Tourism continues to perform way above average for Rwandas economy, with a reported 11 percent rise in revenues generated for the first six months of 2012, up from the previous year by nearly 13 million US Dollars to 128.3 million US Dollars, a new record result for the Land of a Thousand Hills.
The second half of the year, now underway, is expected to see a further revenue rise as the permit fees for gorillas has been raised, effective June this year, to now 750 US Dollars per person, a move which reportedly had little if any impact on the forward bookings for tracking permits.
Gorilla tourism remains Rwandas number one tourism activity but a determined programme of diversification in recent years has seen new tourism attractions receive more visitors and greater exposure by the international travel and tourism media. The Congo Nile Trail along the shores and through the hills along Lake Kivu or the Nyungwe national park with its unique tree canopy walk and a growing networks of hiking trails into and through the forest, with 1.000 square kilometres the largest montane rainforest in the wider Eastern African region have made an impact on the global adventure travel trade and attracted thousands of more visitors coming specifically to experience these new tourism products.
The establishment of birding trails, both inside and outside of protected areas like parks and reserves, has also drawn additional visitors to the country and should indeed Gishwati forest be turned into a national park in due course, this would only add to the growing attractiveness of Rwanda as a key destination.
MICE tourism too is now being actively promoted by the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation Department, and the opening next year of a brand new Marriott Hotel and Conference Centre in the heart of Kigali will aid the marketing campaign already underway to turn Kigali into a meeting and conferences destination.
These new marketing initiatives were greatly aided by the arrival of new airlines such as Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways, and the return of South African Airways, and the anticipated arrival of an additional two brand new CRJ900 jets for RwandAir in October will undoubtedly result in yet more travelers reaching Rwanda with even greater ease from the region, from across the African continent and from around the world.
Ms. Rica Rwigamba, who is heading the tourism and conservation department at RDB, when asked on the impact of the current problems in Eastern Congo on Rwanda Tourism, had this to say: Rwandas tourism progress is attributed to peace and security. Visitor safety is guaranteed as usual. We would like to reassure visitors to Rwanda that it is business as usual here and that it is extremely safe and secure to travel to and within the country. The all-in-one experience in Rwanda from diverse wildlife in the national parks, to the magnificent scenery, amazing climate and the rare mountain gorillas, peace and security continues to be a magnetic for visitors in Rwanda. She then added some insight into the economic equation of tourism on the national economy when she concluded: There was a noticeable increase in revenues, visits and value of registered tourism investments as well as projected jobs created in the first semester. We believe that if we continue to achieve as reflected by the results in the first half, we will indeed surpass our targets and more importantly, this will drive growth and generate wealth for Rwandans.
Well done once again Rwanda and does it not show that small is not only beautiful but can make quite an impact when, as is the case here, the powers that be are fully behind the tourism industry and support conservation efforts and in particular re-forestation across all sections of society.