Rwanda's tourism sector continues to be the largest foreign exchange earner thanks to exceptional hospitality given to tourists.
The industry has also registered strong performance for the past couple of years mainly because revenue generated from tourists continues to grow year by year.
The continued growth of tourism is also attributed to the country's security and stability that attracts visitors keen to see and enjoy the country's various attractions.
In 2011, tourism receipts increased to $252 million, up from $227 million in 2010. In 2012, the receipts fetched an estimated $210.5 million from January to September, compared to $184.4 million generated in 2011 during the same period which corresponds to an increase of 14 percent.
Since the beginning of last year, the country hosted about 493,744 visitors, representing an increase of 22 per cent compared to the same period in 2011. Rwanda also recorded a remarkable 16 per cent increase in leisure visitors as well as an eight per cent increase in business visitors.
"By October 2012, tourism generated $232 million compared to $204 million last year. It is critical that we strive to provide excellent service and customer care so that visitors to Rwanda leave as good ambassadors who will return and also encourage others to visit," said President Paul Kagame, while delivering the annual State of the Nation Address at Parliamentary buildings at the eve of 2013.
Case for gorillas
Rwanda has capitalised on the fact that she is home to some of the world's 790 remaining mountain gorillas. Last year, in June, gorilla permits were increased by 50 per cent in each category; Rwandans, foreign residents, and those from East African Community (EAC) countries as a means to further strengthen protective measures for the gorillas, fund conservation efforts, research and community outreach programmes.
For instance, the permits are sold at $750 to foreigners, $300 to EAC nationals while Rwandans pay $40.
However, with the introduction of baby gorilla naming ceremony (Kwita Izina) in 2005, the trend has attracted the attention of the international community which resulted into the continuous flow of tourists who come to see the rare mountain gorillas.
Rwanda has registered a 26.3 per cent growth in gorilla population since the last census that took place between 2003 and 2010.
"The increase of gorillas in our country gives us the confidence that we are doing everything right," Rica Rwigamba, head of tourism and conservation at Rwanda Development Board (RDB) told The New Times in a previous interview.
Apart from the mountain gorillas, Rwanda boasts other tourist attractions such as Akagera and Nyungwe national parks, museums, Lake Kivu, bird watching, culture, Congo Nile Trail, among others.
The tourists visiting Akagera National Park, part with $35 for foreigners, $10 for EAC nationals and $2 for Rwandan nationals.
In terms of investment promotion, according to statistics available, from January to June 2012, the tourism industry registered projects worth US$ 184.1m. These projects are expected to create 1,328 jobs.
The country continues to register a noticeable increase in revenues, visits and value of registered tourism investments which have become key drivers of the sector's growth, officials say.
According to RDB tourism department, domestic tourism is still lacking in the country despite the fact that the number of Rwandan tourists visiting tourist sites like canopy walk in Nyungwe National Park has increased.
Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Chris Munyao, General Manager Primate Safaris, a local tour company said the domestic tourism is still low.
Late last year, Rwanda was ranked among top 10 world's adventurous places for 2013 by Globe Spots, a global travel guide for tourists.
The travel guide released a list of 10 countries in the world that are of classic travel for great sights and convenient travel, adventurous places for those who are going above and beyond, seeking out the best travel and hardcore places for those who are willing to travel anywhere just for the buzz.
Rwanda was ranked sixth globally, Portugal leads the pack, followed by Mozambique, Kyrgyzstan, Panama, Armenia, Cuba, Ukraine, Malawi and Canada in that order.
"The country has a lot to offer its visitors and is working really hard to convince them to forget about its dreadful past. And with its incredibly well-paved roads, a bus system that would put some European countries to shame, clean and safe streets, and friendly helpful people, Rwanda makes a perfectly smooth introduction to Africa," says the website.