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Rwanda: Experts’ Take on Conference Tourism Recovery

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Experts in the tourism and hospitality sectors say that resumption to normalcy for the sector is likely to have a different outlook and performance drivers with a new set of factors driving performance.

Following the interruption of Rwanda’s ambitions to be a conference hub due to the pandemic and measures introduced to contain the spread of the virus, experts in the domain say that even if conferences would go back to taking place in person, they would still not be as many as they used to be before.

In the course of the past ten years, Rwanda had managed to become a potential successful Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) destination.

Rwanda had attained the capacity to host international conferences, exhibitions, trade fairs, and conventions regularly making it a potential conference hub in the region.

The latest figures from the tourism department in the Rwanda Development Board and Horwath HTL (Hotel, Tourism, and Leisure) indicate that Rwanda’s facilities meet a majority of global conference requirements.

Dr. Carmen Nibigira, a Tourism Policy analyst, also noted that Rwanda has rolled out multiple measures in response to the pandemic to allow resumption of normalcy in the sector.

“Rwanda is doing a good job, positioning itself to be safe for the pandemic and a welcoming destination for conferences and tourism activities,” she said.

“However, the adaptations made in the pandemic by different people and countries, like online meetings are quickly becoming a more flexible and convenient way, with the technological advancements, it would be naive to assume that things will go back to how they were before all those new facilities were in place” she added.

Others say that remedial strategies could include realignment of marketing and communication strategy as well as capitalising on domestic meetings and events. This will see stakeholders attempt to incentivize the local market to make the most of local tourism facilities.

This requires sector players to adopt virtual and hybrid events and are also strengthening home grown events.

Sector players say that that business had halted as a result of the measures put in place to curb the spread of the pandemic.

“I thought establishing an apartment for tourists to rent would be a promising venture for me to profit from as well as contributing to the infrastructure development of the country. I built my apartment on loan but now I’m afraid I might be auctioned soon,” said Nizeyimana (not his real name) middle-aged entrepreneur.