By Spy Uganda
Kampala: Amidst optimism and rays of hope in reviving the tourism sector, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) officially launched the 6th Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE 2021) on March 10, 2021. It was the first-ever virtual tourism expo for Uganda as confirmed by Sandra Natukunda, Senior Public Relations Officer of UTB.
POATE is a tourism exposition organized annually by the Uganda Tourism Board. It brings together domestic, regional, and international tour operators, travel agents, destination agencies, and various players in the tourism trade to network and facilitate tourism business.
The launch of POATE 2021, which will take place from April 23-25, 2021 under the theme: “Restarting Tourism for Regional Economic Development” comes amidst a slow-down in the growth of COVID-19 cases just as 350 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are being administered worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
“We have built a specialized virtual meeting platform that shall facilitate one-on-one meetings, virtual speed-networking sessions, as well as live conference sessions for domestic, regional, and international tourism players,” she said.
Participants for POATE 2021 will be vetted through a set of criteria that has been developed by the national organizing committee to ensure they are of the right caliber to showcase Destination Uganda’s offering.
Hosted buyers and exhibitors will be sourced from the existing core and emerging source markets within the East African Region (Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda), the rest of Africa (Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa), and the international markets (North America, UK, and Ireland, as well as Germany-speaking countries, Japan, Gulf states, and China plus new markets – France, Belgium, and the Netherlands).
Over the next coming days, UTB will be engaging the industry further on how best to take advantage of the numerous opportunities presented by POATE 2021.
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“Building on the successes of POATE 2020 where we registered a 138% growth in exhibitors, from 63 exhibitors in 2018 to 150 exhibitors in 2020, and leveraging the power of the Internet, this time we expect to attract more than 200 exhibitors,” she continued.
Speaking at the launch, Hon. Daudi Migereko, Chairman of the 4th Board of Directors of UTB, expressed confidence at the timing of POATE 2021: “By and large, we can say there isn’t a better time to send out a message of hope to the tourism sector; a message focused on recovery, rebuilding, reconnecting, and rebooting the Ugandan tourism sector.”
Hon. Godfrey Ssuubi Kiwanda, the State Minister for Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities in the Ugandan Cabinet, highlighted the importance of the private sector in kick starting the tourism industry in Uganda:
“Domestically, we know that the private sector has been getting back on its feet in what is now the new normal, and we know that it has not been easy and won’t get easy so soon; but yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel and as the Government, we have also been doing our homework by taking stock, looking for resources, and strategizing on a comeback strategy to support UTB in its recovery efforts.”
According to the Bank of Uganda Monetary Policy Report for February, the Ugandan economy is projected to grow between 3% – 3.5% this financial year.
UTB is optimistic that the global vaccination will trigger resumption of international tourists into the country. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the tourism industry is recovering, with 2021 expected to be better than 2020 and with a rebound expected in 2022.