The new rising star of Africa, Rwanda in recent years has been the home to major conferences taking place on the continent. By Fumnanya Agbugah - Ezeana



This is largely due to the success of the Rwanda MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) strategy put in place in 2014 by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in order to boost the country’s tourism sector.

Four years after implementing the Mice strategy, the country has made millions of dollars in revenue from hosting several regional and international guests who also visit several tourism destinations across the country. Officials of Rwanda Convention Bureau revealed to The New Times that in 2018, over 35,000 international delegates were in Rwanda and it generated about $52 million. The amount generated in 2018 is more than the $42 million generated in 2017 after hosting 192 conferences. 

Little wonder the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) in May 2018, named Rwanda as the third most popular destination in Africa for accommodating international meetings and events.

In 2018, Rwanda hosted major conferences such as Africa Green Revolution Forum, the 2nd Africa Innovation Summit, the Transform Africa Summit (TAS), the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Good Governance Meeting and the 30th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly which all took place in Kigali.

Kigali Conventional Centre

By hosting these conferences, Rwanda has more than double the revenue that would be generated from having only the leisure tourists visiting the country. This is because people tend to spend three times more on business tourism than leisure tourism. According to International Trade Forum magazine, two-thirds of business travellers extend their business trips for pleasure and  Business tourism is expected to be one of the hottest growth markets for travel industry providers in the years ahead. 

The magazine also revealed that developing and transition economies such as Rwanda interested in expanding revenues from business tourism need to focus on both the individual business traveller and the meetings and conventions market. This means that Rwanda is on track to generate huge revenues.

Beyond the revenue generated by the tourism sector, there is a huge multiplier effect that has helped other sectors in the economy to grow. For Instance, the transportation sector which includes Air transport contributes about seven percent to the GDP of the country. The national carrier, RwandAir is one of the fastest growing airlines. The airline, which began operations in 2009 now goes to about 26 cities in Western, Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Recently, the airline opened new routes to Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, Harare (Zimbabwe) Lilongwe (Malawi), Cotonou (Benin), Khartoum (Sudan), Bamako (Mali), London, Brussels and Mumba. This has helped increase the number of tourists who arrive the country yearly. 

RDB revealed that 13 percent of tourists arrive by air and they contribute about 57 percent of the overall tourism revenue in Rwanda. The hospitality business in the country has also recorded tremendous growth both on infrastructure and high-end service.

The issuance of Visa upon arrival to all citizens of the world without any application is also another major factor that has helped the country in achieving this feat. Prior to January 2018, only African countries were given Visa upon arrival. This is a unique strategy that could also be emulated by other African countries that are not prone to terror attacks.

However, despite recording huge successes with the MICE strategy, it is important to note that the country also needs to work on its customer service which needs a lot of attention.