As Rwanda prepares to host three major international conferences in coming months, it has emerged that some hospitality sector players might not benefit from this windfall.
The country will host the World Economic Forum next month, and the African Union summit in June, while the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) is slated for September. These meetings present the hospitality industry huge opportunities to showcase Rwanda’s potential in hosting big events to attract more conferences going forward and hence boost sector earnings.
However, some of the sector players could miss out on deals that come with these conferences because they are deemed ‘uncooperative’ by their peers, according to the Rwanda Hospitality Association (RHA) director, Seth Butera.
Butera said non-RHA members will not get some of the conference jobs, including provision of catering services.
He argued that the move is geared at discouraging industry actors who work in isolation.
“We want to show non-members that working alone is not beneficial and ‘encourage’ them to join the association and work together for the common good,” he told The New Times on Monday.
He revealed that there are plans underway to ensure only RHA members benefit from government jobs that will arise from the upcoming conferences, noting that the group is already signing tenders with government institutions and other stakeholders to provide some of the conference services.
Butera said as Rwanda positions itself as a Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events (MICE) hub in the region, it is important for industry players to work together, particularly enhancing standards and customer care to deliver world-class services.
Besides, Butera added, it is government strategy for businesses in the same industry to work under an umbrella body to foster standards, quality, as well as ensure proper monitoring and accountability. “It is for these reasons that during the upcoming World Economic Forum summit in Kigali that only RHA members will provide catering services since the association was given the tender for the job,” he said. The summit gathers over 1,000 delegates, including policy-makers, economists, scholars, leaders and private sector investors from across the globe to discuss solutions to some of the most pressing needs and challenges facing African economies.
Hosting AHIF in Kigali will also underline a clear strategy by the Government to attract investment in the tourism sector and promote leisure and hospitality as one of the key drivers of the industry.
RHA has 97 active members, including small, medium and big hotels, restaurants, bars, lodges, recreational centres and all other players in the hospitality sector, according to Butera.
Earning from MICE tourism
The tourism sector is the country’s top income earner. It raked in $317 million (about Rwf248.8 billion) last year.
MICE earnings were $29 million (about Rwf22.8 billion), lower than $32 million targeted over the reporting period.
The MICE tourism sector was officially launched in 2014, and the national MICE strategy is in line with diversifying the current tourism product offering to compliment gorilla tourism, eco-tourism, as well as cultural and community-based tourism which are the mainstay of Rwanda’s economy.
Despite the gains, the Rwanda hospitality sector is not without challenges. According to Josephat Sure, a manager at Chicken & Pizza Inn, the issue of poor customer service persists.
“Though sector workers are not hostile, they do not give the necessary care or service to make customers comfortable and valued. Clients are not treated as they deserve, which does not encourage them to come again or regularly,” Sure said. She noted that the attitude is a turnoff for customers, who have experienced better customer service in other countries.
Others said the relocation of parking space has starved them of clients over the past few months.