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6,000 hotel rooms needed by 2012  Mar 26, 2009

Rwanda - The projection comes at a time when the country has been ranked among the top 10 travel destinations by travel guide Lonely Planet, which is likely to result in more tourists visiting the country. This will put extra pressure on the 163 hotels currently operating.

Rosette Chantal Rugamba, deputy CEO in charge of Tourism and Conservation at RDB, said in a telephone interview that at least 6,000 rooms are needed in three years time to accommodate the increasing number of tourists. Currently, 3,552 rooms are available.

Rugamba expressed her disappointment about most of the existing accommodation, saying that many hotels are substandard; according to her, they lack the basics that an international tourist needs to feel comfortable sleeping in a hotel.

"Some of the hotels only have outside toilets," Rugamba described the appalling situation of some accommodation facilities in the country.

A mini survey carried out by Focus in some hotels in Kigali found that most workers could not speak English, leaving the growing number of English speaking tourist in a fix.

"I had to relocate from Hotel La Palisse in Nyandugu to Mille Collines, because I could not communicate with the staff," said Joan Bella, a Ugandan who is currently working as an auditor in Rwanda.

During the mini-survey, we found that only at Kigali Serena Hotel and Top-Tower Hotel in Kacyiru staff is conversant in French, English and local East African languages. At Novotel Hotel, some of the workers understand English but they are mostly francophone.

Some hotels, however, are making efforts to remedy the problem. "We have started recruiting staff who speak Kiswahili, English and French in January," a manager at Alpha Palace in Remera said. Moreover, the hotel has gone a step ahead and hired English language trainers to conduct in-house training.

It is not only language that causes problems. Many hotels simply offer poor service, with orders that take unnecessary long to be delivered, a habit that annoys tourist. Also, there are only a few hotels that accept payment with international credit cards such as Visa.

"Only 72 hotels meet international standards," Rosette Chantal Rugamba said.

The Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony will be held on June 20.

Hotels and restaurants better start taking measures, because the number of tourists in Rwanda is booming, making tourism now the number one foreign exchange earner and supporting thousands of Rwandans through providing jobs.

Last year, Rwanda attracted 980,577 visitors compared to 826,374 in 2007. The treasury bagged an estimated US$ 209 million compared to US$ 138 million in 2007.

According to RDB, most of the tourists come to see the mountain gorillas and the unique flora and fauna in her three national parks.

The popularity of the gorillas is likely to get another boost at the next annual gorilla naming ceremony, Kwita Izina, which will take place on June 20.

"This has become Rwanda's premier tourism event that has attracted thousands of tourists, celebrities, international media and people from all walks of life," a statement from RDB said.

This year, eleven baby gorillas will be given names. Proceeds from the event will be injected in community projects.

6,000 hotel rooms needed by 2012
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