Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is considering turning the country into a luxury tourism destination that would drive up revenues.

To facilitate the ambition, RDB will soon convene a tourism stakeholders’ working group for a brainstorming session.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting in Kigali yesterday, RDB Chief Tourism Officer Belise Kariza said the process to place Rwanda as a luxurious and high-end tourism destination will involve review and improvement of the quality of services offered.

“As Rwanda positions itself as a high-end tourism destination, there are a lot of things that have to happen, including enhancing the level of services. We are planning a tourism working group to develop a marketing strategy to position Rwanda as a high-end destination,” she said.

“It is not only about the price. It also has to have value for money, which has a service delivery component. This includes transport, airport facilities and other aspects of the value chain.”

Already, there have been some high-cost investments made in line with the ambitious tourism goals such as the Bisate Lodge by Wilderness Safaris in Kinigi, which will be launched this year.

Another investor, Singita Luxury African Safari Lodges Reserves, is expected to open their facility in 2019.

Talk of transforming the country into a high-end tourism destination follows recent revision of gorilla trekking permit fees from $750 to $1,500.

The fee adjustment, in May, was part of a broader plan to move the country toward a high-end destination status, according to some experts.

Others, however, expressed concerns and fears that the revision could adversely affect the sector’s growth.

However, RDB allayed fears that the upward revision of gorilla trekking permits could adversely affect tourism sector.

Kariza said the target clients understand that the rationale behind the price revision is to boost conservation efforts.

“There has not been any change, we continue to see bookings for tourists coming in to see the gorillas. For this year, we are fully booked. And there is still the same demand for bookings for 2018,” she explained.

Attractive gorillas

Gorillas continue to be among the top tourism attractions in the country. Last year, 22,219 gorilla permits were sold, raising about Rwf15.6 billion.

Sector officials say they expect around the same number of permits to be sold this year.

However, some bookings were made before the price revisions, hence the tourists in question will still pay $750.

A recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission advised that the full potential of the country’s tourism sector can be realized from improving on the quality of services at tourism establishments.

The IMF team said that there continue to be some constraints in delivering high-quality services across the sector.

Kariza said they are aware of the challenges and have been working with sector stakeholders to make necessary improvements.

Kwita Izina

Meanwhile, Kariza announced that this year’s Kwita Izina (baby gorilla naming ceremony) will be marked in a weeklong event with the grand occasion scheduled for September 1.

This year marks the 13th edition of the annual flagship event in conservation, which attracts conservation enthusiasts from across the world. The ceremony will include a gala dinner on August 26 where industry leaders will raise funds for conservation projects.

This will be followed by a two-day conservation and tourism exhibition targeting the general public and stakeholders.

There will also be a summit on conservation slated on August 28 and 29 before the main celebrations in Musanze.

This year, two community projects in education and one in healthcare will be launched under the revenue sharing scheme.

RDB has also said that they will continue to promote domestic tourism through campaigns such as Tembera U’Rwanda, which last year led to a growth in domestic tourism of about 17 per cent.

Northern Province Governor Jean Claude Musabyimana said the communities living around the conservation areas have benefited immensely from the growth of the tourism sector.

He said the revenue sharing model has seen the communities get better infrastructure, quality healthcare, and education, which has encouraged them to champion conservation efforts.

The tourism sector is projected to fetch about $444 million (about Rwf370 billion) in 2017, up from $404 million last year.

The increase in revenue is due to continued tourism promotion efforts as well as the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events, and Exhibitions (MICE) strategy.

Local tourism stakeholders say the targets by RDB are feasible and could easily be surpassed largely due to the new gorilla trekking fees, RwandAir expansion, and the MICE Initiative.

Source: The New Times