Since 2001, Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) and the private sector have worked tirelessly and passionately to transform the tourism industry to what it is today. Seven years later the metamorphosis of Rwanda tourism is complete.
Tourism is the country’s top foreign exchange earner and an integral part of Rwanda’s international brand. However, poor customer service threatens to undermine tourism in Rwanda.
Rwanda must deliver on its promise to be a high value destination. The overall poor customer service has become a running joke throughout the country. Yet, this is no laughing matter. This is something that concerns us all as Rwandans.
The tourism cluster and the entire country must improve its welcome and service to clients. Because evidence leads to better solutions, the ORTPN commissioned an OTF Group survey to ask tourists’ feedback on their experience in Rwanda.
While 90% of tourists confessed they fell in love with Rwanda, the same tourists however felt that Rwanda did not provide value for money spent. These tourists identified poor customer service as a major problem.
These tourists are not alone in their judgment of Rwanda’s customer service performance. In an OTF Group survey conducted in 2007, global travel agents and tour operators ranked Rwanda lowest in East Africa on its customer service.
Visitors and Rwandans alike would agree with country’s wanting performance in customer service. This sentiment is shared by Rwanda tourism professionals. These professionals believe are generally and culturally warm and friendly.
They are however quick to recognise that this friendliness and warmth is not reflected in customer service. Professionals would like to see tourism workers trained to improve customer service in Rwanda. Improving the customer service culture calls for a wide-ranging partnership between both the private and public sector.
ORTPN and the Private Sector Federation Tourism Chamber have embarked on a customer care campaign to create a superior culture of customer service in Rwanda to enhance the tourism experience. The campaign will target tourism industry professionals, businesses in supporting industries, and the general public.
Awareness raising and skills training will be used to create better customer service. The customer care campaign will create a pool of knowledgeable customer service ambassadors throughout country.
As partners in this campaign, the mass media is to inform service providers about the need to offer excellent customer service. A wider initiative by the Government of Rwanda is also planned.
Rwanda tourism private sector players want more than anyone to see customer service improve in their businesses. The PSF tourism chamber has embarked on a rigorous training campaign.
In a partnership between PSF and ORTPN and in association with Cologne Business School, industry professionals are currently completing a guest relations and management training.
PSF conducts ‘Train the Trainers’ programmes in order to build a new generation of trainers and encourage more people to develop their service skills. This initiative is part of a larger trend.
ORTPN will additionally train 200 customer facing staff in March. Rwanda’s Hotels and Restaurant Association recently signed an MOU with the Rwanda Workforce Development Authority (RWDA).
RWDA will provide vocational training to hotel and restaurant staff including customer service. A wider Government of Rwanda initiative is also being developed as part of its commitment to address this issue that affects us all.
Rwanda tourism industry has a solid track record of achieving its goals. The industry has vowed to become the best in customer service in the region but this will not be possible without the efforts of both the private and public sectors and Rwandans overall.
Rwanda has managed to achieve a great deal in the industry over the past eight years, achieving great customer service will be no exception.
Stakeholders recognise that the current efforts are kick start but they are not enough. The public is called upon to be a part of the campaign and get involved in improving business and Rwanda’s service industries.
The end result of the customer care campaign will be a country where every service provider in every sector puts the customer first.
Rwanda’s service experience will combine welcoming smiles with efficient, knowledgeable and proactive service.