Rwanda Follows a Strong MICE Year with a Positive 2020 Message

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Rwanda Follows a Strong MICE Year with a Positive 2020 Message

By Blair Potter | May 8, 2020

As it became more and more obvious that events and travel would come to a standstill due to the coronavirus, destination marketers were faced with quite a challenge: staying connected (virtually) to visitors without seeming to be overly promotional during a time when so many around the world were suffering.

Some destinations were able to strike a near-perfect tone with a positive, yet realistic and safe message, such as Visit Rwanda: “The world will open for business once more, and when it does, we’ll be waiting with open arms. We can’t wait for you to visit Rwanda soon. Stay home. Stay safe. Travel tomorrow.”

Those are the narrator’s closing thoughts from a video Visit Rwanda posted to its YouTube channel on April 6. The video has some rather striking, complementary imagery as the narrator states, in part: “We stand for unity, for being together. That’s why we know this difficult time will pass. And when it does, we’ll greet our friends and family with the biggest smiles and the tightest hugs. We’ll travel the world again, exploring new destinations, feeling that rush of adrenaline. We’ll discuss matters of the world and exchange ideas. We’ll dress up, go out and taste new delights.”

Belise Kariza, chief tourism officer for Visit Rwanda, says the country took decisive actions to limit the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health of residents.

“The #VisitRwandaSoon campaign is to keep audiences engaged with tourism and MICE in Rwanda across social media and web platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis,” she says. “The initiative encourages tourists to ‘Stay Home and Travel Tomorrow,’ highlighting the importance of following prevention measures and keeping Rwanda top of mind.”

Kariza says that while tourism and MICE activities are currently suspended, it is important to engage with the public and let them know what Rwanda is doing during the crisis, and also to promote Rwanda as a future tourism and MICE destination.

“The video combines Rwanda’s tourism offerings—beautiful landscape and wildlife images—as well as MICE offerings, all under a global message,” she says. “This is to emphasize that when the crisis is over all this will be here for visitors to experience.”

“We stand for unity, for being together. That’s why we know this difficult time will pass.”

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Rwanda’s meetings capabilities before watching the #VisitRwandaSoon video, and I was surprised to later learn that the Kigali Convention Centre offers 18 spaces and can accommodate more than 5,600 delegates. The Intare Conference Arena debuted in 2018 with capacity for 2,316 guests in the main auditorium, and the Kigali Arena debuted a year later with seating for 10,000.

“Kigali has now been ranked second in Africa by the International Congress and Convention Association (2018 report) to host association meetings,” Kariza says. “Rwanda has prioritized MICE tourism as one of the drivers of its economic growth. To become a MICE hub, Rwanda has made key strategic decisions such as establishing and developing a convention bureau to organize and represent the Rwandan MICE sector.”

Kariza notes that Kigali, the capital city, features 10,000 guest rooms, including many internationally recognized brands such as Marriott, Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson. And there are plans to double the country’s room capacity by 2025.

The national airline, Rwandair, flies to 29 international locations—including Brussels, London and Mumbai—and the country is ranked as the safest in Africa and fifth-safest in the world in Gallup’s 2018 Global Law and Order report.

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Rwanda is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a strong player in the incentives market, Kariza says.

“Rwanda’s tourism landscape features impressive lakeside resorts, a range of five-star international hotels and lodges—such as One and Only, Bisate and Singita—a blooming shopping and art scene and a lively nightlife,” she says.

Kariza says 2019 was a year of growth for the MICE sector.

“We managed to successfully host more than 40 international exhibitions, conferences and events,” she says. “To name a few of the events that contributed to last year’s triumph for this small, landlocked destination, Rwanda hosted the International Conference on Aids and STI’s in Africa, which bought in 7,000 delegates; the Transform Africa Summit, which bought in nearly 3,000 delegates; and the 17th African Fine Coffee Conference and Exhibition, which bought in more than 1,4000 delegates.



Blair Potter
Blair Potter

Blair Potter is managing editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).