Burundi has joined the world in celebrating the International Day of Tourism on 27 September. The Interim Director General of the National Tourism Office (ONT), Christophe Ndikubwayo, indicates that tourism in Burundi is improving considerably, even though it is still lagging behind other EAC countries. An Interview -By Lorraine Josiane Manishatse
This year the theme of the International Day of tourism was “Tourism and community development”. What does that entail?
Normally, each year a theme is chosen based on the current situation. This year, Burundi and the world in general have recognized that sustainable development of tourism is only possible when the local community profit from it. When a tourist enters the country, the government receives revenue from it. During his stay, the tourist also buys, for example works of arts, or watches traditional music or other arts produced by Burundians. In that way, the community earns a living and will be more conscious about the importance of tourism.
Can you tell us what has changed in Burundi’s tourism sector in the last few years?
In 2012, a decree regulating tourism in Burundi was signed and adopted as part of a national sustainable development strategy. June 2013, the action plan was signed as well and a month later the reconstruction and rehabilitation of tourism in Burundi started. Previously, tourism was a directorate under guardianship of the Ministry of Trade. Now, Burundi Tourism Office has its own general direction that enjoys management autonomy. It is important to mention that the National Tourism Office includes four directions, namely the marketing and communication direction that is in charge of promoting the image of Burundi; the management direction; administration and finances and lastly the statistic studies and vocational training direction.
What are you doing to boost tourism in Burundi?
Many activities have been achieved. We have participated in international and regional fairs and exhibitions. We were in Germany in January 2013, in South Africa last August 2014 and we’ll go to Tanzania on 4 October 2014. We are busy with a project of identifying touristic sites and have undertaken management studies for the thermal water sites of Cibitoke (Ruhwa), Mugara, and Munini. In addition, the Government of Burundi has offered a tax exemption for people who want to build hotels. That is why you see many hotels under construction nowadays in Bujumbura. We are also dealing with the classification of hotels according to EAC standards in order to facilitate tourists’ choices for quality in their accommodation. At the end of this year, hotel classification will be finished.
What are challenges you are encountering?
The main problem is that tourism in Burundi is less developed compared to other countries. The focus has been on investing in the capital, while there are other touristic sites that need infrastructures to receive and host foreign visitors. Many people are unaware of the importance of tourism. We should sensitize economic operators to invest in tourism. Tourism in Burundi is new, but slowly but surely we will achieve our objective of matching other countries in the region.