For three days, exhibitors from Uganda, will have the opportunity to showcase their tourism products to buyers and engage in serious tourism business as the fifth edition of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE2020) opened yesterday, February 5 at the Speke Resort, Munyonyo.
POATE is a tourism and trade exhibition which brings together regional and international tour operators, travel agents, destination agencies and various players in the tourism trade to network and to facilitate tourism business with Uganda’s own domestic tourism trade that is composed of largely the tour operators, the hoteliers, conservationists and the government.
“We are basically through this creating an opportunity for our domestic tourism players to connect to the rest of the world, so as to showcase what we have to offer as Uganda and in so doing, help the world to discover Uganda, the Pearl of Africa,” said, Lilly Ajarova, CEO, Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) in her opening remarks.
“POATE is an experiential awareness creating knowledge, familiarity and believability through involvement and creating real life experience” she added.
According to Ajarova, POATE2020 features a series of mutually beneficial business to business and business to consumer engagements that will results into hundreds of business relationships as well as hundreds of thousands of tourists and most importantly, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to everybody involved in this chain.
The theme for this year’s event is “Promoting intra-Africa travel” which for the UTB CEO, is quite unique and was chosen with a clear understanding of what it will be for destination Uganda. Africa outbound travel reached 42 million in 2018 and the continent currently receives a little over 6% of the global tourism traffic. This, Ajarova hopes events such as POATE will be able to change by helping to drive up the tourist numbers.
In his speech, Board Chairman of UTB, Daudi Migereko said POATE2020 amplifies the opportunities that Uganda presents to market itself as a competitive tourism destination. He mentioned that the current tourism figures showed that Uganda’s tourism is on a positive growth trajectory and their aim is to sustain this growth.
He sated for example that over the past five years, visitor numbers had increased from 1.2 million to 1.7 million. Hotels in the country’s capital, Kampala, he added, receive over 60% occupancy rate on the average and tourism’s role as a source of livelihood cannot be underestimated.
The sector employs nearly 700,000 people in the East African country.
Officially opening POATE2020, President Yoweri Museveni lauded tourism’s contribution to the Ugandan economy, stating that as a leading revenue generator, the sector is responsible for over $1.6 billion in foreign exchange earnings and contributes 8% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
The President, whose speech was delivered on his behalf by General Ali Moses, Uganda’s First Deputy Prime Minister, said the tourism sector “is creating a great number of jobs in the services industry like hotels, transport and so on.”
He added that, with the restoration of Uganda Airlines, visitors numbers will be shored up as the airline continues to expand its routes.
He commended the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Uganda Tourism Board and their partners for putting together POATE and assured that government will continue to lend its support to the tourism sector.
General Moses later cut the sod for the opening of the exhibitions.
The opening day of POATE2020 was infused with rich display of traditional music and dance which were presented by the Crane Performers.
Present were a large spectrum of guests including the Minister and State Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, private sector tourism organisations, investors, Parliamentarians, other sector Ministers and Agency Heads, Local and International Media, Hosted Buyers and Exhibitors.