Rwanda’s tourism receipts leaped to US$ 200 million (Rwf118.4billion) in 2010, up 14 percent from 2009 with 666,000 tourists visiting the country, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has said.
In an interview with Business Times, the Head of Tourism and Conservation at DDB, Rica Rwigamba, said 2010 was a successful year for the tourism industry, which exceeded its target by 7 percent.
The launch of a canopy walk in Nyungwe National Park, “Kwita Izina” and FESPAD strongly contributed to the 14 percent year-on-year growth of the tourism industry.
“A unique interactive interpretation centre was unveiled in Nyungwe and is now operational,” Rwigamba said, adding that visitors to the park rose by 18 percent, where about 80 percent are visitors to the canopy walk.
The canopy walk was launched last year to provide a cutting edge to visitors that experience the park from a new vantage point from above 50 meters above ground and is the first of its kind in Eastern Africa.
Rwigamba said that during the FESPAD, a number of concerts organized countrywide attracted over 200,000 fans.
“This is in line with the strategy of developing and promoting cultural tourism in the coming future as a key tourism attraction,” she said.
According to the official, the 2010 Kwita Izina ceremony, where 14 baby gorillas were given names, attracted hundreds of international visitors.
The population of mountain gorillas rose by a 26.3 percent over the last seven years with a 3.7 percent annual growth, according to Gorilla Census conducted in April 2010. The mountain Gorillas are one of Rwanda’s top tourism revenue earners.
Statistics suggest that leisure tourists accounted for 46 percent of the total visitors while business travelers make a share of 41 percent.
“This is clear sign of recovery in terms of holiday makers while it continues to emphasize the importance of conference and business based tourists,” Rwigamba explained.
RDB says it plans to launch three new birding routes outside the national parks, cultural tourism and the development of tourism in an effort to diversify the country’s tourism industry. The plans are contained in the country’s long term tourism master plan.
Despite the boom, Rwigamba said, the sector is still challenged with limited capacity in the private sector, which is affecting the service in the hospitality sector.