For years, Rwanda’s tourism potential was not fully exploited despite its unique natural attractions. Even the rare mountain gorillas, assets that it shares with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda, were not given the attention they deserved until the arrival of primatologist, Diane Fossey.
Her work helped put gorilla tracking on the tourism map, inspired an award winning film and shed light on the importance of conservation. After her death in 1985, allegedly at the hand of a powerful cabal of poaching godfathers, conservation took a deep dive.
This is where the current government saw missed opportunities. Tourism would be the country’s silver spoon, a drastic departure from relying on coffee and tea exports.
Today, Rwanda’s conservation efforts are paying off, the country is now one of the destinations of choice and it has accumulated a multitude of awards, the latest being the inaugural Global Tourism Leadership Award.
Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente received the award on behalf of the country from World Tours and Tourism Council during the Global Tourism Summit in Argentina.
One of the secrets of the success of the tourism sector has been to identify niche markets, diversify attractions and targeting high-end tourism. The promotion of Nyungwe natural forest with its array of unique birds, primates and flora and the re-introduction of rhinos and lions in the park have all paid dividends
The doubling of gorilla tracking permits to $ 1,500 per person did not dampen demand as had been thought, if anything, tourists are falling over themselves to get the much-sought permits. What is just not yet up to par is aggressively promoting local tourism - Tember’ U Rwanda initiative - as well as more exposure for the Congo Nile Trail that are yet to get the column inches they deserve.
But definitely, tourism is on the roll and has more space to expand and it is the new frontier to explore and conquer.