Bisate Lodge, a luxury lodge located in the Volcanoes National Park in Musanze District, received a five-star grading on Friday evening, becoming the fifth five-star hotel in Rwanda.

Bisate Lodge is part of Wilderness Safaris which runs 40 luxury lodges across Africa.

“This is an endorsement to Bisate Lodge, and it describes who we are. This is also a result of the hard work that has been done since 2017,” Jacqui Sebageni, who received the award on behalf of Bisate Lodge, said.

The grading, she added, is an indication of the quality and reliable services the facility provides.

The hotel is among the 40 accommodation facilities that were awarded different star ratings on Friday by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

Bisate Lodge is a lavish sanctuary, with six forest villas in a secluded location, just outside the southern border of Volcanoes National Park.

The lodge is close to the town of Kinigi, just a 20-minute drive from the park headquarters, putting Bisate in a great position for trekking access. It entered the Rwanda market in 2017.

The owners recently opened a six-tent camp called Magashi in the north-eastern part of Akagera, overlooking Lake Rwanyakazinga.

Last month, Keith Vincent, the Chief Executive Officer of Wilderness Safaris told The Sunday Times that their business has been growing significantly since its establishment in the country.

“We have 40 lodges across Southern Africa and this is our best performing lodge. Rwanda stands out as a destination,” he said at the time.

“We opened in 2017 and we had estimated revenues into millions of dollars. The growth has surpassed what we anticipated,” he added.

Bisate now joins Radisson Blu Hotel, Marriott Hotel, One & Only Nyungwe House, and Serena Hotel, as facilities with five stars.

Yesterday, only two hotels – Residence Prima 2000 and The Retreat – received four star ratings.

According to Zephanie Niyonkuru, the RDB Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer, the grading and classification of hotels helps to inform customers on how to recognize quality.

He said it also helps to differentiate all levels of facilities and services, and offers greater transparency.

All of that, he added, are vital requirements for both business and leisure tourists.

“In Rwanda, we decided to embark on the classification of hotels so as to meet

International expectations of accommodation facilities,” Niyonkuru noted.

The 1-5 star grading system helps to differentiate the quality of services that establishments render to their clientele.

The criteria used to grade the establishments range from their location, site and environment, architectural design and features, capacity, and reception area.

Others include information services, hours of service, decor, amenities and accessories and regulation of temperature among others as per the ‘East African Criteria for Standardization of Hotels, Restaurants and other Tourist Accommodation Facilities.’

The criteria stipulates the standards that should be met for any accommodation establishment to be one, two, three, four or five star and are mandatory for any prospective property developer in the accommodation sector in all EAC member states.

Friday’s grading ceremony also saw 10 accommodation facilities get awarded with three star, 16 got two star grading, and 11 got a one star rating.

This brings the total of graded accommodation facilities – lodges, hotels, apartments, and motels – to 146 in total.

Emmanuel Nsabimana, the Head of Tourism Department at RDB, describes the idea of grading as a “benchmark to measure our level of services, but also a way of competition.”

“To be able to compete in this world, you need to be able to have standard services,” he said, adding that it is also a marketing tool for businesses in the hospitality industry.

Currently, the hospitality industry boasts of 14,800 hotel rooms. That is from only 9,114 rooms that were there in 2014.

Similarly, in 2014, Rwanda only had about 453 accommodation establishments, hotels and other types of accommodation establishments.

By 2018, that number reached to 775.

RDB officials say this has led to increased revenue in the country, especially from conference tourism.

Conference tourism generated $55 million last year.

Generally, the hospitality industry is estimated to have contributed 189,000 jobs last year, according to RDB.