Rwanda Push Domestic Tourism

Rwanda is one of the first countries in East Africa to officially reopen for tourism and hospitality amid the coronavirus outbreak that prompt the Rwandan government to impose total lockdown, border closure, and airspace for over five months.

Yet the tourist arrivals turn up have been low since the Rwanda government announced the opening of its airspace for tourism. That prompts the government and Rwanda tour operators to look inwards to promote domestic tourists to loosen the strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The tourism sector is one of the fundamental sectors of the Rwanda economy. Despite the controversial deal signed in 2018 between the Rwanda government and English football side Arsenal to promote tourism received a lot of criticism from some sections of people in the country, the value will see Arsenal football club promote “Visit Rwanda” on their club jersey.

Yet the Rwanda tourism industry has been experiencing unprecedented growth. Rwanda generated 498 million dollars in tourism revenues in 2019, but the coronavirus lockdown grounded those activities. After registering the first coronavirus case in March, Rwanda swiftly banned tourism and hospitality activities. But that has been said in recent months; the board had to think out of the box to promote local tourism; Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the country’s tourism regulator, announced the reopening of activities to domestic tourists and visitors arriving in the East Africa nation.

The agency is encouraging Rwandans to visits main tourist attractions, introducing special packages for groups, families, and companies on products for domestic tourists visiting volcanoes and Nyungwe National parks. In the same month, RDB slashed gorilla permits from $1,500 uniform price to $200 for Rwandans and East African community nationals residing in Rwanda, and $500 for foreign resident as part of promotional efforts to encourage domestic tourists. The domestic tourism promotion was particularly crucial amid the pandemic, and residents felt its impact showed enthusiasm in touring.

Groups of locals traveled to national parks such as Akagera and Nyungwe National parks, and the sector players were busy. The operators were positive after the agency was able to promote domestic tourism. It was flattering, said Gatera, one of the operators, shared his view, saying customers were mainly foreign tourists.

The G-Step Tour Company was one of the leading tour operators in the country before the pandemic, but in the ensuing months, the business has been tough with canceled trips and no visitors. Andrew Gatera, the company owner, told Anadolu Agency.

“Business was hit; from almost the end of last December, most of our tour vehicles were parked. Until June, when tourism activities resumed, our tour vehicles had last gone to the park with tourists in February,”

The business was abnormally low as tourists were no longer flying in; business dwindled to about 10% of what we used to work.” However, the initiative of RDB to promote inbound tourism has been welcomed development for operators in the sector and by a lot of people thanks to the industry of the Rwanda tourism authority through the marketing strategy to encourage the Rwandan citizens to visit these tourist centers.

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