On Wednesday, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the London-based soccer team, Arsenal Football Club, announced an unprecedented deal that Rwanda would become the official tourism partner of the premier league club.
The three-year partnership, which will see the new "Visit Rwanda" logo on the left sleeve of all first team, under-23 and Arsenal Women's matches from the upcoming season starting August, makes Rwanda the first ever shirt sleeve partner for Arsenal.
We'll have a sleeve sponsor on our shirts from 2018/19 - we're pleased to welcome our Official Tourism Partner, @visitrwanda_nowhttps://t.co/ruBw2nzLqR pic.twitter.com/wEOUeGsCNy
-- Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) May 23, 2018
In an interview with The New Times, Sunny Ntayombya, the Head of Communications and Marketing at RDB, said the deal whose worth remains undisclosed is set to deliver long-term in terms of investment and tourism more than the actual cost of investment.
"While we cannot disclose the amount, the partnership cost is part of our marketing budget to promote Rwanda and attract investors and tourists. We expect the partnership to deliver far more long-term in terms of investment and tourism than the actual cost of the partnership," Ntayombya said.
The deal will, among other things, highlight Rwanda's tourism offerings such as national parks, which are growing destinations to global tourists due to increasing diversity of game they offer.
Rwanda recently restocked Akagera National Park with wildlife like the black rhino and lions while the Virunga National Park - which is home to the rare mountain gorillas - a destination for high end tourism.
"It will also bring other benefits - such as using Arsenal's expertise to further improve footballing skills among men and women in Rwanda itself. Sport is an amazing way of uniting people - as has been seen with the recent opening of the new International Cricket Stadium in Kigali," he added.
Rwanda received 1.3 million visitor arrivals in 2017.
Of these, 94,000 tourists visited Rwanda's three national parks of Nyungwe National Park, Akagera National Park and Volcanoes National Park. Tourism has generated 90,000 jobs and is Rwanda's largest foreign exchange earner.
The tourism sector transformation has been made possible through various initiatives such as the revenue sharing scheme, according to Ntayombya.
The scheme allots 10 per cent of the proceeds from tourism which is invested in communities around national parks.
"Tourism has played a major role in helping the local community. One of the major tourism initiatives is the Revenue Share Programme.
"Over $1.28 million has been disbursed by RDB to more than 158 community-based projects through the Rwanda Revenue Share Programme.
"This money has been spent on availing clean drinking water, health centres, classrooms and housing. In addition, tourism has generated 90,000 jobs so far," Nyatombya noted.
Rwanda chose to partner with Arsenal in promoting tourism because the Premier League club offers a "unique opportunity".
"This unique opportunity came about from Arsenal and Rwanda's marketing team. We were given a unique opportunity to promote Rwanda on the world stage via a partnership with this world-renowned football club. We believe that, through this partnership, we can showcase Rwanda and its benefits to potential tourists and business investors around the world." he noted.
Visit Rwanda will gain global exposure through branding on Arsenal's Matchday LED boards, interview backdrops and the club's stadium tour which attracts more than 250,000 visitors each year.
They will also have the opportunity to engage Arsenal fans around the world through the club's social media channels.
Vinal Venkatesham, Arsenal's Chief Commercial Officer, pointed out the magnitude of the exposure Rwanda gets from the deal.
"The Arsenal shirt is seen 35 million times a day around the world and we are one of the most viewed teams around the world. We look forward to working with the Visit Rwanda team to further establish the country as a tourist destination," Venkatesham said.
Ntayombya echoed Venkatesham's sentiments saying that this deal will enable Visit Rwanda to showcase the best of Rwanda around the world over the next three years as well as promote local football.
"We believe this will bring more investors and tourists to Rwanda and ensure that investment flows into communities across the country. This deal will also help integrate football further into the daily lives of men and women in Rwanda, along with the health and wellness benefits that go with that," he added.
The partnership is also being supported by National Geographic, who will promote Rwanda as a major tourist destination.
According to Nyatombya, National Geographic will market the tourism offerings of Visit Rwanda on their platforms.