Prior to its entrance into the Rwandan airline market, the country was only being directly connected to Europe through two operators, a factor that not only limited the destinations but also the choice for air passengers.
Two years down the lane however, the airline situations can be said to have changed for the better with new flights connecting Kigali directly from and to the world emerging on every occasion.
According to Burcin Isler, Turkish Airline’s general manager in Kigali, the company’s fleet as of recent added Boston in the United States and Montreal in Canada to its direct flights from and to Rwanda. Intended to attract more travelers to Rwanda, the two recent additions on the Turkish Airline’s flights to and from Kigali are targeting a large and ever growing Rwandan community in the two cities and their surroundings.
“Boston and mostly Montreal are two destinations that we believe are going to have a direct and strong impact on our Rwanda operations because the Rwandan community in these cities is bigger and thus we believe there are many people interested in travelling to and from Kigali in these areas,” Mr. Isler offered. No doubt based on the results seen ever since the Airline added Kigali to its destination and thus connecting it to over 190 destinations across the globe, the recent additions to the direct flights from Kigali to the world will increase business and leisure travels to and from Rwanda. For instance, Isler shared his knowledge that since joining the Rwandan airline market, the number of visitors from Turkey to Kigali has greatly increased though he withheld from mentioning the exact figure.
He further noted that the evolution of Kigali in the sight of Turkish businessmen and other passengers using the airline has been a rewarding one. “For instance, there are many Turkish tour and travel agents who have been lured by our direct flights to Rwanda to initiate tour packages to Rwanda and are marketing the country as a great tourist destination to their customers.” Beyond Turkey, the connectivity and visibility to the rest of the world that the country has benefited from the Airline’s presence in the market has attracted travelers from as far as Croatia.
The increased flow of passengers from across the world to Rwanda is a symbol that the country is emerging as an iconic tourist and business destination, thanks to Turkish Airline’s highly connected flight destinations. Currently, the airline flies to 34 African destinations and over 190 globally. Besides such travelers, Turkish Airlines has also used its facilities to supplement the marketing efforts of the Rwandan government. Some of these include the press visits to and from Rwanda.
In the recent past, press groups from Russia, Los Angeles California, Croatia, and Turkey among others have traveled to Rwanda, efforts that generated numerous stories being told in the respective countries about Rwanda’s beauty and the story of reconstruction after horrible years of the early 90’s including the genocide against the Tutsi.
According to Isler, these Turkish Airline sponsored tours are demystifying Rwanda for tourists across the world and presenting it as the safe paradise that it is.
Also, Turkish Airlines constantly seeks out for new opportunities to open Rwanda to the world and vice versa.
Currently, the company includes Rwanda in its in-flight magazine, Skylife’s, coverage, telling the country’s numerous stories to the approximately 4 million passengers using Turkish Airlines monthly. Since coming to Rwanda, Turkish Airlines revealed that they have seen growth in flight frequency, seat capacity, and load factor.
From just three times a week, the Star Alliance member now flies daily to and from Kigali while according to Isler, the seat capacity has increased by more than 40 percent in the last one year, indicating the growing number of passengers destined for Kigali. Forward going, Mr. Isler noted that the Airline continues to look for ways of supporting Rwanda’s development, adding that beyond doubt; the country and the African continent at large are presenting great prospects for the Airline’s growth. “Though I had never been to Rwanda before, I can easily imagine the country in the past ten years, but judging from the growth rate, I cannot even start to imagine it ten years from now.”
Asked about the airline’s future prospects in Rwanda, Isler shared that the company has high hopes in the growing Rwandan economy and that they are continuously looking for further opportunities to invest.
For instance Rwanda being a landlocked country looks strongly at using air transport to connect with the rest of the world in terms of trade facilitation, a line of business in which Turkish Airlines is numbered among global leaders.
“We believe that the government of Rwanda’s efforts to strengthen the manufacturing and agriculture footprint for the export market will yield a high demand for cargo transport and we are more than positioned to develop the required facilities owing to our experience and knowledge in the area.”
Turkish Airlines operates a fleet of 250 aircrafts, nine of which are large cargo planes.