According to the UN World Tourism (UNWTO) 2017 report, Africa remains one of the fastest-growing regions for the travel and tourism sector globally, and in 2016 international tourist arrivals grew by 8 percent with a total of 58 million international tourists.
At the opening ceremony on August 29, H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, outlined Rwanda’s tourism agenda and objectives. He said the tourism industry is “Rwanda’s biggest foreign exchange earner,” but noted that “we can and should do better” to harness the full potential of the tourism industry which “requires continued focus and investment.” The Rwandan government seeks to achieve this through providing quality education and investments in services and infrastructure to support the sector’s expansion. And Rwanda is already experiencing success in its tourism industry. It is ranked among the top 10 performing African countries on visa openness, according to the second edition of the Africa Visa Openness Index conducted by the African Development Bank (AfDB). The report also indicates that Rwanda has seen an increase in African business and leisure travelers which has in turn generated an economic impact that is still growing.
Ms. Clare Akamanzi, CEO, Rwanda Development Board and Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD Secretary-General spoke to the industry’s changing landscape and rapid growth. “Tourism plays a key role in Rwanda’s economy. Between 2010 and 2016 our tourism receipts doubled to $404 Million,” said Ms. Akamanzi. Dr. Kituyi expounded saying, “Indeed tourism in Africa has been growing substantially. Rising over the past decade from 6 to 8 percent of GDP. Similarly, revenues from the turn of the century have increased three times from $14 billion to $47 billion.”
Ms. Erica Barks-Ruggles, United States Ambassador to Rwanda, highlighted the successful relationship between the U.S. and Rwandan governments to promote biodiversity and ecotourism. Ms. Barks-Ruggles mentioned that the number of tourists continues to increase dramatically in Rwanda and the rest of the continent, noting that, “The United States accounts for the single largest source of tourism in Rwanda as well as the largest single bilateral foreign direct investment country.”
One of the most significant points that was made by speakers during the opening was the importance of diversification. At CCA, we are focused on a range of issues and sectors. At the Tourism Conference, we focused on the connection between tourism and other sectors such as infrastructure, ICT, conservation, capacity building, finance and trade. We heard from leaders in the tourism sector and intersecting industries who discussed the opportunities and challenges to expanding Africa’s tourism sector and leveraging it for inclusive growth.
My hope is that CCA and ATA members will take advantage of the opportunities the African tourism industry presents. As part of our efforts to facilitate opportunities, ATA is launching new initiatives including ATAcademy, which is a platform focused on capacity building, and ATA Connex, which focuses on increasing investments within the industry through facilitating business-to-business and business-to-government linkages. These are just two of several initiatives and programs we plan to roll out over the next year. We look forward to partnering and engaging with you to help unlock Africa’s tourism potential.