Q: What are the key statistics for Rwanda’s fast growing tourism industry?
A: In 2018, Rwanda hosted 1.71 million visitors, an 8% increase compared with 2017. High-end US tourist visits to Rwanda grew by 114% according to Virtuoso, [which in its] latest data release noted that Rwanda was among the top 10 countries that have experienced significant increases by percentage in year-on-year bookings among American travellers.
US visitors spend an average of $12,000 [on a holiday, according to Virtuoso], making them the most lucrative source market. Chinese nationals spend an average of $1084, ranking 10th. Nigerians are the top African spenders, spending an average of $1498 per stay, ranking higher than Australians and only slightly below the French.
Q: How has the Rwandan government improved regulation and invested in the country's tourism, recently?
A: In order to meet the country’s broader targets of growing tourism revenues to more than $800m per year by 2024, the government has set a number of strategies to grow the industry further.
On improving tourism infrastructure, we’re focusing on product diversification by introducing new products such as Para motoring, the Liberation Trails, bird watching sites, and marketing Rwanda as a global cycling competitions destination. We also started the Rwanda Film Office to grow our film tourism.
In addition, as construction of the new international airport in Bugesera District progresses, RwandAir continues to expand, and now flies to more than 29 destinations, including Brussels, Guangzhou, Israel, London, Cape Town and Mumbai. New York will soon be on the list.
We now have new high-standard hotels such as Kigali Marriot Hotel and the Radisson Blu Hotel around the country, to name but a few.
In our efforts to take Rwanda to the world, in 2019 we signed a strategic partnership with Arsenal Football Club in London to market the country under the ‘Visit Rwanda’ brand.
Through the partnership, we have been able to increase people’s knowledge and interest of Rwanda by promoting our sustainable tourism approaches and offerings and showcasing the country’s investment potential.
Since the announcement of the partnership in May 2019, we have seen a lot of interest, especially through our online presence. Within two weeks of the launch, 58 news stories reached a global audience of 1.2 billion people. Google searches of Rwanda in the US increased by more than 1000% for keywords such as ‘visit Rwanda', 'Rwanda travel', 'Rwanda tourism' and 'Kigali Rwanda hotels’. [The] Visit Rwanda [brand] is now seen 35 million times each time Arsenal play.
We also just recently announced a unique partnership with French football league giant Paris Saint-Germain, inviting the world to be part of the country’s inspiring transformation. For three seasons, the Paris Saint-Germain community and the world will have a unique opportunity to experience Rwanda’s breath-taking beauty, creative culture, innovative environment, and modern and distinctive Made in Rwanda products through unprecedented and creative communications. The partnership will also convey Rwanda’s openness to welcome business partnerships from France and across the world.
In the same way, Rwanda partnered with Alibaba Group in October 2018 to bring Rwanda tourism packages closer to the Asian market through Alibaba’s online travel platform, Fliggy. We also frequently participate in various travel trade fairs in the US, Europe, Asia, Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East.
Q: What are some of the best foreign investment opportunities within Rwanda's tourism sectors?
A: There is huge potential in the development of tourism infrastructure around the country especially along Lake Kivu and national parks. The area around the lake presents scenic views that could be exploited for the construction of hotels and other tourism facilities. The lake is also dotted with islands that could be developed for tourism activities.
We’re witnessing a growth in accommodation establishments across the board – right from the world renowned luxurious to the affordable brands, which are also of world class standard. Rwanda now has over 14,000 hotels rooms, up from only 4000 in 2009.
We expect more growth as we continue receiving more visitors coming for all kinds of tourism of which you should also note the MICE [meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions] sector which is growing at a high rate.
Last year, the country raked in $56m from MICE and the number is expected to grow to $88m this year. Rwanda is a preferred MICE destination due to its simplified visa process that allows nationals of every country in the world to get a visa on arrival.