Tourism agency anticipates Shs12bn as earnings from the virtual event after a few years
Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | Suppliers of tourism related services and products will close and sign business deals worth Shs12.2billion during the 6th edition of the 2021 Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo, according to Uganda Tourism Board top executives.
The 2021 POATE takes place on April 23 up to 25 under the theme restarting tourism for regional economic development. The expo comes at a time the country is working towards restoring confidence among domestic and international tourists after COVID-19 disrupted travel and other sector activities.
Lilly Ajarova, the UTB chief executive officer said on March 10, that by December 2020, the industry had lost an estimated 1million foreign tourists, translating into US$1.06billion (Shs3.91 trillion) in foreign exchange earnings.
“The launch of POATE 21 is a stitch in time,” Ajarova said.
Uganda attracts visitors to see a range of game including lions, giraffes, buffalos and more.
POATE is a tourism exposition organised annually by the UTB.
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.
Ajarova said, 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.
She said, they have built a specialised virtual meeting platform that shall facilitate one-on-one meetings, virtual speed networking sessions as well as live conference sessions for participants.
The virtual platform has unique abilities such as directory listings which 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.
The other is one-one- meetings which will be exclusive to buyers, media and exhibitors. This will allow participants to connect with the highest level of travel trade industry professionals with direct purchasing power.
Under this, 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, UTB executives say.
The other is, lead generation which will allow 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 and more.
There will also be choice content sessions where participants will have a variety of live sessions, debates and forum 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.
Ajarova said, participants for POATE 2021 will be vetted through a set of criteria that has been developed by the national organising 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), rest of Africa (Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa) and the international markets (North America, UK and Ireland, Germany speaking countries, Japan, Gulf states and China and the new markets of France, Belgium and Netherlands).
The expo is expected to, increase awareness about destination Uganda, boost product knowledge and enhance tourism service distribution. The others are building relationships and promoting private sector development.
Ajarova is optimistic the event will yield results and build on the successes registered previously. For instance, POATE 2020 registered a 138% growth in exhibitors, from 63 in 2018 to 150 exhibitors in 2020.
By using internet power, Ajarova said, they expect to attract more than 200 exhibitors.
Daudi Migereko, the chairman board of directors of UTB said there is not a better time to send out a message of hope to the tourism sector… a message focused on recovery, rebuilding, reconnecting and rebooting Uganda’s tourism sector.
Godfrey Ssuubi Kiwanda, the state minister for tourism, wildlife and antiquities hailed Uganda’s private sector for withstanding the negative impact of COVID-19 and its restrictions.
He said POATE 2021 provides an opportunity for agencies like UTB to reconnect with Ugandans as a means to driving growth of tourism and the economy in general.
UTB started operations 13 years. Since then, the number of tourist arrivals has grown by 78% from 844,000 in 2008/09 to 1.5million in 2018/19. This is slightly above global growth rates of 63% in the same period.
As a result, sector foreign exchange earnings have nearly tripled, growing by more than 171% from US$590million to US$1.6billion in the same period.
The tourism sector today provides 667,600 jobs both directly and indirectly, and accounts for 7.7% of GDP.