Rwanda signs Alibaba deal to attract more Chinese tourists

By Edith Mutethya | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2018-11-16 08:01

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 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 the country, including its natural parks, through video content.

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

Clare Akamanzi, the CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, says Chinese nationals will now be able to learn about Rwanda's tourism offerings including culture, nature and adventure at

In addition to the online platform, Rwanda has planned several promotional events that will take place in China, showcasing the country's unique tourist attractions, Akamanzi says, noting that China is currently the biggest outbound market for travel.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, China continues to lead the world in global outbound travel, with travelers spending $258 billion (227 billion euros; £198 billion) on international tourism in 2017. This made up almost one-fifth of the world's total tourism spending in 2017, which stood at $1.3 trillion - $94 billion more than in 2016.

Akamanzi says Chinese travelers are spending 30 times more than they did 17 years ago.

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

She says Rwanda received 5,000 tourists from China last year, but the country is optimistic that the numbers will go up following the partnership with

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

Angel Zhao, the president of Alibaba Global Business Group, says that although Rwanda has a unique beauty and numerous tourism attractions, very few Chinese know about the country.

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

Nicknamed "the land of a thousand hills" Rwanda is known for its 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 birds' species and several species of primates, as well as volcanoes, game reserves, resorts and islands on the expansive Lake Kivu, dancers, artistic crafts and friendly people, she says.

The direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to Rwanda's GDP in 2017 was $435 million, accounting for 5.2 percent of the country's GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. This is forecast to jump to $459.7 million in 2018. Tourism generated 132,000 direct jobs in 2017, translating to 4.4 percent of total employment in Rwanda. The figure is forecast to grow by 2.9 percent this year to 136,000.

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

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

(China Daily European Weekly 11/16/2018 page31)

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