Religious tourism? The Vatican announced that the pope will be visiting Uganda later this year. Many were excited by the news, at the prospect of seeing the pope and also at the business opportunities the Pope’s visit presents. This year’s papal visit if indeed it does happen will be the third time a pope visits Uganda. In 1993, Pope John Paul II visited Uganda, and earlier in 1969 , Pope Paul VI also visited the country. Pope Francis will be the third pope to visit the Pearl of Africa.
With the catholic’s church announcement, local tourism stakeholders were swift to express their hope that the visit will coincide with the annual Uganda’s Martyrs Day celebrations which has gained in global popularity in recent years. Preparations for the Martyrs day celebrations which happen every 3rd of June are already underway. There is construction already happening to improve the facilities at the site of the Uganda martyrs shrine in Namugongo. If the pope’s visit coincided with the 3rd June celebrations it would be a very good business period for stakeholders in the tourism industry in Uganda.
Thousands of pilgrims already make their way to Uganda’s Namugongo shrine every year, coupled with a papal visit those numbers would go up, not just the number of Ugandans, but foreigners as well. A chance to see and meet the pope is quite a valid reason for visiting a country, and while here they might as well take advantage of the trip and enjoy some gorilla trekking or any other activities and sights Uganda has to offer.
The Martyrs Day celebration is one of Uganda’s main tourism event supported by the Northern Corridor Cooperation countries of Kenya and Rwanda. Their tourism boards now send large delegations to show their support for the national holiday which has become a signature event not only for the Catholic and Anglican faithful but for the country at large.
Pope Francis is known to draw large crowds wherever he goes, and that will most probably be the case with his visit to Uganda. Just last week, he drew a crowd of over 6 million people on a visit to the Philippines…his visit to Uganda is bound to draw millions of people as well from Uganda and countries across the continent.
The papal visit will be good publicity for tourism in Uganda, and tourism marketeers are hoping to use the opportunity to sell Uganda as a tourism and holiday destination.
The opinion going around is, “If the country is safe to visit for the pope, it is safe to visit for anyone. There is no reason why people should not consider visiting us, and in past years we got a lot of credit by Lonely Planet and others. They singled us out as a great adventure tourism destination, and we indeed have so much to offer. The visit by the pope will be a catalyst for our efforts to bring more visitors to the country” a statement made by one tourism activist.
We hope the papal visit goes on to happen as planned, and that all the excitement is worth it, and that the experience lives up to people’s expectations.