For those traveling from the bustling City of Kigali, a three-hour journey leads to Karongi town. Upon arrival, you’re greeted with a medley of attractions, including the Congo-Nile Divide, the outskirts of Lake Kivu, the Gas Methane Plant, Rwabugiri Farms, Nyungwe Park, Gisovu Tea Plantations, Muciro Green Forest, Ndaba Rock, and the Tree of Goddess of Women.
Karongi is a bustling town adorned with contemporary hotels that grace its streets. Residents are engaged in a wide array of occupations, which encompass commercial fishing. The local schools are brimming with students from all walks of life, and the weekends see an influx of tourists in substantial numbers.
On the outskirts of Karongi, you’ll find a unique accommodation option – the Mantis Kivu Queen Uburanga boat hotel built. This establishment offers a novel experience where you can sleep in Karongi and then easily move on to Rusizi or Rubavu.
Over the past 15 years, Karongi has seen significant development, with numerous infrastructure improvements such as roads, schools, and hotels. Local leaders proudly mention the construction of 14 luxurious hotels, most of which have sprung up in the last decade and a half. It’s not just the hotels; they come with complementary infrastructure like roads, electricity, water supply, clinics, and schools.
The development isn’t limited to infrastructure alone; it encompasses the hospitality sector as well. Karongi hosts a range of hospitality establishments, including Cleo Lake Kivu Hotel, Moriah Hill Resort, Kivu Lodge Hotel, Bethany Hotel, Golf Eden Rock Hotel, Delta Resort Hotel, Rwiza Village Resort, Home Saint Jean, and more. Almost all of these facilities are strategically located near the picturesque Lake Kivu and its captivating islands.
Among these establishments is the remarkable Château Le Marara, which has brought a touch of European elegance to Karongi, reshaping the city’s landscape. With tourism as a driving force, the livelihoods of most residents revolve around hospitality and hotel services.
The Delta Resort Hotel, a three-star facility situated on the edge of Lake Kivu, offers accommodation services for those seeking relaxation or a one-night stay, along with various other amenities.
Rukundo Gad, the hotel’s manager, emphasizes the profound impact of these hotels on the local community, saying, "By fostering a symbiotic relationship with the local community, our hotels prioritize hiring from the immediate vicinity. When I consider this region, it becomes evident that our core mission revolves around hosting people, and our hotels thrive on the vibrant pulse of the populous area they call home."
The vision is to transform Karongi into a sought-after tourist destination, a prospect that excites the locals as it promises development and improved livelihoods.
Jean Marie Ntabanganyimana conveys the sentiment that, "It fosters our communal growth, ensuring a sustained availability of employment opportunities. The presence of modern hotel developments holds significant value for our local community."
Placidie Munyeshaka echoes the sentiment, highlighting the new opportunities for women, who previously felt left behind, but now have the chance to learn new skills and find employment in the burgeoning hospitality sector.
Dominique Ingabire, the Principal of the Integrated Polytechnic Regional College (IPRC) Karongi, underscores the significance of hotel management education.
He emphasizes that it not only provides students with internships but also opens doors to immediate employment opportunities, stating, "Since we teach about hotels and this town with tourism and many hotels, depending on our relationship with the existing hotels, those who need staff can see them or students who are still studying part-time courses, we welcome them to come, learn to cook, and then get a job cooking for these hotels."
He underscores that it not only facilitates student internships but also opens doors to immediate employment opportunities. He explains, "Given that we educate students about hotels in a town driven by tourism and numerous hotels, our collaboration with these establishments allows those in need of staff to consider our students. Even those students currently pursuing part-time courses can take advantage of this opportunity to learn culinary skills and subsequently secure positions as chefs in these hotels."
Reponse Ntirandekura, a first-year student studying horticulture production at IPRC Karongi, sees the impact on local agriculture. He notes that their knowledge benefits the community as they introduce new crops and practices, ultimately contributing to the thriving agriculture sector in Karongi.
The Governor of Western Province, Dushimimana Lambert, emphasizes their ongoing efforts to attract investors through Kivu Belt project to establish state-of-the-art hotels in Karongi. These establishments have the potential to significantly reshape the town’s landscape.
Karongi is positioned as one of Rwanda’s secondary cities, and it is projected that its population will experience substantial growth, expected to reach between 250,000 and 650,000 in the near future.
Karongi, in essence, stands as more than just a picturesque town; it serves as a testament to Rwanda’s unwavering dedication to sustainable development. This commitment ensures that both the environment and the local community reap the benefits of the thriving tourism industry.