President Paul Kagame has said that harnessing the full potential of the tourism industry will require continued focus as well as investments on several fronts.
The Head of State made the remarks this morning as he gave a key-note address during the official opening of the 41st Annual World Tourism Conference that opened August 28, running up to 31st , 2017 at Kigali Convention Centre.
Hosted by the Africa Travel Association (ATA), a division of the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the conference is aimed at highlighting the economic and job opportunities being fuelled by the sector’s continued growth and job creation through innovative business models, new technologies, and strategic partnerships.
The conference is also expected to provide a platform to network and explore new tourism markets and products including the promotion and preservation of Africa’s rich cultural heritage and wildlife.
In his speech, Kagame said that Rwanda, like other countries on the African continent, is keen to convert the favorable demographics into economic growth and prosperity. Services sector, tourism in particular, provides some of the best opportunities for young people.
Kagame pointed out that; “tourism sector is Rwanda’s biggest foreign exchange earner, but we can and should do better; harnessing the full potential of the tourism industry will require continued focus on investment on several fronts.”
One way of doing that, the President said, is to strengthen good governance which enables effective management of the environment that supports tourist attractions and revenue y generation. Rwandans, especially those living around parks and other attractions, have become indispensable to conservation.
“The responsibility of government players in the industry is to continuously provide quality education and professional training. We are investing heavily in services and infrastructure to support the development of the sector. Our national carrier, RwandAir, continues to expand to destinations within Africa and beyond.”
This year is the first time ATA’s Tourism Conference is hosted in Rwanda, one of East Africa’s premier tourism destinations and one whose sector continues to grow.
According to the RDB, Rwanda’s tourism sector generated US$303 million in revenue,
in 2014 up three percent in the previous year.
Kagame explained that Rwanda will soon have a more modern, efficient base when the new airport in Bugesera is completed to strengthen collaboration within the region and across the continent.
President Kagame noted, “The single tourist visa and passport-free travel with Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda is already a reality. We need more cooperation on the continent to increase the numbers of visitors, facilitate trade and investment within Africa.”
In less than 15 years Africa’s travel and hospitality industries have quadrupled in size, and the continent remains one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations, second only to Southeast Asia.
President and CEO of the Corporate Council of Africa, Florizelle Liser, says CCA aims to use the conference to encourage investments and policies that contribute to the sector’s growth.
On the sidelines of what was a packed agenda, ATA together with Facebook worked to deliver training to SMEs in Kigali.
The ‘Boost Your Business’ is a training initiative, developed by Facebook and facilitated by Digify Africa, designed to train and up-skill small business owners on how to leverage digital tools to grow their businesses. The training was held on August 26 at the Kigali Serena Hotel.
The tourism conference also aligns with Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s annual gorilla naming ceremony, a national celebration creating awareness of the country’s efforts to protect the jewel of Rwanda’s tourism crown: the mountain gorillas and their habit.