Uganda Tourism Board Launches 6th Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo

By Our Reporter

Amidst optimism and rays of hope in reviving the tourism sector, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) officially launched the 6th Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE 2021) on March 10, 2021. It was the first-ever virtual tourism expo for Uganda as confirmed by Sandra Natukunda, Senior Public Relations Officer of UTB.

POATE is a tourism exposition organized annually by the Uganda Tourism Board. It brings together domestic, regional, and international tour operators, travel agents, destination agencies, and various players in the tourism trade to network and facilitate tourism business.

The launch of POATE 2021, which will take place from April 23-25, 2021 under the theme: “Restarting Tourism for Regional Economic Development” comes amidst a slow-down in the growth of COVID-19 cases just as 350 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are being administered worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

UTB CEO Lilly Ajarova stated that the decision to go virtual was not only informed and influenced by the unique physical and logistical challenges posed by COVID-19 and the associated limitations, but it was also out of UTB’s desire to leverage the Internet to bring on board as many participants as possible.

“We have built a specialized virtual meeting platform that shall facilitate one-on-one meetings, virtual speed-networking sessions, as well as live conference sessions for domestic, regional, and international tourism players,” she said.

The virtual platform has unique abilities such as:

  • Directory Listings: This is similar to on-stand presentations where exhibitors will be able to showcase their products and services in a variety of multimedia formats including video, website links, and e-brochures. For easy searchability and fundability, exhibitors can list their products and service categories. 
  • 1-On-1 Meetings: The meetings function within the platform will be exclusive to buyers, media, and exhibitors only and shall allow participants to connect with the highest level of travel trade industry professionals with direct purchasing power. Participants can create their attendee profile, adding products and regions they are interested to buy from. This will make it easy for exhibitors and other participants to quickly find and match contacts that suit their business needs.
  • Lead Generation: The virtual platform allows participants to remotely schedule individual thirty-minute video meetings and network with industry professionals. The system also allows several functionalities, such as the exchange of business cards, drawing up of draft contracts, etc. 
  • Choice Content Sessions: Participants will have a variety of live sessions, debates, and forums from industry experts to choose from. A variety of topics from experts in key areas such as hotels, aviation, resilience, sustainability, and recovery in a post-COVID-19 world have all been lined up.

Participants for POATE 2021 will be vetted through a set of criteria that has been developed by the national organizing committee to ensure they are of the right caliber to showcase Destination Uganda’s offering.

Hosted buyers and exhibitors will be sourced from the existing core and emerging source markets within the East African Region (Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda), the rest of Africa (Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa), and the international markets (North America, UK, and Ireland, as well as Germany-speaking countries, Japan, Gulf states, and China plus new markets – France, Belgium, and the Netherlands).

Over the next coming days, UTB will be engaging the industry further on how best to take advantage of the numerous opportunities presented by POATE 2021. 

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“Building on the successes of POATE 2020 where we registered a 138% growth in exhibitors, from 63 exhibitors in 2018 to 150 exhibitors in 2020, and leveraging the power of the Internet, this time we expect to attract more than 200 exhibitors,” she continued.

As we prepare for the gradual recovery of the global regional tourism sector, we believe that POATE 2021 will contribute the following:

  • Increased Destination Awareness: POATE 2021 will enable trade visitors and exhibitors to showcase and obtain the latest information on available tourism products from Uganda and the rest of the world.
  • Increased product knowledge: The expo will enable suppliers of tourism products to test the acceptance of these products in the post-COVID-19 Ugandan market.
  • Enhanced Tourism Service Distribution: POATE 2021 will enable distributors of tourism products to interact with suppliers and distributors in the value chain to establish relationships necessary for business sustainability.

– New Business Deals and Enhanced Private Sector Development: During POATE 2021, suppliers of tourism-related services and products will close and sign business deals through travel bookings on-spot. An estimated ROI of UGX 12.2 billion is expected in the subsequent financial years.

– Relationship Building; POATE 2021 will present the opportunity for online networking by key stakeholders in the tourism industry; it will also provide a useful platform for stakeholders to explore co-operative exchanges and activities.

Speaking at the launch, Hon. Daudi Migereko, Chairman of the 4th Board of Directors of UTB, expressed confidence at the timing of POATE 2021: “By and large, we can say there isn’t a better time to send out a message of hope to the tourism sector; a message focused on recovery, rebuilding, reconnecting, and rebooting the Ugandan tourism sector.”

Hon. Godfrey Ssuubi Kiwanda, the State Minister for Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities in the Ugandan Cabinet, highlighted the importance of the private sector in kick starting the tourism industry in Uganda:

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“Domestically, we know that the private sector has been getting back on its feet in what is now the new normal, and we know that it has not been easy and won’t get easy so soon; but yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel and as the Government, we have also been doing our homework by taking stock, looking for resources, and strategizing on a comeback strategy to support UTB in its recovery efforts.”

According to the Bank of Uganda Monetary Policy Report for February, the Ugandan economy is projected to grow between 3% – 3.5% this financial year.

UTB is optimistic that the global vaccination will trigger resumption of international tourists into the country. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the tourism industry is recovering, with 2021 expected to be better than 2020 and with a rebound expected in 2022.

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