Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has set an ambitious target for meetings, conferences and events (Mice) revenues of Rwf34.7 billion, amid concern of shortage in high end accommodation and few developed tourism products.
“I think it is a work in progress, over the past we have had challenges over high end accommodation but we are seeing the entrance of new hotels to the market,” said Frank Murangwa, head of Mice at RDB in an interview with Rwanda Today.
He said that over 1,000 rooms of four to five star hotels are expected to be added to the market this year, however some of them have delayed to be completed. Currently there are 8,000 hotel rooms but a large number do not meet international standards.
Last week, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete said the country looks at Mice as a big contributor to foreign exchange earnings. “We want to make sure more tourists come and spend a lot in the country,” he said.
But this will require growth in the hospitality industry to offer new tourism products and increase existing ones.
In addition to major international conferences the country is hosting this year, the gorilla naming ceremony. the country’s tourism flagship, is set to take place on September 2 and 500 visitors are expected to attend.
However, the development board does not know neither how much the much publicised event generates to total tourism revenues, nor have revenue projections this year, but they say hotels are always fully booked in Kigali and Musanze during cerebrations and around 20,000 locals attend the event.
Joseph Birori, managing director of Primate Safaris and director of Rwanda Tours and Travel Association said that the gorilla naming ceremony, Kwita Izina, is now viewed as a tourism product.
Opportunities in Mice means other businesses reap from the conferences hence an increase in visitors spending in the country.
However, according to some hospitality industry players the country lacks a vibrant nightlife in cities and travel and tour services in Kigali city.
In addition to major pan African conferences that are soon taking place in Kigali, the country will host the global Africa investment summit in September and Forum for Agriculture Research in June.
“We are also looking at private sector involvement ensuring that we promote upfront pre and post conferences opportunities that will allow delegates to spend,” said Mr Murangwa.
The only international airport the country has is relatively small, as a number of travellers increase but officials hope the ongoing renovations will make the airport accommodate a large number of people.
Last year Mice receipts were $30.1 billion, a 31 per cent contribution to the total revenues from the tourism sector, this has helped position tourism as the leading foreign exchange earner closely followed by mining.
However, the depressed global commodity prices have adversely affected the mining sector contribution to the national coffers.
Kigali has also attracted some of the leading hotel brands which include Golden Tulip, Marriott Kigali and, Radisson Blu and Sheraton, Golden Tulip Hotels a French outlet that is operating the Nyamata-based La Palisse and Serena Group of Hotels, Marriot and Zinc.