The exit of COVID-19 travel restrictions, 2022 will go down in history as a year of new normal and path to recovery from the pandemic which left huge shocks.
Visitors will recall that for several months, airplanes were grounded and thus, they could not come for vacation in a country of a Thousand Hills, the home to rare mountain gorillas, welcoming people, clean environment, soothing weather and many Wonders-Rwanda.
They will recall that they came timidly until 2021 but by 2022, they had decided that COVID-19 should be left behind for them to recover their rights to enjoy the world as if nothing happened.
In 2022, Rwanda reverted to physical or hybrid events from the purely digital format which was the only option imposed by “social distance” since early 2020.
With this, 2022 returned Rwanda’s iconic events which include celebration and tribute to conservation through gorilla naming-Kwita Izina ceremony.
The colourful event takes place in the foothill of the volcanoes to celebrate gorilla’s new born, among other events that share best practices in conservation and encourage investments in the cause.
Celebrities were happy for the return of Kwita Izina, reason why some of them returned after a short while in Rwanda.
Football legend who had last visited Rwanda in October 2019, the Ivorian Didier Drogba returned in September 2022 for Kwita Izina.
The UK Monarch, King Charles III who was in Rwanda three months earlier for CHOCGM summit also participated at Kwita Izina-though via video conference, among many other celebrities.
However, earlier on the UK royal family also had another member in Rwanda, still for conservation purposes.
Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex was in Rwanda in August as part of his conservation work with African Parks which he serves as President since December 2017.
African Parks, is a conservation NGO, founded in 2000. It manages national parks and protected areas on behalf of governments and in collaboration with local communities across Africa. The NGO manages Akagera National Park from Eastern Rwanda since 2010.
They can take the credit of boosting Akagera’s population, including restocking it with the big five.
White Rhinos could be their latest addition. Thirty of them were translocated from South Africa to Rwanda in November 2021. Once in Rwanda, they went through familiarisation process, first living in a space isolated from the rest of Akagera National Park’s population.
In July 2022, Akagera Park management said that the rhinos had already become familiar with the environment and were thus released to mix up with the entire community of the park.
“While the white rhinos are free and roaming in the plains of the park, it is important to note that they are still adapting to their new environment,” the Park’s management said.
Since January, Akagera Park added a new option to tourists who wish to visit. One can choose among a road trip, a helicopter, and lately, a hot air balloon, courtesy of Royal Balloon Rwanda.
The Turkish company operates two hot air balloons that can accommodate 4 to 6 guests. They climb as high as 100m to 1000m above the park’s scenic savannah. It is the first experience in Rwanda.
Turkish investors are showing much more interests in Rwanda. In September, the country welcomed Doğuş Group, one of the world-class multibillion leaders in construction industry who showed ‘strong interest’ to invest in the country.
Doğuş Group runs 20 hotels and over 200 world class restaurants world-wide. For example, it owns Mytha Hotel Anthology and D-Hotels & Resorts, two well-known names in the hotel industry globally.
“We love the people of Rwanda. The country has visionary leadership, it is amazing. We moved to several parts of the country, and we fell in love with what Rwanda offers to the world hospitality sector,” Ferit F. Sahenk, Chairman and CEO of Dogus Group said after holding discussions with Rwanda’s Prime Minister Dr. Edouard Ngirente, September 14.
Meanwhile, the wildlife of Rwanda will celebrate 2022 for adding Nyandungu Eco Park to its package.
Divided into five sectors stretching along Kigali-Rwamagana highway, the Eco park includes 17,000 trees made up of 55 indigenous species and a medicinal garden with 50 species.
It also features the Pope’s Garden right from the place where Pope John Paul II stood while reading the mass during his visit to Rwanda, September 1990.
Nyandungu further includes five catchment ponds, three recreation ponds, an information centre, a restaurant as well as a-10km walkways and bike lanes.
It’s also worth noting that this year, Rwanda’s hospitality industry continued to flourish.
Bisate Lodge from the foothill of Volcano National Park was ranked Africa’s Best Luxurious Eco-Friendly HotelTravel+ Leisure by a New York City-based magazine which ranks hotels, resorts, cities, islands, Cruise ships, spas, and airlines across the globe.
“In addition to Bisate at the top, One&Only Nyungwe House (No. 3), another Rwandan resort, offers the opportunity to monitor chimpanzees, see birds, and visit a tea plantation,” one of the voters described.
On the other side, renowned Hotel Umubano got a new investor.
Kasada, an independent hospitality investment platforms committed to spending $40Million on upgrading the hotel to a five-star.
Umubano Hotel, located in Kacyiru, a high end neighborhood of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city will be rebranded and improved into a 100-key Mövenpick hotel in accordance with international standards. It is set to open in 2025.
One of the tourists who will tell Rwanda’s story in 2022, is probably British Formula 1 Superstar Lewis Hamilton who visited Rwanda on a very private tour in August.
The seven-time world champion spent four days in Rwanda where visited the Northern Province and trekked the gorillas and also engaged in different cultural and social activities in Musanze district.
“Hiking up the jungle and volcano was insane, yet remarkable. I fell in love with all the beautiful kids I met along the way. Rwanda you have my heart,” Hamilton posted, adding Rwanda’s flag.