In April this year, as the country geared up for the World Economic Forum for Africa, the Rwanda Development Board convened a breakfast meeting with city hoteliers for what seemed like a pep talk in readiness for a busy schedule ahead.
The meeting, chaired by the RDB chief executive Francis Gatare, was called to remind them not to hold back in quality service delivery and in return they would be assured of business.
While they dutifully promised to deliver quality services, the hoteliers revealed to officials a challenge they claimed continued to dog the sector, sometimes getting in the way of quality.
With a limited pool of qualified professionals in the sector to hire from, the hoteliers said that they were constantly losing their best employees to new players in the industry especially global chains.
They observed that the new players require a large number of employees and end up ‘poaching’ employees from smaller enterprises.
This, in turn, leads the facilities to re-incur costs in hiring and training new staff.
However, the private sector is stepping in to make sure that there is a large pool skilled workforce to hire from.
Just recently, the Ministry of Education accredited Vatel International Business Hotel and Tourism Management to offer undergraduate degrees in International Hotel Management.
The French training institution has over 30 years of experience in training hospitality and tourism industry professionals and has 28 campuses across the world including in Paris, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Singapore, Switzerland, Moscow, Montreal, and Mauritius.
This would be their first campus in sub-Saharan Africa.
The institution comes to Kigali at a time when Rwanda is working toward transforming the hospitality sector and positioning itself as a Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) hub.
Paul Kayoboke, in charge of Academics at Vatel, said as Rwanda is growing its tourism sector with global hotel chains entering the market, there is a growing demand for qualified staff.
“Several global hotel chains have begun operations in Rwanda and more international brands are expected to enter the market in the near future. These hotels need a capable local workforce. Many of them at present depend on expatriate staff due to the insufficient number of skilled local hospitality professionals. The gaps are evident across the board, skilled professionals are required at all levels, particularly at the managerial level,” Kayaboke told The New Times.
Explaining the new entrants teaching curriculum, he said that beyond practical training, the institution has a global partnership with leading international brands, where students undertake practical applications and internships throughout the entire length of the programme to ensure world class delivery.
From the second year, students can attend other Vatel campuses around the world and do their internships in hotels outside the country to gain more international exposure.
The institution has already opened up vacancies for their September intake, and prospective students must have finished A-level to be considered. One will also have to pass an online test with questions about their personality and high intelligent quotient. Those who pass will be invited for an interview with a Vatel admission panel at their Nyarugenge campus in Kigali.
The first intake of 19 students will start in September. Annual tuition is about $7000 (aboutRwf5.5m)
Commenting on the development, Faustin Karasira, the acting head of the Tourism Department at RDB, said there is need to build a supply chain of skills and expertise to ensure seamless service delivery.
He noted that it is important to have a critical mass of skilled people to provide value for money for stakeholders, including clients.