The annual Pearl of Africa Expo (POATE) will be seeking to exploit the growth in international arrivals at Entebbe International Airport as a launchpad on which Uganda’s tourism recovery will be anchored.
The growth in international arrivals comes just slightly less than a week ahead of POATE, an annual tourism expo, on which Uganda will be seeking to anchor recovery of one of the country’s biggest foreign exchange-earners.
Data from Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) indicates that international arrivals through Entebbe International Airport reached at 32,958 in March, which was almost 50 per cent of pre-Covid-19 arrivals. In January 2020, the airport which is one of Uganda’s major gateways, recorded 77,403 arrivals, which, therefore, means that the 32,958 arrivals, despite ongoing Covid-19 challenges and restrictions, is a signal of some good progress that is likely to feed the tourism value chain, including the hotel and tourism sector. Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) is next week – between April 27 and 29 – expected to hold a virtual expo, in which it expects to attract at least 200 exhibitors.
The expo, UTB says, is expected to leverage on the Internet to grow participation from last year’s 150 exhibitors. Ms Lilly Ajarova, the UTB chief executive officer, said the expo comes at a time when there has been documented growth in a number of feeder sectors, driven by a gradual recovery in the economy and tourism as a sector. For instance, she said, the hotel and accommodation sector had by the close of last year started to show signs of growing from an all times low of 1.3 per cent in May to 26.5 per cent in November.
However, the sector registered some slight declines, dropping to 24.8 per cent in December. The recovery, Ms Ajarova said, had been achieved through a number of domestics campaign that had been anchored on the “Take on the Pearl” theme through which UTB sought to create awareness and educate Ugandans on the various tourist spots around the country as well as emphasising where to travel. This, according to UTB saw improvements during the period between November and December with bed pace occupancy recovering from an unprecedented decline of 1.4 per cent to growing to 25.7 in November and a six-month high of 26.7 per cent in December 2020.
Tourism remains the largest contributor to the recovery of a number of sectors, among them accommodation and hotel. Such sectors will be looking at the events during POATE in which UTB will seek to kick-start tourism recovery as well as reboot an industry that has been ravaged by Covid-19.
The virtual expo, according to Ms Ajarova, will be conducted through a specialised platform that has been built via a downloadable App, which facilitates one-on-one meetings, virtual speed networking sessions as well as live conference sessions for domestic, regional and international tourism players.The expo will also chart ways through which Ugandans can be interested in getting involved in the tourism sector as a way of insulating the sector against international shocks.
However, according to the 2019 Tourism Expenditure and Motivation Survey, the recovery of the tourism sector will depend on a number of multi-sectoral approaches that are both short and long term.
How the virtual POATE will work
UTB has built a specialised virtual meeting platform, via an App that is downloadable both from the Google Playstore and Apple Store. The App will facilitate one-on-one meetings, virtual speed networking sessions as well as live conference sessions for domestic, regional and international tourism players.The platform has been built with unique abilities that provide such functionalities as directory listings that enable exhibitors to showcase their products and services, 1-on-1 meetings, lead generation, which allows participants to remotely schedule individual video meetings and choice content sessions that will provide participants with a variety of live sessions, debates and forums.