(Posted 07th April 2022)
Uganda’s latest tourism association, ESTOA or in full the ‘Exclusive Sustainable Tour Operators Association‘, has wasted no time to swing into action following their launch some two weeks ago, which was attended by over 50 stakeholders, including high ranking officials from UWA, UTB and the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities.
Said one of the key promoters of the new association to ATCNews:
Our planned projects are:
- A large scale tree planting project. We are engaging UWA on this already about where and how. The idea is to get tour companies to pay per each guests for a tree to help and substitute the CO2 emission per flight.
- UWA wants us to erect sign posts of ban of plastic bottles and plastic bags in national parks
- Training tour operators to exchange the commonly used plastic bottles with stainless steel bottles. Some of us are doing it already. Training hotels and guides as well to use less plastic and use sustainable materials.
- Collection and recycling of plastic waste around lodges and camps across the country
- Collection and separation of rubbish especially in the Kampala areas. Here we are in touch already with KCCA. We would like to even work with schools in Kampala and communities upcountry together
- Include women and youth in all projects.
The Chief Guest, during the launch of the new association, had this to say to the assembled guests:
I bring you warm greetings from the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA).
Our Mandate is “To formulate and implement policies, strategies, plans and programs that promote tourism, wildlife and cultural heritage conservation for socio-economic development and transformation of the country”.
Our Vision is “Sustainable tourism, wildlife and cultural heritage contributing to the transformation of the Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous one”.
Our mission is “To develop and promote tourism, wildlife and cultural heritage resources for enhancement of Uganda as a preferred tourist destination, with accelerated sector contribution to the national economy”.
The COVID-19 outbreak presented unprecedented circumstances before the fragile tourism and hospitality industry. Being a labor-intensive industry, tourism was the worst affected sector globally.
According to researchers, the mayhem brought by the COVID-19 outbreak has fundamentally shifted people’s lifestyles in terms of the way they work, meetings, education, social interactions, and travel. Although consumers’ adoption of a sustainable behaviour in tourism has been growing in the past years, research has shown that the global pandemic has driven more sustainable travel trends.
Travelers seem to be adopting greener options and paying closer attention to their impact on the environment and local communities. Travelling closer to home, avoiding crowded destinations and seeking more authentic and immersive experiences have become some of the emerging trends driven by the pandemic. The World Travel and Tourism Council warned that the COVID-19 pandemic would cut millions of jobs in the travel and tourism sector as travelling was expected to significantly drop worldwide.
According to some researchers this situation makes tourism highly vulnerable, the sector is also in a unique position to contribute to broader and just recovery plans and actions. All over the world, tourism represents development opportunities, promotes solidarity and understanding beyond borders, while domestic tourism also helps to foster cohesion within nations.
Exclusive Sustainable Tour Operators Association (ESTOA), is Uganda’s unique tourism association with a main focus on creating a tourism sector that is sustainably cautious in all operations. ESTOA represents tenacious tour operators based in Uganda and provides a bridge in between the private sector, government institutions and other stakeholders to ensure a growing network and a flourishing industry.
Vison: A thriving tourism sector based on sustainable values, presenting the country’s uniqueness to the rest of the world.
It is indeed the right time to launch ESTOA, as tourism is getting out of the Covid-19 shocks, the sectors players need to be equipped with knowledge and skills to facilitate company resilience and survival in order to operate responsibly and be able to thrive, for the benefit of the host communities and hence sustainability.
In line with our mission and vision as the ministry responsible for tourism development we are ready to support ESTOA to achieve its objectives in order to groom a highly responsible private sector and tourism industry in Uganda. As yoyu may be aware, in the last few years, the concept of sustainability has become an integral part of planning and developing any destination.
ESTOA has exhibited the spirit of togetherness and readiness to collaborate with government agencies, development partners, other associations, the communities and all stakeholders as one of their core values in order to preserve and protect the country’s resources for future generations to enjoy.
ESTOA has promised to work closely with tourism enterprises that are registered and licensed by Uganda Tourism Board who are ready to join hands to promote Uganda as sustainable destination in a professional manners.
As one of their upcoming immediate activations, ESTOA plans to undertake a tree planting campaign countrywide and in this they will be trying to encourage clients to visit Uganda without feeling guilty since this would take care of compensation for their carbon footprint especially those that use long haul flights which are unavoidable at the moment.
This aligns very well with the new brand that was launched by UTB, I’m glad to know that ESTOA is ready to work with UTB to support and promote the new brand image. It is the right time to escalate the sustainability agenda in Uganda as the world is opening up and the fact that clients are more sensitive in regards to their contribution and prefer to visit sustainable destinations.
I am happy to be part of the official launch this 24th day of March, 2022 at Latitude 00 hotel and wish you all fruitful deliberations, collaborations and unity as you move this program to another level.
For God and my country!
Meanwhile did Bonifence Byamukama, one of Uganda’s most respected association leaders – and former President of the East African Tourism Platform – also speak at the launch when he said:
‘Membership is open to every tour operator willing to join the environmental conservation movement.
ESTOA was not created to compete with any other tour operators’ associations in the country.
Most of our clients want to travel sustainably and that is the gap we intend to fill. We are all about the conservation of National Parks and the surrounding natural environments like swamps, lakes and rivers that attract birds and other members of Uganda’s ecosystem.
We shall also strongly encourage the tourists to at least plant a tree while they are in the country. We also intend to start a program to try and conserve Lake Victoria because the silting going on right now will kill it if someone doesn’t do something.’
Bonifence Byamukama was incidentally unanimously elected as the new association’s President and ATCNews extends best wishes to him and his committee for the challenges ahead.