Travel bans and strict coronavirus protocols implemented by key tourist source markets for Rwanda threaten businesses with closure.
“The industry is really quiet now. The blacklisting of Rwanda by the UK and China at some point added salt to injury. It’s only a few high-end tourists who have been coming,” said Andrew Gatera founder of G-Step tours.
Gatera said the bans exacerbated the situation at a time when the sector was not getting any business from the UK, China and other markets in Europe largely because they had gone back into lockdown and had instituted tough measures. For example, quarantining of returning citizens for two weeks by many European, US and Asian markets is making tourists reconsider travelling to Rwanda.
Local tourism has also been hampered by lack of a pragmatic strategy and the ever-changing coronavirus containment measures, which now include outlawing travels between Kigali and other provinces, as well as inter-district travels.
Only Akagera National Park allows rapid testing of tourists. The other alternative, which is a PCR test, costs Rwf50,000 ($50) which many find expensive.
Although travels are allowed for those that have tested negative, the coronavirus containment measures in place make it impossible for local tourists to access the destinations in their entirety. For example, local tourists can’t travel upcountry to destinations like Gisenyi and Kibuye to enjoy the pristine waters of Lake Kivu.
Yves Ngenzi, the technical adviser to the East African Tourism Platform said the sector has been getting cancellations since last year, and bookings from Rwanda’s key source markets are almost non-existent.