Poate,  ExploreWest complete April tourism bucket list

UTB’s. Marketing Manager Claire Mugabi Nasali, CEO Ajarova and Bradford Ochieng, the UTB Deputy CEO during the launch of the seventh edition of POATE.. PHOTO/FRANKLIN DRAKU

What you need to know:

  • The Explore West  tour presents a very rich April experience that starts with the long Easter break starting next weekend. 

The stage is set for one of Uganda’s biggest tourism calendar activities this year, with the month of April providing the thrill you must have dreamt of. Both the seventh edition of Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) and #ExploreWest, a domestic tourism promotion are running neck to neck in April, starting with the later from April 12, 2023 to April 16, 2023, followed by the grand POATE slated for April 26, 2023 to April 29, 2023 at the Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo.

POATE, aims to showcase Uganda’s tourism attractions to the world, after two years’ lull due to Covid-19 lockdowns. 
Lilly Ajarova, the Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), the government agency charged with the responsibility of marketing Uganda to the world said this year’s expo will bring in both local and international players together.
Ms Ajarova said the expo will also bring together both public and private sector stakeholders along the tourism value chain, creating business and networking opportunities for the tourism sector to enhance the economic development and social transformation of our country.

Uganda last held the expo in 2021 and became the first country to hold a virtual tourism expo in the region. The online event attracted 422 exhibitors and 428 hosted buyers, 30 speakers and 113 guest participants. According to Ajarova, the value of each business lead at POATE 2021 stood at Shs78.8 million with UTB registering a media advertising equivalency of Shs483 million as a result of all communications incidental to POATE 2021.

She has set an ambitious target of bringing in the big global players to have a taste of what Uganda has to offer to the world.
“At this year’s expo, we envisage to welcome over 300 exhibitors. This includes tourism boards and associations from the region that will interact with our local suppliers for the benefit of tourism,” she said during a press engagement with travel journalists at her office in Kampala.
Data from the World Tourism & Travel Council (WTTC) shows that the global tourism sector is now recovered at 65 percent of the pre-pandemic arrivals and says the full recovery of the sector is expected in 2023 and beyond.

“This year’s Expo will not only point to our recovery, but also highlight to the world our readiness to fully host the tourism community once again. At the Expo, we shall host 100 Africa specialist tour operators (hosted buyers) in our core source markets of Africa (South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt), Germany speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), United Kingdom, and Spain to explore Uganda – the Pearl of Africa and include our beautiful destination in their Africa itineraries in the next few months. That way, Uganda will receive more travelers and its associated benefits including increased tourism revenue and employment,” Ms Ajarova said.

She said the Expo will feature the emerging issues of Sustainability and Responsible tourism, headlined by five seminars on tourism investment, sustainability, MICE and innovation. There will also be three days of the expo, dedicated to Business-to-Business meetings with the participants and the last day dedicated to consumers.
The UTB CEO said this will offer a Perfect opportunity to introduce the Pearl of Africa brand to all 5,000 participants and millions of Ugandans.

Explore West
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent easing of the lockdown, Uganda had to refocus its tourism market by targeting the local market.
Data from Ministry of Tourism indicates that in 2022, Uganda registered 360,000 visittors to the national parks, up from 320,000 in 2019 before Covid-19 hit the world.

Uganda Wildlife Conservation and Education Centre registered over 400,000 visitors also during the same period, and in both cases, majority of the visitors were Ugandans.
Martin Mugarra, the state minister for tourism earlier this week during the launch of the campaign said Ugandans have appreciated the country’s tourism potential and are now traveling more than the foreigners.
“We believe if this trend continues defiantly we will be able to sustain this sector,” he said.
He said the campaign that started with Explore East where Ugandans summited Mountain Elgon and other tourism sites within the region now heads to the West and asked Ugandans to turn in large numbers to explore the region.

Martin Mugarra, Tourism State Minister 

“This time around we are encouraging Ugandans to travel with us to get the experience to share and talk about it. I think Elgon was a very good experience and success and it has inspired us to go on this campaign. The reason why we are concentrating on domestic tourism campaign, is because Covid taught us the only way we can have a resilient tourism sector moving forward, is to focus on the domestic market and we are seeing the achievements and we want to thank the Ugandans,” he said.

Uganda has one of the youngest population globally, which the minister said will play a big part in determining the future of tourism in the country. 
“We see potential and we have a very young population and we want to encourage them to travel because if you don’t travel now then I don’t know when you will travel,” he said.

The campaign isexpected to head north after the Western tour, with both Murchison Falls National Park and the pristine Kidepo Valley National Park in sight.
“We are not ending with this Explore West. We shall be doing Explore Northern Uganda before June, and we shall also be doing a mini hike of Mt. Rwenzori just for the domestic tourism component,” Mugarra said.
 What is on offer?
For travel freaks, the itinerary is thick with wild ventures, ranging from the expansive Queen Elizabeth National Park to the Ankole and Toro cultural sites to wild night parties going deep into the night.

Vivian Lyanzi, the commissioner for tourism and wildlife at the Ministry of Tourism said, “For a very long time, we thought of tourism as a foreign (muzugu) thing, it’s them who move around. It’s our time to take advantage of this beauty and enjoy it as we are supposed to enjoy in this very country. As we enjoy, one of the greatest values that tourism creates is resource transfer from the tourists, to centres and finally communities.”
The tour presents a very rich April experience that starts with the long Easter break starting next weekend. Few days after the Easter, fun lovers will step on the road. All one needs is money for accommodation and feeding, while the ministry and partners take care of your transportation and park access fee, which Uganda Wildlife Authority has waived off during the tour.

Lyanzi said with the excitement building among the youths to explore the country, the situation will only get better. He said while it is fun to tour the country, it’s also a way of giving back to the community that have supported conservation across the country.

The plot
Lyanzi said the journey will begin on the April 12, 2023 from the Uganda Museum, snaking through the city before making the first stop at the Equator as the journey heads to the West. Other stopovers will be at Kayabwe, Lukaya and end the day at Mbarara, where the team will visit Mbukyakole farm, before embarking on to hike the eclipse monument site.
Next after Mbarara will be the grand entry into the revered Queen Elizabeth National Park, with revelers basking in both panoramic game drives and a ride on Kazinga Channel connecting Lakes George and Edward.
“The exiting part is that there will be camping because they will be camp fire, wake up in the morning and head to Lake Katwe and late in the evening travel to Kasese and they will be hiking of Mt. Rwenzori. In the evening head to Fort portal, in the morning go to Toro, and have a picnic,” Lyanzi said.