The MICE sector is proving an all-round profitable avenue for the various stakeholders and, not least, for a young cadre of Rwandan entrepreneurs keen to capitalise on the burgeoning tourism segment of the national economy.
What will not be lost is that, with many of the entrepreneurs at the centre of developing and organising the diverse Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) in the country, it is a clear indication of how savvy they are in a highly competitive market continent-wide.
While MICE constitute only a sector in the tourism industry, the trajectory is bright. Nationally, thanks to a good marketing strategy and a demonstrated ability to deliver new infrastructure, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) places Rwanda at the top on the “Travel & Tourism” countries to watch in the EAC in the next 10 years.
The WTTC report, Travel and Tourism Global Economic Impact and Issues 2017, projects 7.4 per cent growth for the country in the coming decade. Uganda is second in the region with a projected growth of 7 per cent by 2027, followed by Tanzania at 6.8, and Kenya at 6 per cent.
As for MICE, the 2017 International Congress and Convention Association’s statistics report placed Rwanda third overall in Africa in a tie with Egypt and Kenya. South Africa and Morocco took first and second positions, respectively.
The two reports coincide in their global projections, with the WTTC report noting that despite the increasing and unpredictable shocks from terrorist attacks, political instability, health pandemics, and natural disasters, Travel & Tourism continued to show resilience in 2016.
For the sixth successive year, the report says, growth in the sector outpaced that of the global economy with the outlook for business and leisure travel in 2017 having remained robust. Over the longer term, growth of the Travel & Tourism sector will continue to be strong, as long as governments invest in the necessary infrastructure.
This means that the numbers only tell part of the story. Investing in infrastructure and the service industry is another part. However, to maintain the competitive edge means that the young Rwandan MICE organisers have to keep abreast of the regional and global trends. Therefore, they need all the support they can get.
A couple of weeks ago, a section the organisers aired their concerns in the media claiming that the Rwanda Convention Bureau was giving them undue competition not expected of a regulator, threatening to crowd them out of the market.
While it should be hoped their entrepreneurial fears have been calmed by now, their concerns cannot be taken lightly. Neither can it be gainsaid that organising roles should not be expected to overlap, as not all MICE events are entirely private affairs. It is the norm the world over that even regulators are occasionally called to event organisation for their governments.
But the young event entrepreneurs should not be too ambitious to a point of risking to ruin a good thing, such as the quality concerns recently reported in the media, especially relating to entertainment. It is understandable it may attract a growing pool of entrepreneurs where there is a profit to be gained.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that it does not take much to tarnish the brand the country is trying to build with a reputable name in MICE. Even localised discontent may carry far, especially in the social media, making, to use the cliché, a mountain out of a mole hill, thereby risking to dull competitive edge for those looking in from the outside.
The more philosophical view, however, is that nothing is ever without a blemish so you have to always strive to make it better. 2017 was designated as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the UN in January.
With an eye at the youth, data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows the significance of tourism as a vehicle for job-creation and generating revenues for host communities. The sector accounts for 7 per cent of worldwide exports, one in eleven jobs and 10 per cent of the world’s GDP.
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.