Tourism begins to pick up, thanks to local travellers

Visitors on the canopy walkway that slides over the forest up to 60 meters high inside Nyungwe Forest National Park. Sam Ngendahimana

The local tourism sector is showing signs of recovery following the reopening of the sector on June 17, preliminary statistics show.

Statistics from Rwanda Development Board (RDB) show that major facilities across the country are starting to see a growth in traffic with the optimism of growth in the coming weeks.

 

For instance, as of July 7, Volcanoes National Park had received 242 bookings with 180 visitors received. Of these, 113 visited the mountain gorillas.

 

Nyungwe National park, which features canopy walk and trails has so far had 30 visitors while Akagera National Park has hosted 750 visitors in less than a month.

 

On opening up the tourism facilitates, the government revised downwards the prices for gorilla-trekking permits as well as introduced special packages for other tourism offerings in the country, mainly targeting locals and citizens of the region.

Rwandans and East African nationals are now paying $200, with foreign residents paying $500. Lowering prices is intended to promote domestic tourism in the country as rates were previously at $1,500, which was out of reach for most local tourists.

Local tourism operators say that there is optimism of the growth of the sector as initial weeks have shown positive prospects.

By staying afloat supported by domestic tourism, the sector could maintain value chains ensuring that suppliers have markets for their produce and as many jobs as possible can be saved.

The readjustment of tourism models from international to domestic has been said by experts as the only option for the sector to remain afloat in the short term and medium term prior to the resumption of global markets.

Dino Urbani the Regional Manager at Mantis Collection which oversees Epic Hotel among other properties said that recent weeks have shown Rwandans are a critical player in supporting the tourism sector and could keep it afloat before resumption to normalcy.

He said that currently, operators could leverage on conference for weekdays and leisure for weekends. However, he noted that this calls for readjustment of packages to suit them to local tourists’ demands.  For instance, he noted that there is a preference for inclusive packages by domestic tourists.

One of Properties, Epic Hotels was a hive of activity over the long weekend, a development he said could enable operators save as many jobs as possible and reopen supply chains working with as many suppliers possible.

Plans to re-open commercial aviation in August, could further improve the sector’s survival chances as the country would open up to regional tourist, Urbani said.

Jes Gruner, the Manager of Akagera National Park, told The New Times that following the reopening of the park, they had seen a demand by tourists to visit the facility. He said that the ongoing awareness campaigns, professionalism and availing information was playing a role towards improving the confidence of potential visitors.

He noted that while a section of the public may have fear of visiting tourism facilities for fear of infection, professionalism among operators will serve to boost the confidence of tourists.

He also noted that the packages and price adjustments by players such as hotels go a long way towards incentivizing domestic travel.

Packages such as annual passes he said are some of the innovative ways that will see return clientele to parks across the year.

For instance, special packages are available for groups, families, and corporates on other products in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks.

Visitors on chartered flights can also travel to Rwanda and visit the popular primates. 

For new tourism operators such as Umusambi Village which commenced operations last week, they are seeing a steady stream of local tourists made up of both Rwandans and residents.

Dr. Olivier Nsengimana, the founder of the facility, said that as the tourism sector seeks to recover from the pandemic’s effects, maintenance of professionalism is a sure way to protect their clients as well as reduce the chances of further interruption.

cmwai@newtimesrwanda.com

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