Businesses should be ready to cash in on conference tourism

Rwanda’s status as a major tourist destination is not something new. Thanks to the Government’s commitment to conservation and innovation, the tourism sector has grown by leaps and bounds over the years.  

The sector earned the country more than $400 million last year, twice as much as it did in 2010. The rare mountain gorillas, the revived wildlife of Akagera National Park and the tropical rainforest of Nyungwe National Park have played a major role in this progress. 

Meanwhile, another component of this sector – conference tourism – has been on the rise in recent years.

According to Rwanda Development Board, the country expects to make up to US$74 million from conference tourism this year alone, with officials saying they have already collected more than half the target.

This is a significant increase from last year’s subsector performance when a total of $42 million was fetched as a result of 192 conferences hosted in Rwanda.

Notably, all this is not happening in a vacuum.

Rather it’s the result of a meticulous plan that started several years back when the Government set out to turn Rwanda into a service-led economy.

This included the rolling out of a MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events) strategy designed to promote the country as a amjor conference destination. 

Top global hotel chains have since set up shop in the country, while new hospitality facilities have sprung up.

But one question lingers – is the local business community getting a fair share of the slice?

Service providers, such as hotels, restaurants, tour agencies, roadside businesses, among others, should position themselves strategically to make the most of the growing number of foreign visitors – whether conference delegates or holidaymakers. 

Most importantly, the private sector should endeavour to provide quality customer service to the visitors – and residents as well – so as to help consolidate the country’s status as an ideal conference destination.