Traders ready to cash in on African Union summit

KIGALI (HAN) July 9.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News. By Ivan R Mugisha & Kayitesi Fatima. The Rwandan private sector is positioning itself for business opportunities presented by the African Union Summit scheduled for this month, as the country continues to reap the fruits of conference tourism.

Kigali will host over 50 heads of state during the 27th ordinary session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State from July 10-18 under the theme: “ 2016: African Year of Human Rights, with particular focus on the Rights of Women.”

It is also expected to attract over 3,000 delegates, and it is these that hoteliers, tour companies and transporters are very keen to attract.

For example, tour operators have developed attractive packages designed to woo delegates into enjoying tour expeditions to some sites during their stay in Rwanda.

“We have worked with the organisers of the AU meeting, RDB as well as PSF to develop some of these packages. Different tour companies have exhibition tents at the airport and are hoping to get people buying the packages or establishing business contacts for future tourist interests,” Gertrude Majyambere, executive director of Rwanda Tours And Travel Association said.

“The packages include a one day tour of Kigali city, a one day drive around Akagera, visiting the cultural site in Bugesera, canopy walks and gorilla trekking. We ruled out long packages because the delegates will not have the time for that, but we are flexible to work with their tight schedules,” she added.

Ms Majyambere, however, bemoaned the lack of strategic marketing, which is now a loop that could prevent tour operators from fully exploiting the summit, like they did during the World Economic Forum summit in May.

“As much as we are using our own marketing channels, such as our website and social media platforms, we would like to have information about our products and services on the event (AU Summit) website where delegates can see what we have to offer,” she said.

“We could not market ourselves on any of those platforms because the event websites are only open to delegates. This is still a challenge but we are working with our own local marketing channels and hoping for good returns.”

Similarly, hoteliers won’t let this opportunity escape, after having become some of the biggest beneficiaries of Rwanda’s initiative in meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) in the last decade.

Bart Gasana, chairman of Tourism Chamber under Private Sector Federation, told this paper that many hotels have had to upgrade their facilities to international standards in order for them not to miss out on this cake.

With over 3,000 guests expected, Mr Gasana is confident that Rwanda has enough quality rooms and services to support all the clients for the eight days they will be in Rwanda.

“I don’t have the exact statistics of bookings into various hotels but there are a number of hotels that have not been booked yet, meaning we have not reached full capacity as of now,” said Mr Gasana.

“Total room capacity countrywide is 9,000. In Kigali alone, we have between 4000-5000 room capacities, giving us a comfortable margin to host the AU delegates. Internet is also good in most hotels and can serve all the guests.”

Despite this, he notes that challenges in power fluctuation and water shortages could prove problematic due to dry spells that the country is experiencing, and most hotels have installed stand-by generators and water storage facilities to curb the problem.




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