The World Tourism Awards has recognized Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame for his visionary leadership in sustainable tourism wildlife conservation, on the Bradford Groups 20th anniversary. The award recognizes individuals, companies, organisations, destinations and attractions for outstanding initiatives related to travel and tourism industry, and in fostering sustainable tourism and developing programs that give back to local communities.

“On behalf of the people of Rwanda I thank you for this award which recognizes Rwanda’s efforts to promote sustainable tourism,” the President said.

“We have been working hard to protect our natural environment while building the infrastructure for our visitors and citizens… Growth in this industry has proven to be a driver of shared prosperity because we ensure that Rwandans benefit directly… This is why for example former poachers are today the most dedicated protectors of wildlife…We are also finding ways to multiply Rwanda’s connections with the rest of the world which is what this award represents.”

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“It is getting easier to travel to Africa. RwandAir now flies to 24 destinations on the continent and beyond including London,” Kagame said adding that “This is a story that is being repeated across the continent as Africans increasingly take charge of our future.” The accessibility is further supported by accommodating visa policies such as ‘visa on arrival’ for African passport holders and select countries beyond the continent.

The President said that good results such as those in tourism have been possible because “Rwanda have made a mindset shift from dependence to dignity self-reliance.” Rwanda has seen tremendous strides in the sector – with ambitious targets to fetch $800 million next year, according to Rwanda Development Board (RDB). The government has initiated a 10% share of all benefits from tourism revenues to surrounding communities – a policy that has significantly reduced the number of poachers to National Parks.

“Pres. #Kagame :These good results have been possible because #Rwanda-ns have made a mindset shift from dependence to dignity & self-reliance”

The award follows the International Achievement Summit in London, where Kagame was awarded the ‘Golden Plate Award’ which is the highest honor for an individual’s contributions to Science, arts, public service, Sports and industry.

When Kagame was asked about his role model at the summit, he said: “Only honest answer I can give is the people of Rwanda, who suffered so much, yet refused to be defeated. True achievement is not individual. Alone, none of us can accomplish much.”

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The World Travel Market event organizers observed that Kagame had made bold decisions in conservation, investing in infrastructure and making Rwanda an attractive destination for visitors and investors.

Speaking to The New Times Rwanda Development Board chief tourism officer Belise Kariza said the Rwandan private sector is represented by players from hotels, aviation sector (RwandAir and Akagera Aviation) as well as tour operators.

She said, while at the forum, they have observed growing interest and curiosity about the country. “We are trying to increase the business for Rwanda as a tourism destination and show what the country really is as opposed to the perceptions. We do this in several ways, including face-to-face interactions, audio visuals and virtual reality videos. A lot of people we are meeting are very eager and come ready to learn about the destination,” she said.