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In:sight on Rwanda and changing perceptions

Have you ever considered Rwanda as a potential destination for business and corporate events? BI WORLDWIDE's corporate event planners Katrina Rannard and Teresa Allen are spending four nights in Rwanda to explore, learn and see for themselves whether it's a destination we would recommend for future client events. But before they jet off, we asked the general public what their opinions are of Rwanda to see what the overall perception is.

What do you think when you hear the word Rwanda?

According to our anonymous survey, it seems that there is a generational divide in peoples’ perceptions. Those who are old enough to remember the news coverage and reports of the genocide have quite a clouded judgement of Rwanda. When asked to write three words to describe Rwanda, the word ‘genocide’ cropped up the most, followed by ‘poor’, ‘poverty’, ‘corruption’ and ‘gorillas’ - a whopping 90% of the words had negative connotations. When asked to expand on their thoughts and comment on their desire to travel to Rwanda, the majority stated that they would prefer not to travel there. Quotes included: ‘I think it is not civilised and a third world country’, ‘Associated with civil war, trouble and corruption’, ‘Too much disaster on the news about it’, ‘Security and ebola’, ‘There has been nothing in the media about whether or not the fighting is over’.

Opportunity for Millennials to change perceptions

Katrina, Design Director, shares her thoughts on this: “These perceptions were quite surprising to discover as not only are some of them outdated, but some are quite simply untrue; for example the ebola outbreak was on the other side of Africa! It seems that for a high percentage of people (particularly in the Western world), thoughts of Rwanda are dominated by that of risk, violence and poverty. Whilst the genocide happened over 20 years ago, the atrocities clearly still ring in peoples’ ears. The country is vastly different to that time, but then no-one tends to publicise good news! I, for one, was unaware of the full extent of Rwanda’s progression in recent years so I believe there is a great opportunity to change perceptions.”

On the flip side, some Generation Y/Millennials already see Rwanda as an adventure destination for travellers and explorers, perhaps unaware of the unrest two decades ago, and our survey (results from 18-30 year olds) suggest that this age group would ‘love to go’.

Why Rwanda seems like a potential event destination for Business and Corporate Events

The survey results clearly showed mixed feelings with regards to the destination, but after extensive research both Katrina and Teresa’s own thoughts are purely of excitement and adventure. Katrina continues: “It seems that the more research we put into this project as a company, the more positively surprised we are. Rwanda may have been brought down onto its knees in 1994 but a phenomenal turn-around has taken place in the decades since. The country seems to be leaping forward at a staggering pace and in many ways is leading by example. This is why BI WORLDWIDE sees opportunity.”

“Nowadays the world is small; people are able to travel far and wide quite easily. We feel it is our role as fore-thinkers to explore untapped destinations such as Rwanda to assess the suitability for the MICE (Meetings Incentives Conferences and Events) market.”

The country seems to be leaping forward at a staggering pace and in many ways is leading by example. This is why BI WORLDWIDE sees opportunity.

  • Katrina Rannard
  • Design Director

Did you know..?

Rwanda was the first country to ban plastic bags in 2007 and has a policy for all nationals (including the president!) to spend one morning per month to improve their local community. Tourism has also grown as Rwanda hosts unique, fascinating activities including treks to see mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. In contrary to its past, the country is also now one of the safest African capitals and has recently invested heavily in its infrastructure with a new Convention Centre, making Rwanda the meeting hub for Africa! Surprised? We were! These are just a few of the reasons why, here at BI WORLDWIDE, our perception has been altered already.

What we’re hoping to get out of this project

Katrina and Teresa are eager to try and prove negative perceptions wrong and see through their own eyes how Rwanda has turned itself around. Teresa comments: “I am optimistic about what we will experience and discover and hope this journey will expose Rwanda’s impressive, developing capital and culture-rich countryside; from its brand new high-tech convention centre to its once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see gorillas in the wild”.

Katrina comments: “We hope our research and findings will result in Rwanda being considered as a suitable destination for different types of business events, reassuring and diminishing the negativity that is currently holding clients back. Having operated many effective business events in surrounding African countries, we are keen to explore Rwanda as another exciting destination”.

BI WORLDWIDE’s next steps…

Teresa concludes: “From what we have discovered about Rwanda so far, we’re very excited to showcase and reveal the country of today. More than anything, we want to change your perceptions and discover new and exciting possibilities to open up a fresh destination for the MICE industry. Now it’s time for us to jump on a plane and put Rwanda back on the map”.

BI WORLDWIDE will be tracking Teresa and Katrina’s journey. We’ll also be sharing facts and real in:sight on Rwanda over the next month in partnership with GreenRoute, so be sure to follow us!


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