All You need to know about Tourism in Rwanda
Rwanda as a country has come from far and in an unimaginable time period and for this reason, almost every country in the world wants to know what really did happen in Rwanda. One reason this is an interest for so many people is how developed Rwanda is right now especially after the Genocide that took place here, but second and very strong is the fact that an African nation can organize itself and achieve so many things in a short time possible, and also be able to maintain the standards for a long time. African countries have always been looked at as poor, war-oriented, corrupt, and simply disorganized countries with leaders that look only on their benefits, and won’t leave power until they’re dead or there has to be a war to remove the president. The western media as well worsens it by only portraying Africa in a single angle, where Media pessimism and its results have been moaned about the world over, yet maybe no place more than in Africa – where the predominant discernment is that outside media, and Western journalists specifically, have made a special effort to portray the African continent as the nadir of human civilization. A dull landmass of unspeakable “inborn” savageries, unmitigated misery, frightful plagues and youngster like weakness all limited by amazing vistas of characteristic magnificence (GATHARA, 2019).
Despite all the negativities around the globe, Rwanda has done its best to maintain a positive name in the news, with stunning statistics, growing Gross Domestic Product, a rising human development index, reduced to zero corruption, increasing number of schools, hospitals, maintained infrastructure, and much more visible and applied systems that work both to better the country at large, and develop at an individual level as well. There has been a couple of factors that played to achieve what we have today, such as good leadership, tight security, investment promotion and so on, but in this article, we will discuss more on how tourism was utilized to achieve more of what we have in Rwanda today.
HOW IS TOURISM BEING USED TO PROGRESS RWANDA AS A COUNTRY.
Tourism in Rwanda has proved to be a source of large revenue to the country over the past decade. The percentage at which this sector contributes to the Gross Domestic Product has risen tremendously over the past years, where it only contributed 2.4% back in 1998, and as of 2017, the tourism sector contributed 12.7% of the GDP and 14.9% in 2018, which is all growing at an annual average rate of 3.9% (Knoema, 2020). This has in so many ways prompted innovation in the country, many businesses both from the government and the private sector were opened to cater to the increasing number of tourists coming to the country.
Rwanda has been for a long time known as the land of a thousand hills, stunning scenery and warm, friendly people that offer unique experiences in one of the most remarkable countries in the world. It is blessed with extraordinary parks, culture museums, biodiversity, with incredible wildlife living throughout its volcanoes, montane rainforest and sweeping plains. Tourists from all over the world come from far and wide to catch a glimpse of the magnificent gorillas, only to find that there is so much more to see and experience. This has given traction the tourism sector of the country, which in the past years revealed a lot of income generation to the economy and it has drastically been one of the sectors serving as the backbone of the country.
A good number of people are currently benefiting from the booming tourism sector, and it is at the same time one of the innovative sectors in the economy of Rwanda today. Innovative because a lot of activities are taking place to match the number of visitors coming over to Rwanda, who want accommodation as a basic, need, transportation, food and drinks, and general enjoyment activities. It because of this that hotels of different categories are being built, new car companies are emerging in Rwanda, word-class restaurants are extending their activities to Rwanda, all because Rwanda is a promising country in terms of security and business development.
With the exception of Rwanda holding a third of the endangered mountain gorillas in the world and also being among the three only countries with these animals, Rwanda has been able to fully utilize this chance to better the tourism activities. Unlike DR Congo and Uganda, Rwanda is relatively secure, and the conditions for tourists are made reliable and trustable, which gives Rwanda an advantage even over the two only existing competitors with the mountain gorillas. Numerous conservation activities are intended to help mountain gorillas, and it is accepted that their numbers might be consistent or gradually expanding. In any case, they keep on confronting significant dangers from habitat misfortune and poaching. Endeavors to change perspectives towards these powerful creatures have seen them become a significant wellspring of salary for the neighborhood economy through the visitors they bring and transformed poachers into vocal promoters for preservation (Volcanoesnationalparkrwanda.com, 2020).
Apart from the mountain gorillas, Rwanda has also put emphasis on all other touristic areas of the country, where all the parks like Akagera National Park, Nyungwe National Park, have been put to a good standard and are now managed by an external body in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board for better and professional services. All the tour companies, hotels, and restaurants have to qualify for certain measures before operating in this country. This has improved service delivery and fostered professionalism in the tourism and hospitality sector.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SETBACKS IN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY OF RWANDA?
Tourism, in general, is a sector that requires competition and hard work, and as a big income generator industry in the country, perfection of services and high levels of professionalism is required to maximize the impact that is possible to come from this sector. A report from the Rwandan ministry of trade and commerce mentions an acute shortage of trained manpower in Rwanda, and the hospitality sector is no exception. According to the report, the approach and implementation of capacity building and the development of human resources has so far been fragmented. The level of professionalism and quality of tourism professionals, including hotel employees, guides, waiters and other key personnel is inconsistent and below when compared with regional competitors.
Also according to the same research, more than 80 percent of those who have experienced customer service in Kenya says it is better than in Rwanda. It is indicated that the training facilities currently in operation have poor equipment, limited books and internet, inconsistent curricula, and a lack of qualified staff. With the fact that tourism is a people-to-people activity where human interaction plays an important role, Rwanda needs to emphasize more on training the human force to work in the hospitality business. For any tourism destination to emerge as an important stop on the itinerary of the international tourist, the human factor and the quality of service is very important. Capacity building is also needed at all levels of government on tourism including local administrations, and also in destination-level communities.
The other major setback is the rising prices of all the major touristic activities, accommodation, and transportation. Prices in these mentioned fields have relatively risen over time, and some tourists find it hard to sustain and establish themselves in Rwanda. For example, it is a few people that can afford tickets to the Mountain Gorillas, which is one special touristic feature in Rwanda, but just a few can afford it.
Gov.rw. (2020). [online] Available at: http://www.gov.rw/about-the-government/tourism-conservation/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020].
Knoema. (2020). Rwanda Contribution of travel and tourism to GDP (% of GDP), 1995-2018 – knoema.com. [online] Available at: https://knoema.com/atlas/Rwanda/topics/Tourism/Travel-and-Tourism-Total-Contribution-to-GDP/Contribution-of-travel-and-tourism-to-GDP-percent-of-GDP [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020].
Volcanoesnationalparkrwanda.com. (2020). Rwanda Gorilla Tracking – Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. [online] Available at: https://www.volcanoesnationalparkrwanda.com/attractions/rwanda-gorillas.html [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020].