Kigali upbeat on conference tourism rebound

Saturday March 26 2022

Delegates at an international event in a Kigali hotel. PHOTO | FILE


Rwanda is targeting to double revenue earned from its MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions) sector this year to $27 million from 45 events, up from the $12.5 million earned in 2021 from 61 events, as regional and international travel resumes fully and the pandemic enters its endemic stage.

The target is modest considering that pre-pandemic earnings in 2017 and 2017 hit more than $60 million.

The country’s service sector, particularly retail, leisure and hospitality, and conference tourism, which collectively account for most jobs in the country, is now considered to be on a rebound.

The sector is reaping benefits of a fully reopened economy and vaccination campaign that captured over 60 percent of the population.

“After nearly two years of our world being reshuffled, we can see that the MICE sector is gaining some semblance of normality, and Rwanda has not only managed to assure its visitors and business partners of safety but gone beyond to earn the trust of the international community based on how they managed the pandemic, ” Samantha Gateretse, Rwanda Convention Bureau marketing manager told The EastAfrican.

So far, the country has already hosted 10 events in 2022.


The much anticipated Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) slated for later this June, will bring up to 10,000 delegates from 53 Commonwealth countries and will be the first major event since 2019.

Initially earnings projections from Chogm were at least $780 million.

The event is the much-needed shot in the arm after the pandemic wiped out all the revenues from conference tourism from a high of $56 million in 2019 to almost zero. “I am confident that it will happen in person. I also have high confidence in the Rwandan government’s level of preparedness for this.

In terms of attendance, I can’t really say for other countries. I think there will be a good attendance, I certainly know from the UK side there will be a good attendance, we’ve announced that Prince Charles and his wife will be coming.

“We expect the delegation led by the Prime Minister, but we will have other ministers here and we expect the business delegation to come and be part of the forum,” Omar Daair, UK’s ambassador to Rwanda told The EastAfrican.

At Bishops House hotel, a high-end amenity in Musanze that mostly houses foreign tourists who come for Gorilla trekking, inquiries and bookings for the high tourism season of June-September are streaming in.

The hotel’s booking is currently at 70 percent for the high season.

General manager Steve Nzuki, said, “lifting the curfew and other restrictions at this time is a big relief for us, we are already seeing the positive effects, bookings are increasing every day, we have bookings for 2023 and 2024, we are already 70 percent full for the June-September high season.”

“We are getting many last-minute bookings now, expect to even be busier from July onwards, Mid-October is normally a low season but we are getting bookings for that period as well which is strange,” said Mr Nzuki.