland, Nigeria 109, DRC 172, Kenya 585, Tanzania 833, Rwanda 83, Burundi 92, and South Sudan 38. There were others from the US, Australia and Italy and many more who may not have been documented, the potential is there let us work on harnessing it. The Bahai Temple in Kanyaya which is the largest Bahai Temple in Africa and the Gadaffi Mosque at Old Kampala the second largest mosque in Africa are very important sites for religious tourism as well. Thank you New Vision, Public Private Partnership is the way forward to development.

See New Vision article, The Pope is Coming >