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African Tourism Board President addresses opening ceremony of Uganda’s Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo

Alain St.Ange, president of the African Tourism Board & Seychelles former Tourism Minister addresses opening ceremony of Uganda’s annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo

African Tourism Board President addresses opening ceremony of Uganda’s Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo

Uganda’s annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo tagged POATE 2020  kicked off on Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Kampala at the Speke Resort & Conference Centre in Munyonyo, on the shores of Lake Victoria.

The event which has attracted over 57 international hosted buyers, 140 domestic and regional tourism operators as well as international and domestic media is a 3-day B2B and B2C engagements amongs key Ugandan and regional tourism players with selected tourism wholesalers from Africa and other overseas tourism markets.

Running under the theme, ‘Promoting Intra-Africa Travel’ in a bid to raise awareness about the untapped potential presented by emerging African travel markets, the Expo was officially declared opened by Rt. Hon. Gen (Rtd.) Moses Ali the First Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Leader of Government Business in Parliament, on behalf of Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

In his speech, the President of the Africa Tourism Board (ATB) and the Seychelles former Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Alain St. Ange, lauded Uganda for creating peace and stability, while challenging the African continent to rise up and tell its own positive story.

“Uganda has something that few countries in Africa can talk about – stability, safety,” he noted, emphasizing that such positive stories need to be told about Africa.

“Africa must work together to rewrite its own narrative. It cannot continue to let the world to ride on the back of Africa, writing what they want, and often, looking at all the mishaps; all the mistakes and for everything else that is not good about Africa. Our successes are not written about. This is something that Africa must do for Africa.

St.Ange went in to tell a packed conference room for this year’s opening ceremony of Uganda’s annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo that Uganda has but one tourism industry, “you do not have one for the Uganda Tourism Board and another one for Uganda Airline, neither  one for the private sector. You have one and must speak with the one voice for the consolidation of Uganda’s tourism” he said.

He also went on to implore Africa to work together to grow the continent’s tourism industry citing taxes as a challenge working against growth, ” This easy to collect but it is only moving income from the private sector into state consolidated funds. Grow the industry and let the country win all round” he said.

In a speech read by Rt. Hon. Moses Ali, President Museveni thanked the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) for organizing the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo, saying that it would go a long way in “expanding business opportunities in the tourism sector in Uganda and the entire East African region.”

President Museveni assured the delegates that Uganda had significantly invested in creating “peace and stability, good road networks, enough electricity supply, better telecommunications networks and internet” stating that these investments would enable Uganda’s tourism sector to be competitive.

“Without investment in critical infrastructure, tourism cannot flourish,” he noted, adding that; “the government has restored Uganda Airlines to attract tourists to Uganda because with direct routes to Uganda, tourists and business people alike will have faster and more affordable travel to Uganda, making us a competitive destination.”

President Museveni also commended UTB for the intra-African outlook saying that since the Ugandan government had “achieved commendable progress in addressing some of the strategic bottlenecks” which hindered Uganda’s prosperity, it was time to focus on intra-African business.

“Africa has a big market of 1.2 billion people which we must exploit to our advantage by increasing intra-trade and intra-travel among us,” he said.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Lilly Ajarova, the Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) told the delegates that Uganda was full of abundant tourism opportunities characterized by the richest tourism attractions portfolio, best value for money for investors and tourists alike and therefore healthy returns on investment.

“We have the richest and most diverse range of human, natural, cultural, religious and historical attractions complemented by a warm tropical climate, warm people, great accommodations and great food,” she said.

Ajarova, told the over 200 tourism business leaders from over 20 countries and 4 continents, that because Uganda has the “highest concentration of attractions over a smaller geographical area” where “tourists get to see more for less and there is something for everyone. As a destination, Uganda offers the best value for money.”

She also stated that the healthy growth in visitor arrivals coupled with a vast array of tourism assets presented big returns on tourism investment and that the recent government investments in transport infrastructure had made the country more accessible both from the outside and inland.

“It is now easier to get into Uganda by air from virtually anywhere around the world – 32,735 flights in and out of Uganda in FY18/19. With Uganda Airlines, there will be faster and more convenient direct routes especially from Africa. Today, it is also easier to get around by air, road and water.”

Explaining the theme of POATE2020 and the special focus on Africa, Ajarova declared that Africa’s economic prospects were on the rise and that the continent was emerging as one of the fastest growing tourism markets after Asia and the Pacific with outbound traffic reaching 42 million in 2018.

She said, “The theme mirrors our strategy to re-balance and segment our tourism portfolio into 4 key segments, namely: existing overseas markets; emerging overseas markets; regional/African market and the domestic Ugandan market.”

Addressing the hosted buyers on why they should priorities selling Destination Uganda, Ajarova said, “Do not settle for a bouquet of attractions when Uganda can give you and your clients a garden of attractions and endless opportunities for your businesses!”

Also speaking, the new Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Col (Rtd.) Tom Butime invited the delegates to explore the immense potential presented by Destination Uganda, stating that, “Numbers don’t lie. We do offer, probably the best value for money per dollar spent and there is something for everyone – regardless of age, gender, budget and preferences.”

He stated further that on top of healthy visitor numbers and the richest attractions portfolio on the continent, Uganda offered one of most abundant investment incentive regimes in the tourism sector.
Hon. Kiwanda Godfrey Ssuubi (Minister of State for Tourism and Antiquities), Rev Fr. Simon Lokodo (Minister for Ethics & Integrity), UTB Board members, as well as several Members of Parliament, ambassadors and private sector players attended the opening ceremony.

Meanwhile, Mrs Pearl Hoareau Kakooza, the President of Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) speaking on behalf of the private sector, thanked UTB’s new management for organizing POATE 2020 and called upon government to invest more in industry capacity building, new product development, capital investments and facilitating access to affordable financing.

“Interest rates ranging from 18-25% from commercial banks are prohibitive for direct investment in the private sector. UTA members would wish to have access to affordable financing for this sector,” she pointed out, adding that access to more affordable financing for the sector, “would translate into a broader tax base and by extension, more tax revenue.”

UTA is an umbrella organization that brings together all tourism trade Associations in Uganda that represents 7,000 tourism professionals, comprising of tour operators, travel agents, accommodation facilities, tour guides, and community based organizations and arts and crafts. 

More information on African Tourism Board visit www.africantourismboard.com