Uganda’s MICE sector could be the next frontier of its tourism boom. That is if government paid attention to the sector and provided the infrastructure, incentives and leadership needed for the events and conferences industry to thrive.
This is according to various industry experts who contributed to discussions at the MICE Summit held as part of the just-ended Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo . They included Rick and Collette Taylor of the Business Tourism Company, Esmare Steinhofel, Regional Director for Africa, International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Nicanor Sabula, Board Director, Africa Association of Management Executives and Frank Gisha, Director General, Rwanda Chamber of Tourism.
In a presentation, Rick Taylor shared that the growth of MICE in Africa was being hampered by numerous challenges that demanded a reverse. They included perception of Africa as a conflict zone, infrastructure divergence, air connectivity, public sector comprehension and prioritization of MICE and the limited number of convention bureaus. The rest consists of lack of expertise in the private sector supply chain, lapses in professionalism in the association ecosystem and cultural and language differences.
While these were obvious hurdles that needed scaling over to propel industry growth, the experts agreed that, quite a lot was being done in individual countries on the continent towards a MICE agenda. Frank Gisha shared lessons from Rwanda that has catapulted them to an enviable position on Africa’s MICE rankings.
On Uganda’s MICE potential, the expert panel concluded that it was important government recognized the sector as a low hanging fruit that could shore up the country’s tourism and position it as a competitive business events destination. This they said called for a deeper understanding of the segments of MICE and ensuring that they are harmonized to maximize the full potential of the sector.
According to an analysis presented by Rick Taylor, Uganda stands to generate at least $56 million from its meetings and events industry by 2025. To realise this, there is the need for a broad stakeholder approach involving both government and private sectors in building a solid foundation for the industry, developing infrastructures, building capacities of personnel, bidding for international events and resourcing the Uganda Convention Bureau.
The East African country has set sight on becoming a MICE powerhouse as it intensifies its “Explore Uganda…the Pearl of Africa” campaign. CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board, Lilly Ajarova in an engagement with the media disclosed that part of their strategy is to promote the country as a business tourism destination. She said they hope to return to the ICCA rankings and be in the top five MICE destinations in Africa within the short term.