Rwanda’s burgeoning tourism sector rises from the ashes

Over the last ten years, Rwanda has worked hard to present an alternative image to the one left by the legacy of genocide, war and bad government. Although there appears to have been success in presenting Rwanda as tourist friendly destination this has been difficult.

Interestingly, Berlin, the site of the ITB fair was a divided city just under twenty years ago when the Berlin ‘Mauer’(Wall) came down shattering communism along with it and paving the way for German re-unification. Having been flattened at the close of the Second World War and divided for 45 years after that, Berlin is still a city in transformation just as Rwanda is re-inventing itself as a favored tourist destination in Africa.

Tourism is among Rwanda’s largest foreign currency earners after with US$ 42.3 million in revenues from 39,000 tourists as of 2007.

‘..And this is just the beginning,’ says Rosette Rugamba, the agency’s director, ‘we are targeting $68 million from 50,000 visitors this year’. Estimates from On the Frontier, an American consulting firm, suggest that Rwanda will generate $100million from 70,000 tourists in 2010. These estimates however were made long before Dubai World, one of the largest investment companies in the world, made a commitment to invest $230 million in the sector. According to the company’s website, it hopes to turn Rwanda into the Dubai of Africa. This could drastically improve Rwanda’s targeted wealth.

The rise of the sector can be attributed to ORTPN’s hard work and innovation. The agency is diversifying tourism activities by capitalizing on its mountain gorilla assets while offering alternate activities like Bird Watching, Mountain Climbing and hosting promotional events like the now famed, ‘Kwita Izina’ traditional gorilla naming ceremony. The agency has ignited the interest of many global personalities in Rwanda, among them Ben Affleck, Larry Page, Bill and Melinda Gates, Jack Hanna, Natalie Portman and many others. The celebrity confidence in Rwanda is an endorsement that increases positive press coverage and attracts new and repeat visitors. The victory in Berlin is but another feather in Rwanda’s cap.

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