UGANDA (eTN) – The much-anticipated Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) was launched by the country’s Vice President, the Honorable Edward Sekandi on November 17, 2015 at the Kampala Serena Hotel. He represented President General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who is currently on the Presidential campaign trail.
Describing the expo as a “supermarket,” he outlined the achievements and a roadmap for the sector, attributing the increase in tourist expenditures at US$1.4 billion from US$600 million within the last 10 years to a favorable political climate and improved infrastructure with the sector generating 12% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) absorbing 9% of the workforce in formal employment.
The Vice President added that government is projecting tourist arrivals at 1.5 million in the next 2 years and 5 million arrivals in the next 5 years.
This would be achieved through engaging 3 public relations firms in English- and German-speaking countries including the USA, Canada, the UK, Northern Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, not forgetting that “we need to look east to Japan, China, Russia, and the Middle East.”
He also underscored government’s commitment to the expansion of Entebbe International Airport and to upgrading Kasese, Pakuba, Kidepo, and Kisoro airstrips.
The government of Uganda is lobbying international partners to end trade in illegal products from poaching which is compromising the country’s competitive advantage and decimating wildlife. He pledged that the Uganda Wildlife Authority shall be provided with equipment, personnel, and special intelligence to fight poaching, stating he is not forgetting to berate the negative travel advisories that are adversely compounding the industry.
The VP also promised more funding to the Uganda Tourism Board to optimize the safety of tourists. Hopefully, the Ministry of Finance shall relent after recently announcing, much to the chagrin of tourism stakeholders, that funding to government ministries will be slashed to deal with a widening budget deficit.
In the week leading up to the opening, over 50 hosted buyers traversed the country’s major attractions on familiarization tours of the country to visit the Mountain Gorillas, Murchison Falls, Kidepo, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Source of The Nile before being entertained to a cultural evening of traditional dance, cuisine and folklore at The Ndere Centre in Kampala.
Before inviting the V.P to launch the expo, the State Minister for Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities Honorable Agnes Akirol had earlier remarked that the expo provided the opportunity for international exhibitors and buyers to discover where their clients can spend their holidays.
In its second year running, boosted by accolades from bagging best exhibitor at the INDABA, South Africa and Magical Kenya, Uganda Tourism Board is eager to organize an exhibition in its own right after participating at several international and regional exhibitions including KARIBU in Arusha, Tanzania, and Magical Kenya in Mombasa, Kenya.
UTB Marketing Manager Edwin Muzahura announced that the event program shall include a series of sessions at the International Conference Centre including presentations by The East African Tourism Platform, Women in Tourism, and the crowning of the Big Birding Day which has been ongoing.
South African singing duo Mafikizolo has been invited to perform at the Tourism Excellence Awards on the last day of the event on November 20 which shall give recognition to individuals, companies and organizations that have contributed to the tremendous growth of Uganda’s tourism over the years.