This is a very important question that many African tourism designations should ask, and hence borrow a leaf from Rwanda’s success story with regards to her fast tourism growth. Comparing the nature of tourism of Rwanda’s neighbors – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and free falling Burundi, where tourism has been all but wiped out as a result of political machinations. Its very important to set a question of how Rwanda has achieved a steadily increasing annual successes in tourism earning where others have declined.
A number of important answers have been stated, starting with the most fundamental point, -Its no secret that Rwanda comprises of political discipline and uncompromising security measures, apart from principled leadership and a zero tolerance for corruption are at the very core of why the “Land of a Thousand Hills” outpaces regional neighbors. Equally high, though, features determined conservation policies which saw major efforts to raise forest cover across the country, allowing for the Rwandan government to finally elevate Gishwati from national forest status to national park status in the coming financial year.
The opportunity arose to obtain some hard facts once again from the Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Department, and they make for an amazing read.
Akagera National Park, the country’s only savannah park, managed by African Parks under a joint venture deal with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), remains the most visited park in the country with a visitor increase of 4 percent in 2014 over the previous year, although the highest growth rate of visitor increases came for Nyungwe Forest National Park with a rise of 30 percent, outstripping Volcanos National Park which came in second with an 11 percent rise in visitors.
Revenues subsequently rose to US$16.8 million from the 3 parks, a 19 percent rise from 2013 when that income was given as US$14.1 million.
Most notably though was the constant increase of Rwandan national visitors to the parks which for 2014 reached 18,223 entries compared to just 16,646 the year before, underscoring the effectiveness of an unfolding domestic tourism campaign by RDB.
Another notable point is the creative to create more tourism attraction to improve a typical Ruanda tour package, for example the construction some years ago of a forest canopy walk at Nyungwe – former ORTPN CEO and later Deputy CEO of RDB, Rosette Rugamba, took the idea with her when she moved from Uganda back to her home country, after the Ugandans sat on the idea for too long – helped to create a hype and boosted demand for Nyungwe visits, and also the creation of birding areas outside the park, involving communities cooperating with RDB, and set the path for continued growth in visitor arrivals.
Rwanda has set its sights on a larger slice of the regional MICE market, and when the new national convention center and the two major hotels now under construction, the Marriott Kigali and the Radisson Blu Kigali, are open, it will no doubt inject further significant growth, cementing tourism’s number one status in the national economy.