TOURISM : Rwanda can unlock its business tourism potential

With the ongoing construction of the multi million Dollar, Kigali Hotel & Convention Centre (KH&CC), Rwanda is showing strong signs of intent to participate in high value business tourism which encompasses conferences and trade show exhibitions. Kigali has a favourable environment for conference tourism, due to improved security and far reaching cultural dimensions.

With the ongoing construction of the multi million Dollar, Kigali Hotel & Convention Centre (KH&CC), Rwanda is showing strong signs of intent to participate in high value business tourism which encompasses conferences and trade show exhibitions. Kigali has a favourable environment for conference tourism, due to improved security and far reaching cultural dimensions.

The proposed 2,600 delegate capacity will be the second largest in the region after Kenya’s Kenyatta international Conference Centre (KICC), which hosts 4,000 delegates. Kampala’s Serena International conference Centre has a sitting capacity of 1500 delegates. Of them all, KH&CC will have the most advanced features, with the added attraction of better branding when you factor in its management by a world class hospitality chain. Currently Kigali Serena Hotel has the largest conference rooms in Rwanda. It has a 500 seater auditorium plus an 800 seater Ballroom.

Rwanda has developed a well branded campaign about its Mountain gorillas which is targeted towards big spending tourists; the same campaign can be extended to include the conference tourism circuit.

Rwanda cannot compete against, Game and Beach Destinations like South Africa and Kenya, but it can amplify its strength in the niche market of cultural tourism, environmental tourism and Mountain Gorillas to complement its small game market. Many Business tourists have already seen enough big game and white sandy beaches; they wish to experience something else unique.

At the moment, Rwanda’s transformation has a magnetic pull for anyone interested in cultural tourism.

A tiny country in the middle of Africa that underwent several cycles of torment, culminating into the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda is undergoing a positive rapid change, socially and economically. Rwanda’s change embodies the true human spirit, that there is a bad and good in all mankind and that with inspired, disciplined leadership you can get yourselves past insurmountable odds.

The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), headquartered in Amsterdam is the worldwide umbrella body for international conferences and conventions. It ranks, Cape Town as Africa’ number one convention destination with other main centres being, Nairobi, Cairo, Marrakech, Johannesburg and Durban.

According to 2011 data, South Africa leads with 86 Conferences, followed by Egypt with 35 and Morocco with 25.

You need a co-ordinated approach from all stakeholders (which should not be a problem, with RDB Leadership), to compete for international conference contracts. It’s a competitive bidding process.

Kigali’s major handicap is low bed capacity. With limited quality hotel rooms, the hotel business model is supply and demand driven but it’s actually a chicken and egg scenario, without a clear definition of what comes first.
Conference promoters will demand guarantees regarding room bookings before anything else is agreed.

KH & CC investors have gone into a huge capital intensive project whose long-term revenue is uncertain and not cast in stone. It is rare for private investors in that business segment especially in developing countries.  Putting up World Class convention facilities is a very complex affair. It requires very long-term debt but can only achieve short-term guaranteed revenues.

KH & CC is a world class facility that has been lacking in Central Africa; it will be a major landmark in Kigali that is being remodelled into a modern business centre.

The author is a business development consultant

samkasule@yahoo.com

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