Editorial: There is more space for tourism to grow

The latest edition of Tembera u Rwanda (Explore Rwanda) took place at the end of the week. It is an initiative to highlight Rwanda’s tourism attractions but targeting the domestic market.

There was a lot of furore when gorilla trekking permits were hiked to a staggering $1,500 per person, even for Rwandan nationals who had previously enjoyed preferential tariffs at a throw-away price. At the time some people were alleging that Rwandans were being shut out of their national treasure as few could afford it.

Tourism authorities were quick to allay the fears saying they had some attractive packages for local tourists. That is how Tembera u Rwanda came about. The two-day excursion also includes a visit to the gorilla sanctuary.

It might be argued that even before the gorilla permit hike, few Rwandans showed interest in visiting them. It is not because they have no sense of adventure, but because there was no innovative marketing strategy like the one in place at the moment.

The strategy gets even more interesting; instead of just focusing on tours outside Kigali, RDB now wants to introduce reverse tourism aimed at bringing rural folks to Kigali to see what it offers; visiting popular hangouts and night sports and other landmarks.

Tourism needs continuous innovations and attractive packages, exactly what RBA has been introducing that has seen tourism numbers spike and the need to accommodate them. Statistics show that the industry is on the move.

In 2009, Rwanda had less than 4,000 hotel rooms; today the number has more than doubled to over 10,000 rooms. Visits to all the three national parks rose from 9,790 in 2008 to over 22,000 in 2015. Those are the kind of results that should inspire the tourism industry to set new horizons.