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Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo

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Kampala, Uganda – 27 November 2019…

As part of its objectives to establish Uganda as a premier tourist destination, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) has officially launched the 5th annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE 2020). POATE 2020 will integrate a business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) trade event format under the theme “Inspiring high value engagement to promote intra-Africa travel for leisure, business and adventure”, aimed at raising Uganda’s profile as a preferred destination in the region and internationally.

Hon. Godfrey Kiwanda Ssubi, State Minister for Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities, while launching the event, noted the board’s focus on Intra-Africa travel. “Tourism has long been advocated as an alternative strategy for economic development and social reconstruction. The focus on Intra-Africa travel during this expo and beyond is aimed to increase the number of African arrivals to Uganda. With the revival of the Uganda Airlines, regional connectivity is easier and this among others will allow for intra- Africa travel to thrive.” He said.

UTB Board Chairman, Hon. Daudi Migereko noted that POATE was a strategic avenue to market and promote the country to a group of select hosted buyers in a broader goal to increase tourist arrivals to Uganda as per the UTB strategic plan. “Trade expos have been to drive high value engagement and the focus on Africa is timely for Uganda given the recent interest of travellers on the continent.

Also speaking at the event, UTB CEO, Lilly Ajarova, stated that POATE is one of the key strategies for the promotion of Uganda’s tourism in the region and across the world. The expo facilitates key linkages through hosted buyers between tourists and our domestic tour operators. Furthermore, it allows Uganda to showcase directly to various groups of hosted buyers who play a key role in the increment of visitor arrivals.

“On a weeklong FAM trip, we shall host and showcase to hosted buyers to some of Uganda’s unique experiences and gems and ensure a rich and memorable experience so they get a hands-on sense of Uganda as a tourist destination. Hosted buyers will include tour agents, travel media, hoteliers; among others and over 70 hosted buyers are expected from Uganda’s key source markets such as Africa, North America, Canada, UK, Germany, Switzerland, among others,” Ajarova noted.

The first two days of the event will constitute seminars and workshops, B2B meetings and conferences while the last day will be open to the public for B2C engagements between the public and attending exhibitors and hosted buyers.

Commenting on the same, Pearl Horeau, the President of the Uganda Tourism Association said that the expo will present an exciting opportunity for tourism private sector to network and develop their tourism and travel business directly.

“As private sector, we are positive about the potential business that POATE will bring to Uganda. The focus on the African market is a step in the right direction as the continent provides a number of opportunities for intra-travel trade evidenced by the number of African tourist coming to Uganda and other countries.” Horeau said.

The Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo is a tourism and 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 will run from 4-6 February 2020 and will be held at the Speke Resort in Munyonyo.

Uganda tourist arrivals at a glance 2019

In terms of arrivals, Uganda’s international tourism performance in 2018 was above the rate of continental and global tourism growth. Tourists from international air accounted for approximately 31% of the total international tourist arrivals to Uganda in 2018, growing by 10.2% compared to the previous year. Growth was recorded from Europe (+13.8%), the Americas (+9.2%), Asia (+10.2%) and the Middle East (+9.7%) in 2018. African land markets (regional and neighboring countries) that entered Uganda by road make up 69% of Uganda’s international arrivals, and grew by 6.1% in 2018.

The biggest number of tourist arrivals to Uganda in 2018 was from Africa. The top ten sources of tourist arrivals into Uganda made up about 82 per cent of the total arrivals. Kenya and Rwanda combined to provide 55 percent of all tourist arrivals in 2018. The other top ten markets were Tanzania (7%), United States of America (4%), Dem. Republic of Congo (3%), Burundi (3%), South Sudan (3%), India (3%), United Kingdom (2%), and South Africa (2%).Uganda witnessed a 7.4% increase in international tourist arrivals in 2018, growing from 1,402,409 in 2017 to 1,506,669 in 2018. Direct revenue from international tourism rose to US$1.6 billion in 2018, compared to US$1.453 billion in 2017.

If you followed the series “My Uganda Memoirs” you’ll probably have read where I mentioned doing the bungee jump on Saint Valentine’s Day while I was in Jinja in the country known as the Pearl of Africa. Jinja is regarded as the Adrenaline Capital of East Africa because of the several activities one can engage in in the town; from quad biking to whitewater rafting, cruises on the Nile, horseback riding, or even swimming with crocodiles! Okay, that’s a joke – no swimming with the crocodiles, please.

Jinja is also the place where the longest river in the world, River Nile originates from; so it is often called the Source of the Nile. For more about my Jinja experience please see: My Uganda Memoirs IX and XI, so you can get some background info.

With the quad biking action done, the bus returned to the Jinja Nile Resort with everyone, while those who signed up for the bungee jump made our way to the venue, which was around the back entrance of the resort. A few people had already gone ahead and started the bungee while we were busy on the quad bikes, but there was still a couple of people waiting to take the leap of faith when we got there.

Would you dare?

The first thing to do was to sign the indemnity form, followed by the weighing in, after which you proceed to the platform. You have enough time to change your mind as you walk up and start the climb up the steps to the platform.

All set…

At the weighing in, they ink your weight on your wrist, so once you get up the platform you show your wrist. This helps the guys there determine the necessary things to ensure your safety. They proceed to strap you into the harness. You sit down while they bind your feet together. The guys try to make you feel at ease. Once everything is set, you hop to the edge of the platform and raise your hands up and wait for the guys to give you the go ahead. Once they give the go ahead, you jump. Pretty simple, right?

Here we go…

You can have a million and one thing running through your mind at this time. I’ve heard tales of people who stood on that edge and refused to bulge after the go ahead. For whatever reason, they froze and had to be coaxed into taking the jump. Sometimes, I guess fear comes to people when they look down, so they tell people not to look down, or to close their eyes.

I wasn’t bothered and I looked down. No matter how much you try to steel yourself though, your heart starts racing as the rush builds up! I’m not sure I can describe what happens when you jump. You’re free falling until suddenly the rope jerks and you are upside down. You start a pendulum swing with spins which slows down after a while. For me, the rope didn’t jerk until I touched the Nile. The guy gearing me up had asked if I wanted to touch the water, and I said, “Yes.”

As the swing slows down to the barest minimum, a rescue team comes to get you. They are in a boat and they call out to you, asking you to open your eyes – usually most people have their eyes shut when they jump. Once you spot them, they stretch a paddle to you and you grab a hold of it and they easily bring you into the raft and unharness you.

That’s it?

So that’s it. I think I need to do this again. I’m really looking forward to an in tandem jump with a sweet young lady. I guess I should go in search of her…

Kampala, the bustling capital of the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is a city that never sleeps. If you’re a nocturnal creature on the prowl for a nocturnal adventure, Kampala offers you lots of places where you can unwind and catch your fun. One of such places is the Ndere Cultural Centre situated at Plot 4505 Kira Rd, Ntinda. 

Away from the modern pop culture, strobe-light discos, slamming nightclubs and bars, and exclusive lounges, Ndere offers a different kind of night time entertainment, somewhat similar to the Boma, Place of Eating Restaurant in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Yet, Ndere is very different.

Founded by Stephen Rwangezi as the Ndere Troupe in 1984, the Centre has grown in leaps and bounds and is regarded as “Africa’s dancing encyclopedia.” An evening at Ndere Cultural Centre is a must for any visitor to Kampala, and it is an experience to treasure. Apart from the energetic dance and drumming, with the flute playing, Mr. Rwangyezi who hosts the evenings is a jovial personality and he spices the performances with endless humour. The centre also has a restaurant that serves food and drinks. It was a great honour to visit Ndere Cultural Centre and witness the performance during the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo POATE 2017.

Feb 18, 2017

Day 2 of the expo and exhibitions continued at the Kampala Sheraton grounds with various entertainment activities to excite the crowd who came around.

Crowd of locals enjoying performances at the expo ground

There wasn’t much to do besides visiting the stands and networking. Cephas and I, along with Nkiru caught up with Ms. Carmen Nibigira the Regional Coordinator for the East Africa Tourism Platform (EATP), for an interview. Afterwards, Cephas had a chat with Prof. Wolfgang Thome, before we went down for lunch.

Nkiru and Ms. Nibigira holding a copy of S.E.E.AFRICA
Cephas and Prof.
Lunch time…
Jean and Franz Theiler from Switzerland
Ermias…

Later at night, Henry came around with some friends and Mark and I went with out with him to explore Kampala nightlife. We were not allowed to take pictures at the first place we went. It was a lively outdoor rendezvous environment. We spoke with the manager and he made some flimsy excuses about taking pictures. So we just chilled there for a while, until  two of the ladies who came with Henry were ready to leave. We dropped the two ladies off and went on to on to Gekko Lounge & Terrace.

Mark, Henry and two of Henry’s friends

Feb 17, 2017

The 2017 Pearl Of Africa Tourism Expo kicked off this morning at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel, and the highlight of the morning session was the launch of the East Africa Tourism Platform (EATP).

Stephen Asiimwe, CEO Uganda Tourism Board
Alain St. Ange…
Carmen Nibigira…

Exhibition was on at the grounds of the hotel and as I navigated the stands, I ran into Mr. Jafa’ar Idi Amin, son of the former Ugandan dictator.

Henna art at the Magical Kenya stand
Angelica! Met her getting a henna at the Magical Kenya stand
Jafa’ar Idi Amin with a friend

Later in the evening, the official Welcome Ceremony took place at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel. It was a an exciting evening to cap off the official opening of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE 2017).

Stephen Asiimwe, delivering the opening address
Edwin Muzahura, Marketing Manager UTB
Kiwanda Godfrey Ssuubi, State Minister for Tourism, Wildlife & Antiquities
Richie Selva doing his thing…

Apart from the inevitable speeches, there was a live band while good food and drinks was served.

Feb 16, 2017

Today was dedicated to site inspection and after breakfast, we left the Kampala Sheraton Hotel and visited the Munyoyo Commonwealth Resort and its sister facility, the Speke Resort & Conference Center.

Driving in…
Some light refreshment to welcome us…
…and the inspection begins…
Swimming pool…
Conference room…
Gym…
Ballroom…
One of the rooms…
Oh my! Is Prof being arrested?
A room…
Another pool by the lake…
Lake Victoria…

We spend quite some time exploring Speke Resort & Conference Centre and the Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort, and at some point I couldn’t tell any more which was which. After we were done, we left, driving on to Cassia Lodge for another round of inspection.

View from Cassia Lodge set on a hill overlooking the lake…
Restaurant…
A room with a great view…
Enjoying the view…

Our final port of call was the massive Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa, an impressive stretch of class. After we had gone round, the facility, we had lunch at the Kalangala Hall, one of the restaurants within the facility.

Arrival at Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa
As we wait for a briefing Richie does his thing…
Swimming pool…
Views…
One of the rooms…
Kalangala Hall…
Lunch was welcomed and good…

We returned to Kampala Sheraton Hotel afterwards quite tired. Some people went out to check a nearby facility which we noticed as we drove into our hotel, but I just went straight to my room to rest and await dinner.

Feb 15, 2017

We left Jinja after lunch at the Jinja Nile Resort. On the way, we stopped over for some site inspections before we arrived Kampala. Two days away meant we got new rooms when we arrived back at Kampala Sheraton Hotel.

My room at Kampala Sheraton…
View from my room…

Our host, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) informed us that dinner was going to be outside the hotel. So we around 17:00 we assembled downstairs and were chaperoned to Ndere Cultural Centre in Ntinda.

Arrival at Ndere Cultural Centre…
Settling down for an evening of good food and wholesome entertainment…

It was a beautiful evening as we ate dinner and were treated to a diversity of spectacular performances by the Ndere Troop, depicting cultural displays from each of the regions of Uganda. The owner and founder Mr. Stephen Rwangyezi kept us thoroughly entertained with rib-cracking jokes as the MC.

With the night well spent, we returned to Kampala Sheraton Hotel and had a beautiful night sleep.

February 14, 2017…

Yesterday was a good day after all. The Birthday Surprise from the Uganda Tourism Board was totally awesome. If you don’t know what I’m talking about click here. Anyway, I got up early today, Valentine’s Day, but I was not in the mood to go anywhere. In any case, we’d been informed about the time for our different activities.

Surveying my surroundings…

I chose quad-biking and that activity along with the bungee was fixed for the afternoon. It basically meant, staying put in the room to send down all necessary deliverable to the office. Those who were in for the horse-riding and whitewater rafting had a morning call and were off before I even rolled out of bed. I would have loved to follow them just to take pictures though.

…the pool…

Anyway, I was probably the last person to eat breakfast because I didn’t bother leaving my room. I was lucky though that I got to the restaurant before breakfast was closed, and one of the staff packed a sumptuous meal which I took back to the room where I continued my work before settling down to devour the food.

Back in my room with my breakfast…

By the time it was afternoon, I was ready to roll. We were summoned after lunch and I and those of us on the afternoon adventure shift met at the reception, before getting on the bus and driving down to the All Terrain Adventures (ATA) office at Bujagali Falls for quad biking action.

Gearing up…
Cephas & Claudia

After a quick briefing on safety, we were giving the gears which we wore. There was so much emphasis on safety that the ATA staff wouldn’t even allow us to carry our gadgets for fear of being distracted and causing accidents while riding.

Getting set…
All ready to rumble…

We eventually started our ride and at some point it started raining however it didn’t rain for too long, nor was it as heavy as it was the day before when we got caught at Mabira Forest. We took shelter briefly and after about a 10mins wait we got back on our vehicles and finished the journey.

Captain Farzana all set after the showers…

We left afterwards and I went straight down to do my bungee jump! WATCH THIS SPACE!

Feb. 13, 2017,

We had just returned from the sunset cruise on the River Nile and made our way to the restaurant at Jinja Nile Resort. It had been a long but interesting day. Yes, it was my birthday, but I had no inkling what the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) had planned for me. We left Kampala early, setting off for Jinja, the place where the longest river in the world begins its journey. Jinja is also regarded as the Adventure Capital of East Africa.

Anyway, we had a stopover at Mabira Forest for some ziplining activities and the rain caught us there. We eventually arrived Jinja and barely settled in our rooms at the Jinja Nile resort before we were summoned for the sunset cruise. So, yeah it’s been a hectic day and I had even forgotten about my birthday when it all started at the restaurant…

I am grateful to everyone who made this possible: UTB, management of Jinja Nile Resort, friends and colleagues in the tourism industry. God bless you all. I love you.

February 13, 2017…

After breakfast, we got into the buses provided by our host and left the Kampala Sheraton Hotel, weaving our way through the fabled capital city traffic as we headed towards Jinja. We had a stopover at the Mabira Forest, and soon everyone disembarked as got ready for some ziplining fun. There was a lot of people, since all the groups were present and we certainly spent a considerable amount of time attending to everyone.

Gearing up for our ziplining adventure…

Are you ready? ‘Cos I am…

Richie ‘Mr. Selfie’ Selva was more interested in selfies with the ladies…

Up goes Ishita…

…and up I go…

I went up the tree after Ishita and I think at the third zipline, I was ahead of her. Anyway, I got to see her stuck and a rescue mission had to go get her… At the end of my zipline adventure, I got a Uganda watch. I was actually saved from something worse by my T-shirt. It’s got to be God, really.

Up and away…

I had finished the course and was on the raised platform waiting for those coming after. I was trying to take a picture as they approached, but they kept delaying. I was at the edge of the platform and the next thing I knew, I was falling, but my sleeve got caught by a twig, and that actually broke my fall. It could have been really bad. It was the guy beside me who ran down in a panic who now saw I had a bruise on my wrist. First Aid was available and I got treated.

There’s my Ugandan watch… according to Jayesh…

Anyway, by the time the last set of people got on the zipline, it started drizzling and soon enough the rain started as we started trying to find our way out of the forest. Those who had finished the zipline earlier had since left the forest – it was just a couple of us, and we got soaked. I had to take off my T-shirt and wrapped it around the camera to protect it.

The rain kept us from moving for about 30mins as we waited for those trapped on the ziplines to emerge from the forest. Eventually the rain subsided and everyone emerged. We dripped dry and got on our buses as we headed off on our way, stopping at the Rainforest Lodge to have lunch. The kind staff of the lodge attended to my wound before we left.

We arrived Jinja and checked in into the Jinja Nile Resort. We had barely freshened up and changed our clothes when we were summoned for a sunset cruise on the world’s longest river. We got into our buses and drove down to the river banks where we got into the waiting cruiser boats, before sailing off. We got to the ‘Source of the Nile’ and spotted several birds species as well as some animals along the way.

Bust of Mahatma Gandhi at the jetty…

…and we got to the source of the world’s longest river…

If you don’t know, Uganda is one of the world’s top birding destinations…

Enjoying the sunset…

Looks like the fun is all on that boat…

On the way back, I jumped ship abandoning my crew made up of Charity, Lydia, Anna, etc. to join the bigger ship which had all my friends; Walter, Hazel, Dency, Peterson, etc. I became friends with Johanna Read on the boat.

When we got ashore, we got on our buses and headed back to Jinja Nile Resort for dinner. At dinner, the wonderful surprise came. It has to be one of the happiest days of my life and I am very grateful to the Uganda Tourism Board UTB, Jinja Nile Resort and everyone who contributed it.