L-R: Charlotte Kamugisha, Benedict Ntale, Everest Kayondo, Robert Ntale, Brian Mugume and Farouk Busuulwa
On Thursday 26th July 2018, the members of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), the largest tourism association of tour companies in Uganda, met for their Annual General Meeting at Mestil Hotel Nsambya. Among the many items on the agenda was the election of a new Executive Board for the period 2018 – 2020. AUTO brings together registered and professional tour companies dealing in tourism related activities in Uganda.
In line with the AUTO constitution which requires that the association’s leadership changes every after two years, an independent Elections Committee headed by Mr. Raymond Engena, the former Director of Tourism Development at Uganda Wildlife Authority, presided over the election process on Thursday.
Mr. Kayondo Everest of Ever Based Tours and Travel was elected the new Board Chair of the largest tourism fraternity in the country, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators. Mr. Kayondo defeated Ms. Civy Tumusiime in a hotly contested election during the association’s AGM in Kampala, getting 87 votes while Ms. Tumusiime, who also served on the outgoing Board as a Committee member got 80 votes.
In his speech Mr. Everest Kayondo, among other priorities, promised to lobby Government on issues of tour operators, to work closely and maintain the good relationship between AUTO and her partners and to instill discipline among the members. “We will strengthen the disciplinary procedures of the association in line with the code of conduct, lobby Government to regulate the sector and further improve professionalism in the sector”, Mr. Kayondo promised. He pledged to work with his new team to advance the interests of tour operators and to improve the image and the recognition of AUTO by the Government of Uganda.
Mr. Kayondo, who will steer AUTO for a period of two years until 2020, will be deputised by Mr. Benedict Ntale of Ape Treks Ltd. while Mr. Farouk Busuulwa was voted Board Secretary and Mrs. Charlotte Kamugisha of Bunyonyi Safaris will serve as treasurer.
The newly appointed committee members include Mohit Advani of Global Interlink Travel Services Ltd, Mr. Brian Mugume of Adventure Consults Uganda and Mr. Robert Ntale of Cheetah Safaris Uganda.
The outgoing Board Chair, Mrs. Babra A. Vanhelleputte of Asyanut Safaris and Incentives congratulated the newly appointed Executive Committee and requested them to continue working devotedly with the interests of the association’s members at the forefront.
She thanked the AUTO Secretariat headed by the CEO Gloria Tumwesigye for organizing a successful AGM and for their unstinted support to the Executive Committee in delivering membership services aptly. She continued to encourage the incoming Board to work cooperatively with the Secretariat to advance the vision and goals of the association.
“We leave AUTO with better Structures, Systems and Staffing than what we found at the beginning of our tenure and I request you to build upon those to improve service delivery to the membership and to grow tourism in Uganda at large”, Babra passionately advised the new leadership.
Babra has served with Jacqueline Kemirembe of Platinum Tours and Travel as Vice Chair, Dennis Ntege of Raft Uganda Adventures as Board Secretary, Costantino Tessarin of Destination Jungle as Treasurer and three committee members namely, Lydia Nandudu of Nkuringo Walking Safaris, Civy Tumusiime of Acacia Safaris and Dona Tindyebwa of Jewel Safaris.
Also present at the AGM were other players in Uganda’s tourism sector including the Ministry of Tourism, Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Private Sector Foundation Uganda, Tourism Police, the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust and Kampala Capital City Authority.
Speaking at the same General Meeting, the UTB boss, Mr. Stephen Asiimwe promised to work closely with the newly appointed AUTO leadership to promote tourism in Uganda. He called upon the incoming Executive to work together with the Tourism Board to market and promote Uganda’s tourism products.
Mr. Masaba Stephen, the Director Tourism Development at Uganda Wildlife Authority informed the gathering about Government’s plans to work more closely with AUTO in selling of the tourism products especially gorilla tourism and to ensure that tourism services are only consumed through registered tour companies in Uganda.
Tourism in Uganda
Tourism is one of Uganda’s fastest growing and largest sectors, creating employment especially for the youth and women, contributing the biggest percentage to foreign exchange and spurring economic growth in areas where tourism activities take place. Tour operators play a very vital and central role along the tourism value chain as they market the destination and convince tourists to visit Uganda; they book different services in advance for the tourists and guide them around the country’s tourism activities.