Rwanda: Tourism bleeds from virus attack as visitors stay away

Saturday May 01 2021
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Tourists in gorilla trecking. The number of visitors has dropped significantly following the outbreak of Covid-19. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA


Businesses tourism sector have found themselves between a rock and a hard place after close to a year of inactivity at tribute to Covid-19 disruption. As the industry continued to suffer from the virus disruption, tour and travel operators as well as other tourism businesses are holding onto hope that the economy will be opened soon once vaccination is complete.

Patrick Kwizera, a tour and travel operator was running a thriving business whose growth was in tandem with how Rwanda has been growing as a destination as government invested in Visit Rwanda campaigns, even when the pandemic hit, he remained optimistic that things would normalise after a few

months. "After some time I had to pivot to another business, I went into farming because I had to survive, everything had came to a screeching halt, I didn't completely close but I had to move onto plan b" Mr Kwizera said.

Unlike small and medium hotels which are not counting on the Common Wealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (Chogm) to offer them a reprieve, tour and travel operators have real confidence in the summit to give the sector the much needed shot in the arm.

"Although Rwanda Development Board hasn't yet conducted a meeting with us about the Chogm meeting, we know it is happening and it presents a real opportunity for an industry on its knees, we expect that the people who will be here as guests will not leave without doing some excursions," he said.

He also noted that hosting Chogm in Rwanda will send a positive message to the world that it is safe to travel and tour Rwanda.


"Once Chogm is hosted, people around the world will that it is safe to travel to Rwanda, we have high expectations," said Mr Kwizera.

Although players in the tourism sector have benefited from bank moratoriums, many are still in dire straights especially due to the fact that they haven't been getting any income for a prolonged period of time.

By close of last year, tourism and hospitality sector had up to Rwf87.7 billion in outstanding loans, yet it still needed Rwf29.98billion to continue operations as it struggled to stay afloat amid Covid-19 shocks.

Players and industry experts are calling on government to step up to the plate and save the industry through tailored stimulus packages.