The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is targeting US$224 million (Rwf.125.4 billion) from tourism and conservation this year, according to an official statement from the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN)—an institution which was recently merged with seven others to form the RDB.
Last year tourism, the country’s leading export sector is said to have netted in an estimated US$214 million (Rwf119.8 billion) up from US$138 million (Rwf77.3 billion) in 2007.
The 54 percent increase is attributed to the heavy investments made in 2008 which also saw the sector generate 343,000 jobs in same year, an increase of 26 percent from 2007.
The statement further explained that investments in tourism has seen a marked increment with the number of hotel outlets around the country jumping from 148 units with 2,391 rooms in 2007 to 163 units with 3,552 rooms in 2008.
These investments in hospitality are said to have been made in Kigali, Kinigi, and Akagera. Within the sector service development, capacity building and conservation this has seen improvement through establishment of Kitabi College for Conservation and Environment Management (KCCEM).
Tourism officials are optimistic that the sector will meet this years’ target owing to increased efforts of marketing Nyungwe National Park, as an up-and-coming ideal destination that will be featured in 2009.
The statement went on to explain that ,‘investments in the park include a state of the art eco-lodge and a mid-range lodge; a unique, interactive interpretation center; a canopy walk allowing visitors to experience the park from a new vantage point and a new boat on Lake Kivu to facilitate the primate product that links Volcanoes National Park with Nyungwe National Park’.
It adds that Nyungwe boasts of 13 primate species, 275 bird species (of which 25 are endemic to the mountainous Central African region), 250 tree species, and 148 varieties of orchids. Rwanda and Burundi recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Transboundary collaboration for the protection of Nyungwe–Kibira Ecosystem.
RDB says that a business plan for Akagera National Park was developed and agreed upon by Dubai World and RDB in the framework of investment through public and private partnership.
The statement says that, all these endeavors are being undertaken to ensure good conservation practices between Rwanda and her neighboring countries.
The growth of Rwanda’s tourism industry is also attributed to the country’s recent elevation to the status of being ‘the African Best Exhibitor for the second year running at ITB Berlin, the world’s biggest tourism trade fair.
Rwanda was also voted among the ‘Top 10 Countries to Visit in 2009’ by Lonely Planet, one of the world’s leading travel guides.
Rwanda’s main tourism event, Kwita Izina, which attracts tourists and conservationists alike to the base of the Virunga mountain chain, is said to have been instrumental in communicating the success of Rwanda tourism and conservation.
According to the information availed to the Business times, tourist numbers have increased from 826,374 in 2007 to an estimated 1 million visitors in 2008, representing an increase of 30 percent and projections to hit a historical high of 1.14 million this year is very likely.
RDB says that the maintenance of the integrity and biodiversity of the national parks is its key priority.