“The tourism sector in Rwanda has continued to record impressive growth over the last 5 Years. Rwanda achieved growth of 12%, far above the global average of 3% to 5%. In 2014, the contribution from tourism receipts was 10% and Rwanda wants to grow this to 24% by 2018. In order to accelerate this growth, a new strategy for the sector focusing on the area of meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) has been developed and is being implemented”
According to the Rwanda Development Board, MICE has been identified as a long term strategy to boost Rwanda’s economy. In 2015, MICE generated an estimated $39 million to Rwanda’s economy after the East African country hosted 27 major conferences and events as well as 12 association meetings.
Some of the international meetings which were held in Rwanda last year included the 84th Interpol General Assembly with 1,000 delegates, the Transform Africa Summit with 1 500 delegates and the seventh East African Petroleum conference that attracted 700 delegates.
The Rwanda Development Board indicates that this year, the country has hosted the African Nations Championship that welcomed 15 000 visitors and the World Economic Forum on Africa, which brought 2 500 delegates. In 2014, the Rwandan government established the Rwanda Convention Bureau to fast track the development of the MICE sub-sector.
The Bureau serves the interests of Rwanda’s MICE sub-sector stakeholders by offering free impartial advice, guidance and support to international event planners and buyers, incentive, association and convention organisers through every stage of planning.
While leisure tourism remains a vital part of the national tourism strategy, business tourists have been shown to spend up to three times more than leisure visitors. Rwanda’s share in the international meetings, incentives, conferences and events industry is presently minimal. International Conference and Congress Association’s (ICCA) latest research ranks Rwanda as 21st in Africa. The Rwanda Convention Bureau is a destination marketing arm whose sales and marketing plan is destined to see Rwanda enter Africa’s top 10 by the end of year 2016. With this growth in MICE tourism , tour operators, hotels, restaurants, Professional Conference Organisers (PCO’s) and event managers, – who form part of the nationwide tourism value chain, will be required to create enhance their product offering to service delegate demands.
Rwanda Development Board, Chief Tourism Officer, Belise Kariza says Rwanda’s connectivity and security make the country an attractive place for international conference organisers.
She said: “The open visa policy has made it easier for delegates from around the world to fly to our country for MICE activities.” Kariza adds that Rwandan capital city, Kigali, is clean and business friendly, making it a suitable environment for conferences and meetings.
Tremendous efforts have been exerted on availing infrastructure and investment in new international meeting, conferencing and accommodation products, the iconic Kigali Convention Centre and the development of transport links through Kigali International Airport. In addition, Bugesera International Airport, a new world-class airport is planned, which will provide extra capacity for passenger transport and cargo freight.
In addition, Rwanda offers soft infrastructure such as biodiversity, city management, peace building and reconciliation as well as gender and health making it a role model for the respective themes.
The National MICE strategy is in line with diversifying the current tourism product offering while complimenting existing gorilla tourism, eco-tourism, cultural and community based tourism that are the mainstays of Rwanda’s economy.
In recent years, Rwanda has attracted reputable international hotel brands, which include Radisson Blu and Marriott Hotels.
This article was written by KRISTIE OMAR.