Rwanda has, over the past decade, actively encouraged investments in the hospitality sector as one of the strategies to boost tourism arrivals and earnings. These efforts have seen global hotel brands opening shop in the country and prop up the nascent MICE sector, which has attracted top international conferences in past one year or so.
These developments have significantly contributed to GDP growth and job-creation, in particular, helping the country to realise over $318 million in tourism earnings in 2015. And the sector’s contribution is expected to hit $400 million in annual receipts this year.
The hospitality sector is also big business and contributes 10 per cent of global GDP and a similar figure to global employment.
Therefore, it is central to the country’s efforts to create 200,000 off-farm jobs annually, as well as deliver Rwanda to a middle-income economy in the medium-term.
However, these objectives might be frustrated by persistent challenges affecting the local hospitality industry, like shortage of skilled personnel and sustainable sources of supplies, including consumables.
According to hotel operators and other sector investors, the challenges are pushing up the cost of doing business and discouraging some investors from venturing into the local market. The skills gap in the sector is an old problem; one wonders why it is not being addressed under the TVET programme and the various learning institutions that offer hospitality related courses.
The issue of lack of dependable suppliers needs to be given the attention it deserves because it also affects supermarket chains operating in Rwanda. The government and private sector should work together to find a lasting solution.
In addition, there should be deliberate efforts to support farmer coops and other co-operatives so they attain the necessary standards to supply hotels and supermarket chains. We needn’t have to import furniture, vegetables, eggs, beef and chicken from Kenya, South Africa, Uganda or Brazil when they are produced in the country. Hotels and supermarkets should work closely with concerned government agencies and the private sector to ensure local firms attain the requisite standards to be able to supply these products.