The high cost of air travel across the region is hurting the growth of the tourism industry, Yamina Karitanyi, the head of the tourism and conservation department at Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has said.
“Flying across the East African Community (EAC) bloc is too expensive compared to other regions across the continent and globally. This is making the region’s tourism sector less competitive,” Karitanyi said.
She was speaking during a panel discussion on how EAC partner states can collaborate and improve the tourism industry in the region at the just-concluded service investment forum on Tuesday in Kigali
Most airlines charge between $214 (about Rwf150,870) and $300 (about Rwf211,500), minus taxes, for a return trip to Entebbe, Uganda and Nairobi in Kenya.
Aviation experts attribute the high cost of air travel in EAC to lack of uniform airspace policies and high airport parking fees across the region, which they say should be scrapped.
Dealing with Ebola and terrorism threats
Karitanyi said it is important to ensure safety and security in the region, especially in the wake of threats like terror attacks by Al Shabab and Ebola so that tourists feel “comfortable to visit”.
Pius Odunga, a tourism consultant at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa-Rwanda, challenged stakeholders to provide tourists attractive packages to attract more visitors.
Odunga argued that this, plus product diversification could help counter the effects of threats like Ebola and terrorism.
“We also have to put in place measures to reassure tourists on their safety,” he said.
There is a growing concern that, the region’s tourism industry could be hit hard following terrorist attacks in parts of Kenya.
Kenya’s tourism industry has been hard-hit as result of terrorist attacks over the past many months, with the recent being on Tuesday.
Ebola, which has ravaged three West Africa nations- Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has also affected tourist arrivals in other parts of the continent.
Rwanda Eco Tours manager, Osborn Kinene, however, said the country has not yet felt the impact of these threats so far.
“We are aware of the situation, but we are alert. However, it will also require intensive marketing to create awareness among tourists that the situation is under control,” he said.
Rwanda launched a new strategy focusing on the area of meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) to accelerate growth in the tourism sector.
Total revenues based on MICE tourism in 2013 were $49 million and is projected to triple to $150 million in 2015, or 16 per cent of national export earnings and 34 per cent of the overall tourism receipts.
While leisure tourism remains a vital part of the national tourism strategy, business tourists spend up to three times more than leisure visitors.
Rwanda’s share in the international meetings, incentives, conferences and events industry is presently minimal.
The International Conference and Congress Association’s (ICCA) latest research has ranked Rwanda as 21st tourist destination in Africa.
Source:The New Times