When Rogers, a Kenyan national, visited Rwanda recently, he was impressed by the neatness of Kigali city streets and suburbs, as well as the fact that residents move freely at night without fear. Mohammed, who likes night life was taken aback by the fact that there are few night spots in Kigali unlike in other East African cities like Kampala and Nairobi, adding that “Kigali is boring”.
Unlike Nairobi or Kampala, few businesses operate 24/7, a situation that affects the growth potential of the Rwandan entertainment industry, according to Rogers. The visitor said Kigali lacks recreation places, where people of average means can go for leisure and entertainment. “Infrastructure development in Kigali should prioritise an element of leisure.” Kigali already has many hotels of all categories; bar and night clubs.
Hospitality and tourism sector players say there is still a gap in the entertainment and leisure sector that presents investors huge opportunities that would support the tourism industry if exploited.
Emmanuel Nsabimana, the customer care and regulatory division manager at Rwanda Development Board’s tourism department, faulted the gaps in the entertainment and leisure on the local business community, saying they are not proactive, saying they have a ‘spoon-feeding’ mind-set.
“Most businessmen in Rwanda want the government to close deals and then invite them to implement the projects,” said Nsabimana.
“For instance, the Rwanda Convention Bureau has an event calendar for the whole year on its website, but no single businessman comes here in advance to present his special offers for any given event or conference listed.”
He added that it is always RDB pushing sector players to come up with activities or services targeting listed events and conferences, including provision of accommodation and taxi services that meet standards.
He said during conferences, RDB organises mini-exhibitions to showcase Made-in-Rwanda products at conference venues. Sometimes, he said, the body takes initiative to guide participants on the available entertainment and leisure activities.
According to RDB, increased investment in the entertainment and leisure sub-sector could help make Rwanda more attractive and push up fortunes of the tourism industry.
“There are a lot of opportunities in this area, including setting up of more amusement parks, amphitheaters, and cinema houses because they presently still few compared with the needs,” said Nsabimana. We are showing them the demand, so they must put together their act and deliver on the supply side, in partnership with the City of Kigali, he added. The RDB official said the agency is ready to advise and provide guidance to investors interested in investing in leisure and entertainment sub-sector, adding that the business community should not expect government to be at the forefront of everything.
RDB projects the tourism sector to fetch about $444 million (Rwf370 billion) this year, up from $404 million last year. The Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events and Exhibitions (MICE) sub-sector is expected to contribute about $64 million, up from the $47 million it generated in 2016. Therefore, setting up of more modern entertainment and leisure facilities and activities, would help diversify the country’s offerings and attract additional revenues for the sector.
‘Entertainment and media outlook: 2017 – 2021: An African perspective’ report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on Thursday, countries like Kenya earned $2.1 billion in 2016, which is forecast to hit $3.2 billion in 2021. Tanzania’s total entertainment and media revenue stood at $504 million in 2016, but is set to more than double to $1.1 billion by 2021, according to the report.
Nsengiyumva Barakabuye, the chairman of the Rwanda Hospitality Association, said there is still a gap in the entertainment sub-sector, adding that more night clubs and other entertainment centres, including recreation sites and parks, are needed to support the tourism and hospitality sectors.
Though he admitted that a lot has been achieved so far, he said that more needed to be done given the growing number of international visitors. He added that sector players still face a lot of problems that are hindering them from tapping its full potential.
“Organising festivals and entertainment events requires some hotels to put up additional facilities and hire new personnel, which require more money that businessmen don’t have. Besides, it’s hard to get loans as banks are still reluctant to work with us,” said Barakabuye.
He said banks still charge high interest rates, adding that they don’t provide loan guarantees to hospitality sector arguing that it’s risky. We call upon the government to intervene so that banks can give sector players loans to invest and create more jobs as well as help make it more vibrant and competitive.
Barakabuye also called for hospitality schools to train more sector professionals.
“The industry does not have enough professionals which has bogged down service delivery and pushed up costs as firms resort to imported labour force,” he said.
Solange Ayanone, the Na Yombi show host and a hospitality industry expert, said there is need for strong partnerships between Rwanda Development Board and sector players to make sure foreign visitors do not lack anything during their stay in the country, including entertainment and leisure needs.
Ayanone said hotels and other sector providers should utilize the power of the internet and display their services and prices, as well as guiding visitors about the available entertainment activities at any given time. “For instance, visitors checking in hotels should be asked whether they will spare time to travel around the city or even up-country and then, together with RDB prepare the programme for activities and visits,” she added.
Ayanone said there is a variety of activities to choose from and many places tourists can visit, including memorial sites in the city, cultural village, night clubs, parks and sightseeing, among others. She urged hospitality service providers be innovative and take initiative to help people see Kigali beyond hotels and the airport. “It’s possible… even if they don’t pay, it brings long-term benefits for hospitality sector,” said Ayanone.
Dr Alphonse Nkurunziza, the Kigali city engineer, said the city authorities are seeking to make Kigali an “inclusive and not boring city that provide everything and anything to make the country’s visitors feel at home”.
Nkurunziza said 60 hectares of land have already been set aside for amusement and recreation parks, including Tapis Rouge in Nyamirambo. The city is looking for investors to develop the facilities.
He said the sub-sector has not attracted enough attention but urged Rwandans to invest in the area, saying there are opportunities in setting up children’s park and recreation facilities in the city. “It’s time Rwandans understood that they can make good income in entertainment, leisure and recreation businesses,” said Nkurunziza.