Rwanda emerges as a popular destination
Once marred by one of the worst cases of ethnic violence the world has seen, Rwanda is steadily emerging as a well-known tourist destination internationally. The country’s efforts to develop travel and tourism in a sustainable way seem to be paying off, as the industry has experienced dramatic growth over the years to become one of the country’s leading foreign exchange earners and also a major economic contributor. Tourists are drawn to Rwanda by its natural and scenic beauty, rich culture, as well as the unique flora and fauna in its national parks, which are home to the magical mountain gorillas. Besides that, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) recently joined the International Council of Tourism Partners. All of these attributes helped the nation to rank among the top five “Top Emerging Destinations” in the Wanderlust Travel Awards 2011.
New tourism products boost growth
Rwanda’s travel and tourism industry experienced a boom over the review period, thanks to efforts by the RDB to enhance and diversify its tourism offerings. Although mountain gorillas continued to play a key role in contributing to the industry’s growth, the country shifted from relying on their attraction, so as to remain competitive in the fast-growing, ever changing travel and tourism market. As part of its diversification campaign, the national tourism body introduced several new tourism products, among them three birding routes outside the national parks, a Canopy Walk in Nyungwe National Park, as well as the Congo Nile Trail, which offers a wide range of hiking experiences around the shores of Lake Kivu. Over the forecast period, the introduction of new tourism packages will help to attract new visitor segments in Rwanda’s leading arrival source countries and also generate additional revenue for its travel and tourism industry.
Expansion of national carrier strengthens aviation industry
Over the review period, RwandAir grew into one of the major players in the regional air transport industry. The national carrier operates flight services in Africa and in the Middle East. It recently expanded its fleet through acquiring two Boeings 737-800, making it one of the first African airlines to own and operate Boeing’s new next generation aircraft. As well as increasing flight frequency on some of its existing routes, the airline also launched new regional ones. Additionally, RwandAir signed bilateral air service agreements with a number of airlines and its aggressive expansion, combined with the recent revamping of the country’s main gateway, Kigali International Airport, will help give a much needed boost to travel and tourism in Rwanda in the future.
Campaigns to improve customer service in the hospitality sector
Although Rwanda is emerging as a top tourism destination, its travel and tourism industry has struggled over the years, due to the poor customer service levels on offer in the country. It ranked last in customer care in the East African Community (EAC) region, according to the 2011 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI). In order to capitalise on the increasing interest in Rwanda amongst tourists, the RDB has embarked on measures to improve service delivery and improve visitors’ experience, especially in the hospitality sector. Some of the initiatives introduced to help improve service delivery include the classification of hotels, conducting seminars and providing staff training, as well as organising customer care awards for companies performing well.
Focus on travel and tourism to boost economic growth
Travel and tourism is a vital sector for Rwanda’s economic development. Since the return of peace and stability to the country, the industry has steadily developed to become a major source of export earnings. It is currently one of the fastest growing sectors and, as a result, remains high on the government’s agenda. With more room for expansion, the industry is on course to become the leading foreign exchange earner, luring more tourists, as well as attracting substantial investment, especially in the hospitality sector. The introduction of new products and venturing into new market segments will help in diversifying the nation’s tourism portfolio, as well as foster sustainability. Despite the increasing contribution of travel and tourism to the national economy, there is still need for a long-term plan if Rwanda is to enjoy mass success on a global scale.
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