The making of Master Travel Ltd, an all-girl tours and travel company

The Master Travel team pose with a group of local journalists during a trip to Nyungwe National Park. / Moses Opobo

Angel Kayitesi is a final year student of Hospitality Management at the Akillah Institute for Women.

However she has not had to wait till completion of her course later this year to embark on her career dream. Kayitesi is the brainchild and Managing Director of Master Travel Ltd, an all-girl local Tours and Travel company that operates out of Kigali.

All seven girls are students of Hospitality at Akillah where they met. The other members are; Igihozo Yassina, Umwali Carine, Igihozo Aline, Isingwize Celine, Gasana Pleta, and Mbabazi Angel.

The company was registered by the Rwanda Development Board in June last year, as a local tours and travel service provider.

“Starting it was my idea. I long had a dream of starting a business along my career path of Hospitality Management. While at Akillah, I invited a bunch of friends to attend training in entrepreneurship and leadership. They came, and they were 15 in total,” Kayitesi begins to explain the genesis of the company:

“Then I asked them; after attending this course, what can we do with the skills we have acquired? I met them and discussed my vision with them, and they agreed. Out of the 15, seven were committed and we came together, brainstormed and finalized our project and registered it with RDB.”

Angel Kayitesi, the brainchild behind Master Travel Ltd, a tour company composed of women only.

Presently, the company runs tour itineraries across the country, with special focus on the capital, Kigali.

So far, the girls have led tourists on tours to the Akagera and Nyungwe Forest National Parks, and the tourist getaway town of Gisenyi, among several tour excursions.

Most of these were private group tours involve foreign tourists, but they have also led a tour for their own schoolmates at Akillah.

Asked what she thought would be their selling point in an increasingly competitive tourism sector, Kayitesi explained;

“The fact that we are seven girls, joining a male–dominated field, that’s our uniqueness. We are still growing, with our main focus on domestic tourism but not excluding the region.”

Aline Igihozo, one of the members who also doubles as company Secretary, describes Master Travel Ltd as “not just a company, but an adventurous domestic tourism booster”:

“I say this because we work with every class of Rwandan who would like to travel, than thinking only about tourists. We organize tours for students and provide discounts for them so that they are all comfortable with the prices. Not only that, we also go into schools for campaigns in order to get their attention and interest. We do this in the spirit of improving and developing domestic tourism, the idea being that, as Rwandans, we should know our country better than any other person outside our country. That is our mission.”

The members each have their work cut out for them, be it managerial, secretarial, operations, or finance.

Being new on the scene, the girls are yet to learn to drive tour vans, and presently the company makes use of the partnerships it has secured with a few local transport service providers.

Kayitesi explains that money is just one of the reasons why they decided to start an all-girl outfit.

“75 percent of the players in the local tourism industry are men. So even if we are in business, we are also trying to inspire other girls to involve in tourism. I’m learning to drive and I think once girls can see me driving a tour van they will know they can also do it

People like the fact that we are girls taking on this seemingly man’s job. Some clients find it easier to trust and do business with us because we are girls.”

Asked how they managed to find the resources to start the company, Kaitesi explained:

“Tourism is not a business that needs a lot of capital to start. It needs commitment and some skills, which we have. We resolved to each contribute some money every month to help us get started. As time goes on, we can then seek external support in form of loans from banks or other institutions.”

At the moment, the company relies heavily on online marketing and social media presence to source business opportunities and gain visibility. 

By and by, the seven partners are all convinced it is still early days and better prospects lie ahead, despite the challenges.