Fifty tour and travel agencies headline tourist expo

By Edwin Muhumuza

Uganda Tourism Board has commenced activities geared towards promoting Uganda as an African travel destination for African Tourists. This comes ahead of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) 2020.

Over 50 tour and travel agencies from across the continent are expected to sign partnerships with local companies whereas close to 10 international media houses are due in the country according to the Chief Executive Officer, Lily Ajarova.

“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 promoting intra-Africa travel for leisure, business and adventure, aimed at raising Uganda’s profile as a preferred destination in the region and internationally’’

As Uganda positions as a premier tourist destination, the 5th annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo is expected to bring together regional and international tour operators, travel agents, destination agencies and various players in the tourism trade to network and facilitate tourism business with local domestic tourism trade- that is composed of largely tour operators, hoteliers, conservationists and government.

“We are basically creating an opportunity for our domestic tourism players, to connect with the rest of the world, so as to showcase what they have to offer and in so doing, help the world discover brand Uganda,” Ajarova said.

The 5th Annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo will run from February 4th – 6th 2020 at the Speke Resort in Munyonyo and each subsequent POATE has been building on the lessons and successes of previous editions.

This year’s POATE is quite a unique one and will run under the theme ‘Promoting Intra-Africa Travel’. This theme is aimed at raising Uganda’s profile as a preferred destination in the region and internationally to reflect its strategy to re-balance and segment the tourism portfolio into 4 key segments, Existing overseas markets, Emerging overseas markets, Regional/African market, Domestic market.

The focus being Africa is due to the fact that Africa is one of the fastest growing tourism markets, after Asia and the Pacific;Outbound traffic from Africa in 2018 reached 42 million, according to UNWTO, 4 out of every 5 tourists, travel within their region- more Africans are likely to travel and do travel within their regions, existing ties- most African travelers travel to see friends and family or doing business. Uganda is already doing business with Africa, benefits of African integration (EAC Tourist Visa) and the upcoming African Continental Free Trade Area (AFTA) that will open up more African borders and skies. Relatedly,Africa is rising economically- by 2030- there will be 1 billion Africans in middle class- up from 375 million in 2013.

The Africa Development Bank estimates that by 2030, in the five largest African consumer markets i.e. Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Morocco and Algeria — there will be 56 million middle-class households alone with disposable incomes of nearly $680 billion.

UTB starts hotel classification exercise

Uganda Tourism Board has embarked on another phase grade and classify hotels and related accommodation facilities starting 21st March 2016.

Under the Quality Assurance Department is embarking on a Hotel Classification Inventory Exercise. The exercise verifies whether a given hotel meets the essential requirements.

“To qualify for classification, the hotel has to meet all aspects of the essential requirement herewith attached,” says James Ssebagala the UTB Coordinator for Quality Assurance.

“This exercise identifies classifiable hotels for effective preparation for the hotel classification program,” he adds.

Last year, Uganda Tourism Board held an awards ceremony for hotels previously classified under the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities. The classification function was moved to UTB in 2014.

UTB Chief Executive Officer Stephen Asiimwe says that the ongoing inventory exercise is to guide in the assessment and standardization of accommodation facilities in Uganda.

“Uganda is classifying hotels working with the same standards used by all East African Community members. It is a requirement that all accommodation facilities be classified under the same EAC  standards,” says Asiimwe.

The present grading covers the physical and intangible service expected from an accommodation facility in a specified category and level of classification he adds.

Background to Hotel Classification

The East African Criteria rating system is denoted by stars where one (1) star denotes the lowest and five (5) star the highest grade. Save for Motels and Restaurants whose star rating range from one to three and three to five respectively, all the other categories are graded from one to five stars. While a one star establishment has the basic facilities that provide functionality and comfort to the guest, the five star establishments provide a high degree of luxury and ambience that conform to any internationally recognizable standards.

For purposes of classification, The EAC criterion has grouped hotels into five categories:

Town Hotels: Located within or near an urban center with the majority of clientele being travelers
Vacation Hotels:  Located within or near a holiday resort and in which the majority of the clients are holidaymakers.
Motels: Located along a highway or motorway and which caters mainly for the motorists
Villas Cottages and Service Apartments: Commercial establishment mainly located within holiday resort area but targeting clientele who may prefer self-catering services and privacy.
Lodges and Tented Camps: Located within or near a natural habitat rich in fauna and flora. The majority of the clientele are leisure seekers.