London, UK | THE INDEPENDENT | Rwanda President Paul Kagame has recieved the 2017 World Tourism Award for visionary leadership. The award was presented to Kagame on the opening day of World Travel Market London on Monday.
Inaugurated in 1997, the World Tourism Awards recognises individuals, companies, organisations, destinations and attractions for outstanding initiatives related to the travel and tourism industry, and in fostering sustainable tourism and developing programs that give back to local communities.
According to the organisers, Kagame is being honoured for “his visionary leadership through a policy of reconciliation, sustainable tourism, wildlife conservation, and economic development attracting major hotel investment, resulting in the remarkable turnaround that has led to Rwanda’s rise as one of the leading tourism destinations in Africa today.”
The other Award recipients were, Charity Challenge and Micato Safaris-AmericaShare honoured for sustainable tourism. Peter Greenberg, CBS News Travel Editor, multi Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter as well as world renowned travel expert, hosted the Awards presentation.
“On behalf of the people of Rwanda I thank you for this award which recognises Rwandas efforts to promote sustainable tourism. These good results have been possible because Rwandans have made a mindset shift from dependence to dignity and self-reliance,” said Kagame.
“Growth in this industry has proven to be a driver of shared prosperity because we ensure that Rwanda-ns benefit directly. This is why for example former poachers are today the most dedicated protectors of wildlife.”
The World Tourism Awards, celebrating its 20th Anniversary, are co-sponsored by Corinthia Hotels, The New York Times, and Reed Travel Exhibitions. The Award ceremony was followed by a reception and a special performance by the Rwanda National Ballet, Urukerereza.
Rwanda sets high tourism targets
Tourism, which is Rwanda’s number one foreign exchange earner, has played a crucial role in the country’s development. Revenue from tourism has doubled from US$$200 million in 2010 to US$404 million in 2016 indicating an annual average increase of 10%, surpassing the National Export Strategy II target in 2016 by 13%.
Over 1.3 million tourists visited Rwanda in 2016. Visitor arrivals for the same period (2010-2016) have increased by 12% annually against a backdrop of UNWTO arrivals in global emerging markets bench-marked at 3.3% for the same period. The tourism sector in Rwanda is expected to grow at 15% per annum.
“We are also finding ways to multiply Rwanda’s connections with the rest of the world which is what this award represents. We have been working hard to protect our natural environment while building the infrastructure for our visitors and citizens,” Kagame said at the awards, adding “This is a story that is being repeated across the continent as Africans increasingly take charge of our future.”
Kagame said improved air connections were key. “It is getting easier to travel to Africa. RwandAir now flies to 24 destinations on the continent and beyond including London,” Kagame said. (see full speech on page 2)
As a preferred investment destination, Rwanda has instituted several initiatives to ensure a conducive environment for business. To date, Rwanda is considered as the 2nd competitive destination for business in Africa according the 2017 WEF Global Competitiveness Report, and this has encouraged even more foreign investment in the tourism sector.
Prioritising infrastructure development within the travel and tourism sector with over $ 1 Billion USD invested into significant contributors such as RwandAir, enabling it to expand its routes globally to 23 destinations as well as increase its airlift capacity with two new A330 Airbus aircraft. The next major development in this sector is the commencement of the new international Bugesera Airport.