The coronavirus pandemic has blocks revenue taps to local tour operators who were hoping to reap the benefits of pro motion deal the government signed with European football clubs.
According to the players in the tourism sector, Visit Rwanda partnerships with European football teams initially boosted the sector but the pandemic cut the benefits short.
The government remains tight lipped on whether the partnership which is formally ending will be renewed. Our requests for information to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) have gone unanswered. “Before the coronavirus reached the country, there was a steady flow of the internationals coming in for various reasons including visiting the cultural attractions or parks among others, after the outbreak of the pandemic, there were no more people coming in as the airport was closed,” Frank Kanyabutare, head of operations of Golden Rwanda Safaris Ltd, a tour operation company in Kigali, told Rwanda Today.
Three years since Rwanda started promoting the tourism sector through a partnership with the European football teams, the government says it has yielded positive results.
"When Arsenal players David Luiz visited Rwanda there were over 100 articles that covered his visit to Rwanda so you can imagine the shift in perception that brings..." said Ms Clare Akamanzi, chief Executive officer of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) at a virtual event with Arsenal to share Rwanda's tourism offering and conservation efforts.
" When we launched our partnership with Arsenal, we had more than 1,000 articles all over the world written by key media. Many people found this to be a very intriguing partnership," Ms Akamanzi added, arguing in 2019 before the pandemic, Rwanda reported a 17 percent increase in tourism and 22 percent growth from the UK market.
The progression started with Arsenal Football Club in England, where a three-year partnership worth a reported Rwf41 billion signed in March 2018, as a sleeve sponsorship of promoting Visit Rwanda.
"From its inception, the partnership has created interest. You can talk about the increase in tourism and increase in engagement of our fans with a new partner and culture that has extended beyond to other partnerships and activities that Rwanda is now engaging in because they believe in the authenticity of our partnership..." said Arsenal's Peter Silverstone.
While Rwanda estimated an assorted return worth an estimated Rwf198.7 billion ($200 million) within three years of the deal, RDB announced that the country has gained Rwf36 billion (£36 million) within the first year of signing the deal.
Within the second year, the coronavirus shuttered down the business, which has badly affected the tourism sector.
According to the World Bank figures, the international tourism receipts for travel items’ expenditures by international inbound visitors in the reporting economy in Rwanda have jumped to Rwf458 million, just one year after inking the deal of the tourism promotional deal with Arsenal FC through Visit Rwanda shirt sleeve, from Rwf381 million were recorded in 2018.