Rwanda: RDB relies on sports tourism to recover from the impact of Covid-19

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The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has focused on sport as a way to recover from the effects of Covid-19 and to diversify the tourism offer in the country, said the CEO of the board, Clare Akamanzi.

She made the observations Tuesday, May 18, during the virtual hearing of the 2021/2022 budget with the Chamber of Deputies of the National Budget and Heritage.

RDB’s budget has been reduced from Rwf 39.7 billion in the revised 2020/2021 budget to Rwf 30 billion allocated for 2021/2022 due to financial constraints caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Akamanzi said that with this situation, RDB will generally not undertake new projects, but will instead prioritize those that have already started and need to be completed in order to generate a profit.

Ongoing projects include the development of the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) Tourism Project, which received Rwf 7 billion in the new budget, and which will take the lion’s share of its budget. development plan of Rwf 9.8 billion.

As part of MICE, she said, most events such as meetings are held virtually (online) due to the Covid-19 pandemic, “but sports cannot be organized online because people have to meet for the competition, ”citing the marathon, cycling and basketball. .

She said that is why the institution is working with the Ministry of Sports to increase sports tourism.

To this end, she indicated that Visit Rwanda – the flagship of the country’s marketing, has sponsored the Tour of Rwanda, the Basketball Africa League (BAL) (currently underway in Kigali), and will sponsor the Kigali Peace Marathon.

“This is intended to invite many people who come to Rwanda from different countries for sports competitions with the aim of quickly recovering the MICE,” she said.

“We see that there is a niche (tourism) market in sports, and we will continue to invest in infrastructure such as golf courses and others, in order to develop sports tourism because it is an area that has the possibility of attracting people to our country., “she said.

Ironman Triathlon

Akamanzi said that RDB is organizing a major international event “Ironman Triathlon” in which people will come from abroad for competitions, namely cycling, marathon and swimming, an event which is expected to be held in Rwanda in June 2022.

A triathlon is a multidisciplinary endurance sport race that involves swimming, cycling and running various distances.

“We will be inviting around 1,500 people to participate in the Ironman competitions. These are the kinds of activities that we are planning to accelerate the recovery of tourism,” she said.

Domestic tourism

As the Covid-19 pandemic affected the tourism and hospitality sector, leading to a drastic drop in the number of foreign tourists entering the country, MP Theogene Munyangeyo said there was a need to promote tourism interior.

“There should be deliberate strategies to develop domestic tourism by Rwandans,” she said, citing the need for motivation from employers or government to promote domestic tourism.

He also said that emphasis should be placed on the development of cultural tourism, focusing on identified sites in different districts of the country, which can offer services such as providing knowledge about Rwandan history and values. .

Akamanzi said that after realizing that tourists cannot visit the country due to Covid-19, RDB has implemented a domestic tourism campaign.

She said RDB has worked with different companies including tour operators and hotels to set relatively affordable tourism fees for many Rwandans to do domestic tourism.

She said hotels have cut prices to allow Rwandans to pay up to 30 percent of normal costs, adding that RDB has also reduced the fees charged to visit gorillas by $ 1,500 by more than seven times ( about RWF 1.5 million) to $ 200 (about RWF 200,000).

The move, she said, led many Rwandans to visit gorillas and seek services in hotels, especially in the eastern and northern provinces, during the first three months of the year. initiative.

However, she said that while this helped reduce tourist losses during the pandemic, the appetite for domestic tourism was found to be short-lived.

“From this experience, the reality is that the way Rwandans participate in tourism in the country cannot provide a sustainable market,” she said, indicating that the numbers have declined.

Moreover, she said, because the fees were reduced, the income from tourism was much lower than that generated by foreign tourists.

“Generating the same amount of income as a foreign tourist, it takes seven Rwandans,” she said, referring to the reduced rates.

At the same time, Akamanzi said that, in line with improving the experience of tourists in the country, RDB is supporting the development of new tourism products, citing the Kivu Queen – a boat-shaped hotel on Lake Kivu, which is on the point of being completed.

“We are developing new products which, once tourism is fully reopened, will offer opportunities to generate money beyond the usual products,” she said.



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