Assessment of nature photography as a tool of promoting ecotourism: a case study of Queen Elizabeth National Park
Namulwana, Hilda Victoria
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Photographs are crucial elements that marketers integrate into all their marketing communication tools. This study is focused on the relationship between photography and destination image. The aim is to understand how photographic representations can influence a place image in order to provide recommendation for tourism marketers. The overall objective of this study is to increase the utilization of nature photography in promoting ecotourism in Uganda taking Queen Elizabeth National Park as a case study with specific objectives being; (i) To examine the current status (skills, equipment) of nature photography in the country, (ii) To assess the influence of nature photography on tourists’ choice of QENP, (ii) To examine the challenges faced in nature photography in the ecotourism sub-sector. (iii) To find out how tour operators have used nature photography to promoting ecotourism in QENP. The methodology for data collection was through a structured questionnaire was administered to the tourists to gather information on the extent to which nature photographs influenced their choice of QENP. Nature photography is being carried out in QENP where by 62% of the respondents said that cameras are the most essential equipment needed to carry out the photography and the skills are needed. However nature photography should be improved and promoted like providing viewing points for the nature photographers to do their work well. The study indicated that it’s hard for one to access equipment within the country and they are so expensive to purchase them. The study too shows that tour companies should provide nature photographers to their clients in order to promote and market the destination after the safari. A lot of challenges are faced during the carrying out of nature photography that are both internal and external with the main cause of the external challenges being the ignorance about the importance of the ecotourism that result into mass tourism that does not support conservation. The internal challenges included the scarce resources like funds to buy equipment like cameras and drones, luck of skills to use the equipment, increased poaching, luck of viewing points, and lack of involvement of higher education institutions in order to create a development plan for nature photographers in order to be able to produce professional work. People had different views about the influence of nature photography to making their choice of visiting QENP. The findings indicated that 47% of the people got to choose destination QENP because of the beautiful pictures they got to see on different websites, social media, television, friends and family. The beautiful animals, creator lakes, climbing lions, Kazinga channel birds, Katwe salt mine, chimpanzees, all the beauty of the flora and fauna pictures and videos made them choose to visit the destination. It is recommended that the park should provide special fees to photographers at the entrance and activities for a long stay to carry out photography. They should provide information about the special animals in the park to photographers to trigger their sense of creativity and content. MUTWA and tour operators can organize annual photography awards (to attract many photographers to join which will increase sensitization about the park, ecotourism, conservation and nature photography. It is recommended that Queen Elizabeth National Park management introduce a program or even embark on campaigns of educating people about the importance of involvement in nature, and key other recommendations. Based on the findings of the study, it can therefore be concluded that nature photography promotes ecotourism.