Local tours and travel agencies are hoping they will cash in on Rwanda’s latest recognition at the just-concluded ITB travel exhibition that was held in Germany, in terms of increased volumes of tourists.
Rwanda emerged the best African exhibitor at the four-day exhibition, considered among the world’s largest tourism trade fairs featuring more than 180 countries and 11,000 exhibitors. The operators expressed optimism, saying the recognition as a leading exhibitor will help increase the country’ s marketability as leading tourist destination.
The exhibition, which ended yesterday, also saw Burundi emerge second, while Kenya was third best exhibitor on the continent.
Last year, Rwanda was ranked 3rd at the same exhibitor awards.
Francois Gasore, the proprietor of Jambo Tours and Travel, said the international recognition comes in handy as a marketing tool.
“When Rwanda gets the top continental position at such an event, it attracts attention of participants, increases marketability and exposes the local tourism industry,” Gasore said.
Jacqui Sebageni, the Managing Director of Thousand Hills Expeditions, indicates the world shows the partnership and cooperation between the public private sectors in the sector.
“The award also says something about the country and the institutions, more specifically the private-public partnership. You cannot win unless you go as a cohesive group. In the trade generally, other operators globally will take the destination more seriously and want to be aligned with Rwanda,” she said.
Joseph Birori, the Managing Director of Primate Safaris, a tour company operating in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda said the recognition showed that the ongoing tourism promotion efforts were on the right track.
“Recognition of on-going good marketing shows that more people are getting aware of what Rwanda as a tourist destination has to offer. It is a commendable recognition of the ongoing tourism promotion efforts and will help increase the country’s visibility,” Birori said.
The tourism sector has been identified with great potential to earn large amounts of foreign exchange as well as create employment.
Between January and September 2013, the country hosted 824,238 visitors, registering a seven per cent increase compared to the same period in 2012, during which 768,221 people visited.
During this period, tourism fetched Rwanda $217.7 million compared to $210.5 million generated in 2012.
A 2013 travel guide released a list of 10 countries in the world considered classic destinations for great sights and convenient travel.
The guide ranked Rwanda sixth globally in a list topped by Portugal, followed by Mozambique, Kyrgyzstan, Panama, Armenia, Rwanda, Cuba, Ukraine, Malawi and Canada in that order.
Gorillas contribute close to 90 per cent of the revenues from national parks with Rwanda being home to some of the world’s 790 remaining mountain gorillas, rare species found in the Virunga massif, which spreads across Uganda, DR Congo and Rwanda.
Apart from national parks, Rwanda also boasts other attractions that include Gisenyi beach, Nyungwe Canopy Walk, the Congo Nile Trail, forests and wildlife and landscapes for eco-tourism, snow, river and mountain peaks for adventure tourism, historical and cultural museums, among others.
The latest addition to the tourism catalogue in 2013 was the Musanze Cave, a 1.5 mile-long cave that is home to a vast bat colony. Rwanda is also considered visitor-friendly going by the traditions, varied life styles, and rich cultural heritage.
The growth in tourism in the past few years is attributed to the country’s security and stability that attracts visitors to see a country that has registered tremendous development 20 years after the Genocide against the Tutsi.
At the same exhibition, Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda showcased the East African single tourist visa jointly marketing the region as a single tourist destination.