Uganda is now on global tourism spotlight as the East African country flags off the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE 2023).
Now in its seventh edition, the tourism expo, which is opened in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, draws a wide spectrum of tourism and travel buyers from across East African region, the rest of Africa and from global markets.
The 0pening was graced by both government and private sector tourism, travel and hospitality stakeholders who were obviously excited to be back in person to engage, learn, and do business and promote their respective destinations, products and services.
However, the expo is returning after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a virtual version that held in 2021.
In her opening speech at the expo, Lilly Ajarova, CEO, Uganda Tourism Board, the lead organising agency, made a strong case for the promotion of sustainable and responsible tourism.
“I want to introduce to you a new direction that we should all be taking with tourism in Uganda and the East Africa; and this is sustainability and responsible tourism as the next emerging trend for tourism development; most specifically in Uganda. It is time
to align all of our interventions to this emerging trend. It is not necessary a new idea, it is just to draw attention to the tourism practice and management that minimizes the negative social, economic and environmental impacts that also generates greater
economic benefits for people and communities,” she said.
Ajarova added that the enormous significance of tourism to socio-economic and empowerment of those involved called
for a streamlining of sustainable practices in the sector; of which she disclosed that Uganda’s main entities within the industry will soon align their practices in this regard.
She reiterated the need and Uganda’s focus on sustainable tourism because, the tourism sector, according to her, contributed over 1.5 million jobs in 2019, and accounts for two in every ten jobs, over 60 percent employed being women.
With all these going for tourism, she insisted that the way of doing things in the tourism sector could more sustainable.
“Over the next few months, Uganda Tourism Board under the leadership of the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and the key sector players in Uganda will align to practices that enshrine the forces in the service delivery, product development, tourism
investment and promotion of Uganda’s tourism industry. We will promote the use of recyclable material, reduction of waste and also promote the conservation of the environment while respecting the host communities,” she said.
At the opening, Tom Butime, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Uganda, intimated that tourism in the country continues to thrive due to the peace and stability the country has had for a long time among other many factors, which were being spearheaded
by government. He declared that although the East African country had recorded impressive tourism figures, they were not resting on their oars in attracting more tourists to Uganda.
“Despite the soaring interest in visitations to Uganda, the country can still do more and attract more visitors, so we are not satisfied at all. A number of initiatives are in place to drum up visibility for our destination and the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo is one
such vehicle that creates awareness of the destination and is used to increase visitors to Uganda.
“Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country and has previously contributed to over $1.6 billion and accounted for 7.7% of the national GDP. It is our hope that as we fully recover, earnings from tourism will more than double,” the minister assured.
POATE 2023 has attracted participation from over 150 exhibitors and 100 hosted buyers, including tourism boards and associations from various regions of Africa including, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Egypt. Germany, Austria, Italy,
Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA and Spain are some of the non-African countries with representations at the expo.
They are here to explore Uganda and also to include the destination to their African itinerary in the next few months. interact with Ugandan local suppliers for the benefit of tourism.
Lilliy Ajarova said the draw of POATE2023 meant that “the event has grown in leaps and buyers are here to explore Uganda and also to include our destination to their African itinerary in the next few months.”