The Dream of Opening up Uganda through Virtual Tourism

It has been a bitter exchange of words as Police threatened to foil a political meeting organized by the opposition Democratic Party (DP) Parliamentary group and the embattled Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago at Bativa Hotel in Makerere, stomach store Kampala.

Police led by Wandegeya DP, Brian Ampaire said the move was due to failure by the group to inform police of the meeting in time which is mandatory under the Public Order and Management Act.

“The group has just ambushed us without even informing the area OC Station as well as the DPC to offer relevant protection of the gathering, ” Ampaire blasted the organisers of the meeting.

DP Buganda Vice President, Sebuliba Mutumba told the DPC the move was taken on short notice after receiving information from the management of Equatorial Hotel in Kampala City Centre that they can no longer allow any political gathering within their premises.

Ampaire in an exchange with DP politicians
Ampaire in an exchange with DP politicians

“This came to us as a short notice but we never intended to ambush your area. However, we had written to police in our letter dated July 15 requesting for security,” he added.

“We apologise that we couldn’t inform police about the change of venue due to some circumstances which among other attending a burial of one of our members.”

However, Ampaire insisted and requested that the group should propose another date and venue since the meeting was even never sanctioned by the IGP.

In response, the group led by Hon. Latif Ssebaggala and Sebuliba engaged Kampala Metropolitan Police Commander, Isabirye as well as Police operations commander, Felix Kaweesi who allowed the meeting to proceed.

Ssebuliba tries to reach Kaweesi on the telephone
Ssebuliba tries to reach Kaweesi on the telephone

“After receiving an apology from the group, we have allowed the meeting to continue but for only one hour. We however warn that we shall not tolerate any group that will continue to violate Public Order Act,” Ampaire told journalists.

The meeting is aimed at reporting back to the party what transpired in several meeting that the Parliamentary Group Steering Committee led by Lukwago and President Norbert Mao on the organisation’s political future.

The group had requested that the party postpones the Delegates Conference scheduled from July 23-26 which the party leadership denounced.

DP leaders await the decision of police during today's meeting
DP leaders await the decision of police during today’s meeting
Virtual tourism is a relatively new idea in Uganda’s context and hearing about it, patient one can’t control the itch of curiosity.

There’s no doubt Uganda has made endless efforts to boost its already burgeoning tourism sector.

The answer of exploiting the sector to earn good revenue for Uganda lies in a collective effort by the different stakeholders.

Emmanuel Nsaba, approved Herman Olimi and Derrick Muwonge are young and very ambitious Ugandans looking to elevate the tourism sector in Uganda to another step.

ChimpReports‘ Paul Ampurire caught up with Nsaba and Olimi at Uganda Tourism Board offices in Kololo last week.

The trio has introduced the idea of virtual tourism inspired by their desire to “open Uganda up to everyone.”

The dream borne by these youthful minds is driven by the urge to identify existing problems and offer original solutions.

They started their ‘EONKOM Digitals’ company back in 2009 to work on visual content, software as well as electronics.

“People don’t know the potential in Uganda and how much it’s endowed with. We need to exploit the Pearl of Africa that everyone claims Uganda to be,” says Olimi during the interview.

The two concede that Uganda isn’t documented enough.

How the product works

The process begins with shooting pictures of a given place (say hotel or office).

It’s not just random pictures but ensuring that every detail is captured with what they call a ‘360 degree view’.

The photos are then edited to create a ‘virtual tour’.

“The product is interactive and gives the user an opportunity to be in control of the tour,” Nsamba observes.

“People want to be sure of what they should expect on their physical tour, not paying huge sums only to get disappointing surprises.”

Virtual tourism is more of a marketing tool for the client which is comparably better than traditional ones like brochures, photos and guide books.

“Our product enables you to ably experience the environment of a place and get a feel of what it’s like to be there. You’ll even hear the birds humming and nature sounds say the waves crashing on the beach,” says Nsamba.

The photo tour is then put together into a video format which enables the user to navigate around the place.

By mere swipe or use of a cursor, one can zoom; navigate through the place to their satisfaction.

“The specifications of features included in the navigation are determined by what the client wants. Because they are in better position to know what will attract their visitors,” assures Nsaba.

The tour is then uploaded on the client’s website (if they have one) or at the facility’s reception.

This will save the potential visitor from spending time to check out room by room physically.

It’s currently available on the ‘360 cities’ mobile App where they have an account but they told me they’ll soon create an App specifically for Uganda.

The tour can be formatted in 3 ways: video (which can work offline), on the web and on mobile using an App.

Whom are they targeting?

The group told me that tourism is their first target since quite it’s ahead of time compared to other sectors.

However, after tourism has exploited the technology enough, they plan to target real estate, schools, towns and infrastructure like roads.

“Imagine a situation where a parent is able to virtually tour a school and see the classes, accommodation and environment before deciding whether to take their kids there,” says Olimi.

Virtual tourism, they believe, will create positive competition since businesses and institutions will either up their standards or lose market.

Cost of the product

The cost for this amazing product is determined by the navigation specifications the client opts for.

However, the standard cost (this includes reception and about 2 other rooms) amounts to Shs 1 million.

If the client demands to have additional features like sound, more areas and detail to cover, the cost increases.

Any success stories yet for the Product?

The product has already got clients. They told me that they’ve worked with Villas in Kololo and Primate Lodges plus other accommodation facilities in Kibaale.

Future Plans?

Listening to these young guys narrate their aspiration, you can’t help but marvel at their level of ambition.

They told me virtual tourism is just a dot of what they plan to achieve.

“We have so much planned after this project. We hope our products will help solve the problem of unemployment. It’s not just about us benefiting but Uganda as a whole,” says Olimi.

Soon, they will have an App where everyone can access virtual tours for several places in Uganda.

“We shall ensure that the online version is optimized to use less data,” Nsaba adds.

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