Statistics show that only 20% of Rwandans have contributed to tourism revenues in the recent past, and now the government is calling on them to embrace domestic tourism to spur the sector.
The call was made yesterday as Rwanda marked World Tourism Day (WTD 2016), in Huye District.
This year’s theme “Tourism for all” is a call for all people to change their mindset of thinking that tourism is only for the rich or international travelers.
Belise Kariza, the Chief Tourism Officer (CTO) at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said the agency aims to attain a 25 percent increase in tourism revenues every year: “But this can only be achieved with the contribution of Rwandans”.
Statistics from RDB show that as of July 2016, domestic tourists visiting local destinations was low compared to international tourists. Akagera National Park shows positive signs as domestic tourists represents 61 percent of visits, in Nyungwe, domestic visits are at 37 percent and 14 percent in Volcanoes National Park.
Available statistics from RDB show that, last year alone tourism fetched about $342 million.
“We regard Rwandans as best placed to tell the story of Rwanda more than the international tourists. On this day, we wish to again make this call to all the citizens to travel, experience and share the beauty that Rwanda has to offer,” Kariza said.
The World Tourism Day event was preceded by a maiden domestic tourism campaign dubbed “Tembera U Rwanda’ loosely translated as “Explore Rwanda”.
It included a tour of historical and cultural route; “the Heritage Corridor”, from Kigali - Kamonyi- Ruhango and Huye districts for two days from 30th September to 1st October.
Some of the places that were visited include “Ijuru rya Kamonyi” ; the ancient military base of former Rwandan Kings; ‘Urutare rwa Kamegeri” a slab of rock upon which one of the kingdom notables known as Kameger was burnt alive; “Amasuka ya Papa”- a monument which was planted by Pope John Paul II in 1990 and the former home of Queen Kankazi, among other places.
The two-day tour, which ended yesterday, was crowned by hiking Mount Huye “Ibisi bya Huye” all the way to the former territory of Nyagacecuru—a famous rebellious female during the reign of King Ruganzu II. The King’s Army known as Ibusimizi, in the 16th Century defeated Nyagacecure.
“People need to visit such places, learn the history of our culture and the nation and later share it with the next generation. This will sustain our culture and heritage,” Kariza said.
She noted that RDB was considering developing and preserving some of these places to benefit the next generation, However, the agency “strongly encourages” private partnership in preserving our heritage.
The ‘Tembera u Rwanda’ campaign will be extended for a period of 3 months, according to Kariza.
RDB has identified various priority areas for tourism development known as Destination Management Areas (DMAs) which are designated in Musanze, Akagera, Gisenyi, Kibuye, Nyungwe, Muhazi to facilitate the promotion of “Tembera u Rwanda” drive.
The scheduled tours include, the Heritage corridor – Kigali Hub to Nyungwe DMA; the Eco-Agro corridor – Kigali Hub to Volcanoes DMA, the Scenic corridor – Kigali Hub to Kibuye DMA; and the Community corridor – Nyungwe DMA to Gisenyi DMA.
The Heritage corridor involved several stopovers in Kamonyi, Muhanga, Ruhango and Nyanza, from where participants had a chance to meet a local storyteller who would give a brief on the historical and cultural aspects of that specific site.
Kariza reiterated the fact that domestic tourism is a worthwhile investment and the opportunity to discover the country, as a tourist is one that should be “accessible to all.”
However, Faustin Karasira, the acting head of tourism at RDB noted that this campaign should not be perceived as entirely dependent on RDB’s preparation—arguing that private tour operators should grab the opportunity with both hands to promote domestic tourism.
Wilson Habimana of Wilson Tours and Travel agency noted, “they (Tour operators will take this opportunity to sell even the untold stories and destinations around Rwanda.
“We are going launching a weekly domestic tourism campaign called ‘No-Boring Weekend’ where we will take interested tourists to different places around Rwanda.
This will promote the sector in the return,” Habimana said.