Bird-watching enthusiasts in Uganda are looking forward to the first-ever international women birder’s conference, which aims to enhance the country’s birding tourism product.
The groundbreaking women birders’ conference, scheduled for December 6th to 8th, will see participation from delegates representing over 10 countries.
Despite having an impressive 1,100 different bird species, most of which are unique to Uganda, bird-watching (known as birding in tourism) is less developed compared to other attractions such as cultural and physical features, and the famous gorilla trails.
Recognizing the potential of bird-watching tourism, the private sector has made efforts to promote it, but significant progress is yet to be achieved. Birders are known to be the highest-spending and longest-staying visitors in any destination.
At the press briefing about the conference, the government, represented by Martin Mugara, the state minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities acknowledged that the potential birding has in boosting the country’s foreign revenue.
According to the minister, to effectively promote bird-watching as a tourism package for Uganda, there is a need for deliberate efforts to document the various bird species and their behavior within the country, such as to market what is known.
Steven Asiimwe, the executive director of the Private Sector Foundation (PSFU), emphasized Uganda’s suitable ecosystem and strategic location, making it an ideal destination for birds, hence the birding. He adds that by developing birding as a package, Uganda stands to earn millions of dollars annually, considering its natural endowment.
Herbert Byaruhanga, the executive director of the Uganda Tourism Association, believes that the conference will increase Uganda’s appeal as a birding destination, raising awareness about this untapped opportunity among the Ugandan population. Byaruhanga also emphasizes the potential for the birding package to create substantial employment opportunities for the country’s youth.
He adds that though efforts to promote the product are underway, it is threatened by a number of factors, many of which are from human activities.
Judith Mirembe, the representative of Uganda women birders on the board of the International Women Birders’ Association and the pioneer chairperson of the Uganda women birders, sees bird watching as an effective tool for environmental conservation and a lucrative venture. Statistical data shows that birders spend an average of USD 340 to 400 daily during their 14 to 21-day stays in a destination. With a goal to earn USD 700 million from birders by 2030, the potential of birding in Uganda is immense.
The conference will also focus on the conservation of Ugandan birds, which are currently facing threats from various factors. Uganda is home to up to 24 species of the 27 Albertine rift endemics, 50 percent of African birds, 11 percent of the world’s birds, the prestigious shoe bill, and the exclusive Fox’s weaver.
With the first ever international women birder’s conference, Uganda is poised to take a significant step forward in promoting bird-watching tourism, conserving its avian biodiversity, and creating substantial economic opportunities for the country.
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