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Kigali International Airport

“Kigali is a very clean city,” said Olabayo Veracruz, Managing Director of GTBank Rwanda at the just concluded Akwaaba African Travel Market (22-24 Nov. 2014). “From the airport to my hotel, I saw only five pieces of paper on the road. That’s how clean the city is.”

Veracruz has lived in the country for a little over two years and he sheds light on Rwanda’s positive economic indices and inviting prospects as a business destination.

Before him, Ikechi Uko, publisher of African Travel Quarterly and CEO of Jedidah Promotions Ltd (organisers of the Travel Expo), had also spoken lavishly about discovering “the Land of a thousand Hills”, where hehas had the pleasure of naming some of the country’s baby Gorillas, a key feature of Rwandan tourism.

“This year alone, I have been to Rwanda four times and I can tell you that it is my favourite African country at the moment.”

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Ikechi Uko (in Mufler and hat) with the governor of Nigeria’s Cross River State, Ben Ayade (in Blue dress) at the Akwaaba African Travel Market

Uko is a widely travelled promoter of African tourism, constantly visiting far flung destinations on and outside the continent, forging partnership with stakeholders that will put tourism in Africa in the mainstream of global travel. The most recent of that collaboration is ‘TeamAfrica’, formed with like-minded tourism promoters from Uganda, Kenya and Congo. “The first project ‘TeamAfrica’ is embarking on will be a two year search for 21 wonders of Africa,” he writes in his publication, Travellers. “The first shortlist of 200 African destinations will be released on the 1st of January 2016…The final result will be unveiled in Addis Ababa on 9th September 2018.”

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L-R: Olabayo Veracruz, Amb. Silas Kamanzi and a guest (Courtesy Akwaaba ATM)

Also seated in the room is the Rwandan Ambassador to Nigeria, Silas Kamanzi and a few other delegates from the Central African country. Rwanda has not hidden the fact that it has its eyes on the Nigerian market, going all out on an intensive marketing campaign targeted at Nigerian travellers and holidaymakers. In 2014, it beat other exhibitors at the Travel Expo, winning the best designed exhibitor’s booth.

“Rwanda has established itself as a travel hub in the sub-region. The people of Rwanda are one. We have one culture and we speak one language,” Kamanzi said in his remarks. “And in Rwanda, we believe strongly in the integration of Africa.”

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The Indangamirwa dance troupe (courtesy Akwaaba ATM)

Africans travelling to Rwanda need not worry about obtaining Visas in their respective countries. “We will issue you Visas on arrival, and it costs just $30,” Kamanzi said. “And if you are having any complications, please feel free to meet us at the embassy and we will help facilitate your documentation.”

As he delivered his speech, slides show gorgeous sceneries from across Rwanda, including attractions in its well mapped tourism development regions.  I was particularly interested in the country as a bird-watching destination. According to a publication of the Rwanda Development Board, “Rwanda has one of the highest bird counts—at least 700 species—on the continent. [It is] rated in the top five destinations in the world for those seeking a rewarding birding experience.”

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Global citizens in Rwanda at a ceremony (Kwita Izina) to name the country’s baby Gorillas (courtesy Ikechi Uko on Facebook)

And what’s a travel destination without effective and efficient connecting flights? In comes RwandAir to the rescue. The airline currently flies to 18 cities in Africa, including Lagos, Douala, Lusaka, Nairobi and Johannesburg.

“We are currently in the process of acquiring a new fleet of aircrafts, including two Airbus A330 due for delivery in 2016,” said the Country Manager (Nigeria) of RwandAir, Ibiyemi Odusi. @PeluAwofeso