Irrespective of the limited publicity that academia at times gain in the development of particular sectors, their roles in nurturing the skills and knowledge required by different disciplines and also in the creation of standard practices which are employed therein are indisputable.
In the area of tourism and hospitality which is considerably one of Rwanda’s golden industries in terms of revenues, the role that has been played by schools such as the Rwanda Tourism University College (RTUC) cannot be over appreciated. Today the Workforce Development Agency of the government of Rwanda estimates a deficit of about 7000 skilled employees required to fully serve the existing tourism and hospitality businesses not to mention the many other international hotels and travel agencies that have showed interest in the Rwandan market in the recent past.
But despite the deficit, it can be said that the sector is now better than it was five years ago in regards to the quality of services thanks to the efforts of RTUC and other institutions that have invested efforts in decreasing the skills’ gap in this highly profitable sector of the Rwandan economy.
However, the role of an institution such as RTUC exceeds producing competent employees for labor market to include representing Rwanda amongst the brains that think for the tourism industry on regional, continental and international levels. The representation would be such that Rwanda’s influence in developing convenient practices in the sector is satisfactory and can also assure that nothing unfavorable to the development of the country’s local tourism industry is done; this is a role that none other than academicians should play. Being Rwanda’s only university and leading school in hospitality and tourism RTUC has to both serve a starving market with employable skills, and to favorably represent the country’s ideology amongst influential thinkers of the tourism industry.
RTUC holds the Chairmanship of the Rwandan Association of Tourism and Hospitality schools.
Geared to the above end, the tourism university embarked on acquiring memberships in prominent academic organizations on the continent and beyond through.
Among the connections and memberships that RTUC is proud to have achieved with various regional and continental organizations includes that with; Association of Hospitality and Tourism Schools in Africa (AHTSA), Inter-university Council for East Africa (IUCEA), African Union of Private Universities (AUPU), ATLAS (Association of Tourism and Leisure Education Worldwide), and UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) among many others.
Through these prominent organizations in the international tourism industry, RTUC vets for what benefits Rwanda through contributing to the development of policies and choices made in these organizations.
From the international bodies, RTUC penetrates the acquired knowledge into other local bodies like the Rwanda Private Sector Federation (PSF), the Rwanda Tourism Chamber, Rwanda Travel and Tour Associations, RHRAB and RWASAGA with which it closely works, to ensure that the available resources in the tourism and hospitality industries in Rwanda are efficiently utilized.
And the efforts have begun to reap. The University won the favor to host a Continental Conference on tourism under the theme, “African tourism in global society: central or peripheral?” in collaboration with ATLAS Africa, which convened in Kigali between 3rd and 5th of June 2013.
The conference’s discussions aimed at analyzing and establishing the role that Africa’s tourism sector plays in the global perspective and also deliberated on what could be done so that the continent’s share in the revenues from tourism activities in the world surpass the current numbers.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), estimated that Africa’s market share in global tourism was three percent in 2009 in which total Rwanda shared slightly less than one percent. The two shares are dissatisfying for a continent and a county respectively which have so many natural attractions.
According to Callixte Kabera , the Rector of RTUC, some of the main challenges of the tourism sector in Rwanda and Africa at large include poor packaging of products and thus inadequate marketing of the abundant attractions that are available coupled with poor policies and inadequate skills required to run the sector efficiently and profitably. These two areas represent RTUC’s priority points of intervention.
Considering the benefits that such a conference poses for Rwanda Kabera offered that, “just the idea of having strong brains in the tourism industry exceeding 300 to convene in your country, is a great advantage one from which Rwanda learns lessons and is challenged by these specialists to do much more than it has been done to raise its share of the tourism market.”