The 21st-century tourist will be ‘a hard nut to attract’

In southern USA, between the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, there is a short stretch of road that has become a sensation among Americans, and bagged ‘bags’ of money for residents of the area in the process, for exactly not being a stretch!

In southern USA, between the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, there is a short stretch of road that has become a sensation among Americans, and bagged ‘bags’ of money for residents of the area in the process, for exactly not being a stretch!

It’s an 11-mile road of “hairpins, blind cutbacks and cloverleaves” that had always been there without attracting attention until a motorcyclist decided these turns and twists, all 318 of them, posed an interesting challenge and let out the ‘secret’.

 

Today, the road, nicknamed ‘The Dragon’, has become the never-miss destination of motorcyclists, car enthusiasts and all who have an adventurous or curious spirit, money to spare and time for an outing. Residents of the area are said to be laughing all the way to the bank.

 

Bankers, health providers, hoteliers, restaurateurs, and those who sell curios, artifacts, photos, name them – maybe even sim-card sellers and battery-chargers? – are harvesting dollars (not “deplorables”!) by the basketfuls.

 

Now, if you ask me, that’s exactly what the doctor…..er, the economist?....ordered for this Land of a Thousand Hills.

For Rwanda is not only the Land of a Thousand Hills but also of over eleven million souls eager to be free and weaned off the pittance of donor handouts. These souls need to lure money spenders to this land, and remember to give back money’s worth, if they are to finally sustain themselves.

Lacking in natural resources, we have to borrow a leaf (as suggested elsewhere before) from out-of-the-box thinking countries and places that are rich without being overly endowed. Only then can we wean ourselves off dependence on others’ taxes and stand tall, our dignity fully intact.

There are many ‘leaves’ we can borrow from many countries and places.

For instance, the leaf we can borrow from ‘The Dragon’ is that of projecting ourselves as ‘Adventureland’; Disneyland for the old, so to say.

What many people don’t know is that ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ is a gross understatement!

Strictly speaking, this is the land of almost 12 million hills – as many as the number of souls that call it home. The veracity of this is borne out by the fact that our ancestors used to say that every Rwandan had their own hill, such that “Agasozi ka Nyira/Kanaka” was a common point of reference for directions.

These many hills, then, imagine how many turns and twists you can put on them, Karongi and Musanze roads being good examples. 

Adventure, however, cannot be hand-in-glove with smoothness and comfort, which is what asphalt-covered roads mean.

That’s where, once again, we can borrow a leaf from the East African Safari Rally of yore. Those who remember that car rally season will remember the clouds of dust and splashes of muddy waters associated with it. The death knell of the Safari Rally was sounded the moment many roads were covered with tarmac.

Considering how rugged and wild our innumerable hills are, it’d be no sweat etching out new rough tracks that will be hell in the dry season, worse in the wet!

Then, in the bargain, our Gorilla Rally and Tour du Rwanda can also learn to borrow an appropriate leaf, not simply that of being “rally”.

Which is not an indictment on Rwanda for not thinking out of the box for, if there was any clincher to so – thinking Kwita Izina was brilliant it.

And, come to think of it, somebody in our neck of the woods may have borrowed a leaf from that – from our baby gorilla naming ceremony.

You’ve probably heard the story. In Mamba Village, at the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa, wedding bells will soon be tolling in nuptials that will attract the Guinness Book of Records.

Come December, the lucky groom, a 100-year-old, 1,000-kg crocodile named Big Daddy will be tying the knot to his two croc brides, 35-year-old Sasha and 40-year-old Salma. And don’t fret for good old bozo BD; he ain’t breaking no laws. Kenya legalised polygamy in 2014.

It’s said that crowds galore from every known corner of this globe are rearing to descend on Mombasa, their money bags on their heads for the event!

If borrowed, this indeed was a good ‘leaf’ and should be a pointer to how many more ‘leaves’ Rwanda can continue to borrow, from herself and others. Lion cub naming ceremonies; wrestling matches between human and buffalo ‘matadors’; ‘skiing’ in the volcano mountains (not with skis); water skiing competitions… Our youthful brains, those who have ears…

All of which goes to show you this: gone are the days when all you needed to attract money were mountain gorillas; parks and their game; sandy, sunny beaches and their clear waters, et al. 

We need to create more stories around luring money to this land, plus these clean, orderly and peaceful streets must be made to chip in and more loudly tell their story, too.

Well handled, money spenders can sound the death knell to the shackles of donor aid.

But, beware! Attracting the 21st century money spender will call for a whole new paradigm, adorned in a whole new spin.

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