PEARL OF AFRICA EXPO 2020
Tourism is the talk of the town after Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) hosting the fifth Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo. Critics say it was done in haste and yet participants need time to organize themselves. A heated debate is raging on the success and failure in the execution. Critics are hollering themselves hoarse about the profile of the 70 invited destination dealers who graced the decorous lakeside venue at Speak Resort Munyonyo. The idea of rescheduling of the next one, from February, is being proposed because it will be obstructed by the pending presidential campaigns and elections.
“For start tourists want convenience when booking,” tipped the Great lakes Safaris director Amos Wekesa during a presentation. “The world is going digital, so the challenge is upon us to make Uganda’s presence felt on social media. It may be bird watching safaris, gorilla tracking safaris in Uganda, boat rides, white water rafting or bungee jumping. What attracts adrenalin savvy travelers is that aspect of experience?”
Wekesa asserted that modern tourists need personalized travel services where promotional content is delivered on an individual basis. He says the goal of such a strategy is to communicate with customers, or potential customers, on a more personal level rather than targeting them with billboards.
“This implies distributing the right content, to the right people, in the right format, at the right moment,” stressed Wekesa. “It is like the recent gorilla tracking done by a Kenyan senior citizen Charles Njonjo at a ripe old age of 99. It went viral in Kenya social media making it the right time for UTB to target that market.”
UTB was challenged to exploit such opportunities in order for Uganda Airlines to return with more Kenyans following suit. Most of them did not know Uganda had gorillas until Njonjo’s trip went viral on social media.
During another workshop, Ikechi Uko of Akwaba, a West Africa tourism event organizer from Nigeria commended the East African Community common visa.
“It makes a convenient booking for travelers and offers them a variety as it now,” stressed Uko. “One can enjoy the sandy beaches in Mombasa or Dar es Salaam, track Mountain gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda and enjoy the famed Masaai Mara migration in one trip.”
He says during their annual fair held in Lagos now attracts more than 20 countries to network in regard to tourism.
“Tourists are now attracted to destinations that have an element of environment conservation,” said Uko. “This can be having a Safari drive for three hours punctuated with the planting of trees, riding bicycles instead of burning gas and interacting with communities.”
Uko observed that in spite of movies like The Last King of Scotland and 90 Minutes at Entebbe, Uganda has not turned Idi Amin Dada as a tourism product.
“Lots of literature has been published about him,” said Uko. “Amin was a president who had ambitions to halt apartheid in South Africa. He also wanted to liberate Palestinians in Israel. He is such a character – how I would love to see his accordion, boxing gloves, swimming costumes, talk to his 60 children, meet the 300 grandchildren and his harem of wives.”
Uko was humored to learn that Amin had changed the Murchison Falls National Park name to be Kabalega and Lake George became Lake Mobutu.
“The expulsion of 800, 000 made Uganda attract the attention of the entire world,” said Uko. “Elvis Presley’s home has become a tourist attraction and so should Idi Amin. You cannot wish him away.”
In conclusion, it was announced that there are nine high-end hotels destined to set up businesses in popular tourist attractions as soon as the paperwork is done. Back parkers and domestic tourists were urged to rest assured that they will continue being catered for.
“Uganda Wildlife Authority and the respect hotel establishments are in advanced degrees of commencing the groundbreaking exercise,” said Justus Karuhanga. “This follows the realization that there is a gap in the catering industry for the high tourist.”
The Minister of Tourism Tom Butime says the government has played its role in contrasting the roads, restoring wildlife populations and put in place the Tourism Police.
“Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) to see the numerous incentives in place,” said Butime. “The political will to boost tourism is there. The challenge is upon you to see how you can get a share of the tourism cash. It may be from guiding, driving, entertaining or selling crafts. Tourists would love to sample our cuisines like luwombo, eshabwe and so many others.”
UTB CEO Lilly Ajarova revealed that Uganda has a new product called Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism.
“The country has an advantage over our competitors in the region,” said Ajarova. “UTB is battling to attract some of Sub-Saharan Africa out of the 34.5 million international tourist arrivals who accounted for about 3% of their global counterparts as in 2015.”
The destination braced to get more of the estimated 250 regional conferences handled annually in Africa which resulted in more than 600 events in five years. This revelation comes after hosting Chogm in 2007, it is evident such conferences continue to represent a more stable and consistent segment of the meetings market and are a source of considerable economic benefits for the destinations and venues that host them.
A chat with guests from South Africa and Europe after they return from a familiarization tour was a revelation that either thought they had seen the best.
“I know seven days is not enough to exhaust the menu of attractions Uganda has got to offer,” said Sharmaine Naidoo from South Africa’s Africa Personalized Tours. “This is my second time to come for POATE in Uganda. The first time I flew to Kidepo Valley National Park and returned by road to see the source of River Nile, Bungee Jumping and White water rafting in Eastern Uganda.”
This time around she had no regrets having tracked gorillas in the misty Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Adding that, she knows the menu of attractions has a variety that can interest the most sophisticated client.