Rwanda’s tourism sector registered tremendous growth as the revenue generated increased by 17% last year compared to 2011.
Tourism generated $281.8m (Rwf178b) in 2012 compared to $251.3m (Rwf159b) the previous year. This corresponds to an increase of 17%, according to 2012 Tourism Report released last week by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
Addressing a news conference, Clare Akamanzi, the RDB acting chief executive officer, said hard work put in overtime by the government contributes to the continued growth of the tourism industry.
“The general conducive business environment Rwanda has and specific reforms that have been put in place for tourism such as marketing and infrastructure and high-end tourism strategy, among others, have led to the unprecedented growth of tourism sector in the country,” Akamanzi said.
She said the tourism industry topped export growth again in 2012 which makes it the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner and one of the top job creators.
“Last year, we were able to surpass our tourism export promotion target of $276m to $281m, which is really encouraging,” she added.
On investment promotion, the sector registered projects worth $323.8m last year compared to 117.3 generated in 2011 – an increase of 175%.
Rica Rwigamba, the head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB, said: “the tourism sector is on an upward trajectory, we are now working to enhance the sector through continuous product diversification while putting on an excellent service delivery.”
She said the growth of investors helped boost tourism, which resulted in putting the country in the top end of the tourist destinations in the region.
For instance, major international airlines such as KLM, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and South African Airlines have opened their routes to Rwanda.
“There was a noticeable increase in revenues as we surpassed our targets due to the huge arrival of investors this year in the tourism industry,” Rwigamba added.
The sector projects to generate $317m receipts in 2013, according to export promotion strategy.
The statistics show that visitors from neighbouring countries of DR Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya accounted for 915,000 visits in 2012 compared to 714,000 in 2011. However, visitors from non-neighboring states increased to 161,186 in 2012 from 159,579 in 2011.
Leisure visitors accounted for about 97,000, while business visitors were about 422,000.
The US recorded the highest number of visitors, with 24,041, followed, by India (14,957), UK (13,355), Belgium (9,192) and Germany (9,180).
Rwigamba said: “We are working hand-in-hand with the tourism chamber to improve customer service and to solve the skills gap that seems to be a hindrance to better service delivery.”
Rwanda boasts of tourist attractions such as Mountain gorillas, Akagera and Nyungwe national parks, museums, Lake Kivu, bird watching, culture, and Congo Nile Trail, among others.