Rwanda to host key hospitality sector conference in October

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Marriott is one of the big hotel brands that will soon open doors in Kigali. (Timothy Kisambira)

Rwanda’s push to become a top Meetings Incentives Conference and Exhibitions/Events (MICE) tourism destination in the region has got a boost after it was announced that the country will in October host the Aviation Development (AviaDev) Africa forum, a unique platform bringing together airlines, airports, hotels and hospitality investors. 

The inaugural forum on aviation route planning and development will run parallel with the forthcoming Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF), providing government and industry with a valuable opportunity to take a strategic approach to the expansion of travel across the continent, organisers said in a statement.

The AviaDev Africa forum is scheduled for October 4 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Kigali, the statement added.

The Africa Hotel Investment Forum is also scheduled for the same week and will be hosted at the Kigali Convention Centre.

The event will attract leading airline, airport and hotel executives and government representatives, will be able to explore the crucial link between aviation and hotel investment and discuss potential new airline routes in exclusive one-to-one meetings, the statement added.

The conference is timely as seven of the 10 fastest-growing passenger markets over the next 20 years will be in Africa, including Rwanda, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) report for 2015.

“We want to showcase Rwanda as a key destination to do business. The AHIF conference is a vital part of that, and the addition of a forum focused on aviation developments, AviaDev, provides an important platform for the aviation and hotel sectors to discuss future development projects and forge new relationships,” Belise Kariza, the chief tourism officer at the Rwanda Development Board, said.

Delegates will have the opportunity to organise route development meetings with a range of airports and airlines to help realise Africa’s full potential.

The event will include workshops on the rise of the “airport city” in Africa, organised by leading experts Wiedemann Consultants GmbH, as well as the environmental factors needed for success. International consultants, InterVISTAS, will also run a route development master class.

Jonathan Worsley, the chairman of Bench Events that is organising AHIF, said AviaDev Africa will be a valuable opportunity for leading executives from aviation and hotel development to have some serious and fruitful discussions on how to develop the future connectivity of the continent.

According to Mario Fulgoni, the Air Djibouti chief executive, there is need for the airline community, hotel investors, and brands to come together and have a co-ordinated response.

“Africa is a bit different compared to Asia, Europe and the US because we lack enough hotels. My view is that if you build it they will come. Hotel owners would say if we had the services, we’d build the hotels. So we’ve got to get past the chicken and egg situation and build a co-ordinated investment programme so we can develop the two side-by-side,” said Fulgoni.

AHIF is the premier hotel investment conference in Africa, attracting over 500 high-calibre executives from 45 countries, as well as key government representatives.

The event was hosted by Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last year.

Rwanda’s tourism sector is one of the leading foreign exchange earners for the country. The sector registered a three per cent increase in the number of visitors between 2013 and 2014, from 1.14 million visitors to 1.2 million visitors, raking in $303 million from $293.4 million in 2013.

Leisure has been a major driver of Rwanda’s tourism industry, and the country is focusing on MICE tourism, capitalising on safety, developed infrastructure, accessibility and new entrants in the hotel industry such as the Marriott, Radisson Blu, Radisson by Park Inn, Sheraton, Golden Tulip, Kempisnki and Zinc.

Hosting the AHIF will no doubt contribute to growth of Rwanda as a leading MICE destination in the region, according to RDB.

business@newtimes.co.rw