Tourism in Rwanda - The journey of a Tour Operator

 

Photo: Yves Nkundabagenzi a starting Tour Operator

Rwanda is among the most attractive countries in the world. The country has diverse tourist attractions catering for all tastes.

The main iconic tourist attraction is Mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. However, there are other attractions found in different destinations such as National parks, Lakes, Rivers, Museums, Heritage sites, etc.

How wonderful is to serve in the Industry you love the most!!!

Yves Nkundabagenzi is the founder and Managing Director of Ikaze Rwanda Tours & Travel, a tour and travel business based in Kigali. He has revealed his secret along his tourism career, which was activated way back in 2009, after completing his High school. He began his journey in the hotel field, mainly as a customer facing agent/ front desk officer.

“When I was a kid, i was passionate about discovering Rwanda’s surroundings and meeting people, especially foreign guests, commonly referred to as ‘Abazungu’. My dream came true when in 2012 i got hired by one of the oldest and leading travel and tour agencies in Rwanda.

I was responsible for conducting comparative evaluations of worldwide travel markets and trends, utilization of proprietary reservation systems, discussing contract agreements with hotels, car rental companies-just to name a few. From there, I undoubtedly realized that tourism was my career and registered for a Bachelor degree course in Travel and Tourism Management from one University located in Kigali.” He said.

Being a travel and tour agent, i had great opportunities to pursue trainings and other industry related courses. I worked for the same company for nearly six years where i learned and gained a lot of experience. From there, i decided to initiate my own travel business.

It’s now two months that i do have my own tour firm, called Ikaze Rwanda Tours and Travel. He added.

Ikaze means ‘Welcome’ in English and Rwanda is my country. When i was in the process of establishing and naming my new business, i tried to think of a very simple, but meaningful word that would welcome foreigners into my country. Without hesitation, ‘Ikaze’ came into my mind.

My aim is to ensure that my company’s name impacts what i offer, by inspiring and treating my guests as ‘special’, in such a way that they leave Rwanda while/when they really would wish to come back. said Yves Nkundabagenzi.

 

Photo: Ikaze  Rwanda, a tour campany initiated by Yves Nkundabagenzi

About tourist attractions on offer, he said that each package is composed of a variety of tour activities. The main target is to sell an impactful package, because the main goal is to facilitate customers enjoy Rwandan’s remarkable nature beauty and daily life of the society and in that perspective, he partners with different stakeholders, such as local companies, destination offices, authorities, community initiatives, projects and cooperatives, all of which allow visitors to have an enriching experience during their stay.

By now, Ikaze Rwanda Tours and Travel sell Rwanda and Uganda, but is eying for more destinations in the near future.

What Yves thinks about Rwanda Museums in his daily packages?

We consider Museums of Rwanda as our closest partner. In our daily package design, we can’t exclude museums. On average, each package may have like two or three museums to visit. These are sites that conserve our historical and educational values. Therefore, they need to be kept for future generations. I may also say that they are places that preserve the Rwandan culture, history, lifestyles for past generations. I really encourage people to visit museums. He said.

For barriers that a starting tour operator can face, Yves highlighted some.

The following are the main 3:

1. Law requirements:

There are requirements from policy makers/government to fulfill when setting up a tour and travel company. As a startup and new entrant on the market, you do not have sufficient means in place to be able to meet required procedures. Nerveless, I understand the utility of regulating the industry.

2. Financial constraint:

At this stage, expenses are way higher than incomes. On top of local taxes and usual business expenditures, a number of other fees have to be incurred to meet certain standards such as Government Operating License and Rwanda Tours and Travel Association annual membership.

3. Skills gap:

Starting Tour Operators sometimes don’t have required specific information and skills to compete on international markets. This is sometimes due to limited industry knowledge and lack of exposure.

 

By Kamasoni Alice