Uganda-Kenya Coast Tourism Conference accelerating Sector Recovery

John Mulimba,Uganda’s minister of state for foreign affairs in charge of regional cooperation and Martin Bahinduka Mugarra, the minister of state for tourism led a delegation of over 200 Ugandan Tourism sector players to the 2nd Uganda-Kenya Coast Tourism Conference.

The two-day Conference was organised from November 13-14 by the Consulate General of Uganda in Mombasa, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) as well as tourism stakeholders in Uganda and at the Kenyan Coast.

It was held at the Diani Reef Beach Resort & Spa’s Diani Reef Convention Centre from where the Ugandan delegation immersed themselves in a variety of coastal excursions and experiences. From November 22, to December 1, Uganda will also host the Kenyan delegation including Kenyan Tour operators to a series of Familiarisation Trips (Fam Trips) around various Ugandan destinations and experiences. 

The Business to Business (B2B) Conference which runs under the theme: “Consolidating Networks, Synergies & Diversity to maximise the tourism potential between Uganda and Kenya Coastal Region,” offers opportunities for tourism players in both countries to meet and explore joint business opportunities.

Over and above delegations from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, the delegation was composed of teams from the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB)- Uganda’s tourism marketing and regulatory agency; the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), Uganda’s apex body for the private sector and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

The delegation also included private sector players from the member association of the Confederation of Uganda Tourism Associations (COUTA) which represents the unified voice of nine national associations such as Uganda Safari Guides Association (USAGA), Association of Uganda Travel Operators (AUTO), Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA), Uganda Hotel Owners Association (UHOA), The Ugandan Association of Travel Agents (TUGATA), Hotel General Managers Association of Uganda (HOGMAU), National Arts & Cultural Crafts Association of Uganda (NACCAU), Uganda Women in Tourism (UWT) and Uganda Association of Conference Incentive Industry (UACII).

Explaining the strategic importance of the conference to both countries, minister John Mulimba said, Uganda and Kenya already enjoy mutual brisk business, including tourism and that, therefore this conference will both consolidate and accelerate the volume and value of such a business relationship.

“Uganda is Kenya’s second biggest source market for tourists. In 2022, 150,900 Ugandans visited Kenya. Out of these, 22,200 visited the Kenyan Coast, up from 10,100 in 2021. Likewise, Kenya is Uganda’s leading source market for tourists. In 2022, 376,294 Kenyans visited Uganda, an increase of over 40,000 tourists from the 326,387 Kenyans tourists who visited Uganda in 2021.”

The increasing interest for Kenyans to visit Uganda is mainly due to various events that take place in Uganda such as Golf and Rugby tournaments, festivals, and music concerts among others. For Ugandans, the main reasons for visiting Kenya Coast are: to enjoy the beaches and the coastal scenery and features; attend meetings and also for education purposes. There is also a growing number of Ugandans who visit Kenya Coast to have their wedding parties or spend their honeymoon at some of the coastal hotels,” Mulimba, noted.

“The overall objective of the conference is to consolidate networks, synergies and diversity to maximize the tourism potential between Uganda and Kenyan coastal region,” he added.

Expounding further on the conference’s objectives, Uganda’s Consul General in Mombasa, Amb. Paul Mukumbya, said: “The conference is also, among other objectives aimed at creating more awareness about the two destinations and the tourism products they offer as well as enhance the synergies and complementarity between key tourism players from Uganda and the Kenya coastal region.”

“Building on the achievements of last year’s conference, the 2nd Uganda- Kenya Coast Tourism Conference shall continue to further explore investment opportunities in the tourism sector in Uganda; provide a platform for B2B networking, learning and information sharing as well as equip the key tourism players from Uganda and the Kenya coastal region with first-hand experience of the key tourism attractions so that they are in better position to market these attractions,” Amb. Mukumbya expounded.

The conference also explored further ways in which to popularise the Entebbe – Mombasa route currently operated by the Uganda Airlines.

Martin Mugarra, the minister of state for tourism remarked that regional travel has always been a key driver of tourism in East Africa. “Extending regional travel to include foreign visitors will certainly add value to both our countries, as well as create better and unforgettable experiences for our visitors, hence increasing their likelihood of returning as well as recommending our two destinations.” the minister noted.

Herbert Byaruhanga, the COUTA President welcomed the conference and said that it fits well, within the industry’s desire to grow both the volume and value of tourism to the region.

“Consolidating this complementarity will not only enhance the value proposition and visitor experiences but will in medium to long term increase both the number of visitors, the length of stay and expenditure,” Byaruhanga said.

According to Stephen Asiimwe, the Chief Executive Officer of the Private Sector Foundation Uganda, the tourism industry in Uganda, creates livelihoods for about 998,876 establishments both formal and informal.

“Before Covid-19, tourism created a total number of 2,572,416 direct and indirect jobs, of whom 759,841 (29.5 per cent) were male and 1,815,576 (70.5 per cent) were female. This was however crushed to near-zero by the pandemic. Such joint collaborations in product development and destination marketing/selling are vital to the accelerated recovery of the sector,” Asiimwe reiterated.

About Uganda-Kenya Coast Tourism Conference

On November 17, 2022, the Consulate General of Uganda in Mombasa in conjunction with tourism stakeholders in Uganda and at the Kenya Coast, organised the Uganda- Kenya Coast Tourism Conference and Exhibition in Mombasa. The Conference was followed by Excursions at the Kenya Coast and a familiarisation trip to Uganda by selected tour operators from the Kenya Coast.

Participants from Uganda took part in excursions in Kilifi/ North Coast (Gede ruins/ Arabuko Sokoke/ Vasco da Gama Pillar/ Maraf Hells Kitchen) and Kwale/ South Coast. A team from Kenya Coast made up of mainly tour operators also participated in a fam trip to Uganda where they visited tourism sites such as the Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo, Ndere Centre, Lake Mburo National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Kibale National Park.

The Conference and fam trips were rated very successful by participants and observers. It was resolved during the Conference that the event should be annual. Major tourism players expressed willingness to continue building synergies and complementarity to jointly promote the different tourism products from the two destinations.

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