Poor customer care hurts tourism sector

Poor customer care is threatening to hurt the future of Rwanda’s lucrative tourism sector, according to industry experts.Edwin Sabuhoro, Chairman of the Tourism Chamber said that customer care and lack of a defined product package have been hampering the country’s fast growing sector.
The canopy walk  is one of the latest tourism products introduced in the fast growing tourism sector. The New Times / File.
The canopy walk is one of the latest tourism products introduced in the fast growing tourism sector. The New Times / File.

Edwin Sabuhoro, Chairman of the Tourism Chamber said that customer care and lack of a defined product package have been hampering the country’s fast growing sector.

The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness index- TTCI Report 2011- ranked Rwanda first in the East African region beating its counterparts in governmental policies towards biodiversity, conservation and a deliberate effort to fund tourism marketing.

The country forked out US$56.6m in the first quarter of 2011, representing a 32 per cent increment from US$43m in the same period in 2010 with a projection of US$216m tourism receipts this year from US$200m in 2010.

The TTCI is a measurement of the factors that make it attractive to develop business in the travel and tourism industry of individual countries, rather than a measure of a country’s attractiveness as a tourist destination.

Sabuhoro however noted that the country was ranked fifth in the region in customer care in the tourism industry. He believes this needs to be solved to raise rankings and surplus receipts.

“All  this has been happening because we didn’t have a strategic plan and vision for the business, what we are doing is to design a strategic plan in the next ten days,” he said during the elections of the Rwanda Tours and travel Association-RTTA new board in Kigali, Tuesday.

Manzi Kayihura, the Director of 1000 hills expeditions however notes that “Customer care is not basically tourism; it is a small component of the entire sector”.

He said that to achieve higher rankings, there is need to improve the quality of tourism through concentration in higher yields rather than high volumes implying that few tourists would spend much money.

RTTA saw Kayihura bounce back as their chairman, with Jeannette Rwigema Gisa as vice chairperson in charge of tour operators. Aparna Slivastava was nominated as vice chair in charge of travel agencies.

The chairman believes that with the strategic plan that will include capacity building of the business owners’ in the sector, product development and marketing would be enhanced to coutner the current challenges crippling the sector.

Under this plan, Sebuhoro says that Rwanda’s tourism will be repackaged and rebranded to make it easier to market, noting that the current branding does not clearly specify the products the country could be renowned for.

This will supplement the country’s 10 year Sustainable Tourism Development Master Plan which points out product gaps, lack of facilities and services, insufficient marketing, skills deficiencies, and inadequate management of the sector as current hurdles and proposing solutions to them.

“The government has developed and invests much in infrastructure development and now it is the responsibility of the businesses to play their role in the sector development”, he added.

He further highlighted that the chamber plans to map the tourism sites and pursue more tourism attractions such as rock climbing, birding and cultural sites to encourage domestic tourism.

“We must work towards increasing the trickle down effect on tourism which can also increase the entrepreneurship spirit among the general public”, he said, adding that tourism should be able to create jobs for Rwandans and generate enough revenues to the government.

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