How Rwanda May Have a Massive Boom in Tourism This Year

Enjoy a romantic sunset together in Rwanda
Enjoy a romantic sunset together in Rwanda | © Antonis Kyrou / Flickr
Photo of Leah Feiger
26 January 2018

Rwanda is hot right now, and everyone’s beginning to realise it. Though the country is still one of the world’s best kept travel secrets, a possible tourism boom might come about in 2018 as travelers are starting to pay a little more attention to East Africa’s smallest nation. This remarkable country – known for its impressive wildlife, flourishing arts scene, clean city streets, and vibrant local culture – is undoubtedly one to watch.

Significant news features

Every major travel news source is currently lauding Rwanda as a place to visit in 2018. Rwanda has been recognised as a top travel destination by both CNN Travel and the Telegraph, and was recently featured by the New York Times on its annual ‘52 Places to Go in 2018‘ list. It’s not all just about trekking with mountain gorillas either – a recent New York Times travel piece on how to spend 36 hours in Kigali has been making the rounds in the region, and most articles about the country mention Akagera National Park, Nyungwe National Park, and the country’s idyllic lakes.

View of Kigali | Courtesy of Leah Feiger

Visa on arrival policy

As of January 1, 2018, citizens of any country in the world can obtain a thirty day visa for $30 USD upon arrival in Rwanda. Prior to this landmark decision, only African passport holders and several other countries were able to purchase a visa upon landing at Kigali International Airport. Newly accessible, Rwanda projects that this open door policy will result in increased tourism.

Views from Mount Kigali | © Leah Feiger

Direct flights

Direct flights between Kigali and Brussels, Amsterdam, and Istanbul have been operating for several years, but a new direct Rwandair flight from Kigali to London as of May 2017 has the continent abuzz. With the European market well covered, Rwanda has also announced that a direct Rwandair flight from Kigali to New York is underway for August 2018. With better flight options, it will be easier than ever for tourists to visit the land of a thousand hills.

View of Kigali from above | © Francisco Anzola / Flickr

New and improved luxury travel

Call Aunt Sue, because Rwanda is no longer a backpacker-only destination. Impeccable service, fantastic food, and gorgeous scenery characterise Rwanda’s best and newest luxury hotels. In 2017, the country witnessed the openings of Bisate Lodge by Wilderness Safaris in Kinigi and the Marriott hotel in Kigali, as well as the reopening of Nyungwe House by One&Only Resorts. Singita, another prestigious company with lodges and camps in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania, has plans to open yet another luxury lodge on the border of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, with the Mantis Collection set to refurbish and take over the Akagera Game Lodge in the Akagera National Park.

Guest bedroom interior at Bisate Lodge | © Courtesy of Wilderness Safaris / Crookes & Jackson

Recognition at travel fairs

Over the weekend of January 19, 2018, Rwanda participated in the Matka Nordic Travel Fair, Northern Europe’s largest travel fair located in Helsinki, Finland. Rwanda’s stand was reportedly one of the most energetic at the fair, featuring traditional Intore dancers, hot Rwandan coffee, and classic Rwandan tunes. Travel fairs are important for bourgeoning tourist destinations, as the Nordic and greater European market will likely benefit Rwanda’s tourism industry.

Intore dancer | © Nagarjun Kandukuru / Flickr

Safety and stability

Though locals and visitors alike have extolled Rwanda’s safety record for the last decade, a Gallup poll in 2017 officially recognised Rwanda as the 11th safest country globally. The international recognition of Rwanda’s safety is an important feature in its tourism marketing campaign, and will possibly draw even more tourists who would otherwise stay away. According to the World Economic Forum’s report in 2017, Rwanda actually ranked as the 9th safest country in the world, putting it several places ahead of countries like Portugal, New Zealand, Austria, and the Netherlands.

Street scenes in Kigali | © Dylan Walters / Flickr

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