Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, this year’s expo was held virtually as UTB targeted foreign markets to restart the country’s tourism hit badly by the pandemic.
However, according to statistics released by UTB, the expo attracted over 2000 participants whereas the number of exhibitors also increased by 192% and hosted buyers moved from 50 in 2020 to 438.
More than 70% of the hosted buyers were from Uganda’s key and emerging markets including USA, China, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Austria and India.
“The great results from this POATE are a testimony that in the coming days, we will each have to get out of our comfort zones, venture into the sometimes unknown, to accelerate our recovery. The road to recovery will be full of the unknown. As the government and the private sector, we need to keep supporting each other all the way,” said Daudi Migereko, the UTB board chairman.
Migereko, reiterated UTB’s commitment to consistently invest in domestic expos as well as in attending foreign expos- because, in his words, “consistency is the name of the game.”
“Yes, we will fail here and there, but we will get there. Even successful tourism expos like the ITB Berlin have perfected their game through consistency- since the first event was held in 1966,” he said.
Bradford Ochieng, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) deputy CEO said that the success achieved during POATE 2021 feeds into what is by and large an improving economic and tourism environment, reinforced by increased Covid-19 vaccine uptake.
“The International Monetary Fund and the Africa Development Bank have both in their revised economic outlook projected faster recovery for the world and Africa respectively. The Bank of Uganda and Uganda Bureau of Statistics too- in their April monetary policy statement, also reported that Uganda’s economic recovery was stronger than was projected and that overall, Uganda’s economic growth is expected to reach 4.0-4.5 percent in FY2021/22,” Ochieng said.
He also said that the United Nations World Tourism Organisations (UNWTO) in their March 2021 outlook projected a cautious recovery from a dampened first half of 2021 and subsequent growth in the second half of 2021 in arrivals.
Locally, Ochieng said that there were signs of a slow but steady recovery, underlined by improving hotel occupancy numbers and international arrivals, especially as Entebbe International Airport.
Statistics from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities show that monthly hotel room and bed space occupancy rates are recovering from an all-time low of 1.4% and 1.3% respectively in May 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown and had reached 24.8% and 26.7% in December 2020.
Industry players say that while this is still a distance from the 62.1% and 57.8% recorded in December
2019, it still is an indicator of good progress.
Ochieng, further said that over and above revitalizing POATE and putting in place other initiatives such as continued domestic tourism campaigns to encourage Ugandans to continue travelling their country as well as observing for the safe reopening of the industry activated last year, UTB was also engaged in several other initiatives to prepare for and fast track sector recovery.
“Following delays by Covid-19 last year, we have embarked on a grading and classification exercise for our hotels, restaurants and other tourist facilities, in line with the East African grading and classification Criteria. This is one way to bring confidence in the services that we provide and in the long run, it will improve our competitiveness,” he said.
Pearl Hoareau Kakooza, the president of the Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) commended UTB for leading the rest of the East African region in organizing a virtual expo.
“We thank Uganda Tourism Board for working with the private sector to organise and successfully deliver the first virtual expo in East Africa. Our neighbours in Kenya, who we always like to imitate, can surely learn something new from us this time,” she said.
She implored the global touring community to take a leap of faith and come to Uganda.
“Uganda is open for tourism. “Our tourists should look to a different destination than they were used to. They should take a leap of faith and come and Visit Uganda, the Pearl of Africa,” she said.