Uganda Tourism Board


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.

The 15th AKWAABA African Travel Market kicked off to a bright start on Sunday Sept 22, 2019 as hundreds of people turned out at the Convention Centre of Eko Hotels & Suites, Victoria Island to witness the expo.

The venue was packed as the various exhibition stands received a throng of Nigerians and other nationals, among whom many took the chance to sample the 21 different Jollof Rice by paying a token of N1,000.

It was Uganda Day and they made the most of it, shining brightly as they took the time to educate the crowd about the beauty and tourism attractions of the country affectionately referred to as the “Pearl of Africa,” with emphasis on the “Ugandan Martyrs.” The Ugandan delegation was led by the State Minister of Tourism, Hon Kiwanda Godfrey Ssuubi with the Ugandan Ambassador to Nigeria also in attendance.

The Uganda delegation crowned their presentation by giving out gifts to a host of selected deserving individuals.

Already present and exhibiting at this year’s event are: Dubai Tourism, Ghana, The Gambia, Asky & Ethiopian Airlines, Africa World Airlines (AWA), Caribbean Tourism Organisation, National Council for Arts & Culture, Lagos State, Arik Air and many more. The expo continues on Monday with Dubai Tourism hosting its “A Glimpse of Dubai” in the morning. Other activities for the day include Gambia Day, African Diaspora Tourism Conference, and Rum Time with the Caribbean. Exhibitions also continues through the day.

…more updates and images of AKWAABA 2019 coming…

All indications portend that the 15th AKWAABA African Travel Market is set to become the biggest and best edition of the travel and tourism trade show as more countries have confirmed their participation. Perhaps in line with the Year of Return theme by design or coincidence, Uganda is set for a return since her last appearance in 2016, as the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) leads a team of Ugandan tour operators to showcase the country’s major tourists’ attractions.

Tagged the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa whose diverse landscape straddles the equator, with Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world, forming part of its southern border. It is from this same lake that the Nile, the world’s longest river, starts its (4,258 miles) journey at Jinja – the adrenaline capital of East Africa, 80km east Kampala.

Fantastic wildlife and some of the friendliest people in Africa make Uganda unbeatable.

According to a statement from the UTB, “Very many wonderful things have been said about Uganda by various authors and travellers who have had the chance to visit. Some talk about the charming weather, natural resources, rich culture, and history; while others talk about the lovely people whose hospitality is unmatched. Most quickly note the numerous beautiful birds, and other rare wildlife species that are only found in Uganda. All that is true but there is more!”

“Uganda is the land of martyrs in Africa. This religious story is summarized in the Uganda Martyrs Trail. The Trail is an extraordinary journey of faith that literally gets one in the footsteps of the first Christian missionaries and converts as they walked through Uganda preaching, teaching, healing and transforming lives, finally to the places of their martyrdom.”

The abundant wildlife in Uganda includes the ‘BIG 5’ – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. It is home to 1,072 bird species among which are some of the world’s rarest. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for the silverbacks offers a mountain gorilla tracking life changing experience.

Reputed for its serenity, the Ssese Island on Lake Victoria, one of Uganda’s greatest and uncrowned beaches with beautiful white sands creates a perfect never-ending honeymoon experience. Finally, the capital city, Kampala is the city that never sleeps and has been dubbed the “Entertainment Capital of East Africa.”

“Uganda Day” is scheduled for Day 1, September 22, 2019 at 2:00pm. AKWAABA African Travel Market will run from September 22 to 24, 2019 at the Convention Centre of the prestigious Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.

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…

By : Geoffrey Baluku

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust Executive Director, Lilly Ajarova has been appointed chief executive officer of the Uganda Tourism Board, the government parastatal responsible for marketing and promotion of Uganda as a tourist destination. She replaces Dr Stephen Asiimwe who will be taking on his PhD studies at Makerere University after serving at the helm of UTB for over five years.

The Minister of Tourism, Hon Ssuubi Godfrey Kiwanda announced the appointment, and said that the Ministry was confident that Lilly Ajarova had the right qualifications and experience to steer UTB and the country’s tourism sector into greater heights. She brings on board vast leaderships skills complemented with expertise in strategy and lobbying.

Kiwanda thanked the out going CEO Stephen Asiimwe for a job well done during this period and urged the incoming CEO to carry on from where Stephen had taken UTB.

Ajarova with over 13 years at Ngamba Island where she has served as Executive Director; has great leadership skills and is an enthusiastic lady who has dedicated her life to animal welfare, biodiversity conservation, environmental education and sustainable tourism development. She also previously worked with Uganda Wildlife Authority as Director of Tourism and Business Development.

Ajarova will be deputized by Bradford Ochieng. Mr Ochieng has been serving as the director of corporate affairs at Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority where he was responsible for overseeing the implementation and providing strategic and technical leadership (monitoring, evaluation, ICT, strategic management and partnership, communication, and risk management).

Source: Africa Tembelea

This article was first published by Afro Tourism in the Uganda edition of S.E.E. AFRICA® magazine under the title So Much In Murchison Falls National Park.


Situated in the northern part of the Albertine Rift Valley where the massive Bunyoro escarpment merges into the expansive palm-dotted Savannah of Acholi land is Murchison Falls National Park, the oldest and largest conservation area in Uganda, and one of the alluring pearls of the landlocked East African nation.

First gazette in 1926 as a game reserve, Murchison Falls NP is a massive 3,840km² expanse bisected by the Victoria Nile which squeezes through an 8-metre gorge cascading 45 meters over the rift valley wall to create the centerpiece of the park after which it is named – the Murchison Falls! The park is part of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area, the largest protected area in Uganda, along with the adjacent Bugungu Wildlife Refuge and Karuma Wildlife Refuge which works as buffer zones for the park. Also included is the Budongo Forest Reserve which overlaps both Bugungu and Karuma.

We arrived Murchison Falls NP ahead of schedule – two days ahead. We were supposed to spend those two days at the Kidepo Valley National Park, another of Uganda’s wonderful safari destinations, but due to the unpreparedness of the facility we were scheduled to stay in, we had to leave a few hours after we arrived – sadly. However, a few hosted participants, among them my colleague at the office, Nkiru Osuji remained in Kidepo Valley at a different facility.

After touching down at Pakuba airstrip, we hurriedly piled into a waiting safari Jeep and raced to catch the 18:00 ferry on the northern bank of the Nile at Paraa Crossing. Our new accommodation, Kabalega Wilderness Lodge was on the southern bank of the world’s longest river and we were not in the mood to wait the 30-minute interval idling on the banks for the ferry after such a long day. Thankfully, we made it to Paraa with about ten minutes to spare.

Kabalega Wilderness Lodge took us in eagerly and after a refreshing dinner we retired to our rooms for a well-deserved sleep. It was the kind of sleep you don’t want to get up from – and it’s not even because of being in a dream. Well the sleep had to be disrupted because of an early morning game drive. We had to head out early with our breakfast packed to catch the first ferry at 07:00.

Game drives take place only on the northern side of the park, a savannah with Borassus aethiopum (African fan palm), acacia trees and riverine woodland, while the south is dominated by woodland and dense forest patches.

It was a rewarding game viewing experience that lasted well past 11:00 as we drove through. We spotted a sleeping lion a safe distance, as well as elephants, buffaloes, impalas, giraffes, colobus monkeys, warthogs, birds of various species and hippos. The pick of the day was when we drove past the ruins of the old Pakuba Safari Lodge and spotted a hyena trapped between two porcupines.

Pakuba Safari Lodge used to be the choice spot and a favorite of the late Ugandan despot, Idi Amin. After he was ousted, the lodge was looted and destroyed and all that remains is a dilapidated structure that has become a haven for wild animals, since efforts to rebuild it has not materialized. Unfortunately, we failed to get a good shot of the hyena and porcupines.

On another early morning drive after moving in to Paraa Safari Lodge on the northern, we spotted a pride of lions feasting on a fresh kill. By this time, the team from Kidepo Valley had joined us and we crossed the Nile together to  the south banks, before a drive down to Budongo Forest Reserve to track chimpanzees. We also had a drive after another crossing to the south banks to get to the top of the waterfalls.

We did enjoy an afternoon river cruise to the falls and spotted a host of animals such as hippopotami, waterbucks, elephants, water buffaloes, crocodiles and several bird species. Murchison Falls NP certainly teems with game and some animals like elephants and warthogs even roam close to the lodges.

Now that’s another impressive bit about the park – the accommodation facilities are quite good. They range differently in value, but what we saw on a site inspection to the various places were nice. Paraa Safari Lodge has to be the pick of the pack in the entire park. Others like Bakers’ Lodge, Murchison River Lodge, Kabalega Wilderness Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge and the new Pakuba Safari Lodge are nice too.

By and large, Murchison Falls NP is one of those places to visit, especially if you love safaris and game viewing. The 1951 movie, The African Queen was filmed in the park on Lake Albert and the Nile. Several British royals and other notable personalities such as Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway, among many others have visited the park. Well, I guess you can add my name to that list!


For more about Murchison Falls NP, and Uganda in general search for the series: My Uganda Memoir on the site.

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

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…
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…
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…
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.