At the age of 16, Charles Shima left Rwanda during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that claimed the lives of over a million people. Born in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1978 where he lived with his family, at some point, the family moved back to Rwanda but sadly, his mother died shortly after they relocated. In 1991, his father also passed on, leaving him orphaned and in the hands of relatives. When the Genocide started, Shima and some relatives managed to find their way to Bukavu in eastern DRC. He was familiar with the place as he had at one point, attended school there. From there, they headed to Kenya, and later to Canada, where he mostly lives. Charles Shima, founder of ZaNiheza. His wish was to come back home one day. On returning to Rwanda a couple of years later, he was astonished by how a country that had been destroyed, had advanced so fast. On his second trip to Rwanda in 2019, three issues prompted him to start a tourism company, Rwanda’s history, culture, and the potential of Rwandan youth. Originally, he wanted to build a platform to address family issues that have been overlooked for years, however, being passionate about tourism, and looking at the country’s beautiful scenery and rich culture, he instead thought of ways to boost local tourism, hence starting a company, ZaNiheza, located in Gikondo. He says that the company which offers a variety of cultural experiences has been an integral cog in the youth-empowering machine, whilst promoting Rwandan culture and creating learning opportunities for many. “My company employs vulnerable youth and women whom we equip with development skills in content creation, application systems and business. We also teach them English. We offer internship placements, provide seminars on a number of topics, such as emptied intelligence, customer service and sales,” Shima says. So far, he says, the company is encountering two major challenges, the ongoing pandemic and the lack of local and regional clients, but international clients are slowly coming back. He adds that it is difficult to convince locals to visit places in their own country. Although domestic tourism is bordering on non-existent, he says, he is raising awareness and doing the best with his team to promote it through social media. However, with the current measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, fun trips are not yet ideal. Shima points out that the journey has been both rewarding and challenging—he, among other things, got his national ID, and his eloquence in Kinyarwanda has greatly improved, a thing that makes him proud. Although the pandemic has reduced tourism activities, which in turn lowered profits, hope is not lost yet as he believes that there are creative ways to enhance the tourism industry. He urges tourism product owners to innovate and adapt their tourism sets to meet the demand for safe domestic tourism. Shima notes that domestic tourism means residents of a country traveling within that same country. It can be weekend getaways, road trips, and staycations (this means spending time off in or near your own home, rather than traveling to another location.) He adds that since domestic tourism is local travel, it’s easier and cheaper. He is certain that more domestic tourists can be attracted through creative marketing or advertising, swift responses to inquiries, consistent information, and up-to-date photography. When asked how his company is working towards improving the tourism industry in general, he says, “We have unique products that we design from our understanding of our culture and history. Our aim is to inform local, regional, and international tourists. “We are bringing new and inventive products in tourism. For example, we have the ‘Kigali Yacu Hiking Edition” that teaches the history of Mont Rebero and “Nkumbuye Iwacu Experience” for the Diaspora people who are looking to reconnect with their roots or discover Rwanda. We also offer “Umwami Experience”, a look into our pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history.” As tourism activities resume, Shima plans to partner with more local and regional tour operators who offer authentic and cultural experiences in Rwanda and beyond. He has no doubt that it will give them access to worldwide clients, and he is looking forward to creating more jobs for the youth as well. Through his YouTube channel ‘Zaniheza’, he promotes Rwanda by informing the world about culture, business, and travel. His channel also showcases the work of local entrepreneurs, artists, fashion designers, and et cetera. Additionally, he also produces travel series in towns across the country, and offers virtual experiences—the company did a Kigali Virtual Experience for Carnegie Mellon University Africa, an experience targeting new students from Africa.