All the 500+ delegates who attended the 39th Africa Travel Association Annual World Congress in Kampala have now returned home, with most of the foreign delegates having toured the Pearl of Africa either before or after the congress to take with them firsthand experience about the range of attractions, the different national parks, and, of course, the primate tracking, which in Uganda is second to none with not just gorillas but also golden monkeys, chimpanzees, colobus and many more easily seen by tourists.
Some 20 countries were in attendance, from host nation Uganda to Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Gambia, Liberia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, the Seychelles, Turkey, Switzerland, Italy, the UK, Canada, and the US, giving Uganda a unique opportunity to showcase itself as one of Africa’s foremost adventure destinations, offering literally everything a tourist coming to Africa can expect, from the culture of the many tribes to the age-old heritage of working kingdoms, from sandy beaches of the many islands in Lake Victoria, to the snowcapped Mountains of the Moon, savannah and forest national parks, 14 species of primates, the Big Five, rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping, hiking and mountain climbing, there is hardly a box which is not ticked.
Uganda’s tourism stakeholders were overall happy with the results and the support given to the event by the government of Uganda and are now already building on the contacts they have established to bring more tourists from the source markets of North America and also from across Africa and Europe to Uganda. “I think we did good. They liked the Uganda experience. We had a great venue in Munyonyo. Those who went on safari gave us big time exposure on the social media which was buzzing about Uganda. Let’s build on that and take the message to the world when we attend the next tourism trade fairs, that Uganda is a great country to visit,” said one of the Ugandan delegates in a Facebook message.
Kenya in contrast will now embark on their journey towards the 40th ATA Annual Congress to be held in November next year in Nairobi and no doubt pull out all the stops to exceed the number of delegates and visitors, using it as a major platform to showcase their country and in the run-up to the event telling the world that Kenya is safe to visit, in spite of some glaring failures by the country’s security organizations in recent weeks.
Said a Kenyan participant at ATA, on condition of not being named over the sensitive nature of some of the comments made: “As you say, we will be pulling out all the stops for ATA. Next year we have the SKAL World Congress come to Mombasa, and that will hopefully show Skalleagues from around the world who are all opinion leaders in their own right, that it is safe to visit our beach resorts and safari parks. We will have the fifth edition of the Magical Kenya Travel Expo and that will definitely be bigger and better than ever before. And we have ATA come back to Nairobi which they do every 10 years. We want to make that event about Africa as much as about Kenya. The Ebola scare will be over by then, and I personally hope we have a new team in charge of the country’s security by then, because those on top are part of the problem now as much as those who aim their bad intentions on our country and our people. Kenya has so many attractions, just like you have in Uganda and how they have in Rwanda and Tanzania and even Burundi.
“ATA next year will be in Kenya, but it will be about East Africa and about Africa in general. We have a year to get the message out that Africa is open for business and wants more tourists, offers investment opportunities in the tourism and hospitality industry, and helps us to create and maintain jobs, very important for our next generation. We will all chip in to make this happen. It is 11 months and counting, and we need your help, the help of the media, to drum up support and tell the positive side of tourism in Kenya.”
While Uganda is looking back with considerable pride on delivery of a very classy congress for ATA and all the delegates, Kenya is looking forward to emulating this and perhaps do even better, when in a year the crème de la crème of tour and travel operators dedicated to promoting Africa will return to East Africa to enjoy Kenya’s hospitality.