Not only leopards were roaming Queen Elizabeth National Park today, but criminals who kidnapped an elderly American tourist in the park today, and put the well-organized travel and tourism industry in Uganda on edge.
The Uganda Ministry of ICT & National Guidance issued this statement:
Yesterday, Tuesday 2nd April 2019 four armed men not yet identified between 5,00pm and 7,00pm staged an ambush and kidnapped an American Tourist with his Ugandan driver near Katoke gate in the Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Four other four tourists who were left abandoned and unharmed later contacted the base (lodge) and were quickly moved to safety.
A joint operation by the Uganda Police, Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Wildlife Authority Game Wardens is underway to locate and rescue them.
The priority at this point is to locate, rescue and bring them back safely.
eTN talked to Lilly Ajariva. She is a Ugandan conservationist and tourism expert. She is the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board, the Ugandan government agency that is charged with promoting the country as a tourism destination. She was appointed to that position on 10 January 2019.
When asked why an American Tourist was picked by the kidnappers, Ms. Ajarova thinks the selection was based on the age and not the nationality.
eTN reached out to Dr. Peter Tarlow, head of safertourism.com
Dr. Peter Tarlow is also the security and safety expert for the newly-founded African Tourism Board and will be speaking at their launch event in Cape Town next week. Peter is scheduled to meet with UTB CEO Lilly Ajarova to discuss any assistance the Africa Tourism Board can give in this situation.
Dr. Tarlow told eTurboNews: “The tragic kidnapping that recently occurred in Uganda should not be seen as indicative of overall safety in Uganda.
“Very much to the contrary, Uganda has been known over the decades to be a safe and secure destination. Unfortunately, there are bad people in every part of the world and travel implies risk.
“However, Uganda cannot afford to rely on its recent past but must show the world what it is doing in the future.
“Despite the fact that the situation is very fluid and the facts, at midnight Uganda time is still unclear, there are a number of things that Uganda can do immediately and in the short and long term to mitigate the damage to its reputation.
“These suggestions come from my long-term work with Aruva after the Natalie Holloway case and with kidnapping issues both in Mexico and in Latin America.”
With limited data, the African Tourism Board security expert suggests the following, and as more data becomes apparent, additional information will be provided.
We urge Uganda Tourism Officials to:
1) Tell the truth. Under no circumstance, minimize, become defensive or refuse to accept the severity of the situation. Do not lie to reporters.
2) Have one person be the tourism spokesman or woman and funnel all information through that person.
3) If the information is not yet known, state that facts and then state that there will be regularly-scheduled updates. Give specific times and locations.
4) Have the military of a police officer standing next to the spokesperson to indicate that this is a serious matter.
5) Make sure that it is clear that the government is working with all foreign embassies and updating them on a regular basis.
6) Indicate that Uganda is working with the visitors’ families and will do everything that is needed to help the family.
7) Announce that there is a special unit at work (assuming this unit exists) that deals with hostage rescue and recovery. If it does not exist, then contact friendly foreign governments that have experience in this matter.
We hope for the short term that Uganda:
1) Announces that the country is doing an update on its risk management.
2) Gets articles in the media that speak about Ugandan positives.
3) Indicates that the perpetrators will be found and that they will suffer the full consequences of the law.
4) Opens a foreign visitor hotline so that all visitors can get up-to-date information.
5) Announces that the Ugandan tourism police will be opening (or strengthening) their tourism police unit and that they will receive additional training.
6) Make it clear that Uganda tourism is working with international boards such as the African Tourism Board (ATB) and that there will be exchanges of information between the African tourism bureaus through the ATB.
Juergen Steinmetz, the interim chair of the African Tourism Board, said: “We are standing by to assist Uganda and are in touch with UTB and our security expert Dr. Peter Tarlow. We will be meeting with Lilly next week in Capetown and hope this crime will be resolved at that time and that our fellow American tourist is returned safely. I am confident Dr. Tarlow can be of great assistance to Uganda Tourism and for the African continent when it comes to safety and security.”