AUTO Board Chair, Mrs. Babra A. Vanhelleputte presents MICE tourism in East Africa

Kampala Sheraton Hotel

Yesterday (18th February 2017) stakeholders in the tourism industry in Uganda and the greater East African Region met at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel to hold a discussion on the MICE tourism segment in the East African region, a case of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda. This was part of the country’s famed annual tourism expo, the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo that took place between 17th and 19th February 2017.

In attendance was the CEO Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) Mr. Stephen Asiimwe, Dr. Bettty Addero Radier, the CEO Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), Mrs. Babra A. Vanhelleputte, the Board Chair of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO); several representatives from Uganda’s tourism public and private sector and delegates from other parts of Africa including Ghana, Nigeria and Rwanda.

The AUTO board chair, who was the main facilitator at the meeting mentioned that the Meetings Incentives, Conference and Events segment of tourism is growing at a speedy rate with the ability to complement the existing leisure products and thus sustain the tourism industry in the low seasons when leisure travel reduces.

Mrs. Vanhelleputte mentioned that it is vital for Nation States to partner with, and involve all players along the tourism value chain for best results; the banks, hotels, events’ organizers among others.

In his remarks Mr. Stephen Asiimwe mentioned that while Uganda is still putting together a few of the supporting frameworks to move MICE tourism forward, the country is already reaping from business tourism, Mr. Asiimwe mentioned that Uganda has hosted very many events over the past years. He heartened hotel owners to encourage their business clients to consume the leisure tourism products as add-ons to their business travel itineraries.

Speaking at the same event, the KTB CEO mentioned the need for East African states to welcome the MICE tourism segment, but not to look at it individually as a tourism product, but with a holistic approach that “MICE tourism is a National Project that requires the backing of the entire country”. She added that it is important to attract investment in ancillary services, which are the supporting systems for MICE development.

During the panel discussion it was highlighted that while MICE growth should be led by the government, it should be private sector driven, and that the public sector should accord overwhelming support to the private MICE investors to directly bid for events and meetings.

In his remarks, the General Manager of Kampala Sheraton Hotel, Mr. Jean-Philippe Bittencourt stated the immense potential of MICE tourism, adding that the Kampala Sheraton alone gets 40% of its revenue from Business tourism. He however tabled the necessity to upgrade the training in hospitality and for Nation States in East Africa to establish programs that are specific to MICE tourism.

The takehome message was that “the MICE tourism segment in East Africa is fast growing and continues to present greater potential but requires the harnessed efforts and partnership between the government and the private sector.”