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Organisers put final touches as Kigali prepares for Commonwealth meeting

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By MOSES K. GAHIGI

More than 100 hotels in Kigali and five conference venues have been earmarked to host the Commonwealth Heads of Governments (CHOGM), as the entire ecosystem of events service providers does final touches in readying themselves to host the event next month.

Captains of the hospitality industry have given assurance that the market has more hotel beds than needed for the event, silencing concerns of whether Rwanda will have sufficient accommodation for Chogm delegates.

“5,000 delegates are expected during the CHOGM meeting and we have close to 9,000 rooms in Kigali and Nyamata,” said Ariella Kageruka, head of the tourism and conservation department at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

The country is now mapping delegates to hotels within proximity of the events they will attends to ease movement and access, said Frank Gisha, the director-general of the Rwanda Chamber of Tourism at the Private Sector Federation (PSF).

Routine inspection of facilities will continue to ensure the best experience for delegates, officials say.  

“We have engaged key stakeholders like MasterCard Foundation that supports the tourism sector to make urgent interventions in the service gaps that still exist,” Mr Gisha said.

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“The cash flow challenges experienced in the last two years have affected service excellence in some establishments; some have new staff with limited skills. Compliance to coronavirus protocols also had an effect. The customer has not been fully a king in the last two years.”

Mr Gisha added that although behavioural and skills gaps will take some time to improve, language has improved, and the chamber of tourism continues to bring in customer service experts from across the world to support the sector.

Many service providers and suppliers needed for the success of CHOGM have already signed their contracts and procured some of the equipment or products they will need for the event, with some experiencing difficulties in cargo transportation and skyrocketing prices.

An ecosystem of service providers—from tour operators, transporters, and event organisers to all suppliers that have got CHOGM tenders—is being coordinated by line authorities to ensure smooth flow of services.

Makuza Celestine, the proprietor of the Events Factory, one of the event firms that got a tender to host one of the CHOGM events, says he has already procured the equipment needed and everything is ready.

After two difficult years of no events following Covid lockdowns, many event organisers are banking on Chogm to contribute to their recovery. However, it has not been an easy journey for a sector that is still cash-strapped.

Some of the businesses contacted to offer services or products needed for the Chogm meeting have had to take bank loans to be able to deliver.

“We have provided [loans for] some of our customers who are involved in supplying or offering services in the forthcoming Chogm meeting,” said Diane Karusisi, the Bank of Kigali CEO.

The confirmed venues to host Chogm include the Kigali Convention Centre, which boasts a sitting capacity of 2,600 guests, and 650 parking spaces. The 1,257-square metre auditorium has two levels suitable for large conferences, concerts, and meetings, and also has exclusive business lounges, bars, and restaurants.

The other is the Intare Arena located in Rusororo, which can host 2,316 delegates at a time, sitting on a lush, expansive space outside of the city.

The Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village located in the CBD brings its tented event amenities, the biggest of its kind in the country, and has been used for international events such as the World Economic Forum and African Development Bank (AfDB) meeting.

It has 12 meeting halls that can host a wide range of events, with a total capacity of 10,000, with individual meeting room capacity ranging from 10 to 3,200 people.

Kigali Marriott Hotel has also been earmarked as one of the Chogm venues. Its 13 conference rooms can host more than 650 people each, and this is where some of the VVIPs are expected to be due to its globally recognised brand.

The other venue will be the Serena Kigali Hotel, one of the five-star hotels, with meeting and conference rooms that host all kinds of events. It has an 800-seat ballroom, a 500-seat auditorium, and three meeting rooms that can accommodate more than 900 people.

M-Hotel, completed last year, has already made a name for itself given its welcoming ambiance. Its conference rooms can accommodate more than 250 people and it will also host a Chogm event.



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