Rwanda is checking in for a multimillion dollar boost to its future hotel and tourism prospects when it hosts the influential Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF).

Rwanda aims to establish itself as a tourism and business events hub in the region, with the joint forum recognised as a valuable opportunity to take a strategic approach to the expansion of travel across the country and the continent. Tourism has grown as a major part of Rwanda’s economy, generating $US404m in 2016 (up from $318m in 2015), off the back of attractions including its world-famous mountain gorillas.

Following last year’s hugely successful event, Rwandan capital Kigali will again host the AHIF alongside AviaDev, an airline route development conference, from October 10-12.

Jonathan Worsley, chairman of AHIF organiser Bench Events, said: “This is the forum to do business  a unique opportunity for leading airline, airport and hotel executives, alongside government representatives, to explore the crucial link between aviation and hotel investment and discuss potential new airline routes. We are also very pleased to be returning to Rwanda, a progressive country that is investing in aviation as a catalyst for economic development.”

Last year AHIF attracted more than 500 executives from 45 countries, with international brands Accor, Best Western, Carlson Rezidor, CityBlue, Hilton and Marriott all making announcements about new hotel projects, 22 in total. The African Hotel Report 2017, due to be launched at AHIF, showed the average growth in hotel values across the continent over the last two years was 6.4 per cent. Investment opportunities are ripe, with Africa offering only 134 branded bedrooms per million people, compared with 4,325 per million across the Americas or 2,533 across Europe.

AviaDev 2016, meanwhile, facilitated more than 500 conversations about new aviation routes. Locally, RwandAir is expanding its fleet and international network, while Rwanda has ambitions to grow as a hub airport for Africa with the new Bugesera International Airport.

The economic impact will therefore be significant, not just in terms of hosting the event itself but for the opportunities to drive investment into tourism projects, infrastructure and hotel development across Africa.

The CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, Clare Akamanzi, noted: “It’s a vital part of our mission to showcase Rwanda as a key destination to do business. I foresee many new business relationships developing.”

Indeed, analysis by international audit, tax and advisory experts Grant Thornton found AHIF 2016 contributed a direct economic benefit of $1.8m to the Rwandan economy, with an additional $3.2m in indirect and induced impact, plus more than $292,000 in tax to the host government and the creation of 1,114 jobs. In addition, a delegate survey indicated a total deal value of $124 million, an average of $4.6 million per deal, translated for all AHIF events held between 2011 and 2016, with deals totalling an estimated $4.4 billion.

Worsley said: “We are gratified that this report bears out what we’ve always believed: that hosting AHIF adds value to the places we visit and the conference is a great place to discuss deals which benefit tourism in Africa. Rwanda is a prime example of what can be achieved in our sector by a country that is determined to use tourism to propel itself forward.”

Report author Martin Jansen van Vuuren added: “One key gauge of AHIF’s success is the high-level of the delegates it attracts – the attending CEOs and MDs do not only spend more than average by staying in the best hotels but much more importantly, they are people with the ability to make decisions, including whether or not to invest in a destination – and that’s reflected in the value of deals done. The report also highlights the fact that host economies benefit from wide media coverage and from the credential of hosting a top-level conference like AHIF. Doing so helps to attract further events, which boost local companies and provide job opportunities as well as the chance to develop skills.”

Rwanda is increasingly becoming a destination of choice for international conferences and event organisers in the region. It hosted the Transform Africa Summit (2,500 delegates) in May, the Africa Health Forum (1,000 delegates) in June and will hold the International Conference on Cancer in Africa in November, among others.

(via AHIF and The New York Times)

Featured image: Kigali Convention Centre and Radisson Blu Kigali