KIGALI, RWANDA – Rwanda is preparing to introduce ‘convention tourism’ targeting business travellers to increase revenue from the limited tourism sector.
A convention bureau will be launched this year to market Rwanda as a top destination for meetings and conferences, according to the head of Tourism and Conservation at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Ms. Rica Rwigamba.
Creation of the convention bureau comes three years after stakeholders in the tourism sector met in December 2008 in Kigali to discuss a strategy on meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) tourism presented by the On The Frontier (OTF) Group, an American consulting firm.
OTF projected that Rwanda could earn US$40 million from MICE tourism by 2012 but it required a convention bureau to help market the country as a top destination for meetings and conferences in order to meet its revenue target.
Ms. Rwigamba told East African Business Week in an interview that the bureau would be created to help implement the MICE strategy.
The bureau will use information on conferencing and accommodation facilities as well as airlines flying in and out of the country to market Rwanda’s potential as conference hub.
“We aim to promote Rwanda as a conference tourism hub in the region. We will be able to provide quality standards for conference tourists,” said Rwigamba.
According to Rwigamba, facilities such as conference halls, hotel rooms and airlines have started to increase, which increases chances for the new product to excel.
Rwanda is constructing a $300 million convention centre, which will also have a modern hotel.
Recently, the country began grading the accommodation sector in order to boost its confidence.
Two hotels-Kigali Serena hotel and Nyungwe Game Lodge were awarded top-notch “five” star rating while other 28 hotels received stars between one and four.
A new hotel- Kigali Marriot Hotel- is under construction and will open this year, increasing the number of rooms to over 5000.
Currently, airlines such as KLM, Brussels Airlines, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airways and Air Uganda fly in and out of Kigali.
Others such as South African Airways, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways will introduce flights to Kigali by May this year.
This is in addition to the national airline RwandAir, which the government is strengthening with more aircraft. Rwanda’s economy is also promising which implies that it will continue to attract foreign private investments.
Last year, Rwanda registered over $500 million worth of new investments. Rwanda’s economy was expected to grow at 8.8% in 2011 but it is projected to slow at 7.6% in 2012, which is still impressive according to analysts.
The country is also waiting to take advantage of the single tourist visa in the member states of the East African Community (EAC), which is expected to make it easier for tourists to manoeuvre in the five partner states of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda at no extra visa charges. This will further boost tourism as well as business.
Rwanda, for over half a decade, has invested heavily in the tourism sector, which has in turn paid out handsomely.
Last year only, the sector is believed to have generated US$251 million against a target of $216 million. In 2010, tourism raised $200 million.