Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo Opens “Promoting Intra-Africa Travel”

Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo Opens “Promoting Intra-Africa Travel”

The 5th Annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) 2020 opened today, 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.



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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.

The event was officially opened today, by Rt. Hon. Gen
(Rtd.) Moses Ali, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Leader of
Government Business in Parliament, on behalf of President Yoweri Kaguta
Museveni.

In a speech read for him by Rt. Hon. Moses Ali, President Yoweri Kaguta 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.”

President 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.

“Africa has a big market of 1.2 billion people which we
must exploit to our advantage by increasing intra-trade and intra-travel among
us,” he said. He named endless opportunities – a rich attractions portfolio,
value for money, and high return on investment.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Lilly Ajarova, the
Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board, told the delegates of the Pearl
of Africa Tourism Expo 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.

Ajarova told the over 200 tourism business leaders from
over 20 countries and 4 continents that because Uganda has the “highest
concentration of attractions over a smaller geographical area” where “tourists
get to see more for less, and there is something for everyone,” as a
destination, “Uganda offers the best value for money.”

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.

Addressing the hosted buyers on why they should prioritize
selling Destination Uganda, Ajarova said: “Do not settle for a bouquet of
attractions when Uganda can give you and your clients a garden of attractions
and endless opportunities for your businesses!”

Col. (Rtd.) Tom Butime, the new 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.”

Mr. 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.

Hon. Kiwanda Godfrey Ssuubi, the Minister of State for
Tourism and Antiquities; Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo, the Minister for Ethics &
Integrity; and Uganda Tourism Board members, as well as several members of parliament,
ambassadors, and private sector players attended the launch ceremony.

Speaking on behalf of the private sector, Mrs. Pearl
Hoareau Kakooza, the President of the Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) thanked
UTB’s new management for organizing POATE 2020 and called upon government to
invest more in industry capacity building, new product development, capital
investments, and facilitating access to affordable financing.

“Interest rates ranging from 18-25% from commercial banks
are prohibitive for direct investment in the private sector. UTA members would
wish to have access to affordable financing for this sector,” she said, adding
that access to more affordable financing for the sector “would translate into a
broader tax base and by extension, more tax revenue.”

UTA is an umbrella organization that brings together all
tourism trade associations in Uganda that represent 7,000 tourism
professionals, comprised of tour operators, travel agents, accommodation
facilities, tour guides, community-based organizations, and arts and crafts
groups.

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. “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.