”With over a decade of extensive experience as a social entrepreneur in community development, I decided to venture into tourism but with a different approach. I wanted to leverage the power of tourism because I care about people and believe in the power that tourism has to empower, inspire, and connect people as well as its ability to create new opportunities and livelihoods within communities.James NadiopeCEO & Founder, Africa Sustainable Tourism Care Foundation & Justice Tourism Foundation
Here’s his story:
“I was born into a polygamous family. My father was a medical surgeon and had two wives, and my mother was the second wife. I am the firstborn on my mother’s side. Top of my class and a high school leader, my life was poised to be a remarkable success until 1982 when my father passed away. I was left as an orphan and could not continue with my schooling. Plunged into the world of a vagabond, I became a jack of all trades to survive.
The horrific loss of my father would not break my childhood ambition to succeed. Through some good samaritans, who sponsored my education, I managed to enter through the doors of the university, where I came out armed with a Bachelor of Theology Degree with a special focus on pastoral administration. With a strong Christian zeal based on the Bible scripture in James 1:27 about helping orphans and widows overcome hopelessness, I found my life’s passion. Having been an orphan, I understood what it’s like to be abandoned with no food, clothes, or shelter. I understand the agony and the struggles which many single mothers and widows go through daily to fend and feed their children because I witnessed what my mother went through while taking care of my four siblings and me. My personal story is one of grief, healing, and faith that God has used me to impact many lives across the globe.
I think I can describe my personality as fun-loving, playful, childlike, curious, imaginative, enthusiastic, excited, passionate, and emotional. I am upbeat, cheerful, happy, positive, and have a strong sense of humor and laughter. I am bold and courageous, straight forward, candid, frank, as well as tactful and diplomatic. I am spiritual and wise, knowledgeable, and romantic. I am practical, as well as idealistic and intuitive. I am a mentor, advocate, activist, leader, entrepreneur, actor, group facilitator, educator, and motivational speaker. I am good at almost anything I am interested in.”
How long have you worked in the tourism industry? Have you had other jobs before?
The years between 1998 and 2004, I worked with an NGO, the African Child Foundation, focusing on creating awareness of child rights and empowering vulnerable, abandoned children by sponsoring their education. I also helped to build the capacity of local communities so that children were well cared for in a family environment. I have been able to impact more than 30,000 children in Uganda, changing the paths of vulnerable youth from a life of hopelessness to a life of economic empowerment. Many of these children now proudly call me “Papa” while others now refer to me as grandpa.
With over a decade of extensive experience as a social entrepreneur in community development, I decided to venture into tourism but with a different approach. I wanted to leverage the power of tourism because I care about people and believe in the power that tourism has to empower, inspire, and connect people as well as its ability to create new opportunities and livelihoods within communities.
I have been in the tourism industry for the last 16 years, and I value business development strategies based on ethical and sustainable practices, open thinking, relationship building, and win-win solutions. I am passionate about developing tourism creatively and responsibly to ensure economic and social benefits for local people, communities, workers, and businesses through unique and authentic visitor experiences. I strongly advocate that sustainability is no longer a luxury but an imperative in order to leave a world that is livable for our children.
Tell us a little bit about your friends and family. What do they do? Where do they live? Describe their personalities.
I had five siblings – four sisters and a younger brother. One of my sisters died of HIV/AIDS. My youngest brother is a medical doctor and lives with his family in Canada. He is a very kind and gentle young man. The rest of my sisters are married, and they all live in Uganda with their families.
What do you think is the best thing that travelers will learn when they visit your country?
There are so many GOOD reasons to visit Uganda. It is the most friendly county in Africa with a variety of cultures. Tourists have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Ugandan culture and connect with local people, learn how to prepare local dishes, pick tea and coffee, and learn about the lives of rural women, the custodians of traditions and indigenous knowledge. Visitors can participate in handicraft workshops, where they will observe the creation of traditional crafts by locals. They can also learn about critical conservation issues from local people and understand in-depth how ethical and fair traded tourism works by visiting grass-root development projects initiatives that have been funded by tourism. These projects provide sustainable clean water, education, primary health care, and women and youth empowerment for rural communities. These initiatives are incentives for local people to conserve culture and traditions, as well as wildlife and the natural environment.
What is your personal favorite place to visit or activity to do in your country?
I love to visit the Fort Portal region for the beautiful scenery and the crater lakes. I also love to participate in the rich Tooro cultural immersion experience, which highlights the traditional music, food, and communal village lifestyle of the Batooro people who live in the Fort Portal region.
How does your travel organization positively impact local communities, wildlife, and/or the environment?
My organization uses part of the tourism revenue to improve the well-being of the local communities living around Kibale National Park in several ways. We construct clean water sources and improve agriculture and conservation in the communities. We build the economic capacity of the local people by establishing banks where the villagers can access collateral-free loans at an affordable interest rate. We empower women through entrepreneurship skill training.
What is one piece of advice that you would give travelers about traveling to your country?
I advise our guests to be “conscious travelers “- that is, being mindful of the world and its people whom they encounter upon their travels. Conscious travel’s goal is to create a sustainable travel economy that gives something back to communities through local guides and provides the traveler with an authentic experience, not just a holiday.
What is the best thing about your country?
The best thing about Uganda is the people and the warm, friendly hospitality.
Uganda, also known as the Pearl of Africa, is my real home. It’s the most friendly country in the world. Uganda is filled with a wealth of attractions that spoils any visitor for choice, and a single visit is never enough to discover the wonders it offers. Being a destination untouched by mass tourism, you can experience an air of expectancy in the national parks teeming with wildlife and magic in the mountains. Uganda offers a rich, genuine, cultural experience that gives visitors a feel of the real Africa. This makes Uganda one of the most thrilling African safari destinations!