By our reporter

Uganda has been voted as 5th Best Exhibitor in the African Category at the ITB Berlin 2018 travel expo that runs from the 7th -11th March 2018 in Berlin, Germany. Uganda’s participation at the expo was organized and facilitated by the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), the national tourism marketing agency.

“This expo is very important for Ugandan companies because of the profile of participants and the opportunities for new business,” says UTB Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Stephen Asiimwe. “ITB Berlin is the leading business platform for global tourism offers. Exhibitor satisfaction stands at over 90% which is a sign of effective delivery on business.”

The world’s largest travel show was opened by Germany Chancellor, Dr. Angela Merkel. Over the three days, more than 109,000 trade visitors and potential travelers seeking business opportunities as well as inspiration for their next trip visited the expo. Among the guests was Dr. Michael Frenzel, Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

In her opening remarks, Dr. Merkel stressed the necessity for tourism sustainability, the problems of tourism overcrowding, and the opportunity that tourism offers in fighting prejudices.

“Travel improves the mind wonderfully, and does away with all one’s prejudices,” she said quoting Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde.

The expo literary brings together the best in tourism from every corner of the world with at least 10,000 businesses participating. Of these about 800 were from Africa.

Fast facts on ITB Berlin 2018:

  • 5 Continents Africa, Americas, Asia, Australia-Ocenia and Europe
  • more than 180 Countries
  • 1,000 Qualified Top Buyers (tourism companies)
  • 10,000 Exhibitors
  • 28,000 Convention Visitors
  • 109,000 Trade Visitors (tourism business companies)
  • 160,000 Visitors in total
  • 160,000 Square meters
  • 7 Bn. Euro Turnover

According to research firm GelszusMesse-Marktforschung (GMM) the average age of public visitors to the ITB Berlin expo is 45 years. On travel expenditure, the average public visitor spends Euros 2855 (UGX12,852,395) per year. The GMM survey further shows that cultural travel at 35% is the second major reason for travel while adventure, experience and cycling holidays at 33% is third. Travel for leisure and recreation is still a leader at 61% among public visitors to ITB Berlin. Public visitors are the people who visit the expo looking for places to travel. Germany is the second highest provider of tourists from Europe to Uganda. UK is first.

“This is where Uganda has a great advantage, which no other country in the region can compare with,” says Asiimwe. “We have diverse cultures that you will literary find a new experience every 100kms in any direction in Uganda. Our tour operators and local governments should exploit this opportunities to grow local economies and development.”

Speaking to exhibitors and the media, Mr. Michael Frenzel, President of the Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry, stated that the number of global travelers is expected to rise by 4.5 percent. There was a general feeling that in spite of the negative the travel bans, terror threats and political unrest, tourism is booming because tourists have not been deterred, mainly because they have alternative sources of information on the worldwide web.

The ITB Berlin expo is the fourth international expo Uganda tourism businesses are participating in under UTB arrangements. Earlier in the year, tour operators participated in the FITUR expo of Spain, Vakantiebeurs in the Netherlands and the International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) in Israel. Vakantiebeurs and the IMTM are the biggest travel expos in the Benelux countries and Middle East respectively.

The Government of Uganda, through UTB facilitates and supports Ugandan businesses to participate in these international expos by providing exhibition space and stands, organizing businesses meetings, and providing visa support where necessary.

“For the majority of Ugandan companies, participating in some of these major travel exhibitions would be too expensive and prohibitive,” says Stephen Asiimwe, the Chief Executive Officer at UTB. “Government intervention ensures that more companies are exposed, and given opportunity to bring back business to Uganda.”