The 5th Annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) 2020 opened on February 4,2020, kicking off three days of business-to-business and business-to-customer engagements among key Ugandan and regional tourism players with selected tourism wholesalers from Africa and other overseas tourism markets.
POATE, which is taking place at the Speke Resort in Munyonyo on the shores of Lake Victoria, has attracted over 57 international hosted buyers and 140 domestic and regional tourism operators, as well as international and domestic media.
The expo is running under the theme, “Promoting Intra-Africa Travel” in a bid to raise awareness about the untapped potential presented by emerging African travel markets.
Gen Rtd Moses Ali, Uganda first deputy Prime Minister represented President Yoweri Museveni at the events official opening ceremony.
Museveni thanked the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) for organizing the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo, saying that it would go a long way in “expanding business opportunities in the tourism sector in Uganda and the entire East African region.”
President Museveni told delegates to the expo that Uganda had significantly invested in creating “peace and stability, good road networks, enough electricity supply, better telecommunications networks and internet” and these investments would enable Uganda’s tourism sector to be competitive.
“Without investment in this critical infrastructure, tourism cannot flourish,” he said, adding, “The government has restored Uganda Airlines to attract tourists to Uganda, because [with] the many planned direct routes to Uganda, tourists and business people alike will have faster and more affordable travel to Uganda, making us a competitive destination.”
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Museveni also commended UTB for the intra-African outlook saying that since the Ugandan government had “achieved commendable progress in addressing some of the strategic bottlenecks” which hindered Uganda’s prosperity, it was time to focus on intra-African business.
Ms Lilly Ajarova, the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board said that Uganda was full of abundant tourism opportunities characterized by the richest tourism attractions portfolio and best value for money for investors and tourists alike, and, therefore, healthy returns on investment.
“We have the richest and most diverse range of human, natural, cultural, religious, and historical attractions complemented by a warm tropical climate, warm people, great accommodations, and great food,” she said.
She also said that the healthy growth in visitor arrivals coupled with a vast array of tourism assets presented big returns on tourism investment and that the recent government investments in transport infrastructure had made the country more accessible both from the outside and inland.
“It is now easier to get into Uganda by air from virtually anywhere around the world [with] 32,735 flights in and out of Uganda in financial year 2019. With Uganda Airlines, there will be faster and more convenient direct routes especially from Africa. Today, it is also easier to get around by air, road, and water,” she said.
Explaining the theme of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo and the special focus on Africa, Ajarova said that Africa’s economic prospects were on the rise and that the continent was emerging as one of the fastest-growing tourism markets after Asia and the Pacific with outbound traffic reaching 42 million in 2018.
“The theme mirrors our strategy to rebalance and segment our tourism portfolio into 4 key segments, namely: existing overseas markets, emerging overseas markets, regional/African market, and the domestic Ugandan market,” she said.
Col. (rtd) Tom Butime, the newly appointed Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, also invited the delegates to explore the immense potential presented by Destination Uganda.
“Numbers don’t lie,” he said. He told the tourism operators, “We do offer probably the best value for money per dollar spent, and there is something for everyone regardless of age, gender, budget, and preferences,” Butime said.
Butime, said that on top of healthy visitor numbers and the richest attractions portfolio on the continent, Uganda offered one of most abundant investment incentive regimes in the tourism sector.
Alain St. Ange, the President of the African Tourism Board, lauded Uganda for creating peace and stability and also challenged the African continent to rise up and tell its own positive story.
“Uganda has something that few countries in Africa can talk about – stability, safety,” he said, emphasizing that such positive stories as this need to be told about Africa.
St Ange who served as former Minister for Tourism, Ports and Harbours for Seychelles said that Africa must work together to rewrite its own narrative.
”It cannot continue to let the world ride on the back of Africa, writing what they want, and often, looking at all the mishaps, all the mistakes, and for everything else that is not good about Africa. Our successes are not written about. This is something that Africa must do for Africa,” he said.