The World Bank says Rwanda’s approach to promoting tourism while enhancing the welfare of communities around game reserves is a model that should be replicated in other countries.
In a report, ‘Tourism in Africa: Harnessing Tourism for Growth and Improved Livelihoods,’ released yesterday, the Bank mainly looked the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in the Volcanoes National Park, a high-end facility whose proceeds are shared between the investor and communities around the park.
From Silverback project, the community benefits from both the number of nights and a percentage of after-tax profits which gives it immediate benefits and an incentive to grow the business,” reads part of the report.
The land and physical assets are owned by the community but the lodge is managed by a well-known tourism operator to meet the needs of the high-end market, says the World Bank report.
“Rwanda’s approach, a model project, is a public-private partnership that secures community land ownership, protects critical biodiversity, and enhances the welfare of local communities,” it adds.
In addition, funds accruing to the community are managed by a community trust and divided between community projects and household dividends.
The Head of Tourism and Conservation at Rwanda Development Board’s, Rica Rwigamba, said the Sabyinyo concept is not yet spread out countrywide, but there are plans to roll it out in the near future.
“A concession policy is now in place and the model can be spread out. We are ready for this and do actually encourage it, but ultimately, it is has to be a private investment,” Rwigamba said.
She also admitted that the local tourism industry needs considerable improvement in terms of “service or customer service” and that “professionals in the sector are still lacking.”
Manzi Kayihura, the chief executive of a Thousand Hills Expedition, a tour operator, said basic infrastructure has been put in place to mitigate threats to precious land and animals, and to help communities living near wildlife sanctuaries promote conservation and protect their economic interests at the same time.
“Almost everything is actually in place. All we need to do is strengthen and spread out this [Sabyinyo] model, but we are already on the right path,” said Kayihura, who also doubles as the chairperson of Rwanda Tour and Travel Association.
Giving back to community
Meanwhile, other incentives that government put in place to help locals benefit from tourism activities in parks in their midst is to earmark 5 per cent of all proceeds from tourism toward community projects.
Courtesy of this, schools and other social infrastructures have been built and, in turn, some poachers in the parks have abandoned the criminal engagement and joined conservation campaign.
Tourism is Rwanda’s highest foreign exchange earner, and, in 2012, it fetched $281.8 million (about Rwf180 billion)–58.4 per cent of total foreign exchange earnings.
Meanwhile, the World Bank says Africa’s tourism is set to boost economic growth, create new jobs, and outpace other regions for new tourism investment.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s tourism industry is set to directly employ 6.7 million people by 2021.
The report says tourism accounted directly or indirectly for one in every 20 jobs in sub-Saharan Africa in 2011, and is one of the few industries on the continent in which women are well-represented as employees and managers.
The report examines the potential of Africa to improve and expand the tourism sector, and suggests that 33 of sub-Saharan Africa’s 48 countries currently have the capacity for tourism success through establishing strong political support for developing the industry and attracting increased private investment to help finance and sustain the sector.
In 2012, Africa attracted 33.8 million visitors, up from a low 6.7 million visitors in 1990, and its receipts from tourism for the same year amounted to over $36 billion, or 2.8 per cent of the region’s growth domestic product.