When BIC Tours began operations as an independent tour company, they did not know what awaited them along the way. The cutting edge was the proprietor’s deep knowledge of the Japanese market. Sam Mugisha had studied and worked in Japan for over three years. While there, he connected Japanese tourists to Ugandan Tour Operators. But given that language was a barrier, few opportunities were explored. He decided to come and fill the gap.
The company concentrated on the Japanese market as its stronghold. Today this accounts for 90% of the total number of tourists from Japan alone. This comes with about 500 tourists annually.
The company has since expanded to include other markets like Germany, USA, Hungary, Austria and Switzerland. And this has been achieved mainly through aggressive internet marketing.
Understanding the Japanese market has given BIC Tours a higher place in regard to the promotion of tourism in Uganda. Japanese mainly have only nine days off from their busy schedules. It is during this time that they choose to travel. And they prefer to cover quite a number of destinations in one tour package. Many Japanese tourists prefer to have a regional trip. In East Africa, Kenya takes a lead in tourism marketing and many Japanese tourists prefer to begin their East African trip in Kenya.
From Kenya, they visit Uganda mainly to see the source of the Nile and Lake Victoria in Jinja. The trip continues to do chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park or Kalinzu Forest. The adventure ends with an exciting experience at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mugahinga National Park In Uganda or Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Through gorilla tracking, the tourists have a chance of crossing the border to Virunga Hills in Rwanda where they continue with the activity.
Every tourist who goes through BIC Tours receives a souvenir token of gorilla coffee and pineapple slices which are locally made in Uganda. “The Japanese have a habit of giving gifts. And it is advisable to give a consumable gift,” says Sam. Giving out a Gorilla branded coffee as a souvenir from Uganda is an easier way of marketing the country as a gorilla republic, he opines.
The fresh pineapples from Uganda are the best considering the number of pineapples from other countries. Unfortunately, unlike coffee that can be stored as roast beans, pineapples have such a short shelf life that storing them is a challenge. BIC Tours got in touch with Sulma foods, an organic food processing company, that has now started packaging pineapple slices in small packs of 100 grams. These too are given out to tourists as souvenirs.
The provision of coffee and pineapples was meant to create alternatives for the tourists to choose for themselves. On the list of alternatives, the company looks forward to adding other foods on the list. Dried bananas are to be included in the near future. These souvenirs are given to the visitors upon arrival so they can have a taste of them while still in the country. They believe that their souvenirs are easy to eat, easy to carry and easy to consume.