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Kampala — Excitement filled the Sheraton ballroom on Sunday night as tour operators, personalities, and media practitioners, among other tourism stake holders, emerged winners of the Uganda Tourism Excellence Awards.

The Vice President Edward Ssekandi graced the ceremony, which recognised best tour operators, media practitioners, and other stake holders in the tourism market, at the climax of the just concluded tourism expo.

Among them, Kampala Serena hotel won the award for best luxury hotel, Mutanda Lake Resort for the best mid-range accommodation, Rwanda Development Board for best regional tourism board, and Serena hotels was the best overall exhibitor.

Rwandair for the second time won the award for best airline and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was awarded the best wildlife destination. Mr Amos Wekesa and Ms Lilly Ajarova were winners of the tourism personality awards, while Uganda Wildlife Authority was crowned the best conservation institution.

Robben Island Museum, in partnership with the Department of Tourism, will host a two-day celebration from Thursday, 2 March 2017 to Friday, 3 March 2017, in honour of International Tourist Guide Day.
 
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- Robben Island Museum

The purpose of the event is to celebrate and discuss the role tourist guides play in promoting peace, security and mutual understanding in relation to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This initiative is coordinated by the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations under the leadership of the newly elected President, South African wine specialist, Alushca Ritchie.

According to Statistics South Africa’s December 2016 report on the tourism sector, the industry created 32,186 new jobs in 2015, raising the tourism workforce from 679,560 individuals in 2014 to a total of 711,746 individuals. This is despite a decline in international tourists visiting our shores in 2015. Currently, one in 22 employed people in South Africa works in the tourism industry, representing 45% of the total workforce. In fact, tourism surpasses mining as an employer.

“A tour guide can either make or break your tour experience. Tour guides have the ability to share knowledge, history and humour tourists while guiding them through their escapades. It’s more than just storytelling; they essentially play a significant role as ambassadors of the organisation,” shares infrastructure and facilities executive manager of Robben Island Museum, Gershon Manana.

Under this year’s theme by the Department of Tourism - Peace and Development through Guiding - peace, sustainability, and security will form part of the robust discussions. Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom and Deputy Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa will deliver keynote addresses emphasising the valuable contribution of tour guides to the tourism sector.

“Hosting the 27th year of International Tourist Guide Day is significant for us because we’re celebrating 20 years as a museum this year. We are excited to be paying homage to these dedicated men and women who are true ambassadors of world heritage sites,” concludes Manana.

Robben Island Museum offers educational and specialised tours. The guides include former political prisoners who are fully conversant and knowledgeable about the Island’s multi-layered 500-year-old history. To find out more about the tours and the guides, visit www.accessbudgetsafaris.com for details

Responding to the 2017 Budget Speech by Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, the CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), Mmatšatši Ramawela said that the message of travel and tourism as a key economic driver is finally filtering through government speeches and plans.

Although not yet regarded as an economic sector by the Department of Trade and Industry which is something we hope will change, the Budget Speech’s strong mention of travel and tourism is a major vote of confidence for the sector,” Ramawela said.

In his Speech, delivered on Wednesday, 22 February 2017, Minister Gordhan made mention of the government’s plans to provide focused support on labour-intensive sectors including tourism-related services. He announced the allocation of an additional R494 million for tourism promotion as one of the short-term measures to boost investment. This is in addition to the 2016/17 budget allocation to the National Tourism Department of just over R2 billion. He further referred to local initiatives in the tourism and hospitality industry being key to economic progress, quoting a budget tip from Lisa Sheard of the Kruger Lowveld Tourism Association.

Within the constraints of the local and broader global economy, TBCSA agrees with the broad view of the business community that the Finance Minister did not have much room to maneuver but nonetheless delivered an overall balanced budget.

As we have now come to understand, medical tourism is about health-related services provided by a medical doctor, or under the supervision of a medical doctor (also known as a physician in the United States) and involves some travel. Medical tourism can involve going abroad for treatment or traveling within your own country (domestic medical tourism).

Medical tourism is also about destinations. Are destinations that focus exclusively on medical tourism, sustainable? For me, the clear and simple answer is “No, they are not sustainable.” If destinations wish to develop a sustainable model, they need to consider the development of services within all of the health tourism segments. The message seems to have even reached the medical tourism “purists”, who are now encroaching on the other health tourism segments (in their speaking and writing). Even publications embracing “medical travel” or “medical tourism” are now, more and more, including articles on the other health tourism segments such as spa, wellness, and dental tourism.

Likewise, associations and councils, claiming to steadfastly represent the interests of the medical tourism industry, are showing a creeping – but distinct – interest in addressing the other health tourism segments, as well. Those responsible for publications and industry representative bodies are seeing the writing on the wall, and are hastening to broaden their appeal and maintain their relevance.

Expanding the industry to address a broader market The eight health tourism segments are: Medical tourism Dental tourism Spa tourism (can include thermalism and thalassotherapy) Wellness tourism Sports tourism (not for spectators) Culinary tourism (in the context of healthy cuisine) Accessible tourism Assisted residential tourism (retirement housing and care - abroad) It should be clear and obvious that the eight segments approach to shaping the sector expands the industry so that it addresses a broader market. Furthermore, with this approach (also known as ht8), practically every tourist is a potential health tourist – and every tourism destination can also become a health tourism destination. The slowing of growth of medical tourism abroad As time goes by, in a number of countries, we see the slowing down of the growth of medical tourism abroad and the growing appeal of domestic medical tourism.

As an example, look at what is happening in the United States. Even the USA-based Medical Tourism Association has changed its tune and is now making a lot of noise about domestic medical tourism and the USA as a medical tourism destination The West’s Revenge The West’s Revenge (a phrase I/healthCare cybernetics coined in 2008) is all about countries previously regarded as “sources of medical tourists” becoming medical tourism destinations themselves – a recent example being Canada. The West’s Revenge also refers to countries which were once prominent destinations for medical care regaining their prominence (through concerted initiatives).

The two countries which come to mind are the USA and the UK. In the case of the USA, systematic and concerted marketing efforts (partly funded by the US government) have been deployed to once again showcase and promote the country as a destination for medical care. The same, more or less, can be said of the United Kingdom. Even the British NHS is jumping in on the act. In the minds of many (but not all), both countries are regarded as sources of medical tourists or travellers.

But a little reading of medical tourism history reveals that both were – and are - known as destinations for medical care, and for their centers of excellence. And both countries are making a point of reminding us of the fact. The effect of recession Much of medical tourism abroad was fueled by the slogan “Top Quality – Bottom Prices”. This appealed to cash-strapped or cost-sensitive consumers. Many providers, basing their reasoning on simplistic thinking, felt that the recession would further boost medical tourism abroad. Of course, this just did not happen.

During a recession, people put off having medical treatment involving an out of pocket expense – whether it is abroad or at home. The Short Tail vs the Long Tail - narrow vs broad focus development Developing an exclusively medical tourism destination (as some still seem intent on doing) represents the narrow focus (or “short tail” – and even “short-sighted”) approach. I wish them good luck. My strong belief is that the broad focus (long tail) approach is the way to go – for reasons which are explained. The broad focus approach (as exemplified by ht8) creates a larger and more diverse industry to address a much broader market. Industry size and choice is very important in influencing perceptions and inspiring confidence amongst consumers.

The broad focus approach also acts as an insurance policy for a destination. Should the demand for one segment diminish, even temporarily, you still have seven others to keep you going. Furthermore, the comprehensive approach allows destinations to exploit the “long tail” phenomenon (increased choice creates increased demand). Finally, a broader industry encourages “cross referrals” between segments - the providers of one service category can refer to and receive referrals from providers of the other segments, increasing business for all.

From “obliged to” to “want to” So how do we save the “abroad” version of medical tourism? The simple answer is to offer more than just “Top Quality – Bottom Prices” as an incentive. Basically, we need to make medical tourism into a “want to” (choice) activity – as opposed to an “obliged to” (obligation) activity, which it had been for too long.