Solimar extends a big congratulations to the Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA) as it will be presented the TO DO! Socially Responsible Award for 2012 in recognition of its Pearls of Uganda program. This is the second consecutive year that one of Solimar’s clients is awarded the TO DO! Award. Last year’s winner was the San Miguel del Bala Ecolodge, a community-run ecolodge in the Bolivian Amazon.
What are the Pearls of Uganda?
The Pearls of Uganda Program, which officially launched in May 2011, was created by Solimar in partnership with the Uganda Community Tourism Association under the USAID-funded STAR (Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift) project. When Winston Churchill visited Uganda he called it “the Pearl of Africa.” Decades later, tourists can experience the same stunning beauty through the Pearls of Uganda and its network of cultural attractions or “Pearls.”
The Pearls of Uganda are a collection of authentic cultural community attractions located throughout Uganda. Run by local communities, these attractions include nature walks, village tours, cultural performances, traditional cooking demonstrations, and craft workshops. They are designed to provide travelers with a glimpse of traditional and modern day Ugandan life. Profits from the tours and attractions benefit local communities as the money goes to support schools, fund conservation projects, and provide income for local guides and performers.
The Pearls of Uganda network also establishes partnerships with hotels, tour operators, and other businesses that are committed to sustainable tourism. These “Pearls Supporters” pledge to contribute to conservation and community efforts in exchange for promotion and partnership under the Pearls network.There are currently over 20 Pearls of Uganda attractions and over 50 private sector Pearls Supporters
What are the TO DO! Awards?
The “TO DO! Contest for Socially Responsible Tourism” is organized by Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung (Institute for Tourism and Development) and invites entries from all over the world. The award was created in 1995 in response to newfound global focus on conservation and ecotourism initiatives. The award aimed to not only celebrate ecotourism but also simultaneously push local populations to participate in and benefit from its implementation.
Awards are given to those who honor the principles of environmental compatibility, while also exemplifying all of the following behaviors:
- Awareness Raising
Enhancing the awareness of the local people regarding the risks and benefits of tourism development in their economic, social and cultural life;
- Wide-ranging benefit
Participation of a broad local population strata in the positive economic, social and cultural effects of tourism;
- Qualified jobs in tourism
Guarantee of the attractiveness of jobs in tourism for the local people by improving working conditions relative to payment, social security, working hours as well as education and training;
- Strengthening of identity
Strengthening the local culture and the cultural identity of people living in tourist destination areas;
- Minimization/avoidance of damage
Avoiding and minimizing any social and cultural damage caused by tourism in tourist destination areas.
The Impact of the Pearls of Uganda Program
The Pearls of Uganda success story is a true testament to the benefits sustainable tourism can offer local communities as all profit generated by each Pearl directly contributes to the socio-economic empowerment of it community members in a manner that is not detrimental to their cultural heritage and natural surroundings. So far, the program has experienced impressive results. Since the start of the Pearls program, the number of guests to each community has increased year by year and there has been a huge increase in the inclusion of Pearls on set itineraries of mainstream tour operators, as well as listings on their websites.