Rwanda’s tourism industry emerged the top foreign currency earner generating revenues worth US$42.3million overtaking coffee and tea industries in 2007.

Coffee and tea industries earned $35.7million and $31.5million respectively. Rwanda has prioritised coffee, tea and tourism industries as key economic contributors to boost her exports by earning reasonable bundles of foreign currencies.

The Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), a government institution mandated for promotion of tourism and conservation of national parks, indicate that tourism ranked the fastest growing sector in Rwanda last year.

Ms. Rosette Rugamba, the director general of the ORTPN described 2007 as another successful year for tourism and conservation in Rwanda. She was speaking on the occasion to recognise 2007 milestones in Rwanda tourism and conservation. The ceremony held at the ORTPN head office in Kigali was attended by various stakeholders in the tourism industry.

According to Rugamba, 39,000 tourists visited Rwanda and spent $42.3 million in 2007. The ORTPN figures show a significant increase of tourists and revenues compared to 2006 which registered 31,000 tourists, bringing in US$35.9 million. Rugamba who has shown her determination to promote Rwanda tourism world wide, reiterated that tourism sector registered heavy investments estimated at US$78 million. Local private investments in tourism and hospitality facilities were estimated at $42million marking an increase of 57 percent compared to 2006.

Tourism and hospitality were boosted by the increased number of hotel rooms from 1860 in 2006 to 2,391 in 2007 and the number of restaurants moved to 82 in 2007 compared to 75 in 2006. The high -end Rwanda tourism target registered a number of business activities aimed at placing it to another level.

Rugamba revealed that limited international flights from Europe to Rwanda, lack of tourism standards, limited accommodation in Nyungwe forest and few boats in Lake Kivu characterised the industry in 2007.

Brussels Airlines this year introduced a third direct flight into Rwanda from Europe. Other developments included new hotels and tourism training schools launch of bird watching, introduction of master and visa cards and the gorilla naming ceremony locally known as Kwita Izina. The ORTPN also allocated Rwf211million (US$383,636) to the community development projects around the national parks. Twenty-two research projects in national parks were conducted.