KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda said on Wednesday tourism revenues rose 11 percent for the first quarter of 2009 to $24 million against the same period last year despite fears of a downturn from the global financial crisis.
Tourism receipts in the central African country, famous for its highland gorillas and hilly landscapes, were propped up by business conferences and high-end eco-tourists who were not as sensitive to the global slump, said Rosette Rugambwa, head of tourism at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
Rugambwa told journalists, however, that the global conditions would impact the overall annual performance, with Rwanda expecting one million tourists to generate $204 million in 2009, compared to 980,000 tourists and $214 million in 2008.
“We had a very good first quarter, and we can say that in terms of immediate impact of the global financial crisis we were not hit,” she said.
“The projection for this year is (about) the same as last year. We’ve tried not to be over-ambitious. Nobody in the world is growing in tourism numbers, they are actually reducing.”
George Mulamula, RDB principal deputy CEO, said the global financial crisis had taken its toll on foreign direct investment in the sector. Dubai World’s planned $230 million investment, which includes two luxury hotels, could be at risk, he said.
“We’re in the current process of re-evaluating to what extent they can proceed, taking into account how the global crisis has effected them,” Mulamula said.
With the lure of a temperate climate, plus clean and safe streets, Kigali is trying to position itself as a regional conference hub. To that end, Rugambwa said 900 more hotel rooms will be built before the end of the year across the country, bringing the total to around 4,400.
“We were voted one of the top ten destinations by The Lonely Planet of 2009, we must live up to that,” she said.