The HOSPITALITY sector is bracing for a grading exercise that will categorise facilities as per international standards.
Following a Cabinet decision to approve a ministerial order determining the grading of tourism entities across the country, hotels will be inspected and graded according to international standards.
The move, experts say, will go a long way to regulate the sector that for years has operated without clear regulations in regards to standardisation and categorisation.
The state of affairs had seen some operators convert their residences into lodgings which experts say could compromise the credibility of the industry and international reputation.
Following inspection of their establishments, hotels and tourism entities will be issued with a two-year licence only renewable upon inspection.
According to Francis Gatare, chief executive of Rwanda Development Board, the exercise will see hospitality facilities across the country classified and licensed under categories such as lodges, motels, guesthouses, eco-lodges and five-star.
Gatare said the classification would come in handy for business operators in the sector to ascertain the class of their premises if they would like to upgrade.
Hoteliers are upbeat about the development, saying it will provide an opportunity for them to know their standards and spot opportunities across the categories that are yet to be tapped.
Francine Havugimana, the vice chairperson of the Chamber of Tourism at Private Sector Federation, told The New Times that the move was in the best interest of the industry players.
Among the ways they expect the move to benefit them is by improving competitiveness as it points out room for improvement.
“It will be possible to know where I rank and how I can upgrade to the next standard to be more competitive. This will also help visitors coming into the country to know what kind of service to expect from the facilities they are booking into. They can choose by preference,” she said.
With the classification, Havugimana added that the association will be in position to help members establish what kind of training and support they require to upgrade their facilities.
“We will know the status of our facilities and how we can improve and for those seeking to enter the industry, they can spot opportunities across the categories. Currently, everyone calls their facility a ‘hotel’, which makes it hard to establish the opportunities in the sectors,” Havigimana, who is also the proprietor of Impala Hotel, said.
The decision is also in line with complying with an East African Community agreement to market the region as a tourism destination.
“We are harmonising our standards across the region and it is important for us to start internally,” she added.
In the process of setting up the categories, Havigimana said, East African parliamentarians had consulted them on the benefits of the exercise.
“We have been engaging with policy makers and we informed them we want to know our status and how we can improve our competitiveness,” she said.
Experts say the classification and the categorisation will in future make such business to business meetings impactful and productive as operators of a similar level can seek out partnerships.
The move is also expected to provide an opportunity to regulate recent innovations such as AirBnB, which some players feared would compromise the reputation of the industry globally.
The innovation makes it possible for people to rent out extra space in their homes to visitors and tourists.
Recently, the platform seems to have caught the attention of Rwandan home owners with a number of them putting up their houses and apartments for rent on the platform.
Commenting on the fees to be paid by operators seeking to be licensed to operate in a certain category, Havigimana said it will help the regulator, Rwanda Development Board, in promoting the local industry.
“They need funds to use in the promotion of the industry. They host big events all across which comes at an expense. We will participate in funding the promotion this way,” she said.
Other players said the move would open a new phase in the local industry as it highlights standards as per national policy.
Speaking at a recent service delivery summit, Jerry Were, the general manager of Nyungwe Forest Lodge, highlighted the importance of such policies and regulations in improving service delivery across the country.