It was revealed this week that Rwanda’s earnings from the tourism sector had increased by 54 percent. The country in effect earned USD 214 million, an increase of USD 17 million in 2008.
The deputy CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in charge of tourism Chantal Rugamba was quoted as saying that with continued investment in the sector, it is expected to continue growing in 2009.
The increase in profits in the tourism sector reveals a number of things about Rwanda. It reveals that Rwanda has a lot of prime tourist attractions and at the same time it implies that there is a team that has done a great job in turning what is attractive to tourists into something that is economically beneficial to the country.
This is so because it is one thing to have a country that is rich in tourist attractions and a different matter turning that, into something that tourists pay for and make such a place their destination for holidays.
This column will argue thus because there are many countries endowed with tourist attractions but do not benefit from such. Moreover, there are others that are rich in other natural resources like minerals and oil but are yet to register real tangible benefits from having such.
So, the increase in the foreign exchange earned from the tourism sector speaks volumes about the managers of the sector and at the same time, the managers of the country- the country because there are preconditions that determine such earnings, especially from tourists.
Such a place or country must be stable politically for people to come from afar as tourists. Few would be willing to take risks going to unstable places.
This says a lot about the people who have ensured that Rwanda is stable fourteen years after the Genocide and the fact that those bent on creating insecurity have been neutralized.
The office in charge of tourism also projects an increase to up to 1.14 million tourists coming into Rwanda. Given the fact that many people in the western world are not particularly well informed about conditions in many parts of Africa, it means that the people in charge of the tourism sector have done a commendable job marketing Rwanda as a tourist destination.
The popular KWITA IZINA-gorilla naming ceremony seems to have done a lot to attract tourists to Rwanda. The rare gorillas are a great tourist attraction. But apparently ORTPN has done a lot to popularise Rwanda as a destination for those seeking to see the primates.
Rwandans at home and those in the Diaspora, can also make a great contribution to Rwanda’s development, by always positively talking about what the country has to offer in order to maintain and even improve drastically on the number of tourists coming to the country.
Those living out of Rwanda are in a way, informal ambassadors of the country. When they make friends, they will be making friends not only for themselves but also for their own country.
So it is important that they always encourage their foreign friends to make the trip to Rwanda which in turn translates into foreign earnings for the country.
Thus such will help to turn around the historical relationship most developing countries have had with developed countries. If many other sectors could be more productive, then the need to rely on foreign aid will be a thing of the past.
Instead of going to western capitals with “begging bowls” for aid, developing countries will be going with business proposals.
A request to do business with some one is miles apart compared to a request for foreign aid. Foreign aid which is tied with obnoxious conditionalities has never been proved to have a correlation with economic transformation of any society.
In fact some have argued that it has only helped to thwart necessary reforms that could have helped to jump-start developing countries’ economic development processes.
Such would put an end to the hostage like situation that poor countries find themselves in most times. For example the recent cutting of aid to Rwanda because of some unreliable reports by European countries would not arise if we were not in such a relationship based on aid.
So the tourism sector seems to be setting the pace in the direction away from such.