Tourism: A Tool To Alleviate Poverty in Rwanda

Rwanda is a developing country located in east Africa. It’s a very small country that in the early 1990’s faced a great tragedy (1993) Rwandan genocide that lead to the destruction of the country’s economy including the major wildlife destinations. Economic activity was also disrupted by the genocide forcing many people to exile especially to the neighboring countries like Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and DRC. The war ended after just three months but it had caused a lot of harm to the people and to the economy. The Rwandan government then had to start a recovery journey to make Rwanda a business center and also among the leading safari destinations in Africa.

In 1999, some of the major national parks were reopened for tourist visitation especially those interested in viewing wildlife while many dark tourism sites re emerged. On return from exile, many Rwandese had been displaced and were unemployed which increased poverty levels in the country. With those entire happenings, the Rwandan government had to identify its major strength so that it could reduce poverty especially among the local people. Of the identified strengths was tourism, which was identified as a means of wiping out poverty in Rwanda.

Rwanda is naturally endowed with a number of attractions especially wildlife with rare wildlife especially in Volcanoes national park which is inhabited by the endangered mountain gorillas as well as the golden monkeys. There is also savanna wildlife in Akagera national park featuring wild animals like crocodiles, hippos, baboons, lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras as well as the chimpanzees of Nyungwe forest national park located in southwestern Rwanda.

Over the past wars period, the tourism industry in Rwanda has proved to be the fastest growing sector in Rwanda attracting a lot of investment especially in the hotel sector in the different wildlife destination in the country. The hotel industry has acted as a source of market for the locally grown food crops. Many of the locals have also been employed in the hotel industry as managers, waiters, and waitresses and in many other areas thus enabling them to earn a living and improve the welfare of their families.

Other local Rwandese have been employed in the major national parks of Rwanda as guides and game rangers, anti poaching guards. The local people have been around these major attractions and therefore provide the needed information to tourists who most times end up tipping them for the good service they provide. Around volcanoes national park, some local people are hired as porters which another tourism avenue they use to earn income.

The tourism industry in Rwanda has also attracted a number of tourists who usually visit the local communities and end up directly giving direct income support to those in need like the orphans and widows. This has also given chance to a number of poor people to improve their welfare.

5% percentage from the collections from tourists park entrance fees, gorilla trekking permits and chimpanzee tracking permits are given back to the community in form of revenue sharing and the money is used in improving social services in the communities like building schools, medical centers and other local community development projects.

Many tourists also buy a number of locally made products directly from the local Rwandese. Examples of these are the many handcrafts that are sold in many craft shops around Kigali. There are also many eateries owned the local business men and women where tourists buy local food which also enables the people to earn a living.

With all the above-mentioned benefits that have come along with the development of the tourism industry in Rwanda the land of a thousand hills, poverty levels are expected to reduce at a reasonable rate.

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