On Monday, September 27, Rwanda joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Tourism Day which among other key messages this year focused the importance of the travel industry in preserving and promoting culture and heritage.
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism is a recognized pillar of most, if not all, the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), particularly the goals on ending poverty, one on gender equality, the goal on decent work and economic growth among others.
Speaking to The New Times, Robert Masozera, the Director General of Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy (RCHA) said that the travel industry plays a big role in the promotion and preservation of Rwandan cultural heritage, highlighting the main actors as airlines and travel and tour agencies.
He said that airlines like the national carrier, RwandAir have been key in exporting Rwanda's cultural heritage through branding of aircraft and the way members of the cabin crew dress and carry themselves.
Tackling the travel agencies, he said that their role is based on product packaging not only for air ticketing but also for cultural heritage products and services such as museums, heritage sites as well as cultural events for their respective customers.
He revealed that tourists also play a role when they visit Rwanda, adding that they bring foreign exchange into the country which are vital for the national economy.
He added that they also leave souvenirs and become ambassadors of the Rwandan cultural heritage, reminding players within the industry to always strive to properly market the country's culture to tourists who use their services.
Edmond Turatsinze, Managing Director of Go Great Discovery, a local tourism company, said that when tourists come to Rwanda, they experience Rwandan culture which they take with them and talk about it when they eventually leave.
"Most importantly," he added. "Tourism helps in the provision of jobs to our local people who capitalize on giving such historical tours. They earn a living through these trips which boosts their standards of living."
He declared that it's everyone's responsibility to conserve nature since it had time to bounce back during the pandemic, adding that people should now travel wherever the lockdowns are lifted across the world, especially in Rwanda.
Daniel Shema, Founder and Chief Executive of Daniel Tours Ltd said that the travel industry plays a vital role in tourism in Rwanda because it links people with their desired destinations.
"Developing and marketing heritage as an experience to be consumed has been at the forefront of economic trends in the tourism industry. The trend towards the culture of consumption is strongly related to many tourism and leisure activities," he said.
In ensuring the tourists get the best of the Rwandan cultural heritage during their stay in Rwanda, he highlighted the importance of continued involvement of local communities.
He revealed that the local community must be the main actor in tourism development by making it their own with the active presence of government, social partners and civic bodies.