RDB shifts ploy to entice local tourists

Rwanda Development Board (RDB) says it will rollout special and dearer rates for Rwandan citizens willing to visit the country’s heritage and attractions, a move that will stimulate the dreary domestic tourism cluster. Domestic tourism, which is eclipsed by foreign tourism, has recently captured the goodwill eye of the tourism chamber, which is also seeking to give a facelift to the entire sector.
Rica Rwigamba, Head of Tourism and Conservation in Rwanda Development Board (RDB)
Rica Rwigamba, Head of Tourism and Conservation in Rwanda Development Board (RDB)

Rwanda Development Board (RDB) says it will rollout special and dearer rates for Rwandan citizens willing to visit the country’s heritage and attractions, a move that will stimulate the dreary domestic tourism cluster.

Domestic tourism, which is eclipsed by foreign tourism, has recently captured the goodwill eye of the tourism chamber, which is also seeking to give a facelift to the entire sector.

“We need to streamline the industry to have special rates for local tourists,” said Rica Rwigamba, the head of the tourism and conservation at RDB.

Rwigamba is optimistic that the current diversification of tourism destinations will breathe life into domestic tourism through cheap and tailored products that attract resident tourists.

“With the launch of the Congo Nile Trail Rwanda Tourism is further diversifying and sharing its cultural and natural heritage with the world,” she said.

Edwin Sabuhoro, Chairman of the tourism chamber recently said that Rwanda’s tourism will be rebranded by the end of 2012, with strategies targeting to boost domestic tourism to keep the industry afloat even during periods of low international visitors.

“Branding will promote and tap into more tourist attraction destinations such cultural tourism, birding which we expect will also attract local tourists,” he said.

The tourism sector is one of Rwanda’s pillars in its pursuit of a middle income economy by 2020. Tourism has for the past years grown tremendously with an increase to US$56.6m in the first quarter of 2011 from US$43m in the same period 2010.

 Rwigamba says that embarking on the sensitisation of communities to participate in tourism will trigger an increase in the incomes of communities and businesses that fall along its path, since they will benefit from an in increase direct sales of goods and services to tourists.

The Congo Nile Trail together with recently launched birding tourism in Nyungwe forests, cultural tourism promotion and refurbishment and elevation of Gishwati National Conservation Park as the newest national park in Rwanda are seen as ways that would help entice local tourists.

Rwigamba notes that the 227 km trail that stretches from Lake Kivu shores across from the DR Congo is “a breathtaking bucket list once-in-a-lifetime hiking experience” that creates the western Rwanda corridor which links Nyungwe and Volcanoes national parks.

The hiking project that will also incorporate in tea and coffee plantations tours was developed in 2009 under the funding of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

 Kamugisha Kirenga, the president of the Rwanda Safari guides Association notes that such products that provides expedition experiences and accommodates prices and interests of local tourists who are normally in families will boost the domestic tourism.

“We are moving towards professionalism because if we have the best service delivery it will attract even the local tourists and increase volumes of foreign tourists on the other hand,” he said.

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