At an event that could be described as the World Cup of tourism, Rwanda stamped its authority as Africa’s most innovative eco-tourism destination while besting its African competition to emerge ‘Best Tourism Exhibitor’ in the biggest tourism exposition in the world.
Held annually, the Internationale Tourismus Borse (ITB) in Berlin is the largest travel trade show in the world. For two consecutive years, Rwanda has topped the continent to emerge ‘Best Tourism Exhibitor’, Africa Category. Rwanda’s has on two occasions outshone its competition in the form of traditional tourism giants like Tunisia, South Africa, Namibia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt and Tanzania.
“We were evaluated by the same judges who evaluated Tunisia, Ethiopia and South Africa and others and they thought we are the best on the continent. These judges take note of all possible details ranging from innovation, hospitality and many other yardsticks. Our victory means that tourism in Rwanda has come of age. We are humbled and intend to build on this confidence. Tourists will not be disappointed when they come to Rwanda’, explained ORTPN Public Relations Officer Annet Tamara.
Rwandan performers managed to bring the exposition to a standstill and wow the jaded seen-it-all pundits with a live performance of the graceful Rwandan traditional dance, attracting a flurry of guests to the stand. ORTPN was determined to make it a ‘two in two’ triumph and prepared meticulously to achieve this very result.
“There was determination. We spent three months in preparations and we gave our small stand a Nyungwe forest feel which made it stand out. Visitors felt they were visiting Rwanda,” Rosette Rugamba, the agency’s Director General commented when she returned to Kigali.
By all accounts, Rwanda’s tourism agency pulled out all stops to recreate lush Rwanda in the concrete jungle of Berlin. Visitors to the stand were treated to a cup of Rwanda’s specialty coffee or tea depending on their preference. A distinctive dress code, good customer care, discipline and good old fashioned Rwandan etiquette were exhibited by the Rwandan representatives in Berlin.
It is however the ‘Agaseke’, Rwanda’s trademark traditional hand woven basket that fascinated the Berliners most. Present at the Rwandan stand was basket weaver, Liberata Mukagakwaya.
“At the exhibition, people could not believe that our baskets were hand-made, but would be amazed when they saw me making one (basket) for them. It really impressed everyone.” Mukagakwaya commented.
During the ITB fair, 1600 ‘Agaseke’ baskets were distributed as free hand-outs to visitors of the stall.
The Internationale Tourismus Borse (ITB)
(you don’t need photos….just add it to the Rwanda Berlin story)
ITB Berlin is known to be the biggest annual tourism exhibition in the world that aims at showcasing destinations and encouraging networking among businesses in the tourism sector. This year the expo attracted a record 11,147 companies from 186 countries and at least 180,000 visitors.
A press release from the Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) says ‘Rwanda gets to exchange vital information in regards to tourists’ views about the country through continued presence and interaction at such a major international exhibitions.’
Germany comes third in the number of visitors to Rwanda after the US and UK respectively. This gives increased relevance to the ITB fair in Berlin.
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