Visiting Namugongo Catholic Shrine opened Ongodia’s tourism eyes

On June, 3, 2004, at the age of eight, Sam Ongodia visited Namugongo Catholic Shrine together with his parents for the Martyrs Day celebrations.

The young Ongodia was wowed by what Uganda has to offer in terms of tourism.

Much later after school, he majored in Physics and Mathematics and became a secondary school teacher.

Yet his heart always told him that tourism was his calling.

“I decided to do what I love most. I had to quit teaching to do tourism,” he begins his story.

Ongodia says that in 2014, he travelled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to look for capital and that for two years, he worked in a hotel and upon expiry of his contract, he chose to return to Uganda.

With a passion for the hospitality industry, he procured a car based in Entebbe and ventured into cab driving with a bias in tourism.

“I had a passion for traveling even before going to Dubai. So, I went to Dubai just to get capital,” he recalls.

Indeed, he returned and bought a car.

“I am passionate about traveling and meeting new people. I move people from point A to B for a living. I returned to Uganda and decided to buy a car and venture into cab driving.”

Ongodia currently works with different hotels and restaurants in Entebbe that have potential business for travelers.

The cab driver says that the business is good.

“My phone can’t stop ringing. I have trips almost every day. I sometimes even spend days away from home,” he says.

Covid-19 shock

Ongodia says things changed from good to bad when the Covid-19 outbreak was announced Uganda in March 2020.

 “That’s because I didn’t know where to go and who I was going to meet. Most of my clients are tourists. But no one was coming in. Here in Uganda, people were looking at survival, not travel. Things were hard,” he says.

He says his business became so bad when the country went into the lockdown. He says that even after the country partially lifted the lockdown, business was slow

Ongodia’s work involves dropping off local travelers.

Using his connections with hotels in Entebbe, he also drops off tourists to tourism destinations. As a result, he knows most tourism destinations across the country.

According to Ongodia, since the partial reopening of the economy last year and the full reopening a few months ago, the appetite for travel is beginning to boom.

This, he says, is partly due to the airport being fully open with fewer Covid-19 restrictions for travelers into Uganda.

Apart from the unstable fuel prices which make it hard to set fares for clients, Ongodia says there is not much challenge in the tourism and hospitality sector.

“For us, it is just having the airport open. We get customers but the fuel issue is real. It’s hard to set permanent fares. You meet a client today and drop them off at a certain fare. But you may meet the same client after 3 days and it’s hard to tell them that the fare has increased because some of them don’t understand these things,” Ongodia says.

Ongodia’s dream is to start a tour and travel company in the future.

“I intend to start a tour and travel company because I believe Uganda has a lot to offer to tourists.”

He says all his mind is toward tourism, his eyes having been opened by the visit to Namugongo catholic shrine at the age of eight.

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