UTB seeks to use expo to kick-start tourism recovery  

Monday April 19 2021
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Rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Kabalega. UTB is seeking a fast recovery in tourism. PHOTO | EDGAR R. BATTE

By Rachel Nabisubi

Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) will have to overcome Covid-19-related challenges, as it seeks to grow tourism arrivals from both within Uganda and key source markets,  Ms Lilly Ajarova, the UTB chief executive officer, has said. 

Speaking in an interview last week, Ms Ajarova said that whereas Covid-19 has been a major disruption to the industry, UTB, through a number of activities including Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE),  will seek to kick-start the tourism sector that has been dampened by Covid-19. 

  The growth, she said, will be both long and short term with key focus put on increasing tourist arrivals from key source markets such as US, Europe and China from 210,000 to 500,000 by 2025,  which is expected to increase earnings from such markets to $3b from $1.6b  and increase tourism-related jobs from 6.3 per cent to 10 per cent or 433,000 new jobs, increasing the sector contribution jobs from 667,600 to 1.1 million jobs. 

“By 2024/25, excluding the impact of Covid-19, UTB plans to grow international tourist arrivals from key source markets such as US, Europe and China from 210,000 to 500,000 tourists,” she said.  

Tourism arrivals, before Covid-19, according to UTB, had been growing rapidly increasing by about 78 per cent from 844,000 in 2009 to 1.5 million in 2019. 

This has been achieved through a number of activities, key among which include targeted marketing and development of a variety of tourism products.  

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Over the years, Ms Ajarova said, this has resulted into increased sector foreign exchange earning, growing by more than 171 per cent in the last 13 years. 

Activities such as POATE, she said, are part of the larger plan through which government will be seeking to lift tourism out of the current Covid-19 disruptions. 

Government has also been seeking ways through which it can promote local tourism as a way of insulating the industry from external and international shocks. 

While speaking during the Domestic Tourism Strategy dialogue at the close of last year, Ms Doreen Katusiime, the Ministry of Tourism permanent secretary, told participants that the domestic tourism market had become a key focus in government’s promotional efforts, noting that world over, successful tourism destinations are characterised by a strong domestic market that is less prone to seasonal fluctuations. 

Ms Ajarova also indicated that a number of initiatives such as POATE and hiring market destination representatives in key source markets including UK and Ireland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, UAE, Japan and China as well as launching domestic and international awareness drives, have started to yield results lifting tourism which had been dampened by Covid-19. 

UTB is expected on April 29 to hold a virtual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo from which it will seek to earn at least Shs12.2b as return on investment in the subsequent financial year. 

The expo will among others seek to increase destination awareness, product knowledge, enhance tourism service distribution and increase new business deals and enhanced private sector development, among others. 

About the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo        

The Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo is an annual event that brings together domestic, regional and international tour operators, travel agents, destination agencies and other players in tourism to network and facilitate the sector.  

The expo due on April 27 is expected to be a virtual event that will seek to revive tourism as well as create opportunities for the country and tourism players. 

It will seek to build on the successes of 2020 from which UTB registered a 138 per cent growth in exhibitor numbers from 63 in 2018 to 150 exhibitors in 2020. 

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