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Singita founder talks skills development as Rwanda celebrates World Tourism Day



As Rwanda marked this year’s World Tourism Day on 27th September, Luke Bailes, the founder of award-winning conservation brand, Singita, spoke to us about improving skills of people employed in the hospitality sector. Singita opened two eco-tourism lodges on the edges of Volcanoes National Park on 1st August 2019.

Celebrated under the theme set out by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, “Tourism and Jobs, a Better Future for All”, this year’s World Tourism Day messaging included clear calls to action for removing barriers to relevant skills training, business development services and loans, and links between job-seekers and employers within the hospitality and tourism sector.

Speaking in an exclusive interview, Bailes weighed in on their experience in Rwanda so far and what he felt needs to be done for the sector to continue growing.

“I think the biggest deficiency to work on in the sector is training staff from chefs to waiters and house-keepers to operate at internationally acclaimed high standards. As a company, we are obsessed with training and skills development and have numerous training programs and people always coming to train staff. I think it’s an opportunity from a country perspective.”

Singita Kwitonda Lodge and the sole-use villa, Kataza House, employs about 100 people, 97 of whom are Rwandans.

Bailes said they are also creating business links with the communities living in the area.

“We are already building business relationships with people from the local community procuring items for guests such as baskets, clothing and walking sticks. We are also putting together a group of farmers to grow specific vegetables for our kitchens at the lodge.”

With 26 beds on the property in total, Bailes noted how impressed they are that the lodge’s   occupancy rate has been high before they opened.

“Rwanda first and foremost is the easiest country in Africa I’ve ever done business in. Secondly, it’s done a remarkable job in marketing itself. The fact that the world now sees Rwanda in a different light and is very interested in Rwanda, there is a lot of international visitors coming. So we haven’t had to market the country as a destination, and the commitment to conservation is incredible, and a perfect fit for a Singita lodge whose 100-year purpose is to protect and preserve large areas of African wilderness for future generations and deliver an exceptional guest experience in an iconic location.”

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