Gorilla tourism shows results for Rwanda local economy

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(eTN) – The Ruhengeri/Musanze area of Rwanda is best known around the world for being the access point for tracking the famous mountain gorillas living up by the volcanic mountains, which form the eve

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(eTN) – The Ruhengeri/Musanze area of Rwanda is best known around the world for being the access point for tracking the famous mountain gorillas living up by the volcanic mountains, which form the ever-present background against the horizon.

Over the past 5 years alone, the number of tourist-quality hotels and safari establishments has more than doubled, providing added job opportunities while a large number of cooperatives have sprung up, which provide local crafts and curios to the hotels, lodges, markets, and shops where foreign tourists can then purchase genuine items produced in the area. Porter services, operating in form of cooperatives, have also allowed people to earn a living every day by carrying the backpacks, water bottles, and camera cases for tourist visitors tracking the gorillas or taking hikes up and around the mountains, a service incidentally highly recommended, not just to spread some income into the communities but also to ease ones’ own burden of carrying something, which originally weighs two or three pounds but in the end feels like the proverbial ton.

Other businesses were also boosted by the rollout of the electricity grid into the area and the construction and upgrade of roads, which also benefitted farmers who now have easier access to the markets near and far.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the RDB–Tourism and Conservation has released the tourism earnings in the first half of 2010, standing just under US$90 million. This is nearly 10 percent up compared to last year and on track to bring substantially higher earnings from tourism into the Rwandan coffers this year.

Ms. Rica Rwigamba, head of the tourism and conservation division of RDB, released these details last week to the media and attributed the strong growth this year also to the establishment of state-of-the-art conference and meeting facilities, which attracted business travelers to a greater extent into Rwanda, now that regional and continental meetings could be held in Kigali. She also pointed out that more beds in the 4- and 5-star bracket were needed to cater for future growth. The ongoing project by Marriott Hotels and the planned renovation and expansion of the former Novotel, now Laico Kigali, will undoubtedly assist in meeting these objectives and adding room numbers to the market in coming months and years.

Meanwhile, the Rwandan Commissioner General of Police held a meeting with nearly 100 hotel and hospitality business owners and managers in Kigali last week to emphasize the need to keep their premises secure and their patrons safe by installing state-of-the-art screening equipment on all entrances and step up surveillance in-house through the use of technology now available in the marketplace. The business community at large was also urged to cooperate closely with the Rwandan security forces to prevent any harm coming to visitors and local hotel and restaurant patrons alike.

Similar meetings have involved transporters and operators of cross-country busses who were also reminded to step up security for passengers traveling in their vehicles and to check boxes and luggage before boarding their busses.

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