The 1994 Genocide dealt a near-fatal blow to the tourism sector in much the same way it did other sectors of the economy. The infrastructure was generally destroyed and the human resource personnel were either dead or fled. Tourism is high on the list of sectors whose tremendously improved performance combines to make the post-Genocide Rwanda the kind of success story it is today.

The latest development which attests to the progress of tourism here is the retention last Saturday of top African spot at the 42nd annual International Tourism Board (ITB) exhibition in Berlin, thanks to ORTPN’s innovation and dynamism.

Ever since the tourism and national parks agency was reformed in 2003, there has virtually been no turning back. Even if we were to use exploits at the world renowned ITB as the only yard stick to measure the pace, that participating only for the fifth time Rwanda was able to come fourth in 2005, second 2006, first last year and cemented its premier position this year, is in itself of great value.

We have maximally exploited the opportunity to showcase at the leading exhibition what we have to offer and also seal a few business deals. There is no doubt this latest high score will be quite useful in the drive to attain the US$ 100m mark as total contribution from eco-tourism to the economy by 2010.

Now that we have consolidated the invaluable exposure to the rest of the world, what next? Effort has to refocus on making our service here as outstanding as our stand in Berlin was eye-catching. The hotel, transport, credit card, etc, facilities need to be given the attention which matches the attraction we are generating.

The training of hotel staff especially managers must be handled with the urgency it deserves. New strategies to make sure this area improves quickly should be among ORTPN’s priorities.

As much as the agency turns to broadening of the attraction base by providing more items in addition to gorillas, savannah attributes, baskets and traditional dancers, it should seriously think of the impression the hotel manager, the receptionist, the waitress, the housekeeper and the cab driver give the esteemed guests.

You want your guest to stay longer and spend more. You want them to come back. And high end customer service immensely contributes to this. There is no way it will be all this without cultivating more engaging customer care practices.