One of our avid readers recently pointed out that religious tourism was not given the attention it deserved.
He was alluding to Kibeho in the Southern Province, a place where it is believed the Virgin Mary made several apparitions in the 80’s and now attracts many pilgrims from all over.
His argument was that there was no mention of Kibeho on Rwanda Tourism’s website, a very valid pointer as the country seeks to expand the countries tourism landscape.
The absence of Kibeho could have been inadvertently overlooked, but what about promoting local tourism? To many Rwandans, a tourist is a foreigner with bags stuffed with dollars to visit the exotic sites we have to offer.
But that myth should be debunked if locals are to be lured into joining the crowd smarming to visit the Gorillas or other tourism attractions.
It costs a national Rwf 30,000 to spend an hour with the gorillas after a couple hours of mountain trekking. But to the average Rwandan, that can be an exorbitant amount. But if RDB worked closely with local savings groups (Saccos) the issue could be arranged through soft loans to ease the potential local tourist’s financial pain.
It becomes a bit embarrassing when a foreigner engages you in a conversation on tourism sites he has visited in Rwanda, and you have no idea what it is all about. How is one expected to market his country while equipped with ignorance?
But again, we can not only rely on foreign tourists as it only needs an incident of insecurity to scare them away, as Kenya is currently experiencing, So, plan B should aim at local tourism. It is the safest bet.