KIGALI, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Rwanda on Wednesday announced the reopening of tourism activities, with a sharp cut in the price of permits for tracking endangered mountain gorillas.
The reopening of tourism activities and resumption of international travel for charter flights are effective from June 17, 2020, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) said in a statement issued here, exempting international tourists traveling with charter flights from anti-coronavirus measures that prohibit travelers from entry to Rwanda and suspend commercial flights.
"Rwanda's tourism industry is adapting to create a safe environment for travelers and operators, in order to thrive in these unprecedented times," RDB's Chief Tourism Officer Belise Kariza said in the statement.
The board, which promotes tourism and investment for Rwanda, said the permits for tracking endangered mountain gorillas are, from Wednesday until Dec. 31, 2020, available for 200 U.S. dollars to Rwandan nationals and East African Community nationals residing in Rwanda, 500 dollars to foreign residents, a sharp slump from 1,500 dollars for all visitors.
It also said special packages are available for groups, families and corporations on other products in Volcanoes National Park, home to mountain gorillas, and Nyungwe National Park that hosts one of the oldest rainforests in Africa.
Following months of tourism activities' suspension due to COVID-19, Rwanda's tourism sector has been negatively affected and efforts are underway to revive through various special tourism packages for tourists, RDB's deputy CEO Zephanie Niyonkuru told Rwanda Television in a news program on Wednesday.
He said the landlocked country generated 498 million dollars in tourism revenues in 2019.
According to the statement, domestic tourists visiting Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda and Nyungwe National Park in southwestern Rwanda are required to test negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours prior to visiting them.
A private test center has been set up at Petit Stade, Amahoro National Stadium in the capital city of Kigali, by appointment only, and other test centers outside Kigali will be considered as demand grows, it said.
The RDB also required all visitors travelling by charter flights to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to arrival, and a second test prior to visiting any tourist attraction.
Rwanda's three primate-dominated national parks, namely, Volcanoes, Mukura-Gishwati and Nyungwe had been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are over 1,000 mountain gorillas living in the world, of which a bit more than half live in the Virunga Mountains, where Volcanoes National Park lies, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
They contribute about 90 percent of tourism revenues from Rwanda national parks, the RDB said in February last year. In 2018 Rwanda sold 15,132 mountain gorilla tour permits worth 19.2 million dollars to tourists, statistics from the RDB showed. Enditem