The just concluded 27th African Union Summit held in Kigali was a success. That show of good performance has raised the enthusiasm, boosted the confidence and prepared Rwandans into gearing up efforts to lay ground for earning from hosting conferences and boost Rwanda’s economy.
Smart strategies to keep this afloat will have to be mooted by all concerned parties. The infrastructures are in place and the political will is in abundant supply.
In 2014, Rwanda introduced MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events) to spur tourism value chain and diversify the economy.
It is a national strategy part of effort to develop the tourism industry and increase revenues.
MICE operations need to be linked to tourism sector players; Hotels, Travel and Tour Operators, Restaurants, professional conference and events’ organisers, ministries, among others. These have to work as a nucleus unit to deliver results for Rwanda under Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
First, MICE will need to be linked to the central policy strategy. This is because the decision making component will make or break it. It simply exists to source its product services out of Rwanda, bring in hordes of tourists, meetings, summits and conferences. This is not an easy turf considering the fact that this is dependent on the willingness of those MICE is attracting. They need swiftness, reassurance, and steadfastness on how we pitch Rwanda as a hot destination for the success of these meetings or a high-end tourist attraction. The entry point is to have a good command of the market needs.
Thus MICE key players have to lobby organisations like International Conference and Congress Association (ICCA), and conference leaning organisations such as UN, World Bank, IFC, among others.
Delegates and financing organisations have the money. We can influence and change trends. Where MICE players feel not to have the clout to cut the deal, then they can bring the issue in time to the leaders responsible for support. If it necessitates the Head of State’s push then it should be done and he would not disappoint. He has championed this and he would want to see it leap forward; he recently pushed for the African passport so that Africans come to Rwanda unhindered.
Now the success of these strategies will depend on how MICE unit functions; its feedback-loop mechanism should be linked to a national policy strategy so that it takes recognition at that level. There is no need to have a heavy staff-load, the operators can be virtual, the world is a global village. What can Friends of Rwanda (FoR) do to swing international meetings towards Kigali?
To do this we need to be upfront in knowing which meet will take place where before everybody willing to provide the venue options. Rwanda, when the marketing is intensified, can be always seen as the best viable option when choosing summit venues. MICE operators have to stay busy, and our hotels have to develop ‘feelers’ and be more apt.
I like to call an incentive that stimulant to achieve a greater output. In addition to government legislation, the greatest overall incentive we have in Rwanda is the enabling environment, the political will and the united forward-looking Rwandans. What may be lacking or we may not be knowing is the presence of a technical, well-crafted detailed incentive strategies in place to scale up MICE so that it becomes an unbeatable foreign revenue earner for Rwanda.
Developing nations establish incentives with good intentions but they end up working against the very reason they were put in place. Countries get depleted of their revenues by shrewd investors who have vast experiences to abuse such systems. Rwanda’s MICE incentive strategy should be hedged on private sector growth. It should be pushed by demand.
First, start simple, grow bigger and bigger. Be risk-averse but risk-oriented in action. Define your targets, sector-targets (East African Region, African Continent) Bilateral, Multilateral organisations, Continental organisations e.g. ACBF, NEPAD, High-end NGOs, Europe, America, ICCA, among others.
Next, target the Diaspora, with an incentive package that is attractive. Rwandans working for organisations world over should get involved in influencing summits or conferences to be hosted in Rwanda.
Another group of potential to bring in MICE products are the young, the geek, internet savvy, researchers with capacity to know where summits or conference, line-ups are on the planet. There is no harm designing a package for this cluster of individuals who would be paid upon product delivery according to different packages MICE puts in place. These can be hooked with hoteliers here for marketing their facilities.
Finally, the reporting and responsibility of all these functions should have a less-Bureaucratic feedback loop mechanism for swift decision making and action (back and forth). It should be a place where everybody is driven by achieving targets. MICE’s work room should be like a drawing board, an idea-factory or a craft table not the usual business. It should be a place where people unleash their passions, a must-trait in this market.
The Author is a Knowledge Management Expert and Communications Practitioner