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.

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

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

February 8, 2017:

Woke up and found out it was almost 06:30 and everyone was waiting for me so we can go on the early morning game drive as planned. I barely had a shower, rushed into some clothes and sped to meet the rest at the restaurant cum reception area. No time for breakfast, but thankfully they were already packed for the road.

Vehicles waiting for the ferry to cross the Nile…

The six of us: Prof, Jayesh, Cephas, Nana, Mitchell and I all piled into the jeep with our driver and headed out to the river bank. There are no game drives on the south bank of the Nile and the first ferry crosses at at 07:00 – we had to be on it, else…

A local band of physically challenged musicians entertaining tourists waiting to get on the ferry.

Sunrise on the Nile…

There was lots to see from the usual suspects, such as impalas in their large numbers – pretty much food for the predators. There were red colobus monkeys, warthogs, elephants, and herds of buffaloes.

Different bird species, hippos in the water – and a sleeping lion – maybe it was just pretending, waiting for someone to come down from the jeep.

As we drove by the old ruins of the original Pakuba Safari Lodge we caught a glimpse of something that could have gone on National Geographic, but terrible camera skills by Cephas hashed it up. A hyena was trapped between two porcupines.

Pakuba Safari Lodge used to be a favorite of Idi Amin in its glory days, before it got raided and destroyed, and sadly it has become a habitation for wild animals now.

Ruins of the original Pakuba Safari Lodge…

We drove straight to the new Pakuba Safari Lodge which used to be the staff quarters for the workers at the original lodge. The layout was a giveaway as we looked around, and you can easily tell what it was initially designed for.

The new Pakuba safari Lodge used to be the quarters for the staff of the lodge.

We arrived back at Paraa Crossing as the ferry sailed away, meaning we had to wait thirty minutes for the noon crossing when the ferry would return.

At Paraa Crossing…

Back at Kabalega, we had lunch and took a rest before heading out at 16:00 on a site inspection with Jayesh, Cephas and Nana. Our first stop was at Murchison River Lodge and the warm reception made by the manger Astrid said a lot.

Murchison River Lodge

We then went on to see Nile Safari Lodge and Baker’s Lodge before returning back to base. Since the sites were all on this side of the Nile, we didn’t need the ferry. In fact, Murchison River Lodge is actually not within the park.

Nile Safari Lodge

Baker’s Lodge

When we got back Mitch asked if we want to still stay here at Kabalega or move on to another place, because the rest of the group would be arriving from Kidepo the next day. Prof said, we move – and by now we all knew we could trust Prof very well. We had a good dinner and Mitch informed us we were leaving early at 06:30. We thought 09:00 was a better time. Meanwhile, Cephas and Nana were still at it trying to woo our beautiful hostess on the eve of our departure…

February 6, 2017:

Nkiru (Marketing Lead) and I boarded a RwandAir flight WB 203 to Kigali en-route Entebbe for the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo POATE 2017 scheduled for the 17th to 19th of February in Kampala, Uganda.

Boarding RwandAir WB203 to Kigali…

Lunch in the air…

There wasn’t any drama on the flight – not that I expected any. I mean what kind of drama does anyone expect at an altitude of over 30,000 feet, anyway?


We touched down in Kigali after about 4 hours 30 mins in the air. We left Lagos at 11:40, ten minutes behind take off time and arrived Kigali at about 17:10. Kigali was an hour ahead of us, I realised – and my phone had automatically reset the time. The connecting flight to Entebbe was scheduled to leave at 18:55 and arrive at 20:45. If it goes according to schedule, we should still meet the Welcome Cocktail…

Departure Hall, Kigali International Airport…

Kigali International Airport had free Wi-Fi and I logged on and got busy on social media. We started boarding at 18:30, but somehow take off was delayed for another 35 minutes. Well, bye-bye to that Welcome Cocktail. I was looking forward to it to at least meet some old friends because most of them were in group one while I was in group 2 and we won’t see each other until the 12th when both tour groups arrive in Kampala.

On-board and waiting to depart Kigali for Entebbe…

We touched down in Entebbe, at almost 22:00. Another time reset – an hour ahead of Kigali. After clearing Immigration, we met the UTB team. Certainly, that cocktail was history at this point.

At Entebbe Airport…

We were taken to Imperial Golf View Hotel, Entebbe where we spent the night. Imperial Golf View was impressive, even though I didn’t to see much of it. Nkiru and I were taken to our respective rooms and we went downstairs to the restaurant to have dinner afterwards.

There we met Ermias from Ethiopia, Cephas from Zimbabwe and the adorable Ishita from Tanzania. Cephas recognized me from last year’s trip to Zimbabwe – I remember meeting him in Kariba – and we all got chatty.

Of the three, only Cephas was in group 2 with Nkiru and I. Ermias and Ishita were in group 1 and were scheduled to leave early at 07:00 the next day. I won’t get to see Ishita again until the 12th of February, a day before my birthday. Oh well, I knew I should have chosen group 1…

My room…

Back in 1908, a young Winston Churchill dubbed Uganda as the Pearl of Africa in his book My African Journey, but at some point in the nation’s existence it seemed that very pearl was being trampled underfoot during the tyranny of Idi Amin and the wars that ensued afterwards.

However, those days are in the distant past now as the East African country is emerging as one of the most important tourism destinations on the continent and fast reclaiming its past glory as the Pearl of Africa.

In February 2017, the Uganda Tourism Board welcomed international buyers, media, stakeholders and other participants to the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo POATE 2017. The 3-day event was preceded by a 10-day familiarization tour which took the participants on an exciting journey to see the best of Uganda. Stay tuned as I share my experience and firsthand information about the country in the series titled Uganda Memoirs…