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Momentum in Conference Tourism

Momentum in Conference Tourism

Kigali Convention Center/ Courtesy

A decade after joining the Commonwealth, Rwanda is getting ready to host the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). For the first time, CHOGM is set to take place in a country that is neither a former British colony nor a dominion of the United Kingdom.

Next year’s meeting will bring together about 8,000 delegates, including heads of state. The Commonwealth consists of 54 states with a combined population of 2.4 billion culturally diverse people, over 60% of whom are under the age of 30.

CHOGM 2020’s main theme is Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating and Transforming. The sub-themes are Governance and Rule of Law, ICT and Innovation, Youth, Environment and Trade.

Delegates are expected to examine thoroughly what young people can do with technology to create their own jobs. Unemployment among the youth is a ticking time bomb that needs to be addressed urgently.

Initially, CHOGM 2020 was scheduled to take place in Malaysia but the Asian conference powerhouse forfeited its rights to host the summit when internal political turmoil prevented the former Prime Minister, Najib Razak from attending the CHOGM 2018 in London.

Seeking to seize socio-economic and cultural opportunities from the Commonwealth network, Rwanda applied for admission in 2008 and officially became a member in November, 2009.

Conference tourism is one of the fastest-growing sub sectors of regular tourism in Rwanda. The country attracted 28,308 and 38,745 delegates in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Last year, USD 56 million was injected into the economy through Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing and Exhibitions (MICE). USD 88 million is expected to be generated this year.

The global MICE industry is worth more than USD 30 billion. Unlike traditional tourists who burn their savings, conference travelers are funded by their organizations or governments. High-level business delegations usually bring higher disposable incomes.

The government and private financiers are investing substantial amounts of money in conference facilities. As a result, head-turning venues like the Kigali Convention Center, Ntare Arena and Kigali Arena have been constructed.

Since its completion in 2016, the Kigali Convention Center has been hosting one international conference after another. These include the 49th Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank, World Economic Forum, African Union Summit and Transform Africa Summit to name but a few. The facility encompasses a conference dome, 5-star hotel, several other meeting halls and an office park.

The newest member of the Commonwealth has emerged as a conference hub and a tourist destination of choice. Earlier this year, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) ranked Kigali the second most popular destination in Africa as far as international meetings and events are concerned.

Kigali’s appearance on the Forbes’ list of the best places to visit in 2020 is another huge endorsement to the city. The exclusive list is compiled based on leisure travelers’ sales and aspirations but there is always a thin line between business and leisure.

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