Rwandan president Paul Kagame has officially opened the 41st Annual World Tourism Conference in Kigali.
Curated by the Corporate Council on Africa, Africa Travel Association, and Rwanda Development Board, the event is designed to set the tone for how tourism can be utilised as an engine for economic growth in Africa.
Also on the agenda are the pressing topics of job creation through innovative business models, new technologies and strategic partnerships.
The conference will also provide a platform to network and explore new tourism markets and products including the promotion and preservation of Africa’s rich cultural heritage and wildlife.
Opening the event, Kagame said: “Like other countries in Africa, Rwanda is keen to convert our favourable demographics into economic growth and prosperity.
“The services sector, in particular tourism, provides some of best opportunities for citizens and attractive careers for young people.
“This sector is Rwanda’s biggest foreign exchange earner, but we can and should do better.”
Rwanda has placed MICE tourism at the centre of its offering in recent years.
The capital has recently welcomed the unveiling of a new US$ 300 million Kigali Convention Centre.
Positioned on a hilltop in the heart of Kigali, near the Rwandan parliament, the development is set to be one of the most recognised modern structures in Africa.
Encompassing a translucent dome, a multi-functional hall with a maximum capacity of 2,600, the KCC will help position Rwanda as the leading MICE destination in east Africa.
Addressing delegates, president Kagame added that harnessing the full potential of tourism industry will require continued focus and investment on several fronts.
“We will soon have a more modern, efficient base, when the new Bugesera International Airport is completed.
“At the same time, our national carrier RwandAir continues to expand to destinations within Africa and beyond.”
The carrier recently launched flights to London, while RwandAir opened its route to Cotonou, Benin, last month.
There are also plans to start flying new routes to three West African cities - Libreville (Gabon), Brazzaville (Republic of Congo), and Abidjan (Ivory Coast) - at the end of this month.
Kagame also argued: “We want to strengthen collaboration within our region and across the continent.
“The single tourist visa and passport-free travel with Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda is already a reality.”
Rwanda is a member of the 125 million persons strong East African Community.
The residents of Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi include a blend of both nationals as well as a vibrant expatriate resident population.
Many of these neighbours are curious and in search of short getaways they can access with ease for weekends and holidays.
Rwanda is becoming an ideal option with its high level of safety, excellent travel infrastructure, friendly local hosts and a variety of attractions to keep visitors entertained for days.
Industry leaders from around the world were in attendance
The World Tourism Conference comes at a busy time for Kigali and Rwandan tourism more generally.
Next month the capital will welcome the Africa Hotel Investment Forum – bringing international hospitality leaders to the city.
The event is attended by the highest calibre international hotel investors of any conference in Africa.
It is the leading hotel investment conference that connects business leaders from the international and local markets, driving investment into tourism projects, infrastructure and hotel development across the continent.
The event takes place from October 10th-12th at the Radisson Blu and Kigali Convention Centre.
At the same time, Avia Dev will welcome the aviation industry to Rwanda.
The event is a unique in bringing together airports, airlines, governments, industry suppliers and tourism authorities to determine the future air connectivity and infrastructure development of Africa.
Combined, the events provide an opportunity for the aviation and hotel development communities to share intelligence on their future plans, catalysing tourism development on the continent.
World Travel Awards will welcome hundreds of hospitality leaders to Rwanda
World Travel Awards
Also in Kigali in October, the World Travel Awards will host its annual Africa Gala Ceremony.
Taking place at Radisson Blu on October 10th, the event will welcome over 300 industry leaders to the destination for a glittering ceremony.
World Travel Awards Gala Ceremonies are widely regarded as the best networking opportunities in the travel industry, attended by government and industry leaders, luminaries and international print and broadcast media.
The organisation was established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the tourism industry.
Today, the World Travel Awards brand is recognised globally as the ultimate hallmark of quality, with winners setting the benchmark to which all others aspire.