The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has started a campaign aimed at encouraging Rwandans to visit national parks and other tourist attractions across the country.
The move is part of its efforts to boost tourist numbers and revenues from the sector, according to Rica Rwigamba, head of the tourism department at RDB.
Rwigamba noted that it is important for Rwandans to start touring the country to appreciate it and what it offers.
This, she added, could also help in the preservation of the country's natural and other tourist attractions.
Rwanda realised $293.6m from tourism last year compared to $281.8m generated in 2012. During the year over 1,137,000 tourists visited different tourist attractions, especially national parks, compared to 1,076,000 the previous year.
These figures could increase greatly if more Rwandans visited parks, as well as cultural and historical sites.
“We want to encourage all the people, including school children, to start touring these places to learn and enjoy,” said Charles Muia, the Serena Hotels Rwanda general manager.
“It’s only after visiting the country’s national parks and other sites that people start to appreciate the country.”
He said despite the country’s growing middle class, few Rwandans visit parks or historical sites.
“People should take advantage of the entrance fee waiver and start touring the many attractions the country is endowed with,” Muia, who is also the vice-chairperson of the Rwanda Hotels Association, said.
According to RDB tourism department, local tourists pay between Rwf3,000 and Rwf55,000 (about $80), while East Africans and other foreigner visitors pay a bit higher.
Tour operators argue that they rarely register Rwandans visiting the places because many people do not know about the country’s tourist attractions or cannot afford the fees.
“Also, many people argue that there is no need to visit places they ‘know’. That’s why one will have their honeymoon in Mombasa instead of Gisenyi or any of the national parks,” said Osborne Kinene, the Rwanda Eco-tours boss.
Kinene said more still needed to be done to promote local destinations among Rwandans through different channels, including the media.