Rwanda’s revenues from the tourism sector dropped from $186m in 2008 to $174m in 2009, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) said yesterday.
Tourists also reduced to 689,952 in 2009 from 765,000 in the previous year, representing a 9 percent decline.
“There were a number of factors that led to the reduction. Some of which was the lack of product diversification, meaning exporting the same products,” Rosette Rugamba, Deputy CEO in charge of Tourism and Conservation at RDB said.
Rwanda’s tourism products include three national parks (Nyungwe, Akagera and Volcanoes) which cover 8.6 percent of Rwanda, cultural tourism, adventure and eco-tourism among others. Rugamba also attributed the decline in visitors the Congo war.
Analysts say that the drop in Rwanda’s highest foreign exchange earner is a big blow to the economy since it plays an important role in covering the country’s current account deficit.
The sector’s target for 2009 was to attract 760,000 tourists that would generate $190m (Rwf108.2b) in to the national coffers.
However, RDB projects a rebound in this year’s visitors and revenues, putting the estimates at 750,000 visitors who will attract $187m (Rwf106.5b). This represents an increase of 7 percent.
Rugamba could not rule out the impact of the global financial crisis as another possibility leading to the drop in the tourism industry.
Last year tourism industry directly employed over 413,000 people in tourism services and the employment rates this year are projected at 490,000.
In the past 10 years, the tourism sector has attracted $700 million (Rwf398.8b) in form of investment where 20 percent has been Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and this has seen hotel rooms increase from 651 in 2001 to 4225 rooms in 2009.
However, the sector is said to be challenged with limited marketing of the existing products, the perception that Rwanda is not safe, reliance on a few products as well as reduced investment, especially due to the financial crisis.