If you were to ask a random local if they ever tour the country, you’ll most likely get a ‘no’ in response, and the reason could be anything from ‘it’s a luxury I can’t afford’ to ‘tourism is for foreigners’, among other reasons. A good number of Rwandans haven’t visited many of the country’s attractions, leaving it to foreigners, which is why Vital Munyankiko started a tourism company, to boost domestic tourism. Munyankiko believes that when locals appreciate their tourist attractions, they can easily market the splendour of Rwanda to outsiders. “I had no doubt that high costs were one of the hindrances to domestic tourism, which is why at the start, I decided to place low costs for my trips, and this has actually attracted more local tourists. I believe in the long run, it will pay off,” he says. Munyankiko points out that offering discounts gives people a chance to try tourism instead of outlaying the money elsewhere. At just Rwf 100,000, he notes, a Rwandan can enjoy unique tourist attractions for two days, with accommodation, transport, and meals included. He believes locals ought to see the beauty and uniqueness of their country and one way to get them to do so is to utilise social media, by posting activities and places that will attract them. Munyankiko highlights that the media should also play a role in showcasing Rwandan culture, for instance, its food, music, and everything that makes it unique. “Our marketing strategy ought to change, we should market specific attractions that will intrigue them. We should create excitement for locals through videos and pictures,” he explains. He says it’s imperative to seek cooperation with local businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and tour operators as that way, more tourists will be attracted. With social media, it’s easy to attract tourists as people are able to review, rate, and share their experiences after a trip. Through videos, especially on Instagram and YouTube, a large audience can be reached by showing that tourism is fun. The journey Munyankiko became fond of tourism during his senior six vacation, he searched for a job with a tourism company. Though he lacked the skills in the domain, he wasn’t green about marketing, and he assured the hiring manager that he would be the right person for the job. He was given a chance as the manager of all social media platforms in 2018. After a year, he joined the university to pursue a course in travel and tourism management. Munyankiko quit his job in 2019 and joined another tour company where he worked for two years but due to lack of recognition, he lost interest in the company. It was also time he run his own company as he was equipped with expertise and experience. The youngster had put Rwf 700,000 aside, of which he used Rwf 400,000 to pay for website creation, and the balance to make brochures and t-shirts. “I had registered my company and was already operating even before resigning from my job, and we had started planning small group tours that turned out successful. I was optimistic that we would excel with time,” he says. The tourism enthusiast says that the first tours to Akagera National park, Nyungwe, and Gisenyi were successful as the prices were pocket-friendly. Through word-of-mouth, he got more clients. What pushed him further in the shortest time was using Instagram and Facebook. Munyankiko explains that after a period of four months, he found a work location in Gasabo. Tourism is all about seasons, he says and acquires more client bookings mostly from May to September as they are dry seasons and favourable for tourists, unlike rainy seasons which are less profitable. He notes that he rents cheap tour cars, thus being able to offer discounts to clients, and organises trips, mostly to places that are unknown. Munyankiko looks forward to purchasing a tourism car before the year ends. So far, he employs two workers and anticipates employing more when the company expands. The company’s name ‘Panther’ is derived from the panther, a large member of the Big Cat family, and the reason he called it that is that he hopes panthers will one day be in Rwandan game parks. Apart from domestic tours, Munyankiko’s company offers services such as hotel and lodge bookings, translation services, honeymoon packages, private tours, tour consultancy, photography, and filming, among others.