Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has projected that the tourism sector will fetch about $444 million (about Rwf370 billion) in 2017, up from $404 million last year.
The increase in revenue banks on continued tourism promotion efforts as well as the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events and Exhibitions (MICE) strategy.
Clare Akamanzi, the chief executive of RDB, told The New Times earlier this week that from the total projections, MICE is expected to contribute $64 million, up from the $47 million it generated in 2016.
The sub-sector’s expectations are also backed favourable ranking by a the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) report of 2016, which put Rwanda in third in Africa in terms of capacity to host international meetings.
South Africa and Morocco bettered Rwanda in the ranking.
Sector experts say the ranking is a huge endorsement for Rwanda as a leading MICE destination in the region.
Local tourism stakeholders say the targets by RDB are feasible and could easily be surpassed.
Bart Gasana, the chairperson of tourism chamber of Private Sector Federation, said the sector was in line to achieve the projections largely facilitated by the new gorilla trekking fees, RwandAir expansion and the MICE initiative.
He noted that the new gorilla trekking permit fees would fetch higher revenues while RwandAir’s expansion would make the country more accessible to tourists.
“The country is also making a name as a hub for meetings and conferences, which is expected to bring in more revenue into the sector,” he said.
Thomas Stene, general manager of Park Inn by Radisson Kigali, said with a lot being done to connect Rwanda to the rest of the world, there is need to take part in more global exhibitions to showcase the country’s attractiveness as a tourist destination.
As a multinational operating in the country, Stene said, his brand has made efforts to train and are constantly working to improve the skills in the sector.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has advised that the full potential of the sector can be realised from improving on quality of services at tourism establishments.
Laure Redifer, the IMF team leader for review of Rwanda’s Policy Support Instrument, told The New Times that there continues to be some constraints in delivering high quality of services across the sector.
“There is a lot of potential, Rwanda is a beautiful country and a lot has been done to promote business tourism and people would want to come back. There are a lot of nice places to stay and great restaurants. What we see is that there might be some constraint in the quality of service,” she said.
“There is need to raise the level of service. Rwanda is not inexpensive, the gorilla tourism cost just went up and if you are willing to spend that amount of money, you would expect high services.”
These, she said, will give Rwanda comparative advantage over other countries.
Rwanda now has the big five game animals after the introduction of lions last year and Rhinos earlier this month.
This is expected to increase the number of visitors into the country. Efforts by the national carrier, RwandAir, to increase its fleet and serve more destinations are further expected to facilitate the development of tourism.