On Thursday, December, 23rd 2010, Rwanda Tourism University College and SNV Rwanda, in collaboration with Rwanda Tours and Travel Association (RTTA), Rwanda Hotel and Restaurants Association Rwanda (RHRA) and Rwanda Development Board (RDB) had a review meeting of the trainings that we had had in the last two months and the industry situation in particular. It brought together key players in the hospitality industry.
We had three objectives; First, to assess where the industry is as of now (review the year and the training) Two; to define where we want take the industry (way forward) and how we would move to where we want to be.
Three; responsibility each industry player would undertake. We had scheduled the whole review workshop to last for a couple of hours but it took almost double the time, because there was so much to be discussed. It was quiet fruitful. It really got me thinking.
Customer service came up again. It hit me that I am yet to meet someone complaining about Rwandan hospitality at home, yet the opposite is the case at work. Why? Perhaps because we have in our culture norms that guide how we treat our guests that dictate what we should do to make our guests feel honored.
We also identify with our guests and they are part of us. This is Ubupfura and this is who we are. But when we go to our places of work, suddenly, we stop being who we are; we take up a new persona and act all different in the name of professionalism. We discard who we are and treat people all different.
Whereas we need to be professional, we also need to be ourselves. In fact this is the most professional way to work. We should use what we have to get what we want. We need to train our minds to think critically about all that we do, both at home and in business.
We also saw the need for the stakeholders to work together in a concerted manner. Everyone has a contribution to make and there is interdependence between the industry players that needs to be harnessed and developed.
For example, RDB has set standard criteria to improve services in the industry. RTUC has the capacity to train members of the industry on these standards.
The hoteliers can best work under an umbrella body such as RHRA and the tours and travel people under RTTA; this would make it easier for an SNV to fund such a capacity building venture for greater good.
In short, the left hand needs not only to know what the right hand is doing but also work with it. This is what we have begun.
Lastly we need to get the quick-fix mentality out of business thinking. We need to plan long-term in the industry. This is crucial in embedding success.
It is a decided lack of foresight that would make one run down a profitable business venture through sheer greed. A new owner who wants immediate return on their investment is likely to achieve the very opposite if what they seek.
The ‘inside-out’ approach where their needs is the sole determinant to all aspects of the business but more critically pricing and service is mostly responsible for the outrageous rates for mediocre services that we see in our city compared to neighboring cities.
Some hotel owners don’t even want to train their staff. Really, this tete au ciel thinking must cease.
We owe it to ourselves to stop being such automatic copycats next year. Let us be Impfura and use this Ubupfura and creative thinking to improve our lot and make 2011 a prosperous year.
Have a happy and properious New Year.
Sam Kebongo is a skills and business advisory services consultant. He teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College.