Tourism and hospitality sector players have lauded proposed lifting of visa restrictions on Rwandans by South Africa, saying it boost their operations and the number of new arrivals. South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, announced the decision during the 10th extraordinary meeting of African Union in Kigali last week.
Local tour operators for so long have had limited access to South African market, especially for big and popular tourism fairs, like We are Africa and Indaba, among others.
“The move is expected to boost business through increased arrivals from South Africa. We have not been able to market Rwanda’s potential as tourist destination in the country years now,” said Davidson Mugisha, from Wild Life Tours. He was optimistic that once the country is accessible, they will be able to market the uniqueness of Rwanda as a tourist destination to attract more tourists and sector investors.
Local industry player say that South Africans have a strong travelling culture and they have the means, but few people coming from the country due to limited information about Rwanda.
Sector stakeholders and experts also say the decision is also expected to improve the image of both countries in diaspora relations and boost business.
“It has been like a wall, not only between two countries, but also among the diaspora. We have experienced this in different travel and tourism exhibitions across the world,” Mugisha said.
He was optimistic that many local tourism and hospitality sector stakeholders would participate in the forthcoming Indaba expo, “now that the main barrier has been removed”.
The annual Indaba exhibition is Africa’s largest travel trade show.
South Africa’s Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) sector is also advanced, and local players can learn from a lot from the country as MICE tourism is on top of Rwanda development agenda.
“We have so much to benefit from South Africa as tour operators, including easy access to the market. Therefore, the move by the new South African leadership will promote trade and investment between the two countries,” said Carol Namatovu, the managing director of Terra Incognita Eco Tours.
The African Union is promoting development of tourism-related infrastructure and services as part of efforts to fully-exploit the continent’s huge tourism potential under the Agenda 2063.
The initiative seeks to make Africa the preferred destination through creation of a unique ‘Brand Africa’ that will “resonate across the world and attract more visits to cross-border tour packages on the continent”.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 2017 report on tourism for transformative and inclusive growth in Africa, indicates that one out of 14 jobs was generated by tourism industry between 2011-2014. The study also shows that tourism export revenues in Africa totals to $47 billion annually over the period, while tourist arrivals were 56 million.