She did not know it would be tourism. She had studied social work at university and she thought she would pursue that line. Days turned into months and there was no door opening to practise as a social worker. During that time of the long wait, she thought of doing something exciting in tourism. She wanted something that did not require huge capital to start. She wanted something to occupy her. Something that she would do with a lot of fun. Little did she know that that something would, in the end, be walking around Kampala, showing tourists the hidden treasure that Kampala city is. And this would be strictly on foot. No vans. No bikes. This fun activity that she began to occupy her idle self, today, has become the number one ranked activity to do on Trip Advisor while in Kampala. It is no longer a Zulaika Birungi thing, it is now known as the Kampala Walking Tours.
It has been five years since she opened up her company and so far, it has been an interesting journey. “Walking wasn’t a common tourist activity in Kampala. It’s a unique idea that we decided to capitalise on,” she tells me. As she conducts the tours, she makes sure that the tourists go to the corners of the city that the locals barely know of. “It’s my hobby to show people my country and it’s a beautiful country.” The tour takes one around to places vans can never go. The tours cover the uptown and downtown; from the serene and sound to the chaotic and loud, from spacious parking lots to long corridors parked with people, from the canopied avenues to the open sky that defines the beauty that Kampala is.
What was a journey of one has since grown to a fully-fledged company employing women only. Zulaika opines that women ought to be reminded that they too can do more in tourism. With time, she intends to get as many more other women involved in the tourism business as possible.
When the tourism bug bit Zulaika, it bit her so deep that she is yet to recover. Every other day, she feels, she still has a lot to learn about the industry. One thing she is geared up for is visiting as many places not only in Uganda but also other countries to learn how they do what they do but most importantly, to see. So far, she has been to twenty five countries and she is visiting many more soon. “People should travel more. Travel is not as expensive as many think. One can always afford something.”
The brand of Kampala Walk Tours has been growing for the past years and the future is promising. A number of other tour operators refer their clients to the company to offer walks around the city. The company is stretching its wings to reach other cities and towns by offering the same service. “Wherever we go, we emphasise the idea of keeping connected with nature.”
The charming Zulaika believes there are more untapped opportunities in the tourism industry that the youth should consider taking up.
Do you want to join Zulaika on her next tour of Kampala? Book now at the Kampala Walk Tours.