Akagera National Park, has reported a 20 per cent increase in net revenue, with half of its visitors being local travellers, signalling a boost in domestic tourism. The park is the country’s second most significant conservation area by tourism receipts.
Figures released recently from the park, show it generated $1.6 million in net revenues last year, which is a 20 per cent increase on 2016 figures. The revenues covered half of the park’s annual budget for 2017.
The park got a total of 37,284 visitors, 31,032 of them paying visitors —with half being nationals.
Sarah Hall, the park’s marketing manager told Rwanda Today that the net revenue increase was largely attributed to entree fee increases.
“There was a slight increase in park fees and visitors, particularly international visitors who contribute more to entry fee revenue,” said Ms Hall.
Currently, international visitors pay $40, EAC residents $30 while Rwandans pay Rwf5,000 ($5.80) to visit the park.
The park is projecting more than $1.7 million in earned revenue and over 32,500 paying tourists for 2018.
Volcanoes National Park — the biggest tourism receipts earner — and Nyungwe National Park, are both managed by the Rwanda Development Board’s tourism division.
According to data from RDB, 13,941 tourists visited Nyungwe National Park and posted revenue of $534,821. Volcanoes National Park attracted 34,051 tourists in 2017.
Park revenues are expected to increase by 10 per cent from $17.8 million to $20 million, while total tourism revenues are projected to increase by 10 per cent from $444 million to $484 million.
Speaking at Volcanoes Park during the formal transfer of land to expand the gorilla habitat last week, Minister of Trade and Industry, Vincent Munyeshyaka, said in 2016, Volcanoes Park generated $16 million, while 32,000 tourists visited the park.
Revenue for both parks was expected to go up after the cost of gorilla trekking permits increased to $1,500 last May.
Last year, the park warden at Nyungwe National Park, Pierre Nkurikiye, told Rwanda Today they were targeting getting 15,000 visitors from 13,000 in 2016.
Mr Nkurikuye said limited accommodation was an impediment to attracting more visitors as the park is the furthest from Kigali among other national parks.
National parks are the country’s key tourism attraction and major contributor to the sector’s revenues. The new visa on arrival regime, which will be implemented this year, is expected to attract more tourists.
Ms Sarah said it is too early to predict if the visa on arrival will attract more tourists, but it will make it easier for them to visit the country.
International visitors make up 34 per cent of tourists at Akagera National Park.
Frank Mustaff, the country director of Horwath HTL Interconsult Ltd — a tourism and hospitality consulting firm — said visa restriction is among key factors that hinder tourism flow from one country to another.
“Countries with easy visa applications are among the top destinations in terms of tourist arrival numbers and revenue,” he told Rwanda Today in an interview
In May 2017, the Rwanda Development Board projected that the tourism sector would generate about $444 million in 2017 up from $404 million in 2016.