Tourists coming to Rwanda may not necessarily be shelling out more cash as those that visit Western countries and some Asian destinations like Japan, Thailand, and Macao, but recent data shows what could be achieved in the medium and long term.
Statistics from Rwanda Development Board (RDB) indicate that tourists who visited Rwanda in 2018 spent on average US$43 each, per day. Regional visitors generally spend less than their international counterparts.
International visitors spend 6 times more than regional visitors. Those who come by air also spend 6.4 times – US$128, higher than those who came by road who are mainly regional visitors – US$20.
The spending is higher for those who come for leisure ($213 by air and $64 by road) and those attending events and conferences – those attending conferences spent $300 per day between January and July, and $230 per day between July and December.
Still, people who come by air tended to stay longer – about 8 days than those who come by road who stayed 5 days.
On the other hand, visitors who come from Asia stay longer followed by North America, while those from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) stay the shortest time, with the exception of visitors from other EAC partner states.
East Africa Community travellers, DR Congo or the rest of Africa, Europe, North America, Asia, and the rest of the world spent 6, 2, 7, 8, 10 and 5 days, respectively.
By purpose of visits, those visiting family and relatives stay longer while those who transit stay shorter.
Business, delegates, leisure, visiting family and relatives, and transit stayed 6, 5, 5, 7, and 1 night, respectively.
Despite data showing that people who come for conferences and events spend more, there have been concerns that there were not many activities that the travellers can do outside their official business.
RDB Chief Tourism Officer, Belize Kaliza, argues that the perception that there are limited activities to do in the country should be changing.
“I think the perception that there are no extra activities to do while in Rwanda is changing,” she said, highlighting some of the initiatives that have been rolled out to serve that particular purpose – the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village (KCEV) being one of them.
“That place [KCEV] was set up to allow handcrafts and small and medium enterprises in general in handcraft business, in art, and in fashion to tap into the delegates that come to attend these conferences,” she added
In the case of Africa CEOs Forum, which Kigali hosted last week, she said the nightlife was active.
“We had the whole lane of Kimihurura restaurants and bars; they had come up with very good packages for the delegates. There were a lot of side events at the CEO Forum, both on entertainment and networking level,” she noted.
The concert of Nigerian singer Burna Boy was equally part of the events that were designed to attract the delegates that were in the country, and the organisers of the concert were able to tap into that market.
In a separate interview recently, Mathew Rugamba, one of the lead organisers of the show, admitted that they had delegates from the Africa CEOs Forum, and that people reached out to organisers from as far as Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, the DR Congo, South Africa, and Nigeria regarding the Burna Boy concert.
In addition, there is the new Kigali city tour that now provides the experience of touring a city and discovering it in the right kind of set up – a Double Decker bus.
Kaliza also highlighted historical museums in and out of the city that delegates are always willing to visit.
However, she believes that it is up to the country’s private sector to tap into the growing conference tourism opportunities to come up with more innovative solutions that can serve delegates coming to the country.
Yet, the private sector is already involved. Professional conferences organisers, suppliers of audio-visual equipment, hotels, those that offer car rental services, and suppliers of ushers are all part of the value chain.
According to Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB), Rwanda hosted 38,745 conference delegates in 2018 and 201 events, which brought in US$52 million.
According to Kaliza, the Government, through Rwanda Development Board, will continue to sensitise the private sector to leverage the available opportunities and invest more in the entertainment business.
This, she said, will be done through continuing to brand the country as a destination for tourists through aggressive marketing, better delivery of services, expansion of aviation services, and implementation of a seamless visa regime.
The country targets to double tourism receipts to 800 million dollars by 2024.
By Julius Bizimungu