AfricaNewsAnalysis’s travel editor Niels Bartels attends the Seventh edition of the Travel expo Pearl of Africa Travel Expo( POATE ) from April 26-29, 2023 at the Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort in Uganda. Trade fair stands were setup at the location and there were 300 exhibitors who took part at the event.
ANA’S travel editor Niels Bartels spoke with some of the exhibitors at the Uganda POATE trade fair stand.
Below is the interaction between AfricaNewsAnalysis (ANA) travel editor Niels Bartels and the Founder of Lodge Solution Sheila Kogo Malinga.
ANA : “What is Lodge Solution?”
Sheila Kogo Malinga: “Lodge Solutions is the first ‘one stop shop’ for professional
hospitality and tourism needs in the region. A platform where professionals have been handpicked and united to offer industry stakeholders solutions for products to services that have been tailored to suit the realities of running an intimate boutique lodge, hotel and or tour company.”
ANA: “What do you do?”
S. K. Malinga: “Lodge Solutions and her experienced partners offer practical, hands- on professional guidance to setting up sustainable systems, procedures and training. We orchestrate and coordinate the key areas of operations while coaching your management team to ensure the lodge and tour company run efficiently, transparently and profitably like a well-oiled machine on a day to day basis.”
ANA: “What did you like about the travel expo Poate?”
Malinga: “POATE was our 1st opportunity to bring our unique set of tourism and
hospitality tailored products and services to the direct consumers of these services.
On one hand, we were able to proudly showcase to tour operators the Ugandan owned lodges we have worked and continue to work with to ensure service meets international standards e.g. the new Entebbe Forest Lodge in Garuga, Ndere Cultural Center in Ntinda and their new lodge Ndere Echifuuha Resort that we have been working with behind the scenes and is set to launch in May 2023.
On the other hand, we are able to meet and interact with new tourism and hospitality investors and senior managers who are looking for guidance / advice for products and services available to those opening up a lodge / safari company or those who are looking to upgrade their current investments. It was great to see them all interested in supporting the “BUBU” movement, Buy Uganda Build Uganda which is Lodge Solutions hashtag and motto.
POATE gave us a chance to in just 4 days identify items in our products and services portfolio that were more popular than others and these results will be the basis on which we shall base our strategies against.”
ANA: “Where do you see room for improvement?”
Malinga: “Room for improvement which we always say is always ‘the biggest
room’ would be in terms of more timely communication (especially when organizers are experiencing delays with the program for whatever reason) for exhibitors and our guests as these ultimately affected our meetings. Even before we could get into business talks, most would begin by expressing directly to us their frustration in finding our stand, not knowing their own itinerary during and post expo – majority did not know where there going for the day, which FAM trip they were selected to join and sort clarification from us at the stand on what to expect during their trips which showed they had not received a comprehensive brief before arrival. Even in light of weather challenges causing delays, i think having/ hiring a Hosted Buyers and Exhibitors relations person would have really helped, this person would have managed to more promptly communicate via email to these tow 2 key stakeholders (exhibitors and buyers) who invest a lot of time and investment into the expo.
Another thing I would definitely recommend is partnering with our neighbors Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania- possibly Ethiopia too, who have been in the safari hospitality industry game much longer than we (Uganda) have. Such a show would attract a lot more relevant buyers and exhibitors but we could also greatly benefit from their experience in running expos that are well planned and successful for stakeholders.”
ANA: “How can your company positive impact on Uganda?”
Melinga: “We live and run our business by the hashtag ‘Buy Uganda Build
Uganda’ and just as it reads we have worked to ensure that our services and products portfolio are as close to 100% Ugandan as possible. Instead of buying décor and fittings , IT solutions, hospitality professionals and staff from outside Uganda / East Africa … We have sort high and low for a select and work with a few suppliers and staff who are Ugandan/ Esst African, who are professional and have been exposed or have a unique skill or potential and have a first hand experience in the service / products they offer. For example, one of our suppliers who made handwoven sisal mats as her ‘side hustle’ ordering barely ONE KG of sisal per month, since our partnership is now ordering almost a ONE TONNE of sisal and has had to quit her 9-5 job, hired 15 staff to help her to meet the orders from Lodge Solutions client. This is the essence and true testimony of the mission behind our business model.”
ANA: “If you have already attended other tourism trade fairs / travel expos in the past: which differences do you see if you compare them with POATE?”
Melinga: “Compared to the other fairs we have attended not as exhibitors,
usually the set up is done days before, the stands are more clearly indicated even if by regions , Africa, Europe, America etc making it easier for consumers of our services to find the stand, lockable shelf/ desk for exhibitors, refreshments / water dispensers for exhibitors and our guests, free wi- fi connections, buyers and exhibitors lists and contacts shared, evening sundowners / dinner and parties for exhibitors and buyers to interact outside the formal stands.”