By Collins Mwai, The New Times
Akagera National Park received more than 49,000 visitors and generated $2.5 million in park revenue last year (2019), a 25 per cent increase compared to 2018.
The park’s management said that the revenues made last year account for about 90 per cent of their annual budget.
The number of visitors to the park has grown in recent years since the 2010 signing of a private public partnership agreement African Parks, a non-profit conservation organisation managing 10 national parks and protected areas in seven African countries, took over its management.
Of the revenue, $525,000 was spent in directly contributing to the local community through salaries of local staff and local purchases in 2019.
Sarah Hall, the Tourism and Marketing Manager at Akagera National Park, told The New Times that they have seen growth in recent years following the public private partnership.
Of the visitors to the park, 48 per cent were Rwandan citizens.
Hall said that there has been growth in interest in the park in recent years while aerial counts show an increase in number of animals in the park.
The aerial census for 2019 has shown an increase in overall animal population with a total of 13,500 animals recorded. This is up from 12,000 counted in 2017.
Last year, the park received five eastern black rhinos from a zoo in Czech Republic further growing interest in the park.
The return of rhinos to the park gave it the ‘Big 5’ status; having lions, buffaloes, rhinos, leopards and elephant.
Before the reintroduction of the rhinos, the park had in 2015 re-introduced lions in Akagera National Park in 2015 after they were translocated from South Africa.
Hall said that they expected to see continued growth in visitors and revenue in the course of the year as Akagera Game Lodge ran by Mantis Group is in the process of renovation.
Hall added that with the road from Kabarondo to the park now tarmacked, they hope to have easier access to the part and consequently more guests.
The park’s peak seasons like most of Rwanda’s tourism facilities are twice annually; July-August and December –January.
In regards to visitor trends, Hall said that there has been an increase in visitors from Francophone countries.
The continued growth and improvement of the park Hall said ought to mean more options and opportunity for local tourism companies as they now have ‘more to sell’ to clients.