KAMPALA – Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) has urged all sector players to get involved as the country seeks to chat a way through which it can reboot the tourism sector.
Speaking ahead of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) slated for April 27 and 29, Ms Lily Ajarova, the UTB chief executive officer, said it was important that all tourism stakeholders and Ugandans at large push in the same direction to establish a sustainable way through which tourism will be rebuild.
The call comes at a time when tourism has been recovering from Covid-19-related disruptions that had threatened to decimate the entire value chain, especially when the country had to about three months of a complete lockdown.
Ms Ajarova said that whereas there had been a lot of disruptions, it was time to leverage on the slight recovery in the economy to rebuild the sector’s resilience, which has been heavily tested.
“I would like to urge all our tourism sector players to get involved in POATE 2021, as we together seek to recover, rebuild, reconnect and reboot our tourism,” she said, noting Uganda was now in a better position in which it would use its vast tourism resources to rebuild what has been lost.
For instance, she said, Uganda offers probably the most competitive destination for both investors and travellers, with the country presenting the best value for money opportunity in terms of attractions per square kilometre for, especially adventure and nature lovers.
Uganda, according to UTB, is richly blessed with 39 per cent of Africa’s mammal richness, 19 species of primates, including 53.9 per cent of the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas, 11 per cent of the world’s recorded species of birds or half of Africa’s bird species and 19 per cent of Africa’s amphibian species richness.
The country also has 14 per cent of Africa’s reptile species richness and 5,000 species of plants so far recorded, which are complemented by, among others, River Nile, the longest river in Africa and the second-longest river in the world as well as Lake Victoria the largest freshwater lake in Africa and the second-largest in the world.
Covid-19 has presented tourism with one of the worst challenges in over decades with the sector having lost at least 80 per cent of international visitors in 2020, according to a study by the World Bank.
However, the study notes, domestic tourism has helped to cushion the sector supported by government’s re-opening of border points and international air travel.
In September last year government reopened international airspaces, allowing a number of international arrivals, which, according to Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, has been recovering, growing to more than 32,958 in March alone.
The recovery, UTB says, will be key in rebuilding the tourism sector, whose recovery will be boosted by a number of inactivates including the upcoming POATE.
The 2021 POATE, which is expected to be a virtual event, will seek to leverage on the power of technology and the Internet to grow participation with more than 200 exhibitors expected.
This is the third time UTB is organising POATE, a platform that government has used to grow tourism numbers, especially in key source markets, such China, US and Europe.
Opportunities during and after POATE
According to Ms Ajarova, POATE 2021will be a marketplace for key players in the tourism sector, in which participants will meet, share profile and opportunities and subsequently, close deals, either there and then or post-POATE.
The tourism value chain including international travel agents, transporters, providers of hospitality services and domestic travel agents and guides, are expected to benefit from POATE.
Tourism has been an important aspect in the creation of jobs.
In 2018/19, the sector created 667,600 jobs, 77 per cent of which were taken up by youth aged between 18 and 30 years.
Therefore, a successful POATE will eventually touch livelihoods in one way or another.