If you are reading this allow me to start by declaring that I find the game of golf to be very boring and also hard to understand. This may not make much sense considering that when people tell me that cricket is a boring and confusing game I silently want to delete their phone and email contacts from my phone so that I never have to interact with them ever again. But let’s leave the great game of cricket out of this, shall we?
A few years back I sat down with a good friend of mine who is now an ardent golf player. Our meeting was at the Uganda Golf Club and as I enjoyed my pork chops he tried his best to explain to me the connection between golf and tourism. He was trying to convince me to write for a golf magazine he was managing at the time. I must admit that most of what he said made little sense to me and I was largely nodding my head to keep the conversion going to its end.
Fast forward to Wednesday last week, and I was back to the same Uganda Golf Club. This time I was there to meet the phenomenal Josephine Fifi Rurangwa. In my books she is a phenomenal lady for the journeys she has made in this life and what she is doing with her life. It was not the first time I was meeting or talking to her but this time was different.
You see, Fifi as many fondly refer to her, is the head of Africa expansion and airline partnerships at Wakanow.com, Africa’s leading online travel portal. The company was started in Nigeria in 2008, but now has presence in East Africa with a fully fledged office in Kenya. In a way they are doing a good job showing West Africans that instead of always going to Dubai they can actually find cool chill spots in East Africa.
Returning to Fifi who I learnt was born in Uganda, is Rwandan, grew up in DRC and has worked in Nigeria among other places; golf tourism is actually a real thing and one that is has great potential to grow our tourism industry. Our meeting happened at the “Destination Diani Golf Night” an event that brought together Wakanow, Kenya Tourism Board and the Uganda Golf Club in a bid to sell destination Diani Beach to the Ugandan market by targeting golfers.
For the initiated, Uganda is Kenya’s number African tourist source market with many of the Ugandans ending up at the Kenyan coast, a market they take very seriously. One manager of a hotel in Diani shocked me when he told me that Ugandans are now considering Diani for their weddings and that his 5-star hotel hosted three Ugandan weddings last year including one where the guests booked the entire hotel (and its 125 rooms) for three days!
I have always loved how the Kenyans are now into marketing destinations as opposed to singular attractions. Some years back I sat down with another tourism guru and he explained to me why they were marketing Watamu (Wonders of Watamu) and not individual properties. Diani is doing the same and they are taking it across the borders. After the golf event they were at the Pearl of Africa tourism expo exhibiting as a team. I have seen them doing the same in Rwanda as well.
The plan is to create hubs for travel and hospitality and use them to drive inter and intra regional tourism. Using sports tourism and particularly golf is quite a genius move. When you think of it closely you do realise that golf players are often working class professionals with an inclination to use the game not only to relax but also to network. Therefore the guys at Wakanow and Kenya Tourism board are simply trying to expand the footprint of these networks.
Not surprisingly, the winners of the golf event were rewarded with free nights in the beach hotels of Diani, in Kenya. While there I am sure some will want to check out the golf courses in the area and make new friends while at it. I am sure this is something that other tourism boards can borrow more than a leaf from. And it doesn’t just have to be about golf. I have seen my cricket friends inviting their Ugandan counterparts to come and play at the breathtaking Muhanga Cricket oval. Indeed the future of regional tourism has a promising sporty future..
Views, expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the New Times Publications.