EAST AFRICAN STATES UNITE TO BOOST TOURISM AND DRIVE ECONOMIC GROWTH IN THE REGION. THE RECENT PEARL OF AFRICA TOURISM EXPO SERVED AS A PLATFORM FOR STAKEHOLDERS TO NETWORK, DISCUSS BUSINESS DEALS, AND SHOWCASE THE UNIQUE ATTRACTIONS OF EACH COUNTRY.
In a bid to boost visitor numbers and foster economic growth, member states of the East African Community (EAC) are coming together to promote and develop regional tourism. The EAC Secretariat has highlighted the significant contribution of tourism to the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with approximately 10 percent derived from this sector. Foreign exchange earnings account for 17 percent, while tourism-related employment makes up around seven percent.
During the recently concluded seventh edition of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo held at the Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort in Uganda, Mr. Jean Baptiste Havugimana, the Director of Productive Sectors at the EAC, confirmed the commitment of the participating nations to joint tourism efforts. The Expo, organized annually by the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), served as a platform for tourism stakeholders and service providers to meet potential clients, forge new connections, and discuss business opportunities with regional and international buyers.
Colonel Tom Butime, the Ugandan Minister for Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities, officially inaugurated the four-day event. It drew over 150 exhibitors, more than 100 hosted buyers, and media representatives from various source markets, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Poland, South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria.
The African Tourism Board (ATB), led by Executive Chairman Mr. Cuthbert Ncube, played a significant role at the Expo, exploring captivating tourist sites in Uganda, including Chimpanzee Island on Lake Victoria. The ATB actively collaborates with East African regional states, promoting and developing tourism through regular participation in key events across the region.
The EAC Secretariat encourages partner states to engage in tourism promotion events, while the ATB, with Mr. Ncube and brand ambassadors, actively participates in national and regional tourism Expos, highlighting the diverse attractions and unique offerings of each country.
During the Pearl of Africa Expo’s opening ceremony, Ugandan Minister Colonel Butime expressed his gratitude to all the exhibitors, hosted buyers, and media attendees on behalf of the government and people of Uganda. He emphasized that Uganda boasts an array of exceptional and varied attractions that appeal to international, regional, and domestic travelers. Dr. Lily Ajarova, the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board, echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the shared commitment of Uganda and other EAC partner states to promote sustainable and responsible tourism.
Mr. Jean Baptiste Havugimana, representing the EAC Secretariat, thanked the Ugandan government for extending an invitation to the Secretariat and all partner states to participate in the Expo, aligning with the spirit of EAC integration. He revealed that the EAC Secretariat and the National Tourism Boards received support in the form of facilitation for delegate participation and procurement of exhibition booths. The German International Cooperation Agency, GIZ, also provided crucial support through a Gold Sponsorship package.
The EAC Treaty recognizes the pivotal role of the tourism sector in the socio-economic development of the region, underscoring its significance. By fostering collaboration, knowledge sharing, and joint promotional efforts, the East African states aim to leverage their diverse tourism offerings and attract more visitors, thereby driving economic growth and sustainable development across the region.