How Rwanda Tourism Sector Is Adapting To Covid-19
By: Elenah Kimaru
Tourism is a crucial economic sector contributing to the GDP of different African countries. In 2018, the tourism sector in Rwanda contributed 14.9% of the country’s GDP. The country experienced its highest annual growth in tourism revenue in 2019, with over 1.63 million visitors visiting the country and $498m in earnings.
Tourism In The Time Of Coronavirus
So much has changed since 2019. As countries went on lockdown and international flights grounded to stop the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, the tourism sector became one of the hardest-hit sectors worldwide. Tour operators, hotel owners, suppliers of food, transport, and souvenirs have experienced significant losses due to COVID-19. Before the pandemic, Africa’s tourism industry was the second-fastest growing in the world. Now, the future remains unknown for many of the 24.6 million people employed in tourism jobs across the continent.
Rwanda, where the pandemic has led to a -0.2% contraction of GDP, is no exception. According to Rwanda’s Minister of Finance Uzziel Ndagijimana, the tourism industry missed out on about $10 million in March and April alone.
Rwanda reopened for domestic tourists and chartered international flights on June 17th. Since August, international visitors arriving on commercial flights are once more welcome in the country, provided that they follow the safety protocol. The safety measures include a requirement for two negative Covid-19 test results, one up to five days before departure and one upon arrival in Rwanda. Tourists are expected to quarantine in their hotel until they receive the results, which could take up to 24 hours. Certain popular tourist activities specify additional precautions. For instance, visitors wishing to explore one of Rwanda’s three national parks must register in advance and obtain a negative Covid test 72 hours before their visit.
So, What Does the Rwandan Tourism Sector Offer?
Rwanda is known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” and Lonely Planet has called Rwanda “scenically stunning.” Majestic Virunga volcanoes on the country’s northwest borders offer some great hiking; some peaks, such as the snow-capped summit of Mount Karisimbi, exceed 4500 meters.
The area’s bamboo forests house some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Thanks to the efforts of famed primatologist Dian Fossey, tourists can visit these majestic animals in their natural habitat. Now is the time to see the mountain gorillas: To encourage gorilla trekking during these uncertain times, the government has slashed gorilla permits by 60%-80%.
Nyungwe National Park, in the southwest of the country, offers some of the best trails to the best breathtaking landscapes in Rwanda. The Akagera National Park, which generates $2.5 million annually and is 90% self-financing, is Central Africa’s largest protected wetland. In 2019 alone, the park attracted 50,000 visitors, half of which were Rwandan Nationals. Lake Kivu, the 18th deepest lake on the planet, is surrounded by beautiful hiking and biking trails. Visitors can also kayak in Lake Kivu’s waters or relax on its beautiful beaches.
Kigali, Rwanda’s Capital
BBC Travel has called Kigali “the most inviting city in Africa.” It is also often hailed as the continent’s greenest and cleanest city and one of the safest cities on the continent. Plastic bags are banned, and on the last Saturday of every month, residents come together for a massive cleanup operation. More than 90% of households in Kigali now have access to toilets and to clean water. Community service is mandatory for citizens aged 18-65. With a young and vibrant population, great dining, and thriving art, fashion, and tech scenes, Kigali is an exciting place to visit and get inspired.
Signs Of Recovery Since Reopening:
Since Rwanda reopened to tourists, the sector has shown signs of recovery. While many international visitors remain wary of flying, domestic tourists have been stepping in to fill the gap. Increased domestic tourism may even revive a discontinued revenue-sharing scheme. Following this scheme, the government will distribute part of revenues generated from tourism activities to communities living around the national parks. Many of these community members managed businesses catering to tourists and have been heavily affected by the months-long tourism standstill.
Make Rwanda Your Next Vacation Destination
Rwanda’s scenic nature contains beautiful national parks and rare mountain gorillas. Kigali’s beautiful, bustling boulevards and delicious food and coffee can satisfy even the pickiest urban traveler. Despite the challenges experienced as a result of COVID-19, Rwanda’s government is putting efforts to ensure that the sector is revived and prioritizes visitors’ safety wishing to enjoy what the country has to offer.
Do you have Rwanda on your bucket list of travel destinations? Are you looking for a top destination for your next travel plans? Check out Rwanda for your next vacation and start planning early!