Hoteliers call on Parliament to expedite Tourism Bill

Hotel operators have called on Parliament to expedite the approval of the Tourism Bill, arguing that the current law was outdated and ineffectual.
Umubano Hotel in Kigali. Hotel operators want new law to boost the sector.  The New Times/ File
Umubano Hotel in Kigali. Hotel operators want new law to boost the sector. The New Times/ File

Hotel operators have called on Parliament to expedite the approval of the Tourism Bill, arguing that the current law was outdated and ineffectual.

This is one of the amendments the sector wants as it prepares to attain standards required by the East African Community (EAC).

They said the current law cannot, for example, be used efficiently in matters like inspections and permit issuance in the modern era hotel sector.

“This law was passed in 1981 and has not been reviewed since then. Before hotels and restaurants can adjust to the EAC guidelines, they must first adhere to national requirements,” said Dennis Karera, the chairman of the Rwanda Hotels, Restaurants and Bars Association.

“If it is passed, the new tourism law will help develop the sector. I am optimistic that it will be passed in the first half of this year.”

According to Article 115 of the EAC Tourism Treaty, “partner states shall establish a common code of conduct for private and public tour and travel operators, standardise hotel classifications and harmonise the professional standards of agents in the tourism and travel industry in the region.

Hoteliers were also concerned about the many unco-ordinated inspections carried out by different government agencies, arguing that they were derailing the sector’s compliance to the regional standards.

“The old law empowers sector officials to carry out inspections, but the problem is that this is done haphazardly. I am hopeful that the new law will co-ordinate these activities through one body,” Joseph Dereva, the manager of Nobleza Hotel, said last week during a meeting between hoteliers and officials from the health and trade ministries.

The drive to integrate with the regional standards has, however, been affected by the indifference of some large hospitality companies that ignore association’s efforts towards this call.

Karera also noted that many hotels were not registered with the association, which affects its influence.

This was evident from the attendence at the meeting. Only a handful attended the meeting to review the EAC hospitality sector guidelines.

“About 60 per cent of the 250 hotels and restaurants have adopted the regional standards. However, many continue to shun the activities of the association. This should change for the association to have a big voice, especially on issues affecting the sector,” Karera said.

The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) ranked Serena Kigali Hotel and Dubai World Nyungwe Forest Lodge in 2011 as the only five star hospitality establishments in the country. RDB expects to rate 30 hotels this year in the biannual event.

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