Uganda Tourism Board will use the seventh Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo(POATE) to make the world explore Uganda’s hidden gems, the UTB CEO, Lilly Ajarova has said.
“We are encouraging all the players to come and explore. It is not only the internationals coming in but all of us because there are different activities we shall undertake during the expo for us to explore virtually and physically what Uganda has to offer,”Ajarova told journalists on Monday.
Organised between April 26 – 29th, 2023, this year’s expo will see a return to the normal physical expo after the previous one held in 2021 was virtual due to the Covid pandemic.
The expo will be held at the Commonwealth Resort Hotel in Munyonyo, Kampala.
Ajarova said whereas participants will be players in the tourism sector both domestic, regional and international, as part of this year’s edition of the expo, UTB will specifically host over 100 international tour operators who specialized in selling Africa.
“We have been very strategic on whom we are inviting on this ticket and it is those out there selling Africa and we will want them to come and experience Uganda and include us in their Africa itineraries as well. In tourism you have to be very intentional on who you partner with to sell your destination and it is what we are doing,”Ajarova said.
She said on many occasions, Africa has been sold and known to the outer world as a single Africa but noted that the international tour operators will be used to specifically sell Uganda.
“We expect over 100 international buyers from our key market sources within the continent and also outside the continent. That way, Uganda will receive more travellers and its associated benefits including increased tourism revenue and employment.”
The main source markets for Uganda’s travelers in African include South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt whereas outside the continent, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Spain and North America top the list.
The hosted buyers according to Ajarova, will be treated to a farm trip so as to experience what Uganda has to offer.
“The first group will come before expo starts and will move around the country and we will further split this into smaller groups that will move to the different parts of the country. The second group will go after the expo as we give them an opportunity to explore the country.”
The UTB CEO said the expo will also feature emerging issues of sustainability and responsible tourism, tourism seminars on investment and sustainability, innovation, business to business meetings, business to consumer meetings, sideline events for networking and farmiliarization trips to the country among others.
She said UTB has created a match-making digital portal for those who have registered as buyers and exhibitors to make appointments.
Tourism at a glance
According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, in 2022, Uganda’s tourism registered 19.3% arrivals in the country for holidays, leisure and recreation, 40.9% for business tourism, 28.2% for visiting friends and relatives whereas 11.6% of the arrivals were for other reasons including education and research.
The study by UBOS, each of the visitors to Uganda spent an average of 8.3 nights and also spent $111 (approximately shs411,200) per day.
In 2019, before the onset of the Covid pandemic, Uganda was registering on average 1.5 million arrivals and raking into the country $1.6 billion and last year(2022) the arrivals were at 800,000 raking in $800 million.
Uganda’s major arrivals are from Africa at 67% of all the international arrivals with Europe at 16%, North America at 9% , Middle East and Asia both at 2% in that order.
Potential for hosting meetings
According to the UTB chief, the expo will be yet another opportunity for Uganda to showcase her potential to host Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE).
“It will offer an opportunity for Uganda to show her potential to host international conferences, meetings, events like the Non-Aligned Movement meeting, G77 that are all coming up.”
Ajarova said in 2018, government set up the Uganda Convention Bureau which among others helps to pitch to the outside world Uganda as the best destination for hosting meetings.
She noted that the bureau being handled by UTB saw Uganda ranked 10th among the best destinations for hosting meetings in Africa in 2018 and that in 2019, Uganda ranked 6th.
“Business tourism is another component of tourism that we are trying to grow by hosting meetings. We want that our people don’t only limit tourism to only leisure.”