Gorilla Highlands: branding and promotion of southwestern Uganda as a travel destination
The southwestern corner of Uganda - Kabale, Kisoro and Kanungu districts - is an area of immense tourism potential. It offers two national parks with a half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, impressive rain forests, volcanoes and lakes, and a rich cultural diversity. For a number of reasons this potential has not been properly tapped:
• Remoteness from Kampala all but eliminates weekend visits or other short trips.
• Gorillas overshadow other offers and tracking them is rather expensive.
• Lack of relevant information accessible in Kampala or on the internet. The gorilla booking office of Uganda Wildlife Authority is the only known info point but travel support is not the focus of the office. Individual tourism actors find it prohibitive to keep presence in the city, their websites are infrequently updated and pay little attention to synergy with others (they assume people will travel long hours just to stay at one place).
• No area branding to speak of. Worse, the two names that are currently being used leave a lot to be desired. “Kigezi” is a colonial construct that has disappeared from the maps since the old district of this name was split. Moreover, foreign visitors find it hard to pronounce and memorise. “Switzerland of Africa” is not the only one on the continent (Guinea shares it) and it produces a number of problematic expectations.
Gorilla Highlands is a comprehensive project intended to tackle most of the obstacles listed above while targeting both international and domestic audiences. Its name combines the geographical uniqueness of the area with its most famous inhabitant. “Gorilla” is a catchphrase and abundance of gorilla information is an automatic part of the project, however, the main emphasis is cultural tourism.
Gorilla Highlands currently consists of:
• an iPad Multi-Touch ebook, with a travel guide section and an in-depth companion, the most comprehensive book about the area ever published (available in August 2012)
• a website intended to be the most extensive online resource (in development)
Plans for the future:
• weekly radio show on Voice of Kigezi
• apps for other mobile platforms
• advertising-supported free booklet
• information/entertainment/cultural centre in Kampala
• expansion to other parts of Uganda and East Africa
The project initiator is Edirisa Ltd, a non-profit company working in multimedia and cultural tourism. The project is open to other partners - we would like to build a wide platform behind it.
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