The highs and lows of tourism expo

Saturday February 15 2020

Lilly Ajarova, UTB CEO, exchanges pleasantries

Lilly Ajarova, UTB CEO, exchanges pleasantries with the First deputy Prime Minister, Gen Moses Ali, at the launch of the 5th tourism expo. PHOTOS BY ERIC NTALUMBWA 

By Eric Ntalumbwa

Unlike the four previous editions of Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE), this year’s trade expo attracted more than 180 exhibitors comprising tour and travel companies, agencies, accommodation facilities, craft village, airlines, car convertors and manufacturers, clusters, regional tourism boards and event organisers, amenities, among others.
Although entrance fees and upscale location of the expo limited the number of visitors, the expo attracted focused businessmen who wanted to purchase travel deals.

Tonny Ofungi, Maleng Travel director and an exhibitor at POATE 2020, acknowledges the practice of trade visitors paying explaining that it is standard practice across the board in other countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania.
The organiser- Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) pitched a buyers lounge and hospitality tent in the central location, with three sections, manned by officers in areas of MICE, leisure and quality assurance.

Food was available at a subsidised price of Shs20,000 from the standard price of Shs70,0000 at the Speke Resort and Conference Centre Munyonyo.
“The first expo had the best selection of hosted buyers, but the organisers messed up their lodging and transportation. The meetings were not well organised. The second one was a mess; it lacked potential buyers, but was fairly organised. The tourism expo 2020 had good hosted buyers,” says Evelyn Kyomuhendo, the Client Liason Officer Wild Frontiers Uganda Safaris.

She add: “The meetings were organised, but the host needs to improve on time management, and exhibitor signage because many buyers lost their way to meet exhibitors.”
“In addition, two of the hosted buyers I interacted with did not have a good experience in Kibale. Most of the lodge owners are willing to host the buyers as long as they are contacted early enough, Kyomuhendo reveals.
She says showcasing the best of the Pearl of Africa calls for early planning. She was impressed that seven out of 10 appointments that had been scheduled prior to the expo were successful.
“On a scale of 10, POATE 2020 scored eight. Previously, I have attended and exhibited at two POATE events, but this has been best POATE overall,” says Kyomuhendo.

Hosted buyers
For any trade show to register success, it does not only need to have hosted buyers, but quality ones.POATE continues to attract buyers who are decision makers with high purchasing power, and offers exhibitors an opportunity to engage in face-to face meetings with potential clients.
“I received high quality luxury buyers from the US, Russia and Germany,” says Francis Kimbowa, the managing director of Pinnacle Africa Safaris.
“They did not like certain lodges at Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo Valley and Kibale National Parks often regarded as luxury facilities. But they loved the locations. They wondered why luxury buyers were taken to lodges,
“Their perception is either Uganda does not have quality lodges or UTB took them to a poor quality hotels. They, however, liked Katara lodge among those they visited,” explains Kimbowa.

He wonders why UTB never exposed the luxury buyers to better facilities in the parks and seeks to know the criteria the organiser used to select the lodges.
The tourism proprietor advises UTB to segment the buyers such as mid-level or luxury as opposed to mixing them up during familiarisation trips.


Guests were treated to traditional dances at a
Guests were treated to traditional dances at a dinner hosted at Kampala Serena hotel during the closure of the expo.

To plan a more successful POATE 2021, stakeholders urge UTB to listen to their suggestions, understand their needs and effectively plan successful tourism expos.
Communication is at the heart of event marketing and at the forefront from beginning to the end. Much as UTB established a National Organising Committee(Noc) in the shortest time possible, stakeholders’concerns were not put into consideration during the organisation of the expo
Francis Kimbowa, the proprietor of Buffalo Safari Lodge is disappointed that UTB booked six cottages for hosted buyers at his facility near the magical Kazinga Channel yet guestsdid not show up.
“The organisers did not have the courtesy to cancel, send an email or call to say the hosted buyers are not coming. That was unprofessional because the lodge lacked direct contact with hosted buyers.”

Format of the event
Meanwhile POATE 2020 kicked off its first day with a high level ministerial attendance comprising the the First Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Leader of Government Business in Parliament Gen Moses Ali who also doubled as a guest of honour. Also in attendance were the minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Tom Butime, the Minister of State for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda Ssubi, and Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity Fr Simon Lokodo.
The afternoon session had several panels focused on sustainable tourism development, tour operations and accommodation.

Panel session
Day two discussions included accessibility within and to Africa; transport and connectivity, round table discussions, tourism investment opportunities and threats.
On day three, discussions revolved around emerging trends in tourism and hospitality. Richard Kawere, the chief executive officer of Uganda Tourism Association and a moderator of one of the panels, says the discussions on connectivity and accessibility attracted panelists such as Ikechi Uko from Nigeria, Pearl Kakooza from The Uganda Association of Travel Agents (TUGATA), Betty Nasenja from Immigrations and Alain St Ange, President of the African Tourism Board.

The panel was moderated by Dr Carmen Nibigira, a seasoned tourism policy analyst from Rwanda, with more than 19 years’ experience in hotel and tourism industry in Africa and Europe.
“Panels were relevant, presenters were informative, had industrial experience and discussions were well-attended. Unfortunately, we had a limited time to exhaust the topics,” he explained.

Participants during panel sessions held at the
Participants during panel sessions held at the 5th POATE 2020

Creative work exhibited
On the exhibit floor, majority of exhibitors were creative in their designs and products on display.
There were also lively discussions and networking. It is unfortunate that the weather and days of the expo (Tuesday to Thursday) affected the attendance at POATE.
Day two and three started on a good note despite the rain. Hundreds of people attended the expo in order to identify the latest travel deals.

Experience Kampala
Throughout the nights of the three-day expo, UTB showcased the best of Uganda, through Experience Kampala.
The expo was characterised by night on the sightseeing buses, cultural celebration at the Ndere Cultural Centre and the dinner hosted at Kampala Serena Hotel to mark the closure of the 5th annual POATE 2020.
Held under the theme: “Inspiring high-value engagement to promote intra-Africa travel for leisure, business and adventure”, in her remarks UTB CEO Lilly Ajarova announced 4th-6th, 2021 as the dates for the sixth edition of POATE.

Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE), is an annual travel trade exhibition, which brings together regional and international tour operators, travel agents, destination agencies, and various players in the tourism trade to network and facilitate tourism business. The three-day expo took place from February 4-6, at Speke Resort in Munyonyo, under the theme: “Inspiring high value engagement to promote intra-Africa travel for leisure, business and adventure.