Africa: Tourism Outlook Positive As Global Forum Opens in Rwanda

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Photo: Timothy Kisambira/The New Times

Pascal Nzaramba, deputy director-general of Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (C), speaks as Francine Havugimana Uwera, second vice chairperson Private Sector Federation (L), and Innocent Bajiji, acting head of investment promotion and facilitation at Rwanda Development Board, look on at the opening of the Africa Hotel Investment Forum at Kigali Convention Centre.

If the government and private sector commitment to tourism promotion continues its positive streak, Rwanda will by the end of this year, have up to 10,000 hotel rooms, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) chief tourism officer Belise Kariza said yesterday.

Kariza was speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of a three-day Africa Hotel Investment Forum at Kigali Convention Centre, where she said the hotel sector has been growing steadily over the years and, with continued support, there were more fruits to reap from the industry.

“In 2003, we had only 680 rooms in the country but by the end of this year, we should have up to 10,000. In 1993, we only had 1,052 tourists due to low level of tourist promotion and marketing, while in 2015, Rwanda hosted up to 1.2 million visitors. There has been exponential growth over the last couple of years,” she said.

Kariza partly attributed the growth in tourism to Meetings Incentives Conferencing Exhibition (MICE) strategy, which she said has played a significant role in attracting many visitors into the country.

“The Government has been investing significant resources in tourism and its supporting sectors, including the expansion of the national carrier RwandAir and that goes on to emphasise regional integration that has been and continues to be a strong pillar for exposure and growth of the tourism industry,” she said.

The number of visitors have increased since 2013 with the country hosting 19,085 conference visitors in 2014 compared to 15,441 in 2013, an increase of 24 per cent. In 2015, conference visitors amounted to 25,932, an increase of 36 per cent compared to 2014.

Tourism grows

Since 2007, the tourism sector has been a leading foreign exchange earner for the country; generating $342 million in 2014 and employing up to 892,000 people the same year.

Responding to questions about hotel fares, the Vice Chairperson of the Chamber of Tourism at Private Sector Federation, Francine Havugimana, said the conference was an opportunity and one of the solutions towards fixing the issue since most local investors rely on bank loans.

“We are happy that we have such a big number of investors who are interested in investing in Rwanda. Obviously, the more hotel investors we get, the better fares will be because most of us are relying on loans whose interest rates are still high,” she said.

The three-day Africa Hotel Investment Forum brings together top international hotel investors in Africa and local operators, government officials and industry captains to discuss all aspects of hotel investment and operations on the continent. The conference is being held under the theme, “Connecting Tomorrow.”

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