Tourism and Conservation Performance in 2008
Tourism has had another successful year, with a significant impact on Rwanda’s economy, contributing to job creation, local community development and a variety of local and international investments. It is the leading export sector in the country and is growing continuously.
Visitor numbers have increased from 826,374 visitors in 2007 to an estimated 1 million visitors in 2008, 30% increase. Projections for 2009 see numbers growing to 1.14 million.
Revenues are estimated to increase by 54% compared to 2007, rising from USD $138 million in 2007 to an estimated USD $214 million in 2008. Revenues in 2009 are projected at USD $224 million, demonstrating the industry’s growing potential. Leisure visitors have so far doubled in 2008 compared to 2007.
The tourism industry contributes significantly to benefiting the lives of Rwandans generating 343,000 jobs in 2008—an increase of 26% from 2007. Local communities benefit from tourism through ORTPN’s Revenue Sharing Scheme which grants 5% of its revenues towards supporting community projects so as to improve their welfare. Total support given in 2008 (including the Revenue Sharing Scheme) totaled Rwf 460, 522, 154 and contributed to the following projects:
Support for 11 schools comprised of 2600 students;
Health centers at Banda, Ngange and Gasumo, benefiting approximately 30,000 community members surrounding Nyungwe National Park;
Water tanks and taps were built for communities surrounding Nyungwe National Park and Volcanoes National Parks, benefiting nearly 5,800 families;
From revenues generated by Kwita Izina, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge was launched and is fully owned by communities and contributes greatly to poverty alleviation; revenues generated from the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge were used to construct 26 houses for vulnerable families living around the Volcanoes National Park.
As an institution, ORTPN and her partners have set up a Genocide memorial fund which in 2008 assisted child headed genocide survivors in Nyamata and the Ntarama Genocide Memorial. More so, ORTPN through her social responsibility initiatives assisted earthquake victims in the western province and survivors of Kirehe floods morally and financially.
Investments in tourism can be seen through an increase in the number of hotels around the country from 148 hotels with 2,391 rooms in 2007 to 163 hotels with 3,552 in 2008. Tour operators and travel agancies have increased from 34 in 2007 to 48 in 2008.
Other investments see accommodation improvements in Kigali, Kinigi, Akagera and Nyungwe; tourism products and experiences being developed at Nyungwe National Park and Lake Kivu; and investments in service development and capacity building in conservation through the Kitabi College for Conservation and Environment Management (KCCEM).
Maintenance of the integrity and biodiversity of the national parks is a priority for ORTPN. The Transboundary Executive Secretariat of the Greater Virunga Massif Ecosystem was set up to protect the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, Uganda and DRC was inaugurated and headquartered in Kigali and chaired by Rwanda. An MOU between ORTPN (Rwanda) and INECN (Burundi) for Transboundary collaboration for the protection of Nyungwe–Kibira Ecosystem was signed. A business plan for Akagera National Park was developed and agreed upon by ORTPN and Dubai World in the framework of investment through public and private partnership. All these endeavors are being undertaken to ensure good conservation practices between Rwanda and her neighboring countries.
The following efforts have contributed greatly to the positive image Rwanda is developing as a popular tourism destination: Rwanda won best African Best Exhibitor for the second year running at ITB Berlin, the world’s biggest tourism trade fair. A recent achievement saw Rwanda being voted among the “Top 10 Countries to Visit in 2009” by Lonely Planet, one of the world’s leading travel guides. Rwanda’s main tourism event, Kwita Izina, which attracts tourists and conservationists alike to the base of the Virunga mountain chain, has been instrumental in communicating the success of Rwanda tourism and conservation.
Rwanda’s up-and-coming ideal destination that will be featured in 2009 is Nyungwe National Park. Investments in the park include a state of the art eco-lodge and a mid-range lodge; a unique, interactive interpretation center; a canopy walk allowing visitors to experience the park from a new vantage point; and a new boat on Lake Kivu to facilitate the primate product that links Volcanoes National Park with Nyungwe National Park. Nyungwe boasts 13 primate species, 275 bird species (of which 25 are endemic to the mountainous Central African region), 250 tree species, and 148 varieties of orchids. Nyungwe is one of the region’s most distinctive natural attractions and is a great asset to Rwanda’s tourism portfolio.