The report released by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in 2020 indicates that tourism contributed 10.9 percent to Rwanda’s GDP growth in 2019 making it the second Sub-Sahara African country with fastest growing tourism sector.
The growth reflects Rwanda’s efforts to market the country as a destination for tourists through Visit Rwanda campaign, gorilla conservation efforts, building infrastructures to host international conferences, reintroducing new animal species and protecting national parks among others.
Since 2000, Rwanda designed ambitious tourism development blueprint targeting to earn US$800 million by 2024 which might be affected by effects of COVID-19.
Doubled tourism revenues
The research carried out by the African Leadership University (ALU) on the impact of wildlife to Africa’s economy, indicates that Rwanda’s tourism revenues increased from US$200 in 2010 to over US$400 million in 2019.
The research shows that some of visitors come to Rwanda for different reasons including excursion, visiting families, study trips, working visits and exploring business opportunities.
Rwanda, Arsenal partnership
In 2018, Rwanda entered partnership with Arsenal Football Club that saw the ‘Visit Rwanda’ logo featuring on the Premier League club’s left sleeve.
Through the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Rwanda initially signed three-year deal worth Euro 30 million.
By the end of the first year of the partnership, Rwanda’s tourism revenue increased by 17% to US$498 million in 2019 from US$425 million in 2018.
Leisure tourists from Europe increased by 22% and by 17% from the UK.
Following the positive feedback, Rwanda announced recently in August 2021 that the partnership with Arsenal Football Club has been extended.
“After a successful start to the 3-year partnership with Arsenal Football Club, the Rwanda Development Board decided in 2019 to renew the partnership, which was then announced on 14 May 2021, during the launch of the club’s 2021/22 away kit,” reads part of the message released via Twitter handle.
According to RDB, the renewed partnership will build on the gains made over the last 3 years and ‘contribute towards Rwanda’s economic recovery strategy following the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the tourism sector’.
“The partnership will also continue to leverage Arsenal’s expertise to develop football locally in Rwanda, with a focus on improving the quality of coaching at the grassroots level for girls and boys,” adds the tweet.
Apart from the partnership, the research carried out by ALU also shows that gorilla conservation efforts have also yielded big attracting a large number of tourists from across the world.
Figures show that Virunga National Park contributed 91.7% of tourism revenues from four national parks in 2019 where 50 percent of tourists visiting the park were attracted by gorillas.
The gorilla naming ceremony held every year since 2005 has also contributed immensely to attracting tourists particularly celebrities joining Rwanda for the flagship conservation event marketing Rwanda’s tourism.
In 2018, the ceremony which is among most high profile events brought together 65,000 participants from different corners.
Following the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, Rwanda embarked on a resilience journey and improved its visibility on the global scene through different activities to lure tourists and investors, tightening security, building infrastructures including hotels, preserving national parks and maintaining high standards of cleanliness among others.
In 2008, Rwanda banned the use of plastic bags and intensified measures to maintain hygiene where Kigali City is among cleanest cities worldwide.
Through ongoing conservation efforts, Rwanda has so far separated human population from parks fencing off demarcations for some parks, introduced a scheme to share tourism revenues with residents in the surroundings of parks, and reintroduced extinct species like lions, rhinos to Akagera National Park which is currently home to big five animals.
The report of the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) released in 2020 indicates that the park registered 321,745 visitors; Virunga National Park which is home to gorillas was visited by approximately 308,333 tourists while Nyungwe National Park recorded 93.528 visitors between 2005 and 2017.
Statistics show that Akagera and Nyungwe contributed 5.9% and 2.4% of tourism revenues from National Parks in 2019.
In June 2020, RDB announced reduced prices for gorilla permits which are available for as little as US$200 for Rwandans and nationals of East African Community (EAC) residing in Rwanda, and $500 for foreigners who are resident in Rwanda. International tourists are required to pay US$1,500.