The 41st Annual World Tourism Conference, organized by the Africa Trade Association (a division of the Corporate Council on Africa) in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board, started on Monday, attended by tourism stakeholders from around the world.
The conference brings together African leaders, international investors and travel professionals, to discuss ways to unlock Africa’s potentials through tourism. It highlights economic and job opportunities fuelled by the tourism sector’s dynamic growth.
Speaking at the opening of the three-day global conference, President Paul Kagame said that Rwanda, like other countries on the African continent, is keen to convert its favourable demographics into economic growth and prosperity.
“The services sector, in particular tourism, provides some of the best employment opportunities for our citizens, and attractive careers for young people,” he remarked. “Already, this sector is Rwanda’s biggest foreign exchange earner, but we can and need to do better. Harnessing the full potential of the tourism industry will require continued focus and investment on several fronts.”
Kagame said that the responsibility of government and other players in the industry was to continuously provide quality education and training so that Rwandans can fully participate as professionals in tourism and associated sectors.
“We are investing heavily in services and infrastructure to support the development of the sector,” he pointed out. “Our national carrier RwandAir continues to expand to destinations within Africa and beyond, and will soon have a more modern, efficient base when the new airport in Bugesera is completed. We are also working to improve the road network and attract investments in conference and hotel facilities, such as this convention centre we are in today.”
The President further observed that Africans must take full advantage of new technology, particularly innovative digital platforms to attract more visitors, offer new experiences, and provide better services.
In less than 15 years, Africa’s travel and hospitality industries have quadrupled in size, and the continent remains one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations, second only to Southeast Asia.
Rwanda has emerged as one of the leading tourist destinations, due to bold policy reforms to promote tourism. The government’s decision to abolish visa requirements for East African Community countries in 2011 helped increase intra-regional tourists by almost 70%.
Hosted in Rwanda for the first time, the World Tourism Conference aims to showcase Rwanda’s rich culture. It coincides with Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s annual gorilla naming ceremony, a national celebration creating awareness of the country's efforts to protect t the mountain gorillas and their habitat.