IBD Team Makerere, Changing the Trajectory of Uganda’s Tourism Sector

Team Makerere together in front of a lakeWritten by Elizabeth Andrada, Luca Cosentino, ​Tamara Pace-Emerson, ​

Logan Gallogly, and ​Renee Medina

Changing the trajectory of Uganda’s tourism sector

Our IBD team worked with the government of Uganda and a team focused on enhancing public and private sector partnerships at Makerere University, Uganda’s largest university, to redefine the country’s tourism strategy. Many sectors have invested a lot of time and money to improve the country’s tourism sector, however, there were a few elements missing in both the strategies and execution that prevented Uganda’s tourism sector from thriving.

Making an impact with a dedicated audience

Our team had a once in a lifetime opportunity to present our final recommendations to the Prime Minister of Uganda, Governor of the Central Bank of Uganda and Minister of Tourism of Uganda, in addition to many other members of government and private sector leaders in the country. Our three weeks in country culminated in this exciting event, which was followed by a private dinner with the mentioned stakeholders (several of whom are UC Berkeley alums!) that evening. The dinner gave us an opportunity to discuss our final presentation in a less formal environment, share more details of our findings, and highlight the key resource requirements so Uganda can successfully implement our recommendations.

Our project approach

Before heading to Kampala (the country’s capital), our team conducted secondary research on the tourism industry in Uganda and studied tourism strategy for the neighboring East African countries such as Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. Based on the research, surveys and focus groups with classmates as well as our weekly client calls, our team developed a set of initial hypotheses related to improving the current state of tourism in Uganda.

IBD Team Makerere posingDespite our pre-work and research, we quickly discovered once we had arrived in-country that there was a lot to learn with many more nuances and local considerations to keep in mind when thinking about our final recommendations. We spent the first week conducting interviews with more than 15 stakeholders across the tourism sector, which changed our perceptions of the primary challenges facing the Uganda tourism sector. We spent the second week traveling around the country as tourists ourselves in order to understand first-hand the differentiators and challenges to a thriving tourism sector in the country.

Where we visited

Our team used Kampala, Uganda’s largest city, as our home base, but because many of the country’s key tourist sites are outside of the city, we also wanted to spend time visiting these destinations. This primary research would help inform our final recommendations related to a tourist’s experience in the country. Our team had the opportunity to visit:

  • Jinga, the source of the Nile River (where the Nile meets Lake Victoria) and to do a sunset kayaking trip on the Nile;
  • Entebbe and the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre where we got to pet cheetahs and feed lions and baby elephants;
  • Murchison Falls National Park, where we participated in a traditional safari game drive and saw giraffes, hippos, elephants, lions, bison, buffalo, birds and countless other animals as well as hike to the top of the two waterfalls in the park;
  • Lake Bunyoni, the second deepest lake in the world and the deepest lake in Africa, where we stayed at an eco-lodge and had the opportunity to boat, swim and hike; and
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park, where we participated in a second game drive and enjoyed views of the Rwenzori mountain range while having an authentic ‘Rolex’ breakfast.

IBD Team Makerere in front of body of waterOur final recommendations and project culmination

The team developed four final recommendations for our client, focusing on marketing as well as the tourist and business experience. As mentioned, we had the unique opportunity to present our findings and final recommendations to the Prime Minister as well as other government and private sector stakeholders.

Our IBD experience was a highlight of our time thus far at Haas and is one that we will never forget. Our team created a meaningful bond as we sought to provide an actionable roadmap for the country’s leaders to make it a top tourist destination. We feel so honored to have had the opportunity to make an impact and to change the trajectory of the tourism industry in Uganda. We look forward to visiting Uganda again to see the progress that has been made in implementing our recommendations.

Team ProNaturaleza: Opportunities Abundant in Paracas, Perú

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Team ProNaturaleza – Katie McMahon, Adam Selvin, Priyal Sheth, and Michelle Verwest – are in Peru consulting for ProNaturaleza, one of the largest and most successful Latin American NGOs focused on environmental conservation.  Our project is centered on the Interpretation Center (i.e., visitor/guest center) of the Paracas National Reserve, a natural protected area located on the southern Pacific coast of Peru, approximately 250 km south of Lima.  The main purpose of the Paracas National Reserve is preservation of the marine ecosystem of over 1,500 species and historical cultural heritage of the area.  In addition to a business plan, we will evaluate the economic viability of ProNaturaleza operating the Interpretation Center with the government and propose a business model for replication to other national reserves in Peru.  A long-term goal of our client is to generate a profitable revenue stream to reduce dependence on private funding while promoting conservation in Peru’s important, valuable, and beautiful ecosystems. 

¡Buenas Tardes de Perú! 

Team ProNaturaleza has had a busy week evaluating ecotourism in the Paracas region of Peru!  As of the end of this week, we have conducted many interviews, including interviews with the Head of the Paracas National Reservel (‘El Hefe’), managers of three four- and five-star hotels located in the Bahía de Paracas, and representatives from a local fishing village in the Paracas National Reserve.

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Insights from El Hefe

Paracas National Reserve is managed by the Peruvian government entity SERNANP (Servico Nacional de Areas Naturales Protagdes por el Estado).  An eye-opening interview with the head of the reserve provided valuable insights to working with the government.  With a limited budget for operating the reserve, El Hefe candidly shared the difficulties of managing 335,000 hectors of protected land and sea area with limited resources.  The reserve’s rules are difficult to enforce, especially with little support from local police and cooperation from visitors.  It is extremely difficult for reserve management to make decisions without buy-in from the head SERNANP office in Lima and plans are executed at a snail’s pace.  The reserve’s understaffed operations allow minimal resources dedicated to the Interpretation Center, explaining the underutilized enclosed area of the center, broken exhibits and displays, unmaintained facilities, and lack of tourism offerings and services for visitors.  Government oversight, requirements, and timing will be key considerations for ProNaturaleza as they negotiate a contract with the government to operate the Interpretation Center, a viable proposal that clearly makes sense given the center’s under-utilization and complete lack of revenue generation.

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Hotel Operators Optimistic

The interviews with the hotel operators concluded that tourism is thriving in the Paracas area, yet there remains enormous potential for growth in ecotourism services and offerings in the Paracas National Reserve.  Hotels are consistently at or near 100% occupancy during high seasons and on the weekends.  A new four-star hotel is under construction and set to open in October before a large conference in the area in November – all hotels are completely sold out for the conference and during most weekends during the summer.  Tourism growth is optimistic with demand trending upward.  We discovered the average daily spend at the hotels is a significant multiple over the daily spend of the average tourist at the Paracas National Reserve, indicating an opportunity to increase the average spend through robust tour offerings and services in the Paracas National Reserve from the Interpretation Center.

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Lessons in Conservation, Continued

A shocking realization came to light with a visit to a local fishing village in the national reserve.  With several fishing villages grandfathered into the reserve’s protected area charter, the relationship between some of the local fisherman and the reserve is strained due to historical fishing practices that do not contribute to sustainability or conservation, including fishing with dynamite and in unauthorized areas.  While exploring one of the reserve’s many secluded beaches, Team ProNaturaleza came across two dead sea lions on the beach.  Our assigned expert conservation consultant, Luis Rios, speculated that the sea lions died due to unnecessary force and beating from the fishermen when the sea lions became stuck in their fishing nets.  This heartbreaking story led us to think about opportunities in which the Interpretation Center could provide outreach programs educating the fisherman on sustainability and conservation best practices to coexist peacefully with existing marine life.  There is also opportunity for the Interpretation Center to involve local fisherman in tourism, thereby driving spending and increased wealth to their communities.

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Tourists Ourselves!

We were able to put ourselves in the shoes of the Interpretation Center’s future visitors by playing tourists ourselves!  We have enjoyed exploring the vast and beautiful Paracas National Reserve, its culture, birds and marine animals, beaches, cliffs, and natural overlooks.  Touring the Ballestas Islands via boat, we viewed the unique and abundant marine life, noting that the tour operators navigated too close to the sea lions and penguins to be within the legal limits as defined by the government – another conservation issue to note that ProNaturaleza could potentially help alleviate through education and outreach.  It has been especially enjoyable to research and indulge in the many culinary offerings of the Bahía de Paracas, including the absolute freshest ceviche, seafood, shellfish, octopus, and the famous Pisco Sour!  ¡BUENASASO!

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Team ProNaturaleza returns to Lima tomorrow looking forward to an important meeting with the head of SERNANP on Monday and an eventful and productive week in the ProNaturaleza offices!

¡Chao… Hasta Luego!

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