Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has announced this change through a tweet, stating that all tourists, including children over 5 years old, are no longer required to present a negative COVID-19 test when visiting national parks. However, it is important to note that the use of face masks remains mandatory for individuals visiting primates.
The previous COVID-19 test requirement for visitors to national parks in Rwanda was implemented in February 2020 as a precautionary measure during the pandemic. However, with the global lifting of travel restrictions and improved connectivity by RwandAir and other airlines to Kigali International Airport, Rwanda’s tourism industry has experienced significant growth.
According to the 2022 annual report by the Rwanda Development Board, the country’s tourism revenue rose by 171%, reaching US$445 million in 2022 compared to US$164 million in 2021. This represents an 89% recovery from the decline experienced in 2020 when tourism revenue dropped to US$121 million due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, before the pandemic, Rwanda’s tourism revenue amounted to US$498 million.
The report highlights that Rwanda welcomed over 1.1 million international visitors in 2022, with more than 60% of them coming from African countries. This demonstrates Rwanda’s increasing popularity as a destination within the continent. Additionally, nearly half of the visitors came for business purposes, indicating Rwanda’s positioning as a hub for business activities.
Rwanda’s national parks attracted 109,800 tourists in 2022, generating US$27 million in revenue, marking a 142% increase compared to 2021. The revenue generated from gorilla tourism, which drives high-end tourism in the country, reached US$113 million, surpassing the performance in 2019 by 6%.
The report also highlights several conservation achievements in Rwanda, including the operationalization of Gishwati-Mukura National Park, the involvement of the World Bank in the Volcanoes National Park expansion project, and the inauguration of the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
Overall, the removal of the COVID-19 test requirement for tourists visiting national parks, including those interested in gorilla tourism, is expected to further boost Rwanda’s tourism industry and contribute to its post-pandemic recovery.