2 May 2013

Rwanda: Private Investors to Run Tourism Business in Parks

Akagera and Nyungwe National Parks, two of the main natural reserves in the country, will soon accommodate private-owned touristic products that can boost tourism business.

This will be possible according to the National Concessions Policy approved by the Cabinet recently.

The concession defines the rights, whether full, restricted, shared or exclusive to conduct tourism activities on business principles in protected areas for a specified period of time.

The concession policy provides a platform for more effective development and management of hospitality services by the private sector, as recommended in the National Tourism Policy.

Speaking to The New Times this week, Rica Rwigamba, the head of Tourism and Conservation at Rwanda Development Board, said the new policy will allow private investors to operate lodges, hotels, restaurants and other commercial tourism activities that aimed at improving tourism business in Rwanda.

"The businesses will adhere to environmental management and land policies in Rwanda because the country would not allow disorder in such important reserves," she said.

Concession arrangement:

The policy provides rights and obligations of the business owner, who will, among others, be required to pay revenue to the park while the latter ensures the security of their business.

Before getting a concession-mainly through tender-a contract will be signed between government and the investor. Depending on the nature of the project, the contract will be of between five to 20 years.

Rwigamba said RDB and Ministry of Commerce and Industry are identifying places fit for touristic infrastructure. After the exercise, they will market the available sites and the conditions one is required to fulfil to get a concession contract.

"We have to be careful because any mistake would bring threats to the reserve biodiversity", she said.

Welcome policy:

Antoine Manzi, the director of advocacy and labour relations in the Private Sector Federation (PSF), said it will be a good opportunity for the private sector to invest in tourism activities.

He said PSF will disseminate information on available opportunities whenever they know about them.

John Kayihura, a tours and travel operator, said people should know it is not only about money, arguing that there has to be "attractive products that fit with the natural environment."

Tourism revenue increased by 17 per cent last year after it generated $281.8m (about Rwf178b) in 2012 compared to $251.3m (about Rwf159b) the previous year.

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