In December 2019, a new property was added on the list of Rwanda’s high-end tourism facilities, One&Only Gorillas Nest, a multi-luxurious lodge on the edge of Volcanoes National Park. The new lodge joins a list of other luxury destinations, such as; Bisate Lodge, Amakoro Songa lodge, One&Only Nyungwe and Singita Kwitonda Lodge. The property is owned by Kerzner International, a leading international developer and operator of destination resorts, ultra-luxury hotels and residences and innovative entertainment and gaming experiences. The facility which was launched on February 27 as expected excited Rwandans and drew hilarious comments on social media platforms and social circles conversations owing to the cost of stay for a night. A night at the facility sets one back $3,600 (Rwf3.6 million) to $10,500 (about Rwf10 million) per night. Yes, per night, not month. Guests in the restaurant. The hilarious comments on social media and social circles rightly observed that the cost of some of the rooms could see one acquire a plot of land complete with a house in some parts of the country. The facility has 21 individual villas, each located quite a distance from each other meaning that guests are guaranteed ultimate privacy, and that one is unlikely to notice that the resident in the adjacent villa could be a Head of State or an international celebrity. Of the 21 villas, 10 are entry-level priced at $3600 (about Rwf 3.5M) per night. All expenses are inclusive, meaning that guests do not need a price list of items on the menu. There are 4 double queen suites each with a price of $4500 (about 4.4M). the facility also has 5 suites dubbed as Virunga suites costing $5600 for a night, Ingaji suites priced at $8600 and Silver Back Suite (Presidential Suite) setting one back only $10,500 per night. Beyond the fancy architecture of the suites, the price is probably justified by the input across the about 35 hectares the facility sits on. To replicate the jungle the lodge is adjacent to, across the lodge are tall eucalyptus trees between cottages and pathways creating a jungle-like feel. Staff at the lodge told The New Times that there are over 36,000 species of plants and flowers on the facility, some indigenous and others exotic. These cover gardens leaving only pathways golf carts moving guests around the facility. Michael Wale, Chief Executive of Kerzner International, told this paper that of the $65M invested in bringing the facility to life, most of the cost went into acquiring the property, restoring nature, as well as the construction. He said that the design process sought not to interrupt the surrounding environment. Do they expect to have clients? Wale said that since opening in December, they have attracted a number of very wealthy oligarchs and millionaires who have stayed there without revealing the identity of the guests. He said that they have a particular guests’ profile that is a ready market and has an interest in such high-end and unique facilities. “We have a product with 21 individual villas, we have already attracted a number of very wealthy oligarchs and millionaires who have stayed here. It’s for a particular guest profile and particularly the one that Rwanda is targeting,” he said. Wale noted that as a firm that specialises in luxury experiences, the investment and properties are representative of their target markets. “The One&Only brand is a luxury brand, we create luxury destinations for people around the world. Gorilla’s Nest will be attracting guests who want experiential travel which is coming to somewhere like on the edges of Volcanoes National Park. When I came to Rwanda six years ago, it captured my imagination as one of the Jewels of Africa and I realized that it was well-positioned to have this kind of facility,” he said. The lodge has a jungle feel to it. The Chief Executive said that they are comfortable with the prices set and so are their target clients. To break even and achieve profitability, a facility of the calibre requires an average occupancy of 60 per cent which Kerzner International told The New Times is not out of reach. “The price is what it is and we are comfortable with it. When you have something that is as unique as it is, the price is what the market will go buy… We have 21 lodges, it’s not that difficult for us to fill 21 lodges,” Wale said. Impact on the community The lodge is expected to boost the GDP of the Musanze region as well as the country in general. Among the ways, this happens is the sourcing of local products from the region as well as working with local farmers to ensure that they meet global standards sought by the brand. The firm is working with cooperatives including one in the coffee industry whereby they help them improve quality and buy all their produce. “If you look at the economic value chain, let’s take an example of coffee, we work with a local cooperative, buy all the coffee that they produce and serve it. We are working with multiple cooperatives and will create a big value chain,” Wale said. The facility will have other impacts on the economy owing to the profile of guests visiting. For instance, some of the target clients fly private planes which is revenue to the countries aviation industry. Services of firms like Akagera Aviation which provides helicopter services are also likely to be in demand moving the guests from Kigali to the lodge’s helipad. Rwanda Development Board Chief Executive Clare Akamanzi told The New Times that the entrance of the new facility was in line with the government’s approach to tourism. “The government through Rwanda Development Board are keen to promote Rwanda as a high-end destination. We are constantly working to attract brands to create high-end experiences. Having such an investment by such a brand, it serves as an endorsement of the quality and experiences to be expected,” she said. Akamanzi said that the government has been making the necessary investment to support the viability of the model including through investment in RwandAir and inviting other airlines to serve Kigali. So far, the high-value low-density model, she said, has proven to be productive as gorilla revenue grew from $15M in 2016 when prices were at $750 to about $24M after the doubling of prices.