Kigali hotels buoyed by surge in visitor numbers

Campaigns like Visit Rwanda have boosted the visibility of the country

If you are planning a trip to Kigali, make sure you book your hotel room well in advance.

Over the last few days, guests had to be turned away from top hotels because they were fully booked.

The New Times conducted a spot check in a number of hotels in the City and they confirmed that they were booked for close to two weeks.

One of the popular hotels, Chez Lando, said they only have openings after November 16, 2018. Around the same neighbourhood, at Grand Legacy Hotel, it was also fully booked.

The New Timesvisited Serena Hotel and Hôtel des Mille Collines in central business district and the story was the same.

For Lemigo Hotel, the front desk staff were turning away guests looking for rooms.

Last week Gael Murara, a Kigali based entrepreneur wanted to book hotel rooms for a team of delegates from Nigeria who occasionally visit the country, but he could not succeed.

“Our delegates from Nigeria who visit Rwanda like three times in a year tried to book hotel rooms online, but they failed. We thought it was an issue of a website until we asked and found that all the hotels were overbooked,” he said.

Murara added that the delegates wanted to book a five-star hotel but they could only get budget hotel, which they ended up taking.

This year alone, the country targets to fetch $74 million (Rwf65 billion) from conference tourism, from $42 million (Rwf36.9 billion) generated last year.

Next week, Kigali will be hosting an international conference on family planning with more than 3,000 guests expected to fly in.

The conference, the last edition of which was held in Indonesia in 2016, has attracted numerous VIP guests, causing a shortage of rooms, especially in the high end and popular hotels.

In an interview with The New Times, Nelly Mukazayire, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Convention Bureau, said that, actually, the problem is that all the guests prefer staying at the same high-end hotels.

“We do have other hotels available, and we have deployed a team of people to help guests locate and book other places that are available,” she said.

These developments are a good problem to have for a sector that was only a few years back grappling with low occupancy levels.

Mukazayire added that the more guests and events the country is able to attract, the better it is for the hotel industry and the country.

She noted that the goal is to even host more events and the Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB) will continue to implement its tourism and conference strategy.

As part of the strategy, however, RCB may have to support little-known hotels whose budgets may not be able to sufficiently cover advertising and promotion yet the demand is steadily growing.

Figures from Rwanda Development Board indicate that there were about 10,488 hotel rooms in the country in 2017.

Just last month, Rwanda signed a deal with Alibaba’s tourism platform Fliggy. And, as part of the deal, there will be special packages targeting tourists from China, one of the fasted growing sources of foreign tourism.

This is also part of Visit Rwanda campaign that the country has been promoting lately.

And with RwandAir’s aggressive expansion plan, the number of travellers is expected to increase further with more planned routes to Asia and new markets like the USA.

Rwanda is also building a new international airport – Bugesera International Airport – to cater for the increasing number of travellers.

The Government was particularly anticipating that the aviation traffic will rise to 1,151,300 this year, from 926,571 passengers last year.

Among the factors that have made the country attractive include the issuing of visas on arrival and ease of airline connections.