These are exciting times to be in the hospitality industry in Rwanda, especially the tourism sub-sector.
It has been a long journey but worthwhile all the way. There had been some nail-biting times in the past, especially when Rwanda was called upon to host an international conference and the only venues were the Serena Hotel or the giant tent at the former Jali Club where the current Marriott Hotel stands
Hotel beds were barely enough to accommodate even a medium-size conference and customer care was quasi non-existent
Those were challenging times but there was not turning part. So when Rwanda decided to peg its economic growth on an extra pillar – MICE (Meetings Incentives Conferences and Events) – it pulled out all the stops, encouraged the business community to invest in hotels and other sections of the hospitality industry.
Today, all the tears shed along the way, the threats by banks to repossess hotels they had financed but lacked occupancy, have dried up.
Kigali has been slowly climbing up the ladder as the destination of choice for MICE and luxury tourism destinations, second only to Cape Town. High-end tented camps are cropping up day-by-day, tour agencies are mushrooming everywhere.
As we write now, Rwanda Development Board is in Singapore for the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) exhibition. Asia today is the new-kid-on-the-block when it comes to luxury tourism and it, therefore, makes sense to pitch camp there.
But there is one area that stakeholders should not overlook; they should try to let the local population have an affordable experience of luxury once in a while, especially during the low season. But let them be part of the experience to share in the long but fruitful journey.