Supporting strong women in the Rwandan hotel sector

Rwanda Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs

Programme Coach
Nadine De Weirdt
Company partner
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A couple of years ago, Exchange got in touch with the Rwanda Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs (RCWE). This Chamber is part of the Private Sector Federation (PSF) of Rwanda which represents over 10 sector federations in Rwanda. Some of the members of the Rwanda Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs, active in the hotel sector, already experienced very positive Exchange expertise in the past.

It may come as no surprise that, at the beginning of 2019, Exchange was asked to give more permanent support to the Chamber itself, specifically in the area of Tourism. Exchange expert Griet Geudens from Flanders Tourism travelled to Rwanda to meet all the different stakeholders and check if an Exchange Growth Programme could add value to the local partners in the tourism sector. Her feedback to Exchange was clear: there is a great potential still to be explored!

As a result, Exchange went on the search for the ideal coach to manage this new tourism programme. We were lucky enough to find Nadine De Weirdt, business consultant at Vlaio (Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship). Nadine has coached a lot of entrepreneurs in the tourism sector and has worked closely with Flanders Tourism in the past. Her profile is a perfect fit for the job.

In October 2019, Nadine travelled to Kigali and started capturing all the needs of the several tourism stakeholders in Rwanda through workshops and intensive interviews. In close collaboration with the women leading the Chamber, she co-created the cornerstones of the tourism programme in Rwanda that will help both employees and managers in the hotel sector to expand their knowledge and competences.

Employees in the hotel sector will be trained in three domains: front office, house keeping and food & beverage. A learning network will be established for the hotel managers; peer-to-peer reviews will help them learn from each other, all the while being coached by both local and Exchange experts. Trainings in tourism management will be open for them as well. Moreover, teachers of local training institutes like the University of Tourism, Technology and Business and the Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School will get the chance to join these trainings. This in order to pass on the knowledge to tourism students so they are ready to take up a job in the Rwandan tourism sector.

Nadine will coordinate and exchange information on a regular basis with her counterpart in Uganda, Griet Geudens. In this way Exchange experts can share their knowledge in both countries and information can be regionally shared between both countries.

Better mark Rwanda on your list of travel destinations!


Sustainable tourism in Mulanje


Mount Mulanje Conservation Trust

Programme Coach
Frank Cuypers
Company partner
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The Mount Mulanje Forest Reserve in the South of Malawi was recognized as a nature reserve in 1927. Mount Mulanje Conservation Trust (MMCT) was established in 2005 with the support of the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility. MMCT manages the area as a Biosphere Reserve. The conservation efforts focus on:

  • Protecting, researching and monitoring biodiversity
  • Forest management and creating sustainable economic opportunities for the local population
  • Environmental education and communication

The biggest challenge for the sustainable management of the area is to reconcile ecological and economic needs. The local population lives primarily from small-scale agriculture and illegal logging remains an attractive way to earn an income. Therefore, MMCT seeks to find win-win situations: protecting endangered eco-systems while taking into account the needs of the people who are economically dependent on these eco-systems.

Aiming at eco-tourists

Mulanje and in particular its highest peak (Sapitwa Peak 3002m) is an attractive area for adventurous tourists who enjoy hiking, trekking, mountaineering and mountainbiking. However, the tourism sector is barely developed. In a very poor area with few economic opportunities, strengthening the tourism potential can be an engine for development. Of course it is crucial to work on a tourism strategy which is also sustainable. The goal is not to attract mass tourism but attracting tourists who respect and promote the ecological value of the area.

Guided and coached by Frank Cuypers, senior strategist destination marketing at Destination Think !, MMCT is working on the development of a sustainable and inclusive tourism strategy for Mulanje.

Strategy building for and by the community

A good strategy is not merely a paper document. A good strategy induces implementation and provides a framework for shaping activities and action. Ownership of all stakeholders is crucial to successfully develop and apply any strategy. For Mulanje, the commitment of the local communities is essential.


That is why the growth programme includes a pilot phase, focusing on ownership. Through community hearings, co-creation and storytelling local communities and their leaders shape and inspire the future plans. This pilot process will ensure the development of realistic tourism strategy for Mulanje in the next phase. A strategy that is inclusive and sustainable and encourages action!

Frank Cuypers works with local communities on sustainable tourism in Mulanje

in Malawi

Tour operators: the heart of the blossoming Ugandan tourism industry

Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO)

Programme Coach
Griet Geudens
Expert Team
Bart De Swaef
Ann Winnepenincx
Filip Nicasi
Petra Venekamp
Company partner
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The Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) represents the interests of Ugandan tour operators. Tourism in Uganda is increasing in importance as an economic activity. Every year, more than 200,000 tourists enter the country. Virtually all of them do so under the guidance of a tour operator. There’s no need to give any further explanation for why tour operators are the heart of the tourism sector.  

Tour operators bring tourists into contact with the right touristic services and activities. They are responsible for 90% of the bookings in safari lodges. Plus, they are also responsible for 90% of the income from the Bwindi Impenetrable National Parkmost prominently known as the home of the iconic mountain gorilla. It is one of Uganda’s most important tourist draws and is always handled with great care and pride.  

A smartly organized network

The growing popularity of tourism in Uganda has resulted in an increase in the client portfolio of the organisation. But there is also a flip sideeveryone wants their piece of the pie, but they are not always pursuing it with honesty or in a sustainable manner. There are many unprofessional and unexperienced operators who decide to start their own businesses without thinking things through. The great drop-out of members within the organisation is partially explained by the enormous number of operators who close their doors after a relatively short time.

To come to a more sustainable working method for the many tour operators, Exchange and AUTO entered into a three-year partnership. The partnership aims to provide a consultation platform in co-creation with the tour operator. This will eventually lead to more professionalisation. The focus will lie wholly on incoming tourism from abroadit is currently the most important market.  

Seeing the central and linking role played by AUTO in the Ugandan tourism landscape, other Ugandan partners also want to come on board. This will allow the services of various players in the sector to be better tuned to each other, resulting in a well-oiled tourism machine. Do you have upcoming travel plans? The Ugandan tour operators are at your service!  

Management Training for Hotel sector - Exchange vzw.

Management Training for Hotel sector

in Uganda

Excellent tourism for so much natural beauty


Programme Coach
Eric Decroix
Company partners
Hotelschool Ter Duinen Image result for icon link
Adfundum Image result for icon link

With a beautiful location along the banks of the Nile in Jinja, the Uganda Tourism and Training Institute (UHTTI) is the leading institution for tourism in Uganda. Over the past 25 years, more than 7,000 students have graduated from the renowned academy as tourism professionals.  

Every year, the tourism sector in Uganda increases in importance. In a country that is struggling with enormous youth unemployment, tourism can provide sustainable work opportunities. The institution cleverly plays on this. It prides itself on supplying highly qualified and competent workerswith excellent potential, to the national and international tourism market.  

No better experience than practice

Just as there are with many hotel schools in Belgium todaythere is also a hotel linked to the UHTTI. It allows students to transform their theoretical knowledge into practical experience. The hotel is also recognised as a historic monumentIt is run and managed entirely by students from the academy.  

A visionary pioneer with the right marketing

2019 is the year of large investments for the academy. Among others, the World Bank is investing in the highly promising tourism academy. The most important pillars of the expansion plan are:  

  • a new school for 600 students;  
  • a three-star hotel with the capacity for a hundred rooms;  
  • infrastructure for external events, catering to more than 700 guests.  

The planned investments need to transform the school and the hotel into a modern and visionary pioneer within the tourism sector. The success of such ambitious plans will of course be dependent on a powerful and clever marketing plan. And that’s where Exchange comes into the picture.  


Exchange vzw has already been assisting the academy for a number of years. In 2016the first growth programme for the hotel school was unveiled. A new strategy for Exchange was also paired with a new strategy for the academy and a new name. In the initial phase of the growth programme, the focus lay on the workings of the school and the skills of the employees. Experts from the renowned Hotelschool Ter Duinen in Koksijde went to Uganda to share their expertise. In 2018, the focus was placed mainly on marketing and communication. The marketing company AdFundum based in Roeselare is committed to sending UHTTI to a more professional marketing approach. This should sharpen the image of the hotel school and the associated hotel.

Sustainable tourism Malawi

The warm heart of Africa


Discover this future growth program...

In the pipeline

In Malawi, tourism accounts for 7.2% of GNP. In a country so dependent on the agricultural sector and strongly influenced by climate change, strengthening the tourism sector is a valid option for inclusive economic growth. Sustainable tourism is therefore one of the front lines in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II. Exchange had built up a strong network in tourism in Flanders. With professionals from the tourism and marketing world and with tourism Flanders as a partner, in co-creation with the various stakeholders in Malawi we explore the possibilities for setting up a results-oriented cooperation program. Welcome to Malawi, the warm heart of Africa!

Company partners



Program Coach

    Riet Dubois

Local representatives

     Edna Chamgwera

     Derek Lakudzala