Understanding local hospitality industry challenges, opportunities

A number of new players have joined the local hospitality industry over the past two years, making it more competitive.
Government officials and other guests at the World Economic Forum in Kigali. MICE is a big growth driver. )Timothy Kisambira)
Government officials and other guests at the World Economic Forum in Kigali. MICE is a big growth driver. )Timothy Kisambira)

A number of new players have joined the local hospitality industry over the past two years, making it more competitive.

That’s why at The ServiceMag we decided to focus on the sector in our next issue to highlight the challenges and opportunities the entry of new presents Rwanda stakeholders.

The issue will analyse some the market trends in the sector, plans and strategies concerning Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE), workforce and supply challenges, among others.

In view of this, we conducted a quick poll on our social media networks, using this question: “Which of these challenges should the hospitality sector address urgently? The options were customer care, qualified workforce, and quality products.

Below are the results from our followers; 50 per cent of the responds said sector players must solve urgently the issue of poor customer service; 32 per cent indicated that the sector requires qualified workforce as a matter of urgency, while 18 per cent of them believe improving product quality should be prioritise.

These results indicate that improving customer service must become a priority in all areas more than ever before.

This also challenges responsible government agencies to enforce sector rules and guidelines to ensure that players respect the minimum standards in terms of their offers to make Rwanda MICE more competitive.

Remember, the hospitality sector is a key stakeholder in the development of Rwanda, especially now that the MICE market segment is the main drive of growth in the tourism industry, contributing significantly to national development as it can boost all sectors from the foods and beverages industry, entertainment, transport, ICT industries, among others.

Visitors coming to Rwanda for big conferences are often given an opportunity to also tour the country and, hopefully, come back on holidays, and become the destination brand ambassadors in their respective countries after experiencing an exceptional stay in the country on their first visit.

Rwanda took deliberate strategy to promote MICE to boost the tourism sector. This specific type of tourism attracts large groups and, as a result of the influx of foreign delegates, can boost the economy of recipient countries.

It is true that hospitality makes up the lion’s share of the MICE industry revenues because MICE tourism is very lucrative.

Some hoteliers consider that the revenue generated by this segment is four to eight times more than leisure tourism. Indeed, MICE business has huge potential to sustain the country’s economy through revenue generation and employment creation, while increasing destination awareness.

It is important to understand that today’s visitor is more cultured compared to previous years, particularly because they are travelled and have high expectations on customer service that is only possible by hiring professional and qualified workforce to meet needs of such tourists.

Much as customer service is ‘less’ important in some sectors compared to others, it is not the case in the hospitality. Everything comes down to customer experience. However, it is important to understand that customer service goes beyond ‘smiling’ staff.

It comprises all systems and standards put in place to offer customers something worth every dime they have paid for a service. For instance, paying for a soda or water in any of the new hotels at Rwf4,000 implies that there is something exquisite that is offered and that standards are high.

Let us understand that when people pay for a meal that is over Rwf30,000, they are not there for just the food, but also the ambience and high levels of service.

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Sandra Idossou

Therefore, local hoteliers need to practice impeccable service delivery that respects rules and standards because “excellent customer service is vital in the hospitality industry”.

It is just not enough to have employees who are courteous and just smile, like we often witness in my facilities around town. We need employees who can exhibit an extraordinary degree of competence and professionalism while dealing with customers.

That’s why some of us would want to see government enact a law that compels local business owners to invest in periodic training of their employees. For instance, training on language should be compulsory, and this can only happen if government makes it mandatory.

This approach of developing service skills and putting Rwanda on the international map of service standards requires more than mere campaigns.

We need real action towards cultivating expertise in the industry to avoid amateurism if we want to strive on the highest level of service standards in Rwanda. We have no alternative.

Wishes will not help. The author is a customer service consultant and the publisher of www. theservicemag.com

 

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