KAMPALA, Uganda – About 500 delegates are expected in Kampala during November to attend the 39th Congress of the Africa Travel Association (ATA).
The Congress will take place from November 11th to 16th at Speke Resort Munyonyo.
The ATA Uganda Chapter President Susan Muhwezi said recently this is the second time Uganda will host this kind of event . Several hundred delegate will come from North America.
“This congress will not only drive mass numbers to Uganda, but it will also be an eye opener of Uganda to the world,” Muhwezi said. She was recently elected President of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association.
Africa Travel Association is the leading global trade association promoting travel and tourism to Africa and strengthening intra-Africa partnerships.
ATA was set up in 1975 to serve both the public and private sectors of the international travel and tourism industry.
Membership comprises of African governments, their tourism ministers, tourism bureaus and boards, airlines, cruise lines, hotels, resorts, front-line travel sellers and providers, tour operators and travel agents, and affiliate industries.
Uganda’s tourism minister, Maria Mutagamba, promised to send invitations to all African tourism ministers. She thanked ATA for accepting to bring the Congress to Uganda. She gave assurances all guests will enjoy their stay in the country.
“Those saying Uganda didn’t benefit from CHOGM (2007 Commonwaeth Summit) and no reason to host such high level events are lying,” she said.
Stephen Asiimwe the Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Tourism Board said the ATA event would be a major step for Uganda to establish a stronger presence in the North American market which is one of the priority target markets.
He said there will be Business-to-Business meetings that will be arranged so as to encourage investment in domestic and regional tourism. The Congress will also bring in large numbers of travel writers and engage young people in tourism.
Edward Bergman, the ATA Executive Director thanked President Museveni and the Patron ATA Uganda Chapter Janet Kataha Museveni for the hospitality and for accepting to host this year’s event.
He said food is a hot topic in America. He said they will be flying in top chefs as a way of promoting culinary tourism.
Meanwhile, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is upgrading its IT systems to allow the viewing and purchasing of gorilla tracking permits online by only registered Uganda tour operators, East African Business Week has learnt.
According to Jossy Muhangi UWA’s Public Relations Manager, the system they had developed to kick start the programme allows every interested party globally to view and purchase the permits.
“We have not yet fully rolled out that project. We still need to work on our systems to ensure that the permits can only be seen and purchased by registered Ugandan operators.
“The system we had put in place allows every one worldwide to view and purchase,” Muhangi said last week.
The issue of putting the permits online was a centre of controversy late last year. Local tour operators were strongly against it, arguing that it will kick them out of business.
They said large global tourists’ suppliers would buy all the permits, hoard them and put Ugandan operators at their mercy.
It required the intervention of Maria Mutagamba, the tourism minister, to cool tempers down both at UWA and the tour operators.
“We have agreed to put the gorilla permits online. But, they will only be viewed and purchased by local tour operators,” Mutagamba later said.
“Before this initiative tour operators would congregate to our reservation office for inquiries and eventual purchase,” Muhangi said last week.
However, Geoffrey Baluku, the Secretary General of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) thinks this is a difficult project UWA is venturing into.
“Tour operators are securing permits normally as it was before. It seems our UWA friends didn’t know what they were putting themselves into,” he told East African Business Week.
On January 13, 2014, representatives from Uganda Tourism Association, UWA and AUTO held a meeting with the Minister.
They amicably resolved that gorilla permits will go online but will be viewed and booked by registered Uganda tour operators on behalf of individuals and international tour operators.
It was further decided that this would only happen after Uganda Wildlife Authority has tested the system and also trained tour operators on how to use the system.