Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo 2018: Uganda Bets on Domestic Travelers

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At this year’s Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo – which runs from February 23-25 at the Sheraton Hotel Gardens in Kampala – the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) will be stepping up the country’s charm offensives to encourage local travellers to “Rediscover the Pearl”.

“At last year’s event we marketed Uganda to international travellers,” said Vincent Mugaba, the man who speaks for the Uganda Tourism Board, “so this time we want to show Ugandans that they, too, can be tourists in their own country.”

Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo 2018

The annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo, now in its fourth edition and running under the theme Rediscover the Pearl, is expected to attract more than 100 exhibitors – including travel agents, tour operators, hoteliers, destination managers and other service providers in the tourism business – from across the globe. According to Mugaba, more than 80 exhibitors have already registered for the event.

Uganda’s visitor numbers have been growing steadily over the past few years, driven by UTB’s aggressive marketing campaigns in Europe and North America. The top motivator for travel to Uganda has always been the iconic mountain gorillas that reside in Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga national parks, but the country is also widely known for the African Big Five safari, unparalleled birdlife, and adrenaline-filled adventure activities such as white water rafting and mountain climbing.

The country is also the most ethnically diverse in the world, meaning visitors to Uganda can enjoy our diverse cultural practices and performances.

At this year’s Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo, however, UTB will pitch the domestic tourism card instead of trying to lure foreign travellers as has been the case in the past. In the recent past, local authorities have launched various campaigns to encourage domestic travel, most notably ‘Tulambule’, a campaign whose focal point has been the country’s national parks.

During such trips to national parks, local travellers are usually encouraged to post as many images as possible on social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in order to increase awareness about the attractions in their country.

Uganda luring African travellers as well

Not only does UTB aim to encourage domestic travel, but the country’s tourism regulator is also keen on luring guests from other African countries, taking advantage of the growing middle class in Kenya, South Africa and some western African countries. Steven Asiimwe, UTB’s CEO, told Chwezi Traveller in a recent interview that his organisation was planning to hire Public Relations firms in Kenya, South Africa and West Africa to market Destination Uganda in those countries.

Uganda hopes to attract up to four million visitors by 2020, up from 1.47 million in 2017.

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