Ugandan eco project up for award

Ray Maota

[Image] [Image] The Budongo Eco-project in the Budongo
forest is a nominee at this year’s Tourism
for Tomorrow Awards.
(Image: Trip Advisor)

[Image] [Image] Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in
southwest Uganda is one of the biggest
mountain gorilla sanctuaries in Africa.
(Image: World Heritage Site)

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An eco-tourism project in Uganda is in the running for an international award that recognises achievements among businesses and destinations in the travel and tourism industry.

The Budongo Eco-tourism project has been nominated for an award at the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards to be held on May 17 – 19 in Las Vegas, United States.

The awards will take place during the Global Travel & Tourism Summit which is one of the highlights of the travel and tourism industry.

Conservation is the key

The eco-tourism project has been nominated under the category of conservation, where finalists in this category are nominated for preserving nature; expanding and restoring natural habitats and the protection of wildlife.

The 12 finalists are drawn from 186 entries from over 60 countries in the world by the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC). The WTTC is a global forum for business leaders in the travel and tourism industry and was established in 1990.

The Ugandan conservation site which has two areas namely; the Busingiro Eco tourism site and Kaniyo Pabidi is situated in the Budongo Forest and has reserved forestry sections with over 406 tree species.

It has been revamped by the Jane Goodall Institute after it gave the project $350,000 (R2.3-million) of which $135,000 (R903 000) was for infrastructure development. Some of the money went to training guides.

The institute is a global organisation that raises awareness about the need for conservation, community development and about chimpanzees in Africa.

The Ugandan Eco-tourism project intends to find ways to provide locals around the forest with ways to improve their earnings and livelihoods without cutting the trees, which will curb the deforestation of Uganda.

It is operated by Great Lakes Safaris, an independent tour and guide operator; the Jane Goodall Institute and the National Forestry Authority, which manages forest reserves in Uganda.

Winning the award would mean bringing the Ugandan tourism sector back into the spotlight as it has recently fell four positions in the 2011 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum. It dropped from 111 in 2009 to 115 in 2011.

The report measures and analyses, what bolsters travel and tourism in different economies around the world.

Mr. Chris Seek, president of Solimar International, said: “This is the most sought after award in sustainable tourism as it promotes tourism while at the same time conserving the attractions as well as providing benefits to the community around.”

Solimar is a firm promoting global development through sustainable tourism.

Budongo is nominated along with Fregate Island Private in the Seychelles and Singita Pamushana in Zimbabwe in the category of conservation.

Fregate is an ecological programme trying to reverse the damage done to the island focussing on rehabilitation of surface terrain and conserving indigenous species of the island.

Singita is a lodge situated at the Malilangwe Private Wildlife Reserve, which has tried to preserve local culture; has rehabilitated the natural habitat; conserved existing wildlife, while also re-introducing 17 species that were no longer available in that region.

Awarding environmental successes

The awards encouraging the protection of the environment were established in 1989 by the Federation of Tour Operators but were taken over by British Airways in 1992. Their running was taken over by the WTTC in 2005.

The awards are judged by experts on sustainable development, who make up the independent panel of judges. The selection process includes rigorous on-site inspections.

The awards have four different categories, they are: the Destination Stewardship Award; the Conservation Award; the Community Benefit Award and the Global Tourism Business Award.

Businesses, NGOs or communities representing destinations can apply for the awards online; e-mail; fax and post.

The awards have two sponsors, namely: Travelport and the Travel Corporation.