African tourists dominated visits to Rwanda in the first semester of 2011, a phenomenon that indicates the country’s increasing attractiveness to the region and the entire continent.
According to statistics from Rwanda Development Board (RDB), African tourists to Rwanda increased by 28 per cent to 340,379, compared to the same period last year.
The figure represents 84 per cent of 405,042 visitors that the country received.
“Emphasis is to increase the leisure market and position Rwanda as a major leisure destination. We have done a good job in branding Rwanda as a safe destination, so now we need to talk more about leisure,” observed Rica Rwigamba, the Head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB.
Majority of the African visitors were from East Africa, South Africa and the DR Congo.
According to RDB, overall tourism generated US$115.6 million in the first quarter, corresponding to a 28 per cent increase from last year.
“We have closely worked with the Chamber of Tourism to identify the key challenges and priorities to focus on. We identified two major ones, which are branding and service delivery,” Rwigamba said.
On the aspect of service delivery, tourism companies and associations in the country embarked on extensive training and search for professional staff to ensure that tourists are accorded better services.
“Tourism is centred around customer enjoyment and satisfaction; that is why for all the products we offer, we ensure that we offer corresponding staff and services that make the tourists comfortable,” Kirenga Kamugisha, the president of Rwanda Safari Guides Association said.
Manzi Kayihura, the Chairman of Rwanda Tour and Travel Association, said that Africa is a ready market for tourism and focus must be geared towards generation of tailor-made products for Africans.
“What attracts a European is not necessarily what attracts an African; since Rwanda does not have a standard product for Africa yet, it is worthwhile to design diverse products and create awareness to the continent.
Kayihura is currently in London attending a three-day World Travel Market conference, together with ten other Rwandan tourism firms, with the objective of selling the sector abroad.
RDB indicates that Akagera National Park and mountain gorillas were the dominant attractions in 2011, while the canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest was the best selling product.