The Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks will head to Rutland, England this August in an effort to promote the country as a birdwatching travel destination.
With approximately 90 per cent of its ecotourism revenues tied to the mountain gorillas, Rwanda wants to diversify its tourism products, says Jeremy Kahn, an associate with OTF Group, an American consulting firm working with the Rwandan government to make the country a “world class avitourism destination.”
Kahn says diversifying tourism products will help the industry grow and have a positive economic impact on the whole country, rather than just specific pockets.
“Gorillas are great, they should stay and they will continue, but in order for receipts to keep going up, product diversification needs to occur,” he says.
“Avitourism was identified as one of the best ways to diversify the product portfolio.”
The Tourism Office will have a booth at the British Birdwatching Fair, Aug. 15-17, which Kahn says is an important move in creating more awareness about Rwanda’s emerging industry. There are more than 670 different types of birds in Rwanda, of which many are endemic to the country.
Despite this, the avitourism industry in Rwanda is “very small,” says Kahn, noting that the industry is not documented well.
“We have our guesses. There are people coming in, but again, the problem is people don’t know. Even the top birders in the world have no idea that birding in Rwanda is good, that there are a lot birds available, they’re fairly easily accessible.”
Rwanda will be competing with countries such as South Africa and Uganda, which already have an established avitourism industry worth more than $80 million (Frw2.1 billion), to attract some of the seven million bird watchers who travel internationally annually.
Kahn estimates that Rwanda’s avitourism could reach $11 million per year when it is fully up and running.