Visitors should be lured out of the city, but they need a reason to

The Kigali Convention Center is a preferred destination for conferences. File.

When Rwanda set its sights on becoming a MICE (Meetings Incentives Conferences and Events) hub on the continent, many thought it was just another gamble. How would it wrestle the market away from the likes of South Africa, Kenya and North African countries that have always had the lion’s share of international meetings?

In the last two years the gamble has paid off. This year, the International Congress and Convention Association ranked Kigali third in conference destinations behind Cape Town and Casablanca respectively.

To crown the just ended Transform Africa Summit, the newly refurbished Kigali Golf Course was showcased as a future tourism package. With the national carrier, RwandAir, spreading its wings to new destinations – yesterday it made its maiden flight to Cape Town – and Frankfurt (Germany) being the venue of a MICE (IMEX) where Rwanda is strongly represented, visitor numbers are set to soar further, hence the need to come up with more innovative visitor attractions.

Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB) should champion the introduction of more attractions outside Kigali. Muhanga and Rwamagana districts are just a stone throw away but they have not had their fair share of visitor revenues.

However, districts, RCB and investors should give people reasons to travel outside Kigali; they should focus on the uniqueness. Nyanza District had started positively by introducing its own festival but poor communication and awareness campaigns have made the cultural experience a shadow of its original self.

Those are the kinds of unique attractions that other areas should experience with, it simply needs to think outside the box and lure people outside Kigali. Districts should put in place incentives, financial or otherwise, to attract investors.

In most traditional tourism destinations, local tourism has been a savior to economies, especially during “low” season; prices are slashed and holiday seasons such as Easter or Christmas are turned into cash cows.

It is not that Rwandans are not adventurous, it is about our entertainment entrepreneurs showing little creativity. But that is a hurdle that can be overcome if stakeholders put their heads together. “Remarkable Rwanda” is not just a catchy slogan, it has much to showcase that is still under the wraps.

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