Rwanda’s tourism sector poised for continued growth in 2024

On 29 December 2023 at 12:45

Rwanda’s tourism prospects for 2024 are expected to continue soaring high in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic that had affected the global economy, thus slowing down the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner.

The country’s tourism revenues are on a rise partly due to initiatives instituted by the government to revitalize the industry and sector players like tour operators who have made it easy for both local and international visitors to move around the country and the region easily.

Government investment in the sector and international sports brands like Visit Rwanda with some of Europe’s top football teams have seen foreign tourists flocking the country, thus increasing tourism revenues boosting the economy.

With the government’s strategy of a private sector led economy, many private players have been able to join the sector to provide competitive quality services, some of which are cross-border which has facilitated tourism across the region.

Cross-border Tour operators facilitate seamless experiences for tourists across countries.

George Kimani, from Kenya commended the cross border initiatives in Rwanda’s tourism sector which allowed him self-drive services from Rwanda’s Volcano National Park home to the famous gorilla crossing into Uganda.

“I found this a good initiative where it offers a full-package with all services in one and I think this will help grow the tourism sector in the country and the region. It also comes cheaper compared to using different service providers at every point,” said Kimani.

Rwanda’s tourism, like many other countries around the globe, is recovering from the challenges caused by Covid-19 pandemic as global tourism and travel fell sharply in the wake of this pandemic.

Current tourism statistics reveal that Rwanda’s revenues from tourism amounted to US$247 million during the first half of 2023, reflecting a notable 56% surge compared to the US$158 million reported during the same period in 2022.

This growth came on the backdrop of a successful previous year where figures show that Rwanda’s tourism revenues had increased to US$445 million in 2022, up 171.3 percent from the previous year, with nature-based tourism bearing the potential to drive the country’s economic growth.

Gorilla trekking, a unique tourist attraction in the East African country, generated revenues of US$113 million, the government institution, Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said in a report released recently.

The country attracted about 110,000 visitors to its national parks in 2022, registering an increase of 142.4 percent from 2021, the report said. It added that the country aims to increase tourism receipts to 800 million dollars by 2024.

However, tour operators including Kigali car rentals and tours say that the tourism sector is showing positive signs of recovering and expect better business returns as tourists have resumed travels and this will boost the sector and the economy in general.

“The economy suffered globally many of our colleagues closed shop due to the pandemic but we have witnessed recovery during this year and tourists have returned local, regional and international and this will boost the economy and tourism business eco-system,” Frank Muzungu, the Managing Director of Kigali car rentals and tours, a tour operating company.

Rwanda is home to the big five and provides tourists with an enhanced exploration of the country's flora and fauna.

According to the report, in 2022, Rwanda welcomed a total of more than 1.1 million international visitors. Of these, the report showed, more than 60 per cent came from African countries, highlighting the country’s growing popularity as a destination within the continent.

According to RDB, the path to economic recovery is well on course.

“In 2022, I am delighted to report that we continued to make significant progress in our efforts to achieve sustainable economic growth, despite the global challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic,” reads the RDB statement adding that “our achievements in the tourism sector were satisfactory.”

Also, in an effort to diversify and maximize opportunities, RDB and Mandai Park Development, a private company in Singapore, signed a partnership agreement to establish the Nyungwe Experience at Mandai Park. This project will highlight Rwanda’s eco-luxury tourism offerings and draw visitors from Singapore and around the globe to Rwanda.

Rwanda’s overall strategic vision is to focus on high-end ecotourism rather than mass tourism. In the first Rwanda Tourism Strategy, three core market segments were identified: eco travelers, explorers, and business travelers.

Presence of important business challenges to the development of Rwanda’s tourism industry and access to financial capital, lack of qualified human resources, and limited understanding of customer needs have been identified as three business challenges that undermine Rwanda’s tourism industry’s ability to compete.

Rwanda attracted over 100,000 visitors to its national parks in 2022.