World 5,000m and 10,000m record holder Joshua Cheptegei will get the chance to promote Uganda’s tourism sector, and not just the country’s growing stature in athletics after he was named tourism ambassador by the Uganda Tourism Board.
“Today, we’ve reached an agreement with world champion @joshuacheptege1 as our tourism ambassador for brand Uganda. Welcome aboard, Joshua,” the Uganda Tourism Board tweeted on Wednesday.
Tourism is one of Uganda’s major foreign exchange earners as it attracts visitors who come to see a range of game including lions, giraffes, buffalos and others.
Others are attracted to the mountain gorillas in the forests in the southwest of the country along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
Cheptegei, who is also the world cross-country champion, said he was deeply grateful to be given the “huge responsibility” of being his nation’s ambassador.
“I look forward to sharing my Ugandan story to the rest of the world. In the same breath, I wish to call upon every Ugandan, especially those in the diaspora to make it a point to visit and discover more about this our country,” he added.
The 24-year-old said he was more motivated to do his utmost best in every race because winning would be for the greater good of the East African nation as he was acutely aware of the impact of the tourism sector in all classes of society.
“I know every win is not just for me but it is a win for every one of the 700,000 Ugandans employed in the tourism sector whose livelihoods have been put at stake by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Uganda’s tourism sector, like other countries dependent on it, has been hard hit by the pandemic with President Yoweri Museveni last year warning that the country stood to lose $1.6 billion a year in earnings from tourism as visitors stay away due to the impact of the pandemic.
Uganda Tourism Board CEO Lilly Ajarova, however, said there was cause for optimism that tourist numbers will pick up as the year progresses.
“World over, there are mixed signals about the tourism industry’s recovery in this year. In Uganda, we expect regional and intra-African visitors to pick up in the second half of 2021.”