Tourism business linkages lead to new products and partnerships

Tourists take a break during their ride through the Mpanga Tea Plantation, the ride through the plantation is a relatively new tourism product started by Mr. Richard Tooro and the Mpanga Tea Estate that shows cases the rich tea growing back ground of the Rwenzori region (UNDPUg 2014).

For Richard Tooro, tourism is a calling.

A teacher by profession, Mr. Tooro says he got into tourism by chance because of his calling to explain and show new things and his love for travelling.

In 1991, he started Kabarole Tours which offered him the opportunity to showcase the beauty of the Tooro region and beyond to various visitors.

“Back then, things were tough, you had to identify the products and then make them popular with visitors, “he says. He adds that, “if you started something you’d have to fund it yourself as tourism was not a very popular thing back then.”

Late last year, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) through the United Nations Development Programme supported Development of Inclusive Markets in Tourism project (DIMATO) held a series of business linkage workshops with different actors in the tourism value chain sector, which resulted in a number of partnerships being formed.

Highlights

  • “Before the linkage, we’d have one or two schools visiting, now it’s gone up to about to twenty people a month,” Adolf Sabiti the manager for Mpanga Tea Estates says.

Mr. Tooro says “these trainings have been helpful because for the first time we are able to get together as tour operators to share experiences and product ideas.

“In the past, I’d be looking for my colleagues so that we could discuss ideas and programmes but it was not easy because everyone was out there doing their own things.”

One of Kabarole Tours’ products was taking tourists cycling around the Mpanga Tea Estate which is located between Kyenjojo district and Fort Portal Town to give them a tea experience. This experience usually started with a visit to a local out grower who showed them the entire tea growing experience, then they proceeded to the factory to see the processing experience and finally a ride around the tea plantations.

Through the trainings, his Kabarole Tours was able to cement their relationship with Mpanga Tea growers through signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

“Although we already had a relationship with them and we were taking tourists to the factory and the plantations, we did not have a clearly documented relationship. Through the meetings, they were able to appreciate the idea of working with us and hence signing of the memorandum,” he said.   

Since the signing of the MoU, both parties have seen more tourists visiting the estates, this is due to the more structured relationship between the two entities hence the tourist visits are easier to plan and carry out to suit both.

“Before the linkage, we’d have one or two schools visiting, now it’s gone up to about to twenty people a month,” Adolf Sabiti the manager for Mpanga Tea Estates says.

He adds that although they usually limit the number of visitors since they are dealing with a food item, the increased number of visitors has helped the Mpanga brand popularity.

In addition to the tourist tours, the estate has rented out one of their houses to Kabarole Tours to use as a guest house for tourists who would like to spend a night in the tea estate.

“In the past this house was used by the principal trainer for our training school, however it’s been vacant for a while and Kabarole Tours is putting it to good use,” Mr. Sabiti said.

Mr. Tooro adds that many tourists now start their tea experience after spending a night at the Jacaranda Guest house before going to visit a local farmer the nest morning. The guest house also has a bon fire at night where they can listen to music and traditional storytelling, making it a wholesome and yet restful experience.

The business linkage workshops organised under the DIMATO project that is implemented by Uganda Tourism Board are supported by UNDP and the United World Tourism Organisation, which provides technical advice on product development and marketing among other things.

The workshop trainings also include hoteliers and other members of the tourism value chain who have benefited from the marketing training provided by the workshops. 

Enid Atalyeba of Ataco Resort in Fort Portal Town, says that the trainings have been an eye opener for her despite being in the business since 1993. “I have increased the number of people on our marketing team and I am also working on improving our brand which includes changing simple things like our brochure to include important information we had left out in earlier designs.” Ms. Atalyeba said.

The DIMATO project is funded by a grant of USD 1,250,000 from UNDP and aims to empower the poor and local communities to harness benefits from the tourism industry by increasing their participation as entrepreneurs, employees and consumers in tourism related income-generating initiatives.

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