Travel alerts on the region slows down Rwanda tourism growth

Friday August 21 2015

Tourists in the Akagera National Park stop their vehicle to admire a herd of antelopes. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA \

Tourism sector is likely to record no significant growth this year as the country recovers from effects of travel alerts to some countries in the region.

It will be the first time in a decade that Rwanda’s tourism sector records a slow growth.

The country’s tourism has been rising steadily since 2000, growing from a sector earning $62 million a year to $303 million last year.

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However, data from the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) for the first half of this year indicates that even though there was a two per cent growth in visitor numbers to the country’s three national parks — the Volcanoes, Nyungwe and Akagera — tourism revenue is down 11 per cent of the previous pace.

A total of 29,595 tourists were registered between January and June this year compared with 29,128 in the same period last year, but revenues dipped to $5.9 million from $6.6 million collected in the same period last year.


According to Linda Mutesi, head of tourism marketing division at RDB, the decrease in revenues is attributed to dip in the numbers of international tourists even though there was a surge in domestic tourists. Last year, domestic tourists accounted for 50 per cent of total visits to the parks.

“There was a 17 per cent increase in domestic visitors to the parks,” Ms Mutesi said.

“We suppose that the drop in international visitor numbers and revenues was mainly caused by regional insecurity and the trickle-down effect of Ebola. Most foreigners don’t distinguish African countries; when a problem occurs in one African country, they think the entire continent is affected,” she added.

It is understood that many tourists to Rwanda usually come through Kenya, but persistent terror attacks on the country by Somali militant group Al Shabaab have kept them away.

Burundi, Rwanda’s neighbour to the south, has suffered political upheaval since April when President Pierre Nkurunziza declared his intention to seek another term.

The chaos have forced major tourist sources such as the United Kingdom to issue travel alerts for their citizens travelling to Burundi.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda’s neighbour to the west, is also effected by conflict perpetrated by where militant groups.

The UK’s Commonwealth Foreign Office recently advised against “all travel to eastern and northeastern DRC” following renewed attacks by militant groups in Goma.