BERLIN - For the second successive year, Rwanda has beaten the rest of Africa at this year’s ITB Berlin tourism exhibition in Germany. In the rankings released on Saturday, the country was rated ahead of Tunisia, South Africa, Namibia, Ethiopia and Kenya, which followed in that order. Morocco, Egypt, Tanzania and Eritrea also came among the top ten African exhibitors. The trade fair, which kicked off on March 5 is scheduled to end today. It is attended by eleven Rwandan exhibitors – mainly from tour operators. Two officials including the Director General of Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), Chantal Rosette Rugamba and the agency’s Marketing Manager, Patrick Manzi, are also attending.
This year’s exhibition attracted 11,147 exhibitors from 186 countries and at least 180,000 visitors.
Rwanda last year held the same position, moving from the second spot in the Africa category in 2006.
Asked about the main reasons behind the country’s position, Annet Tamara, the ORTPN Public Relations Officer, said yesterday that Rwandan representatives at the world’s biggest tourism trade fair, exhibited excellence right from their marketing tools, booth design, hospitability to giving a well informative a overview about their exhibits to various visitors.
“Those that rank nations come to your booth as any other visitor, and take note of every single detail, ranging from how you have received them, the décor around your place, how coordinated you are, to how satisfactory are your explanations regarding various exhibits,” Tamara explained.
She said that among the things that helped Rwanda win included cultural exhibits and the various types of souvenirs including locally branded coffee and tea that visitors received from Rwanda’s stand attendants. A Rwandan basket weaver was also among the exhibitors, she added.
Officials also pointed to the input of German’s Cologne Business School (CBS), which helped market Rwanda’s tourism through a website (www. ruanda-tourismus.de), on which they provide crucial insight into the country’s tourism sector.
On the website, CBS sells the country under the slogan ‘Rwanda: a New African Dawn’.
But the success is not only about the trophy and best-exhibitor certificate that Rwanda stands to receive for its excellent position.
“Being number one is an honor for Rwanda, and it gives confidence to our targeted tourists and partners to consider Rwanda as their tourism destination,” Tamara said.
“The exhibition is also about making business for our private sector. When such a good image is built because of a wider publicity, you start to have international companies coming to partner with your private sector, which presents an important boost to your industry.”
The country’s tourism sector has lately rediscovered itself as among top foreign exchange earner, bringing into the state treasury $42.3 million last year. It was second to the mining sector, beating traditional higher earners coffee and tea.
Speaking before setting off for the annual international tourism exhibition, Rugamba said Rwandan participants would seek to “consolidate into the European travel market while providing general information about Rwanda’s latest developments, new tourism products like Bird watching that was launched in 2007, premier tourism events like “Kwita Izina” (gorilla naming ceremony) and the available potential business and investment opportunities in the tourism sector.”
Tourism officials have raised the bar well above the achievements registered last year, during which the sector saw a 19% increase in tourist arrivals compared to 2006 and a 36% increase in revenues collected. During the same year, the country welcomed 39,000 tourists compared to 31,000 in 2006 when tourism pumped $35.9m into the national economy.
Last year was also significant in terms of tourism investments. According to ORTPN, during that year, the sector received investments estimated at $78m and the largest Foreign Direct Investment from Dubai World at $230m.
Now the agency targets at receiving 50,000 tourists and to generate $ 68m this year.
Rwanda’s strategic geographical location and scenery, the increasingly growing population of its mountain gorillas, security, as well as friendly policies on the protection of wildlife and tourist sites, are seen as a driving force behind the resurgence of the sector left in shambles by the 1994 Genocide.