Rwanda becomes the first country in East, Central and North Africa to become a member of the highly prestigious International Council of Tourism Partners (ICTP), enhancing its reputation as one of the favourite tourist destinations in the world.
In announcing Rwanda’s addition to the ICTP list, the Council said it gave the country a unique opportunity to promote itself through joint marketing and media programmes.
It is a rating that most countries which pride themselves as tourist destinations of choice pursue. Rwanda joins the ranks of elite destinations such as Seychelles and Johannesburg.
The International Council of Tourism Partners is a global alliance of responsible destination cooperation and marketing in tourism. It promotes best practices and being on its list is considered a sign of excellence.
ICTP chairman, Juergen T. Steinmetz, said Rwanda’s addition to its membership will also greatly benefit the council of ICTP founding members.
“We're very pleased to welcome Rwanda to our list of founding members, and our first member from East Africa. The Rwanda Development Board has shown true leadership in its work.
“I have been following the development of tourism in Rwanda over the years, and I'm impressed with the activities, involvements, and contributions the destination has been making,” he said.
Rwanda has been pushing for a single visa for tourist coming to the East African Community (EAC) region as a means of developing an edge over other tourism destinations.
Welcoming the development, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), John Gara said the country will use its membership of the Council to promote its tourism potential.
RDB is charged with the promotion of tourism and investment in the country.
“We are pleased to become a member of ICTP. Rwanda has enormous tourism potential and attractive destinations that are relatively unknown.
“The ICTP platform is an opportunity for the Rwanda Development Board to showcase its tremendous tourism destinations and conservation initiatives to the world through the joint marketing and media programmes of member countries,” he said.
Speaking exclusively to The New Times, Edwin Sabuhoro, the chairman of Tourism Chamber, said that private players in the sector are excited because the membership to the ICTP will boost the numbers of tourists. The Tourism Chamber is the national private sector tourism umbrella organisation that promotes the sector.
“We, the tourism and hospitality business community, are excited about this development, given the fact that we are one of the few quality destinations committed to green, sustainable and responsible tourism in the world,” Sabuhoro said.
“More to this, it is always good to join strategic alliances that represent the interface of what you are trying to achieve, and this is where ICTP comes in. It provides direct marketing and sales promotion for partner members and also identifies and establishes opportunities that will increase leisure and business tourism in particularly,” he said.
Rwanda now gets an important edge as a hub for meetings, incentives, conferences and events, increasing the revenues generated by tourism.
“It will also help us learn and share best practices that work at a country, community and business level, which will ultimately improve our market positioning, enhance our interaction with our markets and increase business to our destination,” Sabuhoro said.
Steinmetz said Rwanda has proved to be one of the few destinations on the continent that maintain a green development agenda.
“It's a great honour to have Rwanda join our dynamic group of quality travel destinations committed to green growth, because they are already widely recognised as a global tourism champion.
“Rwanda has been conducting itself as a responsible member of the global tourism industry, and is a very special destination with a great future,” Steinmetz said.
Tourism Sector performance
Rwanda’s tourism sector has done well at a time when tourists numbers have become choosy in picking destinations due to hard economic times.
According to RDB, for the first six months of the year, Rwanda hosted 405,801 visitors, which is a 27 percent increase compared to the same period last year.
The visitors generated an estimate of US$115.6 million, compared to almost US$90.6 million made last year during the same period (an increase of 28 percent).