On the latest episode of Marketplace Africa, CNN explores Rwanda’s efforts to diversify its tourism industry as it looks to recover economically from the losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
CNN speaks to Geoffrey Manyara, Kigali Economics Affairs Officer for the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, who suggests that “Going beyond the nature-based type tourism to look at other areas of tourism can actually be important.”
“I think prior to this Rwanda was only known for the gorillas, a gorilla type of tourism, but of course, relying on a single product is quite dangerous in the sense that should anything happen then, of course, you’re devastated,” he says.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Rwanda’s tourism sector declined by 76% in 2020. Bonita Mutoni, Chairperson for Rwanda Tours and Travel Association, says, “We’re looking at about 19,000 people in Rwanda in the tourism industry that were affected by this.”
With a series of Covid-19 safety measures in place, Rwanda is starting to allow visitors back into the country. “With all the efforts that the government of Rwanda has done to attract tourism, we are seeing more people coming back,” says Singita Rwanda’s General Manager Lydia Nzayo.
Rudy Ghirini, Country Manager of Vintage Rides, discusses ways his business offers a more personal experience to travelers and keeps them in the country longer.
In addition to luxury, the country is looking to expand its sports tourism sector. In 2019, a multi-purpose 10,000 seat arena was built in Kigali, in which large-scale sports and entertainment events will take place. “We think Rwanda Kigali Arena plays a critical role and is really starting to expand this circular economy within the eventing space,” says QA Venue Solutions Director Kyle Schofield.
CNN learns that while it will take time for tourism to return to pre-pandemic levels, industry experts say there is an abundance of opportunity in the continent.
“We have strong brands in the market and if we can work together, we can really start to market Rwanda in a big way, but also start to create packages that entice people in the international space to come to Rwanda. The industry is ripe and it’s ready,” Schofield tells CNN.