Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda is optimistic that the synergy between the tourism and coffee sub-sectors will be instrumental to getting Uganda’s economy to middle income status.
Dr. Ruganda, while speaking at the first annual Coffee and Tourism Symposium and Exposition at Golden Tulip Hotel, Kampala, noted that the exploration of the linkage between coffee and tourism, with each sector reinforcing the other, was an important innovation which everyone saluted, welcomed and supported.
“Coffee is a priority sector for Uganda, generating approximately 18 -20% of our foreign exchange over the past 20 years while contributing to the income of millions of rural households. On the other hand, tourism is the highest foreign exchange earner. Therefore combining these two priority sub-sectors will have a positive impact on the Ugandan economy which grew at 5.5% last Financial Year, 2017/18 and is now well over 6%,” said Dr. Rugunda.
The symposium was organized by Coffee Tourism Uganda (CTU), in collaboration with the Uganda Tourism Board under Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.
It brought together key stakeholders in the coffee and tourism sub-sectors to deliberate on how the gains and potential in both sub-sectors can be enhanced.
Keynote speaker and renowned coffee-tourism expert, Mr. Glenn Jampol, a Costa Rican, noted that Uganda’s coffee had a reputation among global coffee connoisseurs for being “great and well-balanced”
“Coffee has the potential to become a commodity that changes communities through linking it to tourism. However, there is no coffee tourism without sustainability,” said Mr Jampol, who is also the President and co-owner of Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort and a celebrated international sustainable tourism professional.
Adding, “Tourism is never about the price tourists pay but about the value. It’s not about more tourism but better tourism. In Costa Rica we get about 3 million tourists per year who pay over $1,100 each. People will gladly pay a lot more across the board for unforgettable experiences of quality.”
Relatedly, Ms. Judy Kepher-Gona, a travel and tourism expert from Kenya, the other guest speaker, emphasized the need for sustainable tourism that involves host communities.
“Great places to visit must first and foremost be great places for host communities to live in. If you exclude the people, you are merely selling things and this is never attractive to travelers. There is need to look into experience based tourism, which is sustainable and responds to people’s needs and the planet,” said Ms. Kepher-Gona, noting that 87% of the respondents on www.booking.com preferred sustainable tourism, which emphasized eco-friendly, utilized resources efficiently, was authentic, ethical and social.
Mrs. Joan Kantu Else, the Coffee Tourism Uganda, CEO, noted that coffee and tourism supplemented each other, hence the motivation to organise this coffee tourism symposium.
“We need the youth in the coffee growing communities to partner with us, as tour guides, since they know the local story better,” Mrs Kantu Else advised.
On his part, Mr. Stephen Asiimwe, the CEO, Uganda Tourism Board, emphasized Uganda’s globally recognized biodiversity uniqueness, adding that bringing coffee consumers to the farms, as the Coffee Tourism campaign espouses, will also encourage incremental earnings for farmers and those in the hospitality and tourism industries.
“It is anticipated that this symposium will clearly underscore the opportunities and benefits associated with combining coffee and tourism along the value chain,” said Mr. Asiimwe.
The tourism industry currently contributes 10% to Uganda’s GDP, making it the leading foreign exchange earner. This translates to more than Shs5.1 trillion ($1.4 billion) annually, and is projected to earn about Shs10 trillion ($2.7 billion) by 2020.
On the other hand, the Government of Uganda, through the Coffee Roadmap, aims to accelerate coffee exports from the current 4.6 million (60kg) bags per year to 20 million (60 kg) bags by 2025.
However, while the country is considered a major coffee supplier on the world stage, Uganda’s coffee does not feature in the world’s top 15 value earning coffee exporting countries.
“Uganda Coffee Development Authority is determined to move Uganda’s position from just a top African producer to a top global exporter of premium coffee. We believe that partnering with the tourism fraternity in this symposium, will enable us achieve this target sooner rather than later,” says, Dr. Emmanuel Iyamulemye, Managing Director of UCDA.
Coffee Tourism involves linking coffee farmers to consumers under a farm-to-cup approach, with consumers touring farms and sharing their experience with the farmers. The feedback from the tourists helps farmers better their methods, which in turn leads to increased production of high quality coffee and hence boosts returns.
At least 180 delegates and 20 exhibitors attended the inaugural Coffee and Tourism Symposium and Exposition, including tour operators, coffee farmers, hoteliers and others involved in the hospitality and coffee industry.