The Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Mr. Taleb Rifai on his maiden visit to Uganda has commended the rate at which tourism in Uganda is flourishing terming it as the oil that runs the economies which never runs out if well preserved.
This after he visited the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe(UWEC) where he participated in greeting and feeding the giraffes, chimpanzees and an infant elephant before he marveled at the shoe bill stock and sighted a variety of the reptiles.
Flanked by UNWTO regional coordinator for Africa Mr. Ousman Ndiaye and the UN Resident Coordinator Ms Aziakwona Ononchie, the visibly excited Secretary General described tourism sector in Uganda as a star in the making waiting to rise to the surface.
Mr. Taleb told the Tourism fraternity at Kampala Serena Hotel during a cocktail on Sunday June 23 that "Travel and tourism play a central role in the socio-economic transformation of the country by creating employment and promoting better understanding".
He added that "Globally tourism generates 5.2 trillion dollars a year and is the third largest industry. "In 2012, one billion tourists crossed borders to visit other countries," he said, adding that it is now time for Uganda to shine. Mr. Taleb said Uganda is enormously endowed with tourism potential arguing that what "you do with what you have is what matters" .He promised that the UN system in the country will work together to promote and foster tourism growth.
"We appreciate the technical support that UNWTO and UNDP is currently giving Uganda in the review of our tourism policy and development of the tourism master plan and the development of inclusive Markets in Tourism sector Project". Said Uganda Vice President, Mr. Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi.
Uganda's minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Dr. Maria Mutagamba said the government is working with UNWTO to define 'Destination –Pearl of Africa' by harnessing her natural and cultural endowments. She hailed the UNWTO for the technical assistance to develop Uganda's Tourism Policy and Master Plan 2003 which had expired in 2013 and that Uganda is embarking on a new ten-year plan"
Mr. Rifai is Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) based in Madrid, Spain. He holds this position since 1 January 2010. He was unanimously elected at the 18th session of UNWTO General Assembly (October 2009), following the recommendation of the UNWTO Executive Council made in May 2009.
The UNTWO boss and his entourage later held a high level meeting with the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni before having a breakfast meeting with the tourism fraternity including the private sector and government agency representatives.