Mount Kadam in Uganda
In an unbelievable move, Uganda’s tourism association is trying to convince America’s gay and lesbian community to holiday and spend its dollars in the country.
The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) has revealed that it recently met with staff from Uganda Tourism and tourism businesses from Uganda’s private sector to discuss LGBT tourism to the country, which has been under international fire for its homophobic policies.
The bizarre meeting took place at the Africa Travel Association (ATA) headquarters in New York city as part of a US road show promoting Uganda as a tourist destination, just over a month after a Ugandan court struck down the oppressive Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.
“We understand the challenges relating to the debate on welcoming gay and lesbian tourists in many parts of Africa and see meetings like this as opportunities to engage in dialogue,” said ATA Executive Director Edward Bergman in a media statement.
At the meeting, Ugandan representatives reportedly said that “everyone is welcome,” including gay tourists.
It’s unclear how this message meshes with widespread support for anti-gay legislation and the demonisation of LGBT people in the country by religious leaders and politicians. In fact, foreigners have repeatedly been accused of “spreading” homosexuality in the country.
In addition, homosexuality remains illegal and is punishable with life imprisonment. Foreigners accused of having engaged in gay sex have in the past been arrested, publicly humiliated and deported.
IGLTA seems somewhat supportive of efforts to get LGBT tourists to a country that is prepared to lock them, and its own citizens, up for who they love.
“IGLTA appreciates ATA inviting representatives from our leadership team to meet with the delegation from various segments of Uganda inbound tourism,” IGLTA President/CEO John Tanzella said.
“Does Uganda have work to do? Absolutely. But as a business association, we were happy to share our perspective on the connection between local LGBT rights and welcoming international LGBT travellers, and the Ugandan delegation was very open to the conversation,” he added.
The organisation commented that the meeting was “particularly significant” as IGLTA prepares to bring its Annual Global Convention to Africa for the first time in 2016.
“We hope to have many more meetings like this in the months leading up to our conference in Cape Town, South Africa,” Tanzella said. “We’re not a human rights organisation, but we know how LGBT travel can raise awareness both locally and globally, and in that way, we can help to make a difference.”
Despite the annulment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, Ugandan politicians are moving to return the law to Parliament to have it reinstated.
Uganda is known as “the pearl of Africa.” According to Wikipedia, tourism in the country is a major driver of employment, investment and foreign exchange and contributed US$1.88 billion to Uganda’s GDP in the 2012-13 financial year.
Would you travel to Uganda on holiday? Should LGBT people support the country’s tourism industry?