Lilly Ajarova describes herself as a free spirited, loving and caring person. She is the chief executive officer of the Uganda Tourism Board, the government body responsible for marketing the country as a tourist destination.
She was previously the executive director of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust, which runs Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Lake Victoria. Ajarova had been at the helm of the trust for 13 years.
Her core motivation is to impact the world with expert services in the areas of tourism development and promotion, and environmental management for sustainable development.
Before leading the chimpanzee sanctuary, she was the Tourism Product Development Manager at the Uganda Wildlife Authority where, among other things, she fronted primate tracking.
She has a Bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Makerere University, and a post graduate diploma in hotel and tourism management from the International Institute of Tourism and Management in Austria.
She holds a Master’s in business administration from the Eastern and Southern African Management Institute.
She is a graduate of rural tourism development and strategic marketing for tourism from the Institute for Quality in Tourism Education of the WTO.
What do you like to do when away from work?
Health and fitness. I like having people around me, so when I don’t have to deal with work I work out with friends and family.
I love exercise, long walks, biking and mountaineering. Hiking used to be my favourite hobby, but in the recent past it has been a bit difficult owing to my busy schedule.
What would you have been if you were not what you are today?
I would have been a medical doctor. That is what I thought I would become when I was a child, because both my parents were in the medical field.
During my childhood, I spent a lot of time in hospitals in Uganda helping my parents and at the dispensary. This brought out my compassionate nature and a desire to make situations better.
What signifies your personal style?
I work ethically and with integrity. Reputation is my lifetime investment, so that means a lot for me. That comes with things like timekeeping and being respectful. At work, I tell my staff members that the job description I give them is just the basic requirement. They must do more.
I believe that we can always stretch ourselves, and we have the capacity to do so. We are limited by our mind-set.
How do you manage your wardrobe?
I dress professionally and must be comfortable. I love wearing African traditional outfits, but my day-to-day clothes are more formal. I also give away a lot of clothes.
While in East Africa, where are you most likely to spend your Saturday afternoon?
In Entebbe, enjoying the peace by the lake or at the botanical gardens. I enjoy the serenity, especially on Saturday after a long, hard week.
What is your best destination in East Africa?
Uganda still remains my favourite destination, and Karamoja is a special spot. The sunrise in Karamoja is something I cannot describe.
Every time I go there, I wake up early to see the sunrise. Most of the photographs I took with my first camera when I was young were of sunrises. I also have many pictures of the moon.
Do you have a must-visit list?
I would love to go to South America and experience the traditions and the culture and compare them with Africa.
What do you think is East Africa’s greatest strength?
The diversity of nature and culture; the mountains in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
Other places have nature and culture, but the diversity we have in East Africa, both with people and nature, is unique. If packaged properly and offered to the world, the experience would be amazing.
What is your best collection?
I love books. My tastes have changed with time. I used to read mostly novels, but now I read more biographies and books on management.
What’s the most thoughtful gift you have received?
A cup with a chimpanzee carved out on the handle. I don’t even know who sent it to me. I have had it for 10 years now. Somebody anonymous sent it to me as a Christmas present from Europe. It was thoughtful because I work with chimpanzees.
What’s the best gift you have given?
My time. Time is such a valuable gift.
What is never missing from your fridge?
Milk. I have children and it is one of those items that is as an ingredient for many things. Can you do without milk?