Creating impact through sharing knowledge
My name is Anna Grodzki, and I am managing Matoke Tours Uganda. A reputable tour operator based in Kampala since 2002. A lawyer by profession, I moved to Uganda in 2011 to volunteer with UNESCO. This is where I discovered my passion for responsible tourism. And its power to create positive social impact!
My main tasks include overseeing the development, sales and operation of our developed tours. Thereby, I made it priority to use our platform to create impact. We do this through:
- Sharing our knowledge
- Conducting trainings
- Creating decent job opportunities for all
In this article
Providing unforgettable travel experiences
With its incredible diversity of nature, culture and wildlife, Uganda is the perfect destination for adventure tourism. Yet its enormous potential is still underutilised. Matoke Tours is a tour operator who is committed to enable travellers to experience all Uganda has to offer. And that was an opportunity I wanted to tap into. By including more nature-based activities and immersive cultural experiences in our tours.
We know it isn’t possible to provide an unforgettable travel experience without an excellent tour guide. That’s why it was important to me to include guides in our product development. To equip them with the necessary skills to deliver an outstanding service to our travellers. And more specifically, to be able to cater to the needs of adventure and cultural tourists.
“We know that it’s not possible to provide an unforgettable travel experience without an excellent tour guide”
Creating equal opportunities for everyone
Opportunities for up-skilling or specialisation are scarce and not accessible to everyone in Uganda. Therefore, we opened our program for anyone to apply. To maximise its reach and impact instead of limiting it to our own guides. Personally, I am especially passionate about creating equal opportunities for women.
Unfortunately, social and economic barriers often make it impossible for women to consider a career in tour guiding in Uganda. We reached out to interested women to encourage participation. We are also developing training modules to address the particular needs of female guides. Including safety and security in the field or leadership training.
Providing the opportunity to specialise
Our adventure travel guide program aims at giving tour guides the opportunity to gain:
- In-depth knowledge
- Practical experience
- Soft skills
These are needed to specialise in cultural tourism and outdoor adventure tours in Uganda. The program consists of class-based interactive lectures, experiential regional trainings and familiarisation trips.
At the end of the 3-year program, the participants will have completed 7 in person trainings. Between sessions, we encourage and support self-study and group discussions. We work with a network of partners in the local regions and organise the regional trainings together. This approach ensures that the participants gain relevant up-to-date product knowledge. And it also strengthens our partnerships with service and activity providers on ground.
It was also important to us to not spoon-feed content to participants. But rather to inspire them to explore further. To invest time and effort into continuously expanding and updating their knowledge. And to create a community of like-minded learners.
Successful start of the program
Our Adventure Guide Program was off to a successful start. We received an overwhelming number of 300 applications from qualified applicants. A lot, as we intended it to be a small training for 30 participants. This confirmed that we had created something relevant and of value to the local tourism industry. We also received very positive reactions from the Uganda Tourism Board and other relevant authorities.
The program is currently still ongoing. But so far, the feedback after the first completed module was very assuring. The participants especially emphasised the knowledgeable facilitators. The mix of experienced practitioners. Such as an experienced expedition leader and a reputable tourism professor and lecturer. We are grateful to have wonderful experts within our extensive network who agreed to facilitate individual sessions. And who have greatly contributed to the success of the program.
It should be mentioned that our program was part of a bigger project, which aims at promoting and developing adventure tourism in Uganda. Collaborating with other like-minded tour companies and industry partners showed us how much we can achieve when joining forces. We found synergies. Tapped into each other’s experience and knowledge. Made programs more cost-efficient by sharing resources. And, not unimportant, made it great fun to work on this project and achieve goals together!
Launching the program during the pandemic
The biggest challenge was the planning uncertainty, due to the pandemic and the health and safety regulations in place. The health of our participants, team and general public are priority. So, we had to be sure we would be able to ensure everyone’s safety before going ahead to launch the program. At first, this meant putting all plans on hold, but luckily, we were eventually able to go ahead with the first part of the program after making some amendments.