NewsEast & Horn AfricaRwanda: New hotels and infrastructure raise Kigali's game


Posted on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 16:29

Rwanda: New hotels and infrastructure raise Kigali's game

The Kigali Marriott will be the first in sub-Saharan Africa. Photo©All Rights ReservedGlobal chains, direct flights and a state-of-the-art conference centre will bring yet more visitors to a capital in demand.

Rwanda's drive to become a conference hub is gaining speed with the anticipated entry of two global hotel brands in 2014.

Rezidor, owners of the Radisson brand, and Marriott are expected to open hotels by the end of this year, improving the country's competitiveness.

Kigali can be made a preferred destination by making accommodation affordable and available

The Kigali government had projected revenue from conference tourism to reach $40m by 2012, but the shortage of high-end accommodation denied the capital the competitive edge enjoyed by Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam.

Serena Hotel is currently the only five-star facility in Rwanda.

The completion of the $300m Kigali Convention Centre (KCC) – a facility that will house the five-star Radisson Blu with 292 rooms, an information technology office park and a conference hall that can seat 2,600 people – will improve Kigali's performance in the service sector and also attract tourists and boost revenue.

Though the KCC might not open until 2015, the Radisson Blu is scheduled to open for business by mid-2014.

Building on experience

"Rwanda has attracted many international events and conferences, and now we are strategically positioned as a destination for conferences, which need the right logistic and accommodation in order to be relevant in the global arena of events and conferences," says Hubert Ruzibiza, the head of services development at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

While the service sector currently accounts for 47% of gross domestic product, the government plans for this to rise to 55% in 2020 to make it the leading job creator in the economy.

"Such an entry [of five-star hotels] in our market represents a huge opportunity for job creation, with more than 70% of jobs created in Kigali for the past 10 years in the services sector," Ruzibiza explains.

Total revenue from tourism climbed to $281m in 2012, up from $251.3m in 2011, according to statistics from the RDB, making it the country's top foreign-exchange earner.

In 2013, the sector generated $217m between January and October, which represents a 4% increase over the same period in 2012. The government is targeting annual revenue of $860m by 2017.

Training centre

The limited availability of skills also poses challenges for the service sector.

As a result, the Kigali Marriott, which will have 237 rooms, has also set up a training centre for its staff.

It is hosting some 30 employees attached to its brands in the Middle East. The hotel had been slated to host the 49th annual meeting of the African Development Bank group and the 40th meeting of the African Development Fund in Kigali in May, but the opening has now been delayed until December 2014.

Demand for hotel space has surged in recent years with an increasing number of tourists, expatriates and businesses seeking regional expansion.

The number of hotel rooms available, currently estimated at 6,500 rooms, is insufficient to meet rising demand.

"Improved availability of accommodation and connectivity means that Rwanda can attract more conferences it is not attracting at the moment. Kigali can be made a preferred destination by making accommodation affordable and available," argues Solomon Adede, deputy CEO of New Century Development, which owns the Kigali Marriott.

Rwanda is also counting on the aggressive expansion of its national carrier RwandAir to boost its ability to host conferences.

The airline is purchasing more aircraft and launching new routes and more direct flights to the country.

This is in addition to the launch of more directs flights to Kigali by airlines including Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airlines in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

Brussels Airlines had been the only international airline operating direct flights from Europe to Kigali before KLM started its flights in 2010. ●


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