Zoritsa Urosevic, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Representative to the United Nations in Geneva has said that Rwanda’s measures of tourism recovery in the aftermath of COID-19 could be an example to emulate.
She was speaking at the Global Tourism and Covid-19 Webinar Expert Question and Answer session held this June 11, 2020.
At this session, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Chief Tourism Officer Belise Kariza said that the country made an estimated $42 million loss due to cancellation of over 45 international conferences since March, and the closure of hotels and commercial flights.
“We recorded about 54% reduction in visitors since March when Covid-19 hit. Over 45 meetings, events and incentives were cancelled or postponed and we are estimating a loss of about $42m in the entire value chain,” Kariza said.
However, Kariza said, everything was done in the interest of protecting the sector.
For example, she said that the country acted quickly to suspend tourism in virunga massif for gorilla trekking in volcano national park which is relevant in WTO best practices.
As part of the financial recovery plan Rwanda has injected $100 million in the COVID-19 recovery fund which the tourism sector is set to benefit from.
With this Akariza said that Rwanda will focus on high end tourism as part a plan to attract more tourists (more than $498m in 2019) but also use digital tourism platforms to create more marketing opportunities.
Kariza said that with Rwanda’s assurance of safety and collaborative mechanisms of reopening borders and travel bans, the country will still leverage its tourism products on the global market.
Urosevic said that Rwanda’s example of addressing the Covid-19 crisis has been a benchmark to the WTO and other countries should follow through in order to see the sector recovery especially through digital tourism and marketing moving on.
“Rwanda is an example and we have too much respect for all measures taken to react immediately to Covid-19, and also using its natural resources to attract the high end tourists,” Urosevic said.
She also added that WTO believes that considering digitalization of tourism as a way of reaching the minds of people and markets, as seen in Rwanda is important.
“What we have learnt is that everyone has a chance to be a touristic destination, just as in Rwanda where they have used its natural assets as key drive and unique selling position, on nature and preservation of gorillas,” Urosevic said.
She said that WTO will therefore in forthcoming weeks start encouraging governments to boost digital tourism capacity, for safety or reaching more tourism markets.