Birders ask Government to reduce Equipment Taxes and protect Habitats.

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Stakeholders in the Tourism Industry are convinced that Uganda has what it takes to become a leading Birders destination globally and now target hosting at-least 100,000 birders and earning up to USD 700 million per year by 2030.

This was revealed at the inaugural International Conference for Women Birders (IC4WB) held at Sheraton Hotel Kampala from 6th to 8th December and attended by birders and Tourism stakeholders from allover the world.

 “This is a life time experience for me. Uganda is so outstanding with professional tour guides, a variety of birds and the different biodiversity elements. The potential is unlimited and needs to be tapped into,” Andrea Molina, a Bird Guide from Ecuador, South America noted.

Birding is a valued activity worldwide with over 80 million birders traveling to different parts of the world to enjoy it. These include over 20 million from the United States of America (USA) alone.

Some 1,100-bird species call Uganda home, which is about 11 per cent of the world’s total population and more than 50 per cent of the African’s total birds’ population. Nonetheless, the opportunities presented by these birds are yet to be fully explored to benefit Ugandans.

According to Jeff Bouton, the marketing manager of Nature Observation USA, one way of making the birding sector attractive is through reducing or totally doing away with taxes on birding equipment.

“There are massive import taxes on these products that make them hard to get. The government should find a way of reducing or removing these taxes totally. This will help create more professional guides, make the birding tools more available and improve the overall birding experience for tourists,” Mr Bouton said.

The three days conference was organized by organized by Uganda Women Birders, Uganda Safari Guides Association, Bird Uganda Safaris, and supported by Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), Uganda Wildlife Authority and Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities.

Mr Stephen Asiimwe, the Chief Executive officer of the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda said that the country has matured as an international birding destination in the region mainly because of conservation efforts, location along the equator and climate, improved infrastructures, security and improved internet connectivity.

These, he said, although not yet sufficient, can be leveraged to increase the number of visitors coming into the county with the purpose of birding.

He added that more efforts from both the government and the private sector were still needed to market the product so as to attract both local and international tourists.

“Birding in Uganda has the potential to improve from the level it is now to earning us millions of dollars each year. The issue of birding is a mind-set issue the private sector and other partners can change. The communities where these birds are should be made to appreciate the need for these birds,” he said.

Mr Asiimwe called for an urgent need to conserve habitats as this is the only sure way of ensuring that these top dollar earners are safe and available for business.