Tourism sector can grow further if Rwandans are willing to experience, learn and share the beauty that the country bestows to the world, Belise Kariza, chief tourism officer at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), has said.
Kariza was briefing journalists on the launch of domestic tourism campaign that the agency is seeking to promote on social media under a hash tag, #TemberuRwanda, which loosely translates as “Experience Rwanda.”
The drive, which coincides with the national celebrations to mark the World Tourism Day 2016, is aimed at encouraging citizens to travel and experience what the sector has to offer.
World Tourism Day (WTD) is marked on September 27, annually, and Rwanda will mark the day tomorrow in Huye District.
Kariza said, by consuming local tourism products, citizens contribute to the country’s brand narrative.
“This is call to all of us to change the mindset that tourism is only for the rich. The opportunity to discover the country as a tourist attraction is one that should be accessible to all,” Kariza said.
She said Rwanda has placed tourism at the centre of socio-economic development.
The campaign seeks to double domestic tourism revenues.
Tourism revenues have significantly increased. Statistics reveal it has increased from $26 million in 2005 to over $ 300 million in 2015, indicating a double digit growth last year.
However, domestic tourists’ numbers are low compared to international numbers; Akagera National Park shows positive sign as Rwandans represents 61 percent of park visits, in Nyungwe domestic visits are at 37 percent and 14 percent in Volcanoes National Park.
“We hope to see these numbers increase and that is the purpose of this campaign,” Kariza said.
Free transport and site access
To encourage as many people as possible, RDB will be providing free transport and access to historical and cultural sites to Rwandans and non-Rwandans residing in Rwanda, who will be part of the campaign.
However, the agency will not provide accommodation and meals during the two-day travel experience.
A 26-seater bus has been prepared for those who wish to be part of the experience on the first-come-first-served basis.
The travelling party departs Kigali at 8am today, and the campaign will focus on historical and cultural routes in Kamonyi, Ruhango, before arriving at Mt Huye in Huye District for the Tourism Day.
There are about 12 cultural and historical destinations to be visited during this trek.
For those who will not be able to be part of RDB offer, a private tours and travel company, Wilson Tours, will provide transport, access to the sites and accommodation at Rwf30,000 per person.
Wilson Habimana, of Wilson Tours, said the offer is open to as many people as possible. However, this group departs at 5:30am tomorow.
Kariza highlighted the fact that travelling opens up one’s mind, changes the way people think and its fun—rallying Rwandans to cultivate the culture of traveling and touring different destinations in their country.
“Rwanda is among the most acclaimed destinations in Africa and we invite locals to bear witness to the experience,” Kariza said.
The acting head of tourism at RDB, Faustin Karasira, said, in December, there will be another edition of domestic tourism campaign that will focus on the youth, especially students, who will be on holidays.
“We are also working with the Ministry of Local Government to promote the culture of tourism by sensitising the public during the monthly Umuganda service and other grassroots events. The main challenge to domestic tourism is mindset. We need to change this, teach our children to appreciate our history and rich culture, ” he said.
The Domestic Tourism Campaign will be actively steered by the hash tags #JumpOnBusRW and #TemberuRwanda.