NYU Africa House Associate Director, Eddie Mandhry, participated in the The Africa Travel Association (ATA) 39th Annual World Congress in Kampala, Uganda from November 11-16, 2014. With the theme “Tourism is Everyone’s Business,” the congress brought together over 500 international and local delegates from the public and private sector to discuss the most pressing topics to advance the African tourism industry.
AFRICAN TOURISM MONITOR REPORT LAUNCH
The congress was officially opened by H.E. Yoweri K. Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda. In his remarks, President Museveni urged Ugandan officials to increase promotions and marketing of the country as well as discussed the tourism potential of the nation. In a show of support of the Uganda tourism sector, First Lady of the Republic of Uganda, H.E. Janet Museveni, hosted the Congress Patron’s Dinner and ATA Awards Ceremony.The congress was hosted by the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities under the auspices of Honorable Minister Dr. Maria Mutagamba and supported by the Uganda Tourism Board, local ATA Uganda Chapter, and members of the private sector. Additionally, during the ATA membership meeting Minister Mutagamba was elected to serve as the next president of the association.Delegates represented over twenty countries including Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gambia, Italy, Kenya, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, the U.S., the U.K., Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Despite extraordinary times with the Ebola crisis and its far-reaching effects on the industry leading up to the congress, ATA Executive Director Edward Bergman stated, “We must remain strong and united in changing the perceptions of Africa tourism on the global stage.” Bergman also commended the Ugandan government for overturning the “Anti Homosexuality Bill,” which was hurting the local tourism industry and urged the country to “look forward and focus on tourism as a vital means of economic development, job creation, and peace and understanding.”
ATA’s 39th Annual World Congress featured a full-day Tourism Investment Forum where tourism business leaders, industry stakeholders, and investors discussed the latest tourism development and investment trends. The day started with a keynote address by the Eng. Dr. Ajedra Aridru, Minister of State for Finance, Planning and Economic Development who presented a range of investment opportunities in Uganda.In a session on tourism facilitation, representatives from the African Union, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Computer Frontiers, and the Association of Uganda Tour Operators discussed policy development, strengthening intra-Africa partnerships, infrastructure development, visa processing, and creating linkages between the public and private sectors to advance Africa’s tourism growth.Moderated by CNBC and Forbes Africa, the panel on Africa hotel investment and expansion explored opportunities and challenges of development on the continent and attracting customers to a range of hotel types with representatives from Jovago.com,Protea Hotels, Serena Hotels, and W Hospitality Group.Led by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the “Africa Air Access” panel featured representatives from the continent’s leading airlines like Brussels Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Ethiopian Airlines, and South African Airways.CONGRESS PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
H.E. Scott DeLisi, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Uganda, welcomed ATA delegates on behalf the embassy and encouraged the Ugandan government to foster an environment friendly to tourism growth and foreign investment.World renowned travel journalist Peter Greenberg, Travel Editor for CBS News, delivered a thought-provoking keynote address to open the travel trade sessions and also moderated the Tourism Ministers’ Roundtable with Ministers from Kenya,Namibia, Tanzania, and Uganda. Greenberg emphasized the role government can play in engaging the media.The congress program included an overview of global tourism trends and outlook by Euromonitor International.In the session “Marketing African Destinations,” tourism boards and representation firms discussed destination branding and creating a competitive edge. The panel was led by the Uganda Tourism Board with panelists from the Kenya Tourism Board,Seychelles Tourism Board, The Bradford Group (representing Tanzania), andPartner Concepts (representing Botswana).
Led by the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, the Tour Operators’ Roundtable covered strategies for attracting American travelers, creating partnerships, product development, marketing, and health and safety concerns with front-line U.S. and Ugandan tour operators.
With an emphasis on social media and experiential marketing, E-Tourism Frontiersand RW Social presented trends and tools for destinations and private sector operators to increase exposure and engage with consumers. Additionally, ATA’s monthly #Africhat Twitter conversation happened live from Uganda and the congress hashtag trended for the day.
In the spotlight session on Diaspora Engagement, New York State Senator William Perkins and Ogo Sow, ATA International Board Member and Diaspora Affairs Liaison, emphasized how destinations can engage with Diaspora communities to support travel, tourism, and investment. The program also included spotlights on faith-based travel with the New York Abyssinian Baptist Church and romance travel with Bridal Guide. Leading African chef and author Pierre Thiam conducted Uganda market visits and presented the latest African culinary tourism products and trends.
Delegates learned about the effect of Ebola on West African tourism in a session led by the Liberian Honorary Consul in Atlanta, as well as the Unite 4 West Africacampaign, which was launched by industry leaders to support West Africa in response to the Ebola crisis.
This year, delegates had the opportunity to attend interactive professional development sessions focused on marketing and branding and product development. The marketing and branding sessions centered on topics like dark tourism with AJC’s Africa Institute, PR and crisis management tools led by Checkmate Public Affairs, tech for travel with ThoughtWorks, the power of storytelling by Unseen Africa, and accelerating destinations with RW Social.
The product development sessions focused on sports and mega-events tourism led byBoland Sports Practice Group, travel for good sessions with the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) and Euromonitor International, empowering communities by Simply Experience Travel and Community-based Tourism Initiatives (COBATI), creating family travel products led by the Family Travel Association, and nature and wildlife protection by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and Tanzania National Parks.
FOCUS ON EDUCATION, LEADERSHIP TRAINING, & YOUTH
To supplement the annual Young Professionals Program (YPP), the program included an Educators’ Forum with leading experts from African and U.S.-based programs and academic institutions specialized in hospitality, tourism, leadership, and vocational training. The Educators’ Forum was moderated by a professor from NYU’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management and included panelists from Africa-America Institute, Kenya Utalii College, Makerere University (Uganda), MCW Global, and NYU Africa House.
In ATA’s 5th Annual YPP Forum, students and young professionals discussed issues such as entrepreneurship, self-branding and networking, job creation, leadership, and social media. The YPP Forum was curated by members of the YPP Global Chapter with support from RW Social.
EXPERIENCING THE PEARL OF AFRICA
During the Uganda Host Country Day delegates experienced the “Pearl of Africa” firsthand by visiting the adventure city of Jinja, the source of the mighty River Nile. TheSpeaker of Parliament in Uganda, Hon. Rebecca A. Kadaga, welcomed delegates to Jinja. “It’s been a blessing and a privilege for us to host you in our country, which is also your home,” Kadaga said.
In a gesture towards sustainable tourism and an ATA congress tradition, the Uganda Tourism Board gave each delegate a sapling to plant on the river bank. Each delegate registered their tree and Ugandan hosts encouraged them to return to Uganda in the future to check on the growth of their trees.
Following the tree planting ceremony, delegates encountered an exciting boating regatta and musical performances along the Nile River. Delegates then enjoyed a boat ride to the Jinja Sailing Club where they shared traditional Ugandan cuisine for lunch.
LOOKING FORWARD, UPCOMING EVENTS
Two special announcements were made during the congress. Hon. Phyllis Kandie, Kenya
Cabinet Secretary, East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, announced that ATA’s 40th Annual World Congress will take place in Nairobi, Kenya in the Fall of 2015.
The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, ATA, and Global Strategies for good announced that the City of Atlanta, GA would host ATA’s Inaugural Aviation, Transport and Trade Summit from July 13–14, 2015.
Brussels Airlines, Official Airline of the 2014 ATA World Congress, organized special discounts for delegates attending the congress in Kampala originating from North America and across Europe. The official congress venue was the Speke Resort Munyonyo, along Lake Victoria. Media sponsors included CNBC Africa, Forbes Africa, and Travel World News.
The media delegation was organized by ATA; in partnership with the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities; the Uganda Tourism Board; UN World Tourism Organization; local Uganda tour operators A.G.E. Safaris and Pearl of Africa Tours and Travel. Media outlets represented include: AFAR, Bridal Guide, African Diaspora Tourism, Canadian World Traveler, CNBC Africa, Evasion TV (Canada), Focus on Travel News (Turkey), Forbes Africa, L’Agenzia di Viaggi (Italy), Matador Network, National Geographic, The Network Journal, Sherman’s Travel, Travel World News, Voice of America (VOA) News, and West Africa Tourism Radio.