Business Rwanda spoke to Mrs. Rosette Rugamba Director General of ORTPN found a minute to share with Business Rwanda at the recently held Bird watching ceremony in Akagera to examine the upcoming opportunities in the tourism sector.
Why chosen Bird watching?
Rwanda is home to over six hundred-fifty types of birds in Nyungwe and five hundred twenty-five types in Akagera. Out of those, forty-four are endemic only to our country. In August we were in London to launch Rwanda as a birding destination, and realized that we have a huge potential and the capacity to compete with the rest of the world.
While some tourists will come to Rwanda specifically to watch birds, others will extend their stay in Rwanda by engaging in the same activity. Akagera and Nyungwe are now a single bird watching circuit as we had with the primates, and the lake circuit.
Why did you take too long to a launch this activity?
Launching Bird Watching required preparation such as staff training, purchasing equipment and raising awareness. However, it comes at a timely moment in line with our strategy. We targeted seventy thousand visitors and the generation of one hundred million dollars by 2010. The only way we are going to do this is through diversification. Of course we had to start with our main product which is the primate and then we had game drives in Akagera; and now Bird watching.
Aside from bird watching, what other ideas are you looking at to promote tourism?
Well, before the birding we had the golden monkey, which actually prolonged the tourist’s stay in Rwanda. We have introduced mountain climbing, which has created the same effect. Today it is bird watching, and soon we will invite the public for the launch of cave exploration. All these are specialty markets which we have ventured into because they have dedicated tourists and a very affluent clientele.
What else is special about the Akagera Game Park that the world does not know?
We are very privileged to have a park like this one. Even Masai Mara and the Kruger national parks don’t have a landscape like this. We have lakes and hills that they don’t. They are flat. All we are doing here is taking advantage of these unique selling points and positioning ourselves as a unique destination.
We understand that Akagera has been privatized. Tell us more about this.
We have entered a joint venture with a group of tourism investors, Dubai World, with support from the Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Authority (RIEPA). Minister Karega and the investment group have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will see a number of Rwandan attractions developed to the tune of two hundred thirty million dollars (230,000,000 USD). This would be the biggest investment in our tourism sector to date.
This opportunity couldn’t come at a better time because that was the gap! While we could boast about our wildlife, we still lacked infrastructure and that is what Dubai World is bringing on board. Among the properties being considered for development are the Akagera Game Lodge, Nyungwe Eco-lodge, Gorilla Nest and a 5-star hotel at the Kigali Golf course. We would like to bring the standards and labels of Singita and Kampinsky to Rwanda. These are the very best the world has to offer in terms of managing hotel property. All this was discussed with the investors.