Global hotel brands eyeing Rwanda

Saturday July 14 2012

Lemigo Hotel, Kigali. Picture: File

Rwanda is set for a huge status boost as several global hotel chain are eyeing the country’s hospitality industry.

Marriot Group of Hotels and Rezidor Hotel Group, owners of the Radission brand, are expected to open shop in the last quarter of next year, joining a list of investors pumping millions of dollars into Rwanda’s hospitality industry.

Serena Hotels is the only five star facility operating in the country at present.

Following complete renovation of Kigali Serena Hotel, the hotel chain is now searching for land to set up luxury facility upcountry — with Musanze district in the Northern Province being considered to host the facility. Musanze district is the home of the gorillas, Rwanda’s biggest tourism revenue earner.

This year the government expects the tourism sector to bring home at least $274 million up from $252 million collected last year on account of aggressive marketing, new tourism products and growth in its aviation traffic to the country.

However, Kigali faces a critical shortage of skilled human resource in the leisure and hospitality industry.


Marriot plans to invest at least $15 million in construction of a training centre for its staff ahead of its official opening, said Solomon Adede, the deputy chief executive and head of finance at New Century Development Ltd, the firm constructing Marriot.

While it will be managed by Marriot Group in accordance with a 30-year contract, the $55 million hotel is owned and constructed by New Century Development Ltd. New Century is co-owned 75 per cent by Chinese investors and 25 per cent by a local partner.

While Rwanda needs about 6,000 hotel rooms by 2012 to accommodate the rising number of tourists, supply is estimated at 4,267. The demand for hotel space is being pushed up by an increasing number of expatriates and businesses seeking regional expansion.

Due to a shortage of high end accommodation, Kigali lacks the capacity to host a major conference, denying it the competitive edge its rival capitals Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam hold.

Rwanda also still lacks quality training institutions specializing in leisure, hospitality and tourism in the country. 
“For the past four years, we have tried to bridge the skills gap,” said Charles Muia, the country manager of Serena Hotels Rwanda adding more than a half of the hotel staff for both facilities in Kigali and Rubavu district have been trained through its sister hotels in the region.

“Currently most business is coming through conferences and business visits. Tourism is still quiet small; the numbers are, however, growing,” said Mr Muia who is also the vice chairman of Rwanda Hoteliers Association.

Jean Luc Miravumba, the marketing manager of Nyungwe Forest Lodge says: “The greatest challenge to promoting tourism in Rwanda is changing the perception that the only worthwhile attraction for international travellers is gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park.”

New airlines flying into Kigali are expected to boost tourism by providing the needed inter-connection into Rwanda.

“The presence of international airlines will help us leverage trust from tourists that associate with their brand,” said Edwin Sabuhoro, the head of the tourism chamber at Private Sector Federation.