Tour and travel operators welcome increased tourist numbers


Tours and travel companies and operators in Rwanda have welcomed the increased number of tourists. This has come after the government of Rwanda intervened and invested in having the industry recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, speaking during National Dialogue-Umushyikirano, on January 23, 2024, said the number of tourists to Rwanda increased from 521,000 in 2021 to 1.4 million in 2023.

"The government in partnership with the private sector, has continued to increase infrastructure development and restructuring as a means to boost tourism and facilitate the hosting of Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) events in the efficient way you [President Kagame] have requested of us,” he said.

Frank Murangwa, Director of Destination Marketing at Rwanda Convention Bureau, in 2023, said that Rwanda generated a record $91 million from 157 summits and events that attracted over 67,000 delegates.

Frank Muzungu, one of the operators in the tourism sector and a Director of Kigali Car Rentals says the increased number of tourists and visitors in general have come with enormous opportunities.

"The industry has increased opportunities to create jobs, especially for the youth. This has helped them in capacity building, skills and acquiring new knowledge about the industry and the surroundings. These all coupled together strengthen the local economy, contribute to local infrastructure development, and can help to conserve the natural environment and cultural assets and traditions and will reduce poverty and inequality,” Muzungu said.

Muzungu says the increase in tourist numbers has brought in new products and offers that integrate both domestic and regional packages. The increase has come with multiple demands which include lodging, transportation and tour-guiding. Tourists require for out-door camping, and their listing have increased since they can spend more time travelling around the country at relatively low budgets. The demand forself-guided tours has increased as a result of safety in Rwanda. Staying in the remote areas of the country is not an option one would think of twice.

“We have added flexible offers such as the self-drive package where tourists or groups can rent cars, drive themselves and if they are exiting the country through another EAC country, they don’t have to drive back the car to Rwanda. They deposit it at our outlet in the country of exit and proceed with their journey,” Muzungu explained.

More initiatives have been rolled out by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) these include the reduction of the cost of gorilla trekking permits. The permit fees for gorilla trekking are now reduced from $1500 to $500 for foreign residents.

Gorilla permits for Africans outside the East African Community will now cost $500 while Gorilla trekking permits for East Africans will cost $200 per person. This is expected to boost Rwanda’s tourism sector and make Gorilla trekking more accessible to a wider range of tourists.

According to data by RDB the tourism sector generated US$247 million or Rwf290 billion in revenue during the first half of 2023, reflecting a notable 56% surge compared to the US$158 million reported during the same period in 2022.

The services sector, mainly tourism and hospitality, played a significant role, contributing 46% to the GDP, followed by the agriculture sector at 25%, the industry sector at 21%, and net direct taxes accounting for 7%.

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