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Rwanda seeks more Chinese tourists

By Edith Mutethya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-11-11 15:31
Clare Akamanzi (left), the chief executive officer of the Rwanda Development Board, and Angel Zhao, president of Alibaba Global Business Group, hold a press conference in Rwanda, Oct 31, 2018. [Photo by Edith Mutethya/China Daily]

Rwanda is optimistic it can attract a significant percentage of the more than 130 million Chinese tourists who travel abroad annually, thanks to a recently signed agreement between the East African country and the Alibaba group.

The agreement will see Alibaba's travel services platform, Fliggy, and the Rwanda Development Board work together to promote Rwanda as a tourist destination through a Rwanda Tourism Store for booking flights, hotels and travel experiences.

This is in addition to a destination pavilion where Chinese consumers can learn about visiting the country, including its beautiful natural parks, through video content.

Fliggy is an online travel agent platform, providing flight tickets, hotel booking services, tour guide services, visa application services, hotel booking services, and vacation packages to 200 million registered users.

According to Clare Akamanzi, the chief executive officer of the Rwanda Development Board, Chinese nationals now will be able to learn about Rwanda's tourism offerings, including culture, nature and adventure, on fliggy.com.

In addition to the online platform, Akamanzi said Rwanda has planned several promotional events to take place in China, showcasing the country's unique tourist attractions.

She said China is the most powerful outbound market for travel, which is the reason they are keenly targeting it.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, China continues to lead global outbound travel, having spent $258 billion on international tourism in 2017. This is almost one-fifth of the world’s total tourism spending in 2017, which stood at $1.3 trillion, some $94 billion more than in 2016.

Akamanzi said Chinese travelers are spending 30 times more than they did 17 years ago, making the Chinese tourist the highest spender in the world.

"A Chinese traveler spends twice as much as an American traveler and four times as much as a German one, which means China presents a big tourism source market," Akamanzi said.

Rwanda received 5,000 tourists from China last year but is optimistic that the numbers will go up following the partnership with Fliggy.com, she said.

"Alibaba has given us a platform so that a Chinese who is looking for places to travel can consider Rwanda," she said.

Angel Zhao, president of Alibaba Global Business Group, said that despite Rwanda having unique beauty and numerous tourism attractions, very few Chinese know about the country.

"We want to let Chinese to know about the tourists attractions in Rwanda so that they can visit the country. We will tailor-make some of the Rwandan products for Chinese tourists," she said.

Nicknamed “The Land of a Thousand Hills”, Rwanda is a green, undulating landscape of hills, gardens and tea plantations. It is home to one-third of the world's remaining mountain gorillas, one-third of Africa’s bird species, several species of primates, volcanoes, game reserves, resorts and islands on the expansive lake Kivu, graceful dancers, artistic crafts and friendly people.

The direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to Rwanda's GDP in 2017 was $435 million, accounting for 5.2 percent of GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. This is forecast to rise by 5.7 percent to $459.7 million in 2018.

The World Travel and Tourism Council projects the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Rwanda's GDP to grow by 6.1 percent per annum to $830.9 million, translating to 5 percent of the GDP by 2018.

The sector generated 132,000 direct jobs in 2017, or 4.4 percent of total employment in Rwanda. The figure is forecast to grow by 2.9 percent in 2018 to 136,000.

Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, said that prior to making his first trip to Africa last year that his perception of the continent was poverty, diseases and all manner of negative things.

However, when he arrived in Rwanda, he changed his perception and fell in love with the continent. "The reality was different from what I thought. The country is very clean," he said.

Rwanda is a thriving, safe country with one of the lowest crime rates in Africa. Much of this change can be attributed to Paul Kagame, the president who steered the country through a long period of reconciliation after the 1994 genocide.

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