Residents and officials of Nyaruguru District have voiced concerns over the lack of investment in the hospitality industry; something they say will affect the tourism boom in the area.
Nyaruguru is known as a holy land after apparitions of the Virgin in the village of Kibeho in the 1980s and since then it has become a pilgrimage and tourist destination.
Francois Habitegeko, the Mayor of Nyaruguru , told Sunday Times that thousands of religious tourists visit the holy land every week but lack access to services in the hospitality sector.
“Concerning religious tourism, we have a big issue of little accommodation in the area. Religious tourists have been increasing. We now receive between 500,000 and 600,000 pilgrims every year but most of them can’t stay overnight because we don’t have good hotels and other hospitality facilities,” he said.
“We are urging investors to come and help us solve the issue of accommodation for tourists. This would help improve service delivery they need,” he said.
The official adeed that only one investor is going to build a four star hotel around the holy land which is a model step for other investors.
“This investor has already purchased a plot of land and is waiting for a construction permit. We need more such investments as religious tourists continue to increase,” he noted.
The government has pledged land as incentives for investors who want to invest in the hospitality industry in the district.
“There is also a project to build a very big basilica that can host between 8,000 and 10,000 people. It will have a VIP section too. We need more of such projects to attract more tourists,” he said.
He added that eco-tourism projects are also being designed in partnership with Rwanda Development Board such as hiking, visiting Nyungwe National Park and other cultural attractions.
Habitegeko stressed that having better roads, a new modern hospital and market are one of the services that will make tourists t keep coming back to the Holy land.
“Construction of a new modern hospital called Munini hospital is on course, more roads are also being tarmacked and the penetration of electricity and water is expanding,” he said.
He added that compensation for the expropriated residents along the 66 Km road from Huye-Kibeho-Munini-Ngoma is being processed.
“One of the challenges we have been facing in terms of attracting investors to this area are roads which are in bad shape,” he said.
Community to benefit
A group of women in Nyaruguru district told Sunday Times that they plan to attract religious tourists through eco-tourism products and also run income generating businesses aimed at serving the pilgrims.
“There is a modern market being built and each woman in the cooperatives will gain access to the market. We can supply fruits and vegetables to hotels and some of us will do basket weaving and knitting, beadwork and candle manufacturing ,” said Henriette Uwihoreye.
She added that most of the young people in the area will get jobs since most of them have completed high school.