As regional neigbours grapple with falling figures of tourists visiting their countries, Rwanda’s tourism receipts showed a stead growth dispelling off fears of an earlier forecasted decline.
Figures from the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Tourism Office show that tourism receipts grew by 11 receipts in the first quarter of 2009.
Globally, tourism figures are projected to decline this year as a result of the persistent financial crisis affecting mainly developed world that is home to majority of potential tourists.
However, Rwanda’s tourism foreign earnings from January to March increased to $24 million (Rwf13.6 billion) up from $22 million (Rwf12.5 billion) in the same period last year.
Rosette Chantal Rugamba, Deputy Chief Executive Officer in-charge of the Tourism Office attributed the increase to the initiation of new products such as eco-tourism that targets high-end tourists.
According to statistics, international visitors increased to 20,809 in the first three months of 2009 from 95,000 in 2008.
“Business conferences and high-end eco-tourists boosted our revenues as they are not that sensitive to the global slump. Despite the upward trend in the overall performance, we are still cautious, which calls for diversifications in the sector. Nobody in the world is growing in tourism numbers, they are actually reducing,” Rugamba said.
This year Rwanda expects to generate $224 million (Rwf127.3 billion) from a targeted 1.14 million visitors. But government has also previously targeted that tourism earnings could drop by 15 percent as a result of the global economic meltdown.
Rugamba said the tourism office will introduce birding awareness campaigns and acquire a high-end boat to facilitate tours on Lake Kivu in order to mitigate the likely shortfall.
Media reports indicate that Rwanda’s neigbours, are already feeling the pinch with figures of foreign visitors falling dramatically.
Tanzania’s tourism industry revenues are expected to dip below the projected $1.6 billion, as the Arusha-based Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (Tato) reported a drop in tourist booking confirmations from abroad.
Similar slumps were recorded in Nairobi, forcing the Kenyan government to cut tourist visa fees in half to $25.
Rwanda has three national parks including Akagera, Nyungwe and the Virunga, home to nearly 200 gorillas.
The Virunga National park (Parc National des Volcans) in northwest is the most visited.