RWANDAN TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS HOST KENYAN COUNTERPARTS IN KIGALI
(Posted 11th July 2013)
The Land of a Thousand Hills offers within its borders a range of tourism attractions unique to Eastern Africa and it is no wonder that Rwanda’s tourism stakeholders are keen to get that message out and forge partnerships with other countries in the region, where not competition but complementing each other is the main driver for cooperation.
This week on Monday did a group of Kenyan stakeholders come to Kigali, courtesy of RwandAir, to meet their counterparts at the Kigali Serena Hotel for a day of discussions and brainstorming sessions, but also to see a bit of Rwanda’s capital city. In Rwanda it was the RTTA, the Rwanda Tour and Travel Association which had taken the lead, inviting members of KATA and KATO from Kenya alongside Watari Matu, the coordinator of the East African Tourism Platform, EAC’s tourism apex body for the region.
Only weeks ago did the Ereka Group, a partnership of several tourism stakeholders, in conjunction with RwandAir, the Rwanda Development Board and other partners, operate two familiarization tours across the country for tour operators, travel agents and media houses, to showcase Rwanda’s attractions, inside and outside the national parks. RwandAir, Serena Hotels, Thousand Hills Expeditions and Brussels Airlines additionally conducted a series of one day visits to Kigali earlier in the year to combine the experience on flying on the two airlines – which incidentally codeshare the route to Brussels – with a taste of Rwanda, authentic meals served courtesy of the Kigali Serena of course.
As a result of the slow pace of the regional integration on EAC level, the lack of progress towards introducing a common East African tourist Visa is just a case in point, have countries willing to move ahead at faster pace formed coalitions of goodwill to cooperate and work hand in hand, aimed at attracting more visitors together. ‘The benefits of cooperation outweigh those aspects of competition by far’ said a Rwandan stakeholder when this correspondent was last visiting Rwanda and discussing such events. ‘This is a new age and our destinations are opened up by the internet for everyone around the world to see. When people come such a long way from America or Japan, visiting just one country is really not doing justice to all our attractions’.
It is understood that airlines in the region are examining the option for a tourist air pass, which would lower the airfares for tourists and enable them to explore two or three countries during one visit and though the absence, for now, of a common Visa is seen as an obstacle, plans to offer more regional itineraries are advancing already. Way to go, East African cooperation for real, not just in abstract terms, by the one sector which arguably could be the fastest driver if only permitted – Tourism.