There was ecstasy as RwandAir launched its long-awaited flights to the Chinese city of Guangzhou on June 17, 2019. The Rwandan national carrier’s Airbus A330 took off from the Kigali International Airport at exactly 00:52 a.m, embarking on a 15-hour flight to China’s third largest city.
The inaugural flight on the new Kigali-Guangzhou route had been fully booked by mid-day Monday. It had 234 passengers onboard, including State Minister for Transport Eng. Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye and RwandAir’s Chief Executive Yvone Makolo.
RwandAir will be operating three flights to what is now its third Asian destination – after Dubai and Mumbai.
The flights will be making stopovers in India’s commercial capital of Mumbai before making their way to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in Guangdong province.
Guangzhou becomes RwandAir’s 28th destination and comes after the airline launched flights between Kigali and DR Congo’s capital of kin April.
Guangzhou, known as the Canton City, is a port city, northwest of Hong Kong on the Pearl River. It is one of the major shopping destinations for merchants, and is known for popular tourist attractions such as the iconic Canton Tower and Guangzhou Chimelong Tourist Resort.
A 29th route – to Israel’s city of Tel Aviv – just opened that route next week.
Conference tourism picking steam
Following Cape Town, the Rwandan city of Kigali has been ranked as the second most popular place in Africa for hosting international meetings and events by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).
This marks a rise for the city, which finished in third place in the same ranking last year behind both Cape Town and Marrakesh in Morocco.
This designation is a significant one because the ICCA represents the world’s leading suppliers in handling, transporting and accommodating international meetings and events.
The rankings were released by the ICCA and are based on the number of association meetings taking place regularly (annually, biannually), rotating between at least three different countries and with at least 50 participants.
Last year, Kigali hosted 26 association meetings, which included several high-level conferences such the 4th Gender Summit which was held in March, the Mo Ibrahim Governance Weekend, the GSMA Mobile 360 Series Africa, the meeting of the African Society of Human Genetics, the Africa Smart Grid Forum and the International Conference on Family Planning.
Rwanda is a preferred MICE destination due to its simplified visa regime which allows citizens of any country in the world to get a visa on arrival. Several flight options offering connectivity between Kigali and the rest of Africa make the destination easily accessible.
The presence of a range of world-class venues such as the Kigali Convention Centre, the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village, and Intare Conference Arena, as well as soon-to-be-opened Kigali Arena is key drivers of MICE tourism in Kigali.
Reacting to the new ICCA rankings, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Convention Bureau, Nelly Mukazayire said the country is now hoping to rise even further.
“We believe that identifying and working with our local associations will help Rwanda perform better in ICCA rankings in the years to come. Rwanda recorded 38,745 delegates in 2018, up from 28,308 delegates in 2017,” Mukazayire said.
“Tourism is the country’s largest foreign exchange earner and MICE is playing a significant role in its growth, bringing in 20% of all tourism revenues. MICE tourism contributed $56 million in 2018, and this year, we intend to increase it to $88 million,” Mukazayire went on to say.
Commenting on the ICCA report, the Rwanda Development Board deputy chief executive Emmanuel Hategeka said the ranking is proof that Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) strategy is generating value to Rwanda.
“Rwanda has been able to establish itself as a safe, secure MICE destination of choice due to the presence of world-class MICE venues, accommodation facilities, connectivity options and ease of service due to RCB support,” he said.
The Rwanda Development Board targets $88m from conference tourism for the financial year 2019-2020. The year 2020 looks bright in the conference tourism sector as Rwanda will be hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) as well as other international conferences and sports events.