RDB, US firm to take tourism to new heights

58250_10151160931276436_1217991873_nRwanda Development Board (RDB), in partnership with Solimar International, a Washington DC-based tourism development and marketing firm, are in a campaign to promote Rwanda’s tourism potential.

According to RDB, the US company brings an extensive international expertise and vast experience working in East Africa to boost the country’s top foreign exchange earner.

The 18 months campaign which is geared towards promoting Rwanda amongst the East African Community (EAC) states will focus on distinguishing the country from neighbouring destinations by informing EAC nationals, expatriates and international travellers about the country’s extensive nature and culture-based tourism attractions.

Effective New Year’s Day, tourists visiting the East African countries of Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda use a single visa to tour areas of interest within the specified nations.

The $100 (about Rwf67,500) visa valid for 90 days is paid at the point of entry or in foreign missions and each state will take a share of $30.

However, the country that processes the visa entry will receive an extra $10 in administration costs.

“This is a prime opportunity for Rwanda that comes after the launch of the East African single joint visa and the broad global recognition of Rwanda’s exceptional nature, culture, and adventure experiences in publications like National Geographic Traveller and Conde Naste Traveller,” David C. Brown, the director of marketing and communication at Solimar International, told The New Times via e-mail on Tuesday.

Brown, who heads the campaign, said the drive will increase the flow of tourists coming to Rwanda from other EAC countries.

“We will work with RDB and members of the regional and international tourism industry, including tour operators, travel agents, airlines, and transportation providers to better understand Rwanda’s tourism offer and how they can sell it to their clientele. We will be speaking directly to EAC tourism consumers through social and traditional media,” he said.

The campaign is designed to be an important component of reaching the RDB’s target of a 10 per cent increase in EAC arrivals within two years, says RDB.

During the 18-month drive, RDB and Solimar International will apply various activities to showcase Rwanda’s tourism industry to the world, including the use of maps, photos, videos, mobile apps, and an online destination specialist course that provides detailed information on travel logistics and tourism attractions.

Reaching out to targets

Muhire Kavuna, the coordinator of the project at RDB, said the campaign involves the use of different channels to reach out directly to Rwanda tourism consumers.

“During the tourism marketing campaign, RDB will offer educational trips to and around Rwanda to allow tour operators, travel agents and the media a firsthand understanding of what makes Rwanda an incredibly special destination,” he said.

“We will launch a series of social media campaigns targeted directly at EAC residents and expatriates to increase awareness of the country’s diverse tourism offer, build brand awareness and increase bookings. We will collaborate with some of Rwanda’s most recognisable brands such as Serena Hotels, Akagera National Park’s Rusizi Tented Lodge, RwandAir, and FCM Travel to make it a success.”

Without divulging details of the funds earmarked for the project, Kavuna said the campaign is part of the government’s comprehensive approach to sustainable tourism development and marketing.

The initiative builds on the broad recognition Rwanda is receiving as a top international travel destination.

The National Geographic Traveller last month selected Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest as one of the top 20 destinations in 2014 for “what’s authentic, culturally rich, sustainable and superlative in the world of travel today.”

Condé Nast Traveller lists Rwanda as one of its “Top 10 Destinations to Watch in 2014,” citing the country as Africa’s emerging safari hostpot.

Recently, Kwita Izina, the annual baby gorilla naming ceremony, was short-listed among the finalists for the UN World Tourism Organisation Ulysses Award for innovation in public policy and governance.

Rwanda is the only African destination to be included on the list. G Adventures, an international tour operator, identified Rwanda as one of its five hottest destinations in 2014 for British travellers.

Apart from the EAC marketing campaign, RDB is set to launch a “convention tourism” that will play a key role in attracting international conventions and exhibitions into the country.

Rwanda’s tourism products include rare Mountain Gorillas and a beautiful canopy walk that gives tourists a spectacular experience in Nyungwe Park, the Kwita Izina (annual gorilla naming ceremony), the Congo Nile Trail, the newly-launched Musanze Caves, Akagera National Park, among others.

A couple of events and tourism sites unveiled in 2013 had triggered an investment boom in the tourism sector to $217.7 million, from January to October, compared to $210.5 million generated in 2012.

From January to September 2013, Rwanda hosted 824,238 visitors, an increase of 7 per cent compared to the same period in 2012 where 768,221 people visited.

By Frank.kanyesigye[at]newtimes.co.rw

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