Uganda set for 10m tourists at Pope’s visit

Come November, Uganda will get into the faith history books for hosting the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church for the third time. 

This year’s expected papal visit is Uganda’s third by a sitting Pope and second in a generation. Pope John Paul II visited in 1993 and earlier in 1969 Pope Paul VI visited at the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs.

A large number of people are expected to flock in from around the region, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Zambia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, South Africa, and Sudan etc to see the Pope. UTB estimates that around 10 million tourists both local and international will be in Uganda to see the Pope.

Pope Francis comes at the time the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda is marking the 50th anniversary of the canonization its 22 Martyrs. The Martyrs were among the 45 Christian converts (23 of them Anglican Church members) who were executed in the 19th century. Francis is expected to visit the Anglican shrine too. 

The Papal visit comes on the heels of a record Martyrs Day festival that saw over 3.5 million pilgrims from Uganda, the region and internationally converge on the Namugongo Shrines. 

Known for his humility and connectedness to the people, Pope Francis’ visit is expected to draw a large number of people to Kampala City, and the Uganda Martyrs Basilica in Namugongo where he will celebrate mass. 

And one thing is certain—the profile of faith-based tourism in Uganda will never be the same. Destinations like Jerusalem, Mecca, Rome and Ethiopia have for centuries enjoyed the economic and social benefits of faith tourism.

 “Tourism is one of the major drivers of developing economies and faith-based tourism is one of the products we have seen grow in numbers and impact on the Uganda economy,” says the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife & Antiquities.

Last year, the Uganda Tourism Board in partnership with the tour operators developed a Martyrs Trail—a route that takes tourists through the different places the Uganda Martyrs walked before ending up in Namugongo, the final destination of many. It’s a walk many tourists may want to take during and after the Papal visit. 

“The Pope’s visit will not only enhance the Catholic faith, but will also socially boost Uganda’s profile as one of the major faith destinations globally. Economically, the visit is expected to benefit ordinary Ugandans marketing to the pilgrims.”