Burundi is a country that has breathtaking 126 touristic sites which are yet to be tapped neither by the government nor by the private sector. From Karera falls, Ruvubu National Park, Kibira National park to name but a few.
All these touristic places are unique and do have a potential to attract tourists world wide when properly marketed and branded.
Tourism in Burundi before the pandemic contributed more than 20 percent of the foreign exchange earnings for the country.
This is how potentially these touristic sites can attract tourists without proper marketing.
Last week a group of young entrepreneurs launched “VisitBurundi” campaign in efforts rebrand the country and possibly attract tourists to the country.
This is a step forward towards revamping the dying tourism sector in Burundi, however this is a sector that may involve a lot of resources that might not only need individuals to take the lead but rather the government to allocate enough funds and resources to rebrand the country and make tourism an alternative in creating jobs for the youth and a means of earning foreign exchange.
Currently in Burundi tourism is under the Ministry of Trade, Transport and Industry where the government allocated more than 10billion Burundi francs for the Financial Year 2021/22 with no specific allocation for tourism.
There is need for the government and parliament to take the lead to revive the sector more preferably to introduce an appropriation bill for the tourism sector if this sector is to come to life. Especially when it comes to rebranding, communication, training of personnel in tourism and renovation/ protection of the sites.
Borrowing a leaf from other East African Community member countries, like Uganda have a specific allocation of funds in their annual budget as 2021/22 Financial Year Uganda allocated 181 billion shillings for “Tourism Development”.
Tanzania’s budget for Financial Year 2021/22 allocated TZS 571.6 billion for the tourism ministry to drive initiatives such as combating poaching, commercial tree farming, capacity building in forestry and bee products. As well as projects for improvement of events and conferences tourism.
The question remains can Burundi potentially become a touristic hub in East Africa? Yes, but has the government and private sector done enough to tap in?
There have been mixed reactions on social media about whether the campaign of “VisitBurundi” was a necessity for resuscitating the sector, comments ranging from bad infrastructure, visa policies to professionalism in the sector amounted while others supported the initiative.
It is high time “VisitBurundi” campaign was launched despite plate full of challenges awaiting which will more need resources and capital, I doubt if tourism in Burundi can come to life without a hand from government specifically when it comes to invest and rebranding which appropriating or allocating funds for the sector will serve justice to tourism in Burundi.
One may ask, what are the main priorities the government would look out for to resuscitate the sector?
This can be to invest in rebranding the country through proper communication and Public Relations, publicities on regional and international platforms, renovating and conservation of the touristic sites, rehabilitation or construction of roads or other infrastructure, identifying all the touristic potentials the country offer, training of personnel in hotel and hospitality management, trained tour guides or entrepreneurs on what they can provide when a tourist is in the country and why “Visit Burundi” hence job creation, and promoting or encouraging the private sector to invest in tourism companies or agencies.