Kigali hotel and aviation summit projected to generate over Rwf1.5bn

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Kigali Convention Centre and Radisson Blu Hotel. Rwanda is projected to earn millions of dollars from upcoming AHIF summit scheduled for October 10-12. / Sam Ngendahimana.

The African Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) scheduled for October is projected to generate in excess of $1.8 million (over Rwf1.5 billion), which was earned from last year’s summit held in Kigali.

According to an independent assessment last week by international audit, tax and advisory firm, Grant Thornton, last year’s edition earned Kigali, the hosting city, about $1.8 million. The audit also established that the total GDP added to the city, including direct and indirect multiplier impact, was about $4.97 million (Rwf4.2 billion).

The three-day summit’s contribution to the Rwanda Revenue Authority coffers was $292,184 (over Rwf247 million) , and it created and sustained an estimated 1114 jobs.

Local hospitality industry experts project that this year’s summit is likely to surpass last year’s conference given the development in the sector and improved service delivery.

The audit comes after the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) projected that the tourism sector will fetch about $444 million (about Rwf370 billion) this year, up from $404 million last year. The increase in revenue is pegged on continued tourism promotion efforts, as well as the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events and Exhibitions (MICE) strategy.

The MICE sub-sector, where forums, such as AHIF, fall is expected to contribute about $64 million this year, up from the $47 million it generated in 2016.

Though RDB was yet to avail numbers of the projected revenue from the summit by press time, their CEO, Clare Akamanzi, told Business Times that before agreeing to host any summit, they conduct a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that its profitable.

“Before we accept to host any conference, we always do a cost-benefit analysis to see how much it will cost and how much the country will benefit,” she said.

This year’s summit slated for October 10-12 is expected to bring together over 500 leading executives from the world of aviation and hotels, as well as top government officials from Africa and beyond.

Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench Events, the conference organiser, said among the main subjects to be discussed include sustainable development.

“Our line-up this year is comprehensive; everything from sustainable development and hard economics, to first-hand practical advice from leaders in their field, plus unique networking opportunities,” he said.

More benefits

“The report also highlights the fact that host economies benefit from wide media coverage and from the credential of hosting a top-level conference like AHIF. Doing so helps to attract further events, which boost local companies and provide job opportunities as well as the chance to develop skills,” according to report author, Martin Jansen van Vuuren.

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Delegates from a previous conference in Kigali. Rwanda targets $64m from MICE tourism this year. (T. Kisambira)

Aviation devt summit

On the sidelines of the hotel summit will be an aviation conference, AviaDev, with the main agenda as airline route development.

“With AviaDev, an airline route development conference, taking place simultaneously at the same venue, this will provide a valuable opportunity to look at the expansion of travel across the continent from a strategic perspective,” Worsely said.

This year, the theme for AHIF has been set as ‘Inspiring Fresh Perspectives’. The theme is inherent within all the sessions, giving attendees a fresh perspective on existing challenges and opportunities within the market, the organisers said.

Among the major topics of discussion include the impact of global economic trends on Africa; current challenges within the sector; investment; connectivity, and security, among others.

Other topics include hotel revenue performance, and hotel development activity.

The summit will also be held on the backdrop of advice by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to improve the quality of services at local tourism establishments.

The IMF team, which was in the country in May for review of Rwanda’s Policy Support Instrument, said Rwanda still faces some constraints in delivering quality services across the sector.

“There is a lot of potential; Rwanda is a beautiful country and a lot has been done to promote business tourism and people would want to come back. There are a lot of nice places to stay and great restaurants. However, there are still some constraint in the quality of service... There is need to raise the level of service,” the IMF remarked.

“Rwanda is not inexpensive, the gorilla tourism cost just went up and if you are willing to spend that amount of money, you would expect high services.”

Players, however, continue to be optimistic on the performance of the hotel industry, buoyed by aspects like increased flights plying the Kigali route following the expansion of national carrier RwandAir routes.

In a recent interview with this paper, Thomas Stene, general manager of Park Inn by Radisson Kigali, said a lot is being done to connect Rwanda to the rest of the world, and highlighted the need to take part in more global exhibitions to showcase the country’s attractiveness as a tourist destination.