By Amos Wekesa
Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Uganda’s tourism regulatory and marketing agency, will between April 27th and 29th host the 6th Edition of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) 2021.
Unlike the previous 5 editions of the expo, this one will be held online, by means of a customized application accessible both on smart internet-ready handheld devices and conventional computers. This is for obvious reasons- the biggest part of the world is still under Covid-19 lockdown are semi-lockdown. Even those who are not under lockdown, travel safety protocols are still a prominent consideration.
I applaud UTB for taking this courageous step to maintain consistency in POATE and choosing to adopt the virtual direction- just like many others have done. Even ITB Berlin, probably the most influential tourism expo on the globe has taken this direction, as we await normalcy to return.
We (Uganda Lodges Ltd and Great Lakes Safaris) have already registered and get an opportunity to connect with over 300 hosted buyers and other tourism players from our major tourist source markets, as well as other emerging markets.
Why I will be attending and why other tourism players should attend
Tourism and travel exhibitions and as such, POATE is such a great opportunity for us, as Uganda because, it is a cost-effective way of attracting wholesale tourism buyers. Wholesale buyers are people/companies who sell many tourism destinations to several buyers across the world. They run the show, so to speak. When such wholesale buyers get to know and or put your country on their catalogues big business starts flowing. When they eventually come to visit your country destination and meet potential ground handlers such as local tour operators; when they fall in love with your country, and trust me Uganda has in the past charmed so many wholesale buyers, then you are in things- as Ugandans like to say. When individual tourism players start getting big business, they expand, they hire more people, buy more things locally, pay more taxes and the country grows.
This is why POATE is and should be such a big thing for everyone- the private sector and Government alike.
The recent Uganda Tourist Expenditure and Motivation Survey (TEMS) 2019 Report by the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA) and Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) properly demonstrates the importance of wholesale buyers and therefore why meeting them at POATE should be on everyone’s agenda.
According to the study, while tourists who travel under tour packages, spend nearly USD100 higher than non-package tourists—USD 187 versus US$107 per day per person, only a minuscule 8 per cent of all visitors to Uganda travel on packaged tours. 86 per cent of the package tourists are high-spending leisure tourists and are likely to be from our key markets in Europe, North America and Oceania.
The study also reveals that 71 per cent of all package tourists still buy their safaris outside Uganda and rely mostly on travel agents or tour operators (wholesale buyers).
What this study means, in simple terms, is that for Ugandan tour operators seeking to grow their business, POATE which presents an opportunity of meeting the hosted buyers and other wholesale dealers in our key markets presents a greater opportunity for growing the value of our business- and maybe not so much the volume as yet.
We are not going to reinvent the wheel- expos are one great way of selling our potential, probably at the lowest cost per deal closed and markets that succeeded before us like United Kingdom, Germany and South Africa, have largely taken advantage of their expos, namely ITB Berlin, WTM London and Indaba.
I do not doubt that UTB is on the right course of action with our POATE, because it is important to know that no matter, what you do, consistency is key. If you are not consistent, with your expos you will not go anywhere. Resilience, consistency, and persistence are key. So, I would like to applaud UTB for daring to host the 6th edition of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo even amidst the ongoing challenges.
As the private sector, it is also important that we participate fully and consistently because, for those countries that have succeeded at tourism and hosting expos like Germany, UK, South Africa etc, it is because their private sector plays a very key role in making sure the expos work. Because at the end of the day, the government creates the opportunity, and it should be us the private sector to showcase what we have to sell. Once again, allow me to invite you to register for POATE, by following this link: www.poate.co.ug and it is free! See you all on April 27th – 29th.