In a bid to harness the power of sports in promoting tourism, Rwanda has been actively engaging in partnerships with major European football clubs, a strategy that took center stage at the World Travel and Tourism Summit held in Kigali from November 1 to 3.
The summit, which saw global experts and industry leaders gather to explore innovative approaches to boost tourism, shed light on Rwanda's unique approach to attracting visitors. One of the key topics of discussion was how sports, particularly football, can play a pivotal role in promoting the country's tourism sector.
The African nation has been steadily forging partnerships with renowned European football clubs, and the latest addition to this list is Bayern Munich. Just two and a half months after the signing of a partnership between the German football giant and "Visit Rwanda," the impact is already visible. Young players from the new Bayern Munich academy in Kigali are up at the crack of dawn, diligently training on the pitch.
This collaboration with Bayern Munich marks Rwanda's third such partnership with a major football club, following successful deals with Arsenal and PSG. While the exact financial details of these partnerships are confidential, each agreement includes provisions for visibility on jerseys, advertising boards, and players' content on social media platforms. The ultimate goal is to attract new visitors to Rwanda by leveraging the global fan base and popularity of these clubs.
The results are already evident, with Rwanda welcoming over a million visitors in 2022 and generating nearly $445 million in tourism revenue. However, the return on investment from these sports partnerships can be challenging to quantify and has faced criticism from some quarters.
Nevertheless, Michaella Rugwizangoga, in charge of tourism at the Rwanda Development Board, staunchly defends the strategy. "Working with sports clubs is the positioning we have chosen as a country. The proportion of investment that goes into these partnerships is minimal compared to the revenue the country collects through tourism. Today, tourism accounts for 10% of our GDP. But without marketing, we have no tourism, and without tourism, we have no revenue to reinvest," she asserts.
Rwanda's commitment to utilizing sports as a catalyst for tourism growth goes beyond partnerships. The country has been investing in infrastructure to attract sporting events from the continent, such as the ongoing expansion of the Amahoro Stadium. This ambitious project, estimated at $165 million, will increase its seating capacity to 45,000, further positioning Rwanda as a destination for sports enthusiasts.
As Rwanda continues to explore innovative ways to drive its tourism sector, it's evident that the nation's unique approach of uniting sports and travel promotion is making waves in the global arena, ultimately benefiting both the nation's economy and the international football community.