Rwanda and Kenya now doing tourism the ‘Sitya Loss way'

Rwanda continued to surge ahead as a top MICE tourism destination with yet another huge conference being held in Kigali – the Transform Africa Summit 2017 that brought together several heads of state, big shots in the world of technology and enthusiastic tech savvy young (and some old) people.

I attended the well organised summit and could not fail to notice that Rwanda Development Board spared no effort to ensure that it was a hugely successful event as far as tourism in Rwanda is concerned. Stories about what places one can visit while in Rwanda were right there in your face. The stories of Rwanda’s amazing progress on matters tech were inspiring enough for some of the attendees to want to stay behind and study this thing called Rwanda.

However, there was an issue that kept escaping from people’s lips after they were done with listening to the amazing young girls of Ms Geek Africa or the smart fellows who were explaining how future smart cities will operate. This was the issue of the now luxury Rwanda Gorilla permit that retails at ‘only’ $1500. Rwanda Development Board had just made a shocking announcement that the price of a gorilla permit had been doubled for foreigners and multiplied nearly 42 times for locals and East Africans interested in seeing these endangered gentle giants.

There was uproar and moments of internet trolling aimed at RDB and its bosses on what many viewed as a way to make it nearly impossible for a Rwandan to see these animals unless they enrol as tour guides in the Volcanoes National Park. The main line of response from RDB was that seeing gorillas was indeed a luxury that should fetch top dollar and that this money is needed for conservation purposes.

According to RDB, an assessment was made and it revealed that there are indeed enough people out there willing to part with $1500 (don’t convert this to Rwandan francs if your heart is as fragile as mine) for an hour with the giant primates. In other words, RDB does not anticipate any loss of revenue from this bold step. This move reminds me of the song ‘Sitya Loss’ (loosely, I don’t fear loses) that made Ugandan artiste Eddy Kenzo a global brand. Indeed, RDB does not fear to make losses.

I do hope they don’t make any losses because Rwanda needs the revenue and the gorillas too need the money for their conservation. Personally, I am still plugging my ear into several industry voices to fully grasp how this price hike will affect all the stakeholders. What does it mean for the other countries that host these gorillas? What does it mean for the local tourist that RDB spent a year trying to attract through the #TemberuRwanda campaign?

But let us return to Uganda’s superstar Eddy Kenzo, who the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) just appointed as their tourism ambassador. The announcement shocked some people who are, to put it boldly, ignorant about how the tourism industry operates today. Some Kenyans on Twitter were quick to trash the move by KTB as betrayal, arguing that they could have chosen from the numerous Kenyan stars to serve as ambassador.

This same noise was made when KTB used South African social media influencers and yet there was silence when their own Sauti Sol band was doing promos for South Africa’s tourism body. The angry Kenyans forget that Uganda is a major source of visitors ,especially the coastal towns of Kenya. What better way to attract more Ugandans than through the Sitya Loss star? This is influencer marketing 101.

Incidentally, I have also done influencer work with Kenya Tourism Board on more than one occasion but there was no noise made probably because I have no hit song to my name. The good folks at Kenya Tourism Board are some of the best brains in the East African tourism industry and certainly know what they are doing regarding promotion of regional tourism.

With a general election looming, those annoying travel advisories are likely to start being thrown around scaring away Western tourists. This means that they will have to count on domestic and regional tourists to keep their hotels open. I also think it is cool to see our musicians promoting the beauty of our lands instead of only the usual telecom and beverage promos. Indeed, Eddy Kenzo is a good catch of an ambassador. Best wishes to KTB and RDB in your Sitya Loss moves.

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