How Sudhir’s magnificent Speke Resort Convention Centre ‘lit up’ Uganda’s Tourism Expo; POATE 2024

Kampala, (UG):- Uganda’s new ultra-modern Speke Resort Convention Centre (SRCC) has emerged as the main factor behind the success of the recently concluded edition of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) 2024.

SRCC, a subsidiary of Speke Group of Hotels under the Ruparelia Group conglomerate owned by Businessman Sudhir Ruparelia offered visitors, delegates and tourism stakeholders a flamboyant environment to showcase and tour the different stalls during the three-day expo.

From organizers of the expo to participants and industry experts, the venue’s cutting-edge facilities, venue and location created a seamless and uninterrupted flow of activities which in turn created an excellent Expo visitors and exhibitors experience.   

Dr Lilly Ajarova, the CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) was full of praise for Speke Resort Convention Centre thanks to its exceptional facilities and services which rendered the eighth edition of the Tourism Expo a success.

“The Convention Centre has made organising of the event much easier because it is indoors. You saw how we struggled with the weather last year. We had tents, but the weather let us down. We couldn’t blame the supplier after we experienced a big storm,” she commented, as quoted by an online publication, CEO Magazine.

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Dr Ajarova added; “Exhibitors, consumers, and buyers have had the opportunity to tour and experience the facility to see what it has to offer. One of our objectives at UTB has been to promote this facility.”

The convention centre according to her “truly elevated event hosting to a new level, solidifying Uganda’s position as a premier destination for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE),” to which she says “it contributes to Uganda’s strategic goal of positioning the nation as a top-tier MICE destination on the global stage”.

ALSO READ: Speke Resort Convention Centre to host Uganda’s Biggest Tourism Expo next week

The 900-seater restaurant at the Convention Centre added the much-needed class and flavour to the opening and closing ceremony of POATE 2024.

Participants, visitors speak out

According to CEOMagazine, over 250 regional and international exhibitors, 70 hosted buyers, and more than 5,000 trade visitors and consumers attended the Expo. Most of the participants and visitors who spoke to the media on the final day of the expo were full of praise for the magnificence of the venue alongside the lasting incentives they enjoyed.

Kato Kaweesa, a tour operator and executive member of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, described the convention bureau as providing a “wonderful experience,” propelling POATE to the ranks of international events.

“The convenience and access are unparalleled, and we were able to create space for the cultural village and art exhibitions outside, adding an extra dimension to this edition,” he remarked.

While Abel Mukwata, a tour operator with Churchill Safaris said exhibiting at the new convention centre spared them the worry of weather disruptions and the safety of their equipment.

On the other hand, Ms Fifi Rurangwa of Nigerian travel company, Wakanow said this year’s edition of POATE, ticked most of the boxes in the world of expos, although some areas need to improve.

“When you go to international events, industries are divided into sections, it is easier to find airlines in one place and hotels in another. This model makes it more convenient,”  she says.

Expo Organizers, partners and stakeholders speak out

Ms Doreen Katusiime, the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA) and Chairperson of the POATE National Organising Committee (NOC) was without a doubt, that the Speke Resort Convention Center would make “a world of difference for POATE 2024”.

“First and foremost, having an indoor space that size (almost the size of a football pitch), as opposed to setting up tents outdoors, not only made the setting up easier and shorter but provided a safe and cosy atmosphere for the exhibitors. A built-up environment also made access to power and internet much easier,” Ms Katusiime said. 

“Secondly, it provided all the necessary and critical amenities like seminar halls, break out rooms, media centre, eating places, not to mention washrooms that are not only adequate in numbers but were kept spotlessly clean at all times.”

“Last but not least was the lobby area where UTB set up its own exhibition but also served as the reception area. This provided adequate space for receiving trade visitors and responding to inquiries,” she further said.

The UTB stand during POATE at Speke Resort

Ms Katusiime also applauded the management of the Convention Centre for “graciously allowing us to serve coffee provided by Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) without having to pay corkage”. 

The magnificent Sunset Restaurant provided a perfect venue for the opening and closing ceremony. The hotel also accommodated all the hosted buyers as well as the UTB staff on duty making it easy to coordinate the Expo in one place. In summary, the centre enabled us to have an Expo of international standards just as it should be,” she concluded. 

“In my view, the venue (Speke Resort Conference Centre) to a very, very great extent, the success of POATE can be attributed to the new convention centre. It amplified the event. It gave the event, pomp and gravitas. It gave the event class,” Jean Byamugisha, the Executive Director of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association (UHOA) said. 

“It really put us at a very high level. It was comparable to when we travel for International Trade Expos. The event was amazing, because of the accessibility to the conference halls, good meals, very clean bathrooms and toilets, as well as accessibility to a covered exhibition space, where we did not have to worry about the weather. Come rain or sunshine, we knew that the event was going to be a success. The lighting was perfect. The reception and the security were amazing,” she added. 

Ms Byamugisha also hailed the excellent ambience, decor and lighting within the convention Centre which she says provided the right environment for photography and videography, which are very important elements in Expo marketing.

“The entrance into the exhibition hall, was extremely amazing. The photographs from the event are outstanding and now perfect for marketing the next POATE because the background of the convention centre, the lighting, the decor, and the flowers in the place, really made photos from the event very outstanding and world-class quality for news articles, videos etc. So in my opinion, the Convention Centre contributed 50% to the success of the expo,” she added. 

About Speke Resort and Convention Centre

Part of the POATE 2024 exhibition within the

The Speke Resort Convention Centre is a joint development by the Ruparelia Group’s Speke Group of Hotels and the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC)⏤ the investing arm of the Government of Uganda.

Located in the environs of Uganda’s Capital City, by the shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake, the Speke Resort Convention Centre is a shining example of a successful public-private partnership between the Ugandan government and Ruparelia Group’s Speke Group of Hotels.   

The one-of-a-kind Convention Centre features a modern and equipped-to-international-standards convention hall and gallery area that seats a combined 3,800 people. The Centre also features 12 high-end conference/breakaway meeting rooms, 2 VIP lounges and a floating restaurant that can host more than 900 guests, with extraordinary views of Africa’s largest freshwater lake⏤ Lake Victoria.

Meeting spaces are equipped with cutting-edge audiovisual capabilities, high-speed internet connectivity, and state-of-the-art presentation systems.

The facility also features other key amenities to meet the needs of event organisers and participants for comfort and convenience such as registration counters, a food court and organiser offices. It also features a large parking area that offers a total of 725 designated spots in the on-site parking area that also caters to differently-abled individuals.

The Ruparelia Group is Uganda’s largest business conglomerate with investments in real estate, non-banking financial services, education services, hospitality, agriculture and media/broadcasting amongst others. In the hospitality space, the conglomerate’s Speke Group of Hotels owns and runs 13 facilities that include Resorts, Hotels and Apartments, altogether providing more than 900 modern rooms and 45 state-of-the-art conference rooms and meetings, award-winning restaurants and bars, health clubs and spas, and recreation and leisure facilities.

Perhaps, what stands out as the most important differentiator between this new Convention Centre and other convention centres on the continent is its integrated nature. It has been built within an existing 105-acre luxury resort complex that already has two award-winning luxury lake-side resorts – the Speke Resort Munyonyo and Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort, also owned by the Ruparelia Group. 

Combined, the two resorts and the Convention Centre bring to the region one of the most competitive MICE assets that blends both elegance and functionality.

The  Speke Resort Convention Centre, a game-changer in Uganda’s hospitality and the reason behind the success of POATE 2024

Altogether, the facility now boasts of:

  • A modern and equipped-to-international-standards convention hall and gallery area that seats over 3,800 people.
  • An additional 33 equally well-equipped high-end breakout/conference/meeting rooms.
  • 5 ballrooms/ banquet halls3 indoor and 2 outdoor restaurants and bars, serving multiple cuisines
  • 2 VIP lounges
  • 8 outdoor function venues 
  • 476 accommodation rooms including 59 presidential suites 

Events hosted at SRCC so far since its opening in January 2024

The 2024 Uganda-EU Business Forum (5th to 7th March 2024)⏤ the largest and most influential joint Uganda-EU event on doing business and investing in the country. It attracted 3,600 online and physical participants, 900 of whom were physical participants and 90 exhibitors.

The 19th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit (15th-20th January 2024) and the 3rd South Summit of the G77 and China (21st – 23rd January 2024. The two back-to-back meetings attracted 1918 delegates from 129 Countries. This included 16 presidents, 9 Vice Presidents, 16 Prime Ministers, and seven special guest categories.

The 27th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth (CSPOC), which attracted over 30 parliamentary speakers from the 3rd to the 6th of January 2024. 

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