Rwanda Tourism: Optimism as we dive into 2018
The United Nations designated the year 2017 as the International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development. And as the year closes, it’s imperative to take stock of the main highlights of the country’s tourism industry and also look at what 2018 has in store.
The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in May 2017 projected that Rwanda tourism would fetch about $444 million (about Rwf370 billion) in 2017, up from $404 million in 2016. The country’s tourism industry regulator said the increase in revenue would be a result of continued tourism promotion efforts as well as the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events and Exhibitions (MICE) strategy.
Rwanda tourism projections
Clare Akamanzi, the chief executive of RDB, said that from the total projections, MICE was expected to contribute $64 million, up from the $47 million it generated in 2016.
This was echoed by a World Bank report that said the increase in meetings, conventions and events following the establishment of the Convention Bureau led to revenues exceeding $37 million in 2015 and US$47 million 2016. In 2017, according to the report, revenue from all business tourism in the country (was) projected to reach $64 million.
Even though, as of going to press, the figures of how Rwanda’s tourism industry fared in 2017 among other pertinent questions remained unanswered despite email enquiries to RDB, tourism industry players are upbeat that Rwanda’s tourism remained boisterous in 2017, and hope if the momentum is maintained, tourism in Rwanda has a brighter future.
Rwanda tourism players chip in
Greg Bakunzi, the managing director of Amahoro Tours, says now that Rwanda has the so-called Big Five, there have been tourists this year that came specifically to see these animals.
“We now have a wide variety of wildlife apart from the gorillas, and even though the gorilla trekking fee was increased last year, visitors now have a diversity of attractions, and this is one reason why Rwanda maintained its visitor arrivals in 2017,” says Bakunzi.
Bart Gasana, the chairperson of the Tourism Chamber at the Private Sector Federation, observed in May 2017 that the industry projections were largely facilitated by the new gorilla trekking fees, RwandAir expansion and the MICE initiatives. As of 2017, the national carrier, RwandAir, established and now boasts a fleet of 12 aircraft serving 24 destinations globally, and this expansion is also seen as one of the reasons tourism in Rwanda continued with its growth according to projections.
Rwanda tourism now targets locals
RDB also intensified its campaign to promote domestic tourism when it launched the second edition of Tembera U Rwanda, a campaign geared towards encouraging domestic tourism in Rwanda to achieve sustainable development in the country’s tourism sector.
The adventurous but quite educational trips were held in two phases, from 25th to 26th November and 9th to 10 December. During this year’s campaign, a group of 98, the lucky winners of the Tombola Draw Experience that took place during the Liberation holiday, departed from Kigali to Musanze through Remarkable Rwanda’s nature, cultural and wildlife trails.
The tour itinerary on the departure date involved a stopover at Nyirangarama, lunch at La Palme Hotel, a thrilling walk through the mysterious Musanze caves extending for about 1.25 miles, caused by centuries of geological activity.
Day two was more exploratory as tourists trekked the endangered mountain gorillas. And after this hike, tourists enjoyed refreshments and lunch before departing to Buhanga eco-park to explore Rwandan culture and also learn about the country’s conservation journey.
According to RDB, this was the first promotional trip by RDB since the revision of the gorilla trekking permits but the call to action began during the liberation day holiday on 4th of July where everyone born on this date was given the opportunity to participate in a raffle competition.
In addition, Rwandans also had the chance to nominate friends and family born on this date through social media platforms.