Passion driver for success in tourism 

By Eriah Lule

In 2019, Nsehemererirwe Abel, a student in his third year of his second degree in Industrial Fine Art and Design at Uganda Christian University (UCU), was approached by his fellow classmates to give them a ride to a party at Sezibwa Falls in Mukono District.

Abel consented to drive them in his Toyota Haice Super Custom G, which he had purchased from Intercar, a car rental company where he previously worked. Abel had gotten the car through a business auto financing loan and paid it off in less than two years.

Nsehemererirwe bought the classmate’s idea because they suggested fueling the car. The team also trusted him to drive them to the venue since he was respected by his class. “The kind of fun my colleagues had opened my eyes from just loving tourism to starting a business in the sector,” he added.

According to the Uganda Investment Authority, tourism is a fast-growing industry, with an estimated 1.5 million visitors per year, contributing 7.7% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The impressive figures and estimations not only served as a source of inspiration for Nsehemererirwe but also motivated him to turn his passion into a profitable business. As he started receiving frequent bookings from his classmates and referrals, he realized the potential to monetize his talent and create a sustainable source of income. With his entrepreneurial spirit, Nsehemererirwe embarked on a journey to build a successful business around his passion.

Uganda was named one of the top travel destinations in 2023 by the American television network CNN. According to CNN, significant change is currently emerging in Uganda’s tourism offerings. The nation, which has been dubbed the “jewel of Africa,” is now moving beyond the standard fare of safaris and wildlife viewing to appeal to both regional and foreign travelers.

He currently runs the House of Toyota Travel Company, which handles all VIP travel within and outside of Japan. He also attributes the company’s clientele to social capital and referrals.

“I get most of my clients from social media (80%) and 20% from referrals from previous clients”, he said.

Kamya Cyprian, his former classmate, confirms Nsehemererirwe’s positive attitude toward and seizing opportunity whenever it presents itself.

“We as well thought he was joking when he said he was developing a passion for tourism, something that was new to even all of us”, he said “With his kind of attitude and consistency, it is no shock that he owns a travel company”. 

According to Nsehemererirwe, business is running smoothly. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t face challenges often.

Nsehemererirwe grumbles that business is also seasonal, and the peak seasons are from April to August. This is a summer holiday for Europe and America, so the country receives many foreign visitors for ecstasy.

He further notes that this season has had many weddings, so he gets to have a lot of honeymoon bookings, mostly for the locals.

Although Nsehemererirwe has met a number of challenges in the business, like making costly mistakes, having poor destination publicity, and paying high taxes, he humbles himself down for the government to work on the challenges that affect the sector nationwide.

According to Nsehemererirwe, if more efforts are made to advertise properly, manage the revenues well, and improve security in some areas like Karamoja and the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo that have Kidepo Valley National Park and Bwindi ranges, respectively, they will curb poaching in Queen Elizabeth National Park since the animal numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate. This would help improve and boost the sector as well.

“In 10 years’ time, Uganda should invest in marketing and advertising, then sit back and watch how the earnings increase,” he said.

After excelling highly in his MEG/ART in 2008 at Katikamu SDA secondary school, where he got 20 out of 25 points, he was given government sponsorship to do a bachelor’s degree in industrial fine art at Makerere University in 2009, which he declined and instead went to Kyambogo University and pursed a bachelor’s degree in statistics.

“I decided to do statistics thinking of continuing in that science line and hoping the future will be colorful with a good job at the Uganda Bureau of Statistics earning top dollars, but it didn’t turn out as expected”, he said.

After graduating, he worked at Kiruhura District Local Government in the western part of the country in the planning department for 2 years. He was advised to do a master’s in statistics, but he was tired of reading, figures, and endless research.

Instead, because of UCU’s good tidings about Christian ethics and values in the country, he decided to join and totally change careers. “I migrated from statics to art without looking back”, he said.

Nsehemererirwe is the firstborn of the four children of Patrick and Dr.Grace Muhoozi of Nyabushozi Kiruhura District in the western part of the country.

The 35-year-old has been married to Sylvia Nansubuga Nsehemererirwe for 2 years and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Arts and Industrial Design at Kyambogo University.

When he is not with his tourists or doing art, Nsehemererirwe is a fan of baking, which he considers his side income.