Destination to Watch: Rwanda
After years of unrest, the African nation is stable and ramping up on travel opportunities.
After a long period of civil war and internal strife, the East African nation of Rwanda has achieved stability and economic growth, resulting in a shift of population out of poverty. Rwanda is now thought of as one of the safer places to vacation in Africa, according to Helen Foster, marketing manager at RCI. The country’s capital, Kigali, “has reinvented itself as a thriving and modern commercial hub,” she says.
Rwanda is investing heavily in its tourism infrastructure, spending $418 million in the first phase of building a new international airport in Kigali (expected to be completed by December 2018), establishing a domestic helicopter service to its national parks, and encouraging the development of new luxury hotels and restaurants. RwandAir has also received permits from the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide nonstop flights from New York City to Kigali beginning August 1. Add in ecotourism, safaris, and incredible biodiversity throughout its national parks, and Rwanda is a destination to watch.
“[Rwanda is] famed for its population of endangered species of gorillas, and the government is supporting the development of tourist attractions, such as a new game park and adventure experiences on Lake Kivu, in Karongi, Western Rwanda,” Foster says. She expects that growth will expand outward from Kigali to encompass more than the capital and areas around national parks such as Volcanoes National Park.
Johan Fourie, head of planning and analysis and business development key accounts, South Africa, at RCI, says that a mix of local and international potential investors should be targeted. “Developers need to look at models that have worked in areas like Ethiopia and Kenya,” he says. “Rwanda is a country with a growing middle class and will reflect demand for vacation experiences to follow that.”
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