Last week, Rwanda’s hospitality bed capacity grew on the launch of Singita Kwitonda in Musanze District.
Among the aspects that caught headlines was that suites are priced at $1750 per night for one guest while the Kataza House, which has 4 suites is priced at $11,000 per night.
The facility, which was scheduled to receive its first guests today, has been under construction for the last five years.
From its inception, design and construction, the owners had intended for it to be a high-end facility.
Outside the $25 million facility.
The lodge is located about a 25 minutes’ drive from Musanze town in Kinigi.
For starters, it’s located on an expansive 178 acres (72 hectares) on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park, allowing guests a clear view to peaks such as Sabinyo, Gahinga among others.
The lodge construction and set up about $25 million invested by American billionaire, Paul Tudor Jones.
Of the $25 million, the investors say that the largest chunk was spent on buying land (from over 100 households), reforesting and restoring nature, as well as the construction.
In the process, the surrounding community in Musanze District received about $1.5 million in salaries. Over 600 jobs were created.
Singita lodge is built on 178 hectares of land at the edge of Volcanoes National Park, allowing guests a clear view to peaks such as Sabinyo, Gahinga among others.
About 75 per cent of the material used in the building of the facility was locally sourced which area residents say improved the economic livelihoods.
Among the biggest beneficiaries of the provision were weavers and potters among others. The investors say that over $7 million was spent locally in sourcing material and inputs used in setting up the facility.
Low density high value
The facility has also adopted the low-density high value model where despite having an expansive space to operate in, it only has 8 suites and a villa. The models caters to few high-value clientele as opposed to masses of clients paying small amounts.
Environmental experts involved in the project told The New Times that the low-density models among other things takes into account the facilities proximity to the park avoiding disruption of the ecosystem.
This is meant to reduce human-wildlife conflict or adverse effect on nature aspects such as water flow.
The lodge’s design and build also embodied sustainability and conservation which drove up the cost of operation and set up.
For instance, as opposed to the traditional concrete foundation which often affects water permeability, the facility used a steel foundation to ensure minimal interruption to the environment.
The facility also restored about 250,000 indigenous plants on the area in partnership with the local community.
What one gets for $1,750
A booking at the cost of $1750 for one guest guarantees one full board accommodation with all expenses catered for one.
A suite has a living room, bedroom, massage parlour, verandah with a couch and fireplace as well as a mini-outdoor heated pool.
Each suite is guaranteed of privacy as they are about 100 metres apart with bamboo plantations in between.
Is there demand for such?
While most would imagine that there would be little if any demand due to the rates, Singita says that they are experiencing quite a demand.
Lindy Rousseau, Singita Chief Marketing Officer said that over the next two months, the facility has a 90 per cent booking and 55 per cent booking for the next four months after.
The facility, she said, began receiving demand about one year before the completion. The target market is mostly the international market with the brand positioning itself to make the most of the 33 per cent tourist traffic visiting Sub-saharan Africa.
Rousseau said that most of the promotion and advertising is done international as that is where a majority of the target clientele is.
The target market who are obviously wealthy are often those who care about conservation and sustainability and who are also seeking a once in a lifetime experience.
The pricey rates will be shared with the surrounding communities through tenders to supply goods and services as well as the over 100 jobs created.
For instance, in Tanzania where Singita runs a similar facility, they procure foodstuff worth close to $30,000 monthly from the surrounding community.
Luke Bailes the founder of Singita Group said that globally there is a market for such facilities with Rwanda’s conservation efforts further giving the country an edge.
Singita may be one of the country’s first high-end facilities but not the last. Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive of Rwanda Development Board, said that Rwanda is edging towards the low density, high-value kind of tourism due to the returns it promises.
She said that a number of facilities in the country are already well placed for the model with more to come.
Among facilities she noted are well placed for the model include Bisate Lodge, Amakoro Songa lodge, One and Only Nyungwe.
She said that there were plans to identify more sites that would allow for sustainable investments.
So far, the review of the gorilla permits from $750 to $1500 is gradually gaining acceptance in the market with revenue not having gone down since the readjustments.
This, she said, is part of the proof that the model will work in the country as Rwanda seeks to drive up its tourism receipts.