During the ceremony of awarding certificates of grading and licensing, 67 tourism entities including 50 hotels, 8 tour operators and 9 tour guides were awarded with a tourism operating license, a tool that will now be used by consumers and policy makers to define quality standards of facilities and services.
The tourism operating license regulatory system is anticipated to improve quality of service, build the capacity of the private sector and improve the marketing efforts of stakeholders in the industry in favourably positioning the destination.
Hon. Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer at Rwanda Development Board during the occasion said that, “We are convinced that this new development will warrant a more vibrant industry, enhance stakeholder competitiveness and widespread success. The tourism operating licenses will also enhance transparency, accountability and proper standardization of the industry, maintaining the country’s front row position as a desirable tourism destination.”
Rwanda’s current ranking as the leading tourist destination in Africa as awarded by the World Travel Awards calls for actions such as this in order to maintain this providential position.
All tourism entities in the country, including accommodation establishments, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, tour operators, travel agencies, tour guides, tourism information offices, cultural tourism entities (cultural villages, private museums), and any other entity as determined by Order of the Minister are required to obtain an operating license.
This will also enhance Rwanda’s product positioning in line with the East African Tourism Marketing Platform as both the law and the ministerial orders were developed in accordance with East African Community (EAC) standards and were subject to technical review.
The application process leverages on technology to enhance efficiency and tourism entities are now expected to submit an online license application, upload a series of supporting documents on the tourism regulation website www.tourismregulation.rw and pay an application fee of 80,000 RWF. After the above steps have been achieved the entities are entitled to physical inspection where they must demonstrate that they have fulfilled all license requirements before being awarded a certificate.
Rwanda’s tourism industry has grown rapidly in the past few years, as the number of hotel rooms and tour operators have grown from 680 hotel rooms and 5 tour companies in 2003 to about 10,000 rooms and 44 tour companies currently. Last year the tourism sector fetched a total of $395 million with the MICE initiative solely bringing in about $47 million.
As Rwanda’s tourism industry continues to expand, the number of tourists flocking in also continues to increase. In 2016 Rwanda hosted 32 major conferences hosting about 32,500 delegates. Reports show that since Rwanda began offering visas upon arrival to all African nationals in 2013, the number of tourist arrivals has gone up by 14%, for instance African nationals arrivals in the country increased from 970,152 in 2015 to 1,157,171 in 2016.
Mrs. Belise Kariza, the Chief Tourism Officer at Rwanda Development Board while talking about the significance of this process said that, “Through this law, industry leaders anticipate to support stakeholders by ensuring that they maintain high quality standards, consistently improve quality of service and enhance efforts in training private sector stakeholders.”