Uganda unveils Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo to boost arrivals

KAMPALA, April 27 — Uganda on Wednesday unveiled a four-day tourism expo with the aim of boosting tourist arrivals following two years of stagnation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dubbed the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE), the event is running under the theme — “Explore Uganda the Pearl of Africa,” and has attracted sector players from Asia, Europe, the United States, and the African continent.

While opening the expo on Wednesday, Tourism Minister Tom Butime said the government was not satisfied with the number of visitors who came to tour Uganda last year.

He said at least 1.5 million tourists came to Uganda for mostly business and leisure tourism, adding that “the country can still attract more visitors. We are aiming at doubling the number in the next few years.”

“This expo is one of the measures the government is taking to ensure that more visitors come to enjoy our different tourism packages,” he added.

The minister said the government had also tightened supervision of the sector to ensure the safety of tourists as well as the quality of service.

Lilly Ajarova, CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board, said the country was ready to host more tourists than it did in the pre-pandemic period.

“While the World Tourism and Travel Council projects that the global tourism sector is at 65 percent of the pre-pandemic arrivals, full recovery of the sector is expected in 2023 and beyond. Therefore, this year’s expo will not point to our recovery, but also highlight our readiness to host the tourism community once again,” she said.

“The expo has now grown to become a signature event for Uganda’s tourism. That way, Uganda will receive more travelers and its associated benefits including increased tourism revenue and employment,” Ajarova said.

She noted that Uganda was targeting sustainable and responsible tourism as a new trend.

Sustainable tourism has been defined by the World Tourism Organization as tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities, she said.

“We will promote the use of recyclable materials, reduction of waste but also promote the conservation of the environment while respecting the host communities,” Ajarova added.

POATE 2023 has attracted at least 150 exhibitors from the East African region and more than 100 African tour operators.

Uganda used to earn over 1.6 billion U.S. dollars annually from the tourism sector, but the country’s tourism earnings dropped by 73 percent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Tourism Ministry

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