Rwanda changes tack on conference tourism

Tourism, meetings and all sorts of public gatherings at hotels were banned in March to contain the spread of Covid-19.

In a bid to ensure quick recovery as well as maintaining the country’s position as a top destination for events, the Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB) is shifting strategy.

According to Frank Murangwa, Director of Destination Marketing at RCB, the development will, among others, ensure inclusivity of the local industry as well as the region.

 

Murangwa explained that they are adopting a combination of physical and virtual conferences.

 

“In the coming conferences we expect to see a number of participants from the region, whose countries have lifted travel restrictions, while the other participants will join virtually,” Murangwa said.

 

Tourism activities, meetings and all sorts of public gatherings at hotels were banned in March to contain the spread of Covid-19.

However, under guidelines that were put in place by health agencies, on June 16, a cabinet meeting resolved that hotels be allowed to host meetings and conferences.

Need for creativity

The halt, according to Belize Kariza, the Chief Tourism Officer at Rwanda Development Board, impacted the industry and thus the need for creativity.

“The implication was huge especially when airlines were suspended,” Kariza said in an exclusive interview.

The meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition industry suffered a combined loss of $48 million (over Rwf45 billion) as a result of the global Covid-19 crisis.

Kariza pointed out that there was a need to change the industry’s way of doing business in order to ensure a quick recovery.

“We are working around the clock to find out new initiatives of hosting conferences. We have so far engaged the private sector” Akaliza asserts.

Additionally, she highlighted that the industry which generated $56 million (about Rwf53 billion) in 2019, is picking up slowly.

Even though official numbers were not disclosed, Murangwa said that “to date, we can confirm the Africa Green Revolution Forum will be hosted virtually from September 8, through 11 this year.”

Besides, he added, “We have three other events in the pipeline of which we are finalizing the details and will be shared with the public in the coming weeks.”

Globally, international tourist numbers could fall 60-80 per cent, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

East African Community States are projected to lose over $5.4 billion for 2020 given the projected long-term closure of seaports and airports with about 6.2 million foreign tourists not travelling to their preferred EAC destinations.

With revenue streams in the sector currently affected and most facilities operational and having had to lay off workers, the government will work with the local sector to drive the adoption of domestic tourism.

This will among other things require reviewing facilities rates to make them more affordable for Rwandans as well as setting discounts.

eashimwe@newtimesrwanda.com

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