To try and attract more U.S. tourism | NTA ignores plight of LGBTI Ugandans
By Melanie Nathan, April 22, 2014.
Given the current state of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, and the profound anger at Uganda’s state institutionalized homophobia, causing horrific persecution of the LGBTI community in Uganda, we are shocked that the National Tour Association (NTA), a leading player in the travel industry in North America*, has partnered with the Ugandan Embassy in the United States, to expand Uganda’s share of the North American tourism market.
This untimely partnership was revealed by Ambassador Oliver Wonekha, Uganda’s Ambassador to the United States, and Stephen B. Reacher (Richer), NTA’s Public Affairs Advocate, at Uganda Embassy, Washington, D.C. at the very time that American and Ugandan exiled protestors placed the banners (below) on the fences of the Ugandan Embassy.
Perhaps the National Tourism Association of the United States has not yet heard of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, now law in Uganda. Although that is hard to imagine, as the law, once dubbed ‘The Kill the Gays Bill,” has caused a worldwide outcry, precipitating calls for boycotts and the cutting of aid to the corrupt, dictator-led East African country, which is fraught with human rights abuses. It is also quite an irony that the Ambassador is even seeking U.S. tourism after her Ugandan President, Museveni basically told North America to take a hike – that Uganda did not need Americans, noting they would rather not have U.S. dollars than subject themselves to the debauchery of the West by decriminalizing homosexuality.
NTA is a leading business-building association for professionals serving customers traveling to, from and within North America, with a membership of over 1,500 tour operators who buy and package travel products to over 600 destinations around the world, and has unprecedented access to business-to-business networking in the travel industry.
It is our intention here on OBLOGDEE to pursue each and every one of the tour operators to advocate for boycotts against Uganda’s tourism industry and to ensure quite the opposite – that tourism to Uganda must discontinue until such time as the country repeals the Anti-Homosexuality laws. We have yet to contact the NTA and will provide them with this article for comment.
Ambassador Wonekha noted that even though Uganda has some of Africa’s best tourist attractions, the number of tourists from North America visiting the country hasn’t matched this potential. The international LGBT community will ensure that it will continue on this trajectory. It is apparent that already tourists have been put off visiting that country, due to the negative publicity already portraying Uganda as a Pariah against human dignity.
There is a very good case to be made for why American and international tourists should refuse to visit Uganda. And we will provide more detail in our follow up posts. In the meantime here is one tour group which is already refusing to patronize Ugandan safaris. Wild Rainbow African Safaris, made this statement for our post back in February, right after Museveni signed the onerous Bill:
“We (Wild Rainbow African Safaris) are very troubled by the Ugandan Parliament’s passage of its notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This bill is an affront on human rights as well as on the respect and dignity of LGBT Ugandans and their allies. As great lovers and supporters of the wildlife, culture and spirit of Africa, we are very disappointed and saddened by the passage and signing of this draconian law. While our trips are first and foremost about seeing and experiencing the amazing wildlife of Africa, we must reconsider whether we can go forward with future trips to Uganda in light of these latest developments. The safety and comfort of our guests is our number one priority, and we must be able to ensure the safety and comfort of all our guests regardless of sexual orientation.”
The North American tourist has been put off by President Museveni, Parliamentarians, local clergy and a populace who have constantly denigrated American and Western values, whenever attempts have been made to speak out for the human rights of LGBTI Ugandans. The West has been told that its morals and values are perverse, and that “Uganda” does not need Americans or America’s dollars.
These types of statements have been made by public officials in Uganda, from speaker of the House Rebecca Kedaga, to Church leaders, to parliamentarians as well as members of the general population. It is said that 90% of Ugandans favor the new law that sends gays and lesbians to prison for periods of 14 years to life, and further condemns the so- called “promotion” of homosexuality.
In her comments the Ambassador had the audacity to express:
“However, after emerging from a difficult past, Uganda has seen increased investment in tourism infrastructure such as hotels in cities and game parks, access roads, boosting security in and around the tourist attractions. She said the Embassy is working together with the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities; Uganda Tourism Board (UTB); Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) to increase the country’s visibility as a unique tourist destination.”
For gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender and intersex Ugandans and visitors to that country, the difficult past translates into an impossible future. And to say that Uganda has emerged from bad to good, belies the 28 year dictatorship of Yoweri Museveni, the resulting corruption, the poverty and the human rights abuses, especially the torture and pain brought to bear on anyone opposing the regime.
Mr. Steve Reacher (Richer) said:
The partnership will enable North American tour operators, airlines and other players in the travel industry to work closely with their Ugandan counterparts so as to market Uganda as a favorable destination for North Americans. He also noted that Africa is the most misunderstood continent—its diversity in terms history, cultures, peoples, and available opportunities. However, those who travel to Africa gain a completely new understanding of the continent, and always want to include Africa on their travel menu.
Ambassador Wonekha also said a surge in American tourists to Uganda will also positively impact on other sectors of the economy. For instance, “with 30 percent of American tourists also in search for investment opportunities, the volume of investments from the United States to Uganda will result in new investments in various sectors. She also said the recently launched East Africa Tourist Visa has already gained appreciation across the travel industry as an important milestone in the region’s tourism.”
However what Uganda’s Ambassador does not realize or chooses to ignore, is that while Ugandans continue to assert their right to enact laws that persecute a minority of their population, citing their sovereignty, we in the West are reminded that until such time as they respect the world view of human rights, that which they openly denigrate, they can forget about their participation in a global economy, and certainly when it comes to the North Americans spending it on Ugandan soil.
Lest we forget President Museveni’s words that he is declaring war on the world’s gays.
In November 2014, Uganda is scheduled to host the 39th Annual Congress of the Africa Travel Association (ATA) in Kampala, an opportunity for Uganda to showcase her tourism potential, and for local tour operators to develop partnerships with their counterparts in North America. We in the LGBT community, worldwide, plan to target each and every attendee of that Congress making our case for boycotts.
By virtue of its law and the onerous “promotion” clause, which provides for years in prison for those caught engaging in the so-called act of “promoting” homosexuality, it is impossible for Hotels, Banks, Industries, Airlines, to operate in Uganda with impunity. Many of these international corporations employ and advertize on their website fully inclusive diversity policies, to include LGBTI people. How will tour operators handle having to tell its patrons from the “debauched” West not to engage in same-sex activities on Ugandan soil? And unless these businesses and operators specifically redact their all inclusive language, they could in effect be guilty of a crime, punishable by years in prison in Uganda, for so-called promotion of homosexuality. It will be interesting to see how many operators will be willing to take the risks.
Please keep an eye out for follow up posts which will include naming all the partners and members of the NTA – and what specific communications and actions we have undertaken. There will soon be calls for action. Not a single tour operator will be spared.
UPDATED 4/24/2014 6.30 AM PST:
I sent an e-mail to Steven Richer, who attended the meeting with the Ambassador of Uganda. He responded immediately Here is the E-mail response:-
Melanie:Yes, I do have a reaction.Uganda’s position as officially expressed through the “Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014” was mentioned in our meeting.The release you saw was issued by Uganda without consultation or permission from NTA or me.I have send an e-mail letter to the ambassador specifically stating that the “Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014” and its provisions will find NTA tour operators seeing Uganda as unwelcoming and that the only way to change this is to repeal the legislation.NTA does not support discrimination anywhere.Please call me to discuss this further.Thank you.Steve Richer
I called Steve Richer. It seems that the Ugandan Embassy called the NTA for a meeting on the question of tourism. Mr. Richer attended the meeting, brought up the Anti-gay legislation, expressed disapproval, and sent an email about it to the Ambassador, to which the Ambassador did not respond. Apparently the Ugandan Embassy wrote the release on its website without consultation from the NTA or Mr. Richer, and there was ‘no agreement’ between the NTA and the Ugandan Ambassador as alleged in the Ugandan post on its website by suggesting a partnership. It seems that the quote the Ugandan Ambassador applied to Steve Richer was misappropriated from elsewhere. Mr. Richer informed me that the NTA would be issuing an official statement in response to this article and the meeting it held with the Ugandan Ambassador.
I asked Mr. Richer if the NTA would be taking a more proactive stand on this issue to go so far as to denounce the AHA to its membership and if it would be willing to go so far as to recommend to its members that tours do not operate in Uganda until the Anti-Homosexuality law is repealed. He deferred to the person who will be dealing the NTA official position through the Statement which we hope will be released today.
HERE is the Photo-shot of the Ugandan Ambassador post upon which this article was based and which the NTA denies approving:
CONTACT FOR NTA –
*With members in more than 40 countries, NTA is the leading business-building association for travel professionals interested in the North American market—inbound, outbound and within the continent.
- Government Relations Committee: The Government Relations Committee determines the annual priority issues and provides general direction for government relations endeavors. The committee is composed of NTA members who have an acute interest and knowledge in public policy. NTA’s Washington, D.C.-area office is known for working cooperatively with NTA members and other travel sector issues, having an excellent relationship with travel and tourism leaders in Congress, and being a leader on national tourism policy development.
For more information on NTA’s government relations efforts, contact the NTA Public Affairs office.
Steve Richer, CTP (You will note his name appears differently on the website when compared to the Ugandan embassy Post information as contained in this article.)
Public Affairs Advocate
Ph: +1.703.739.6890 (office)
800.682.8886 or +1.859.264.6540 | Fax +1.859.264.6570
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– and read more about WILD RAINBOW AFRICAN SAFARIS HERE – http://www.wildrainbowsafaris.com/
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