Rwanda: 68% Decrease in Visitors Disrupts Akagera Park Self-Financing Ambitions

The 68 per cent decrease in visitors in Akagera National Park has had an impact on self-finance, a report has indicated.

The park has reported that they received 15,844 total visitors in 2020, a 68% decrease compared to 2019.

The number has decreased from over 49,000 visitors in 2019 which generated $2.5 million in park revenue, a 25 per cent increase compared to 2018.

“While these were not the figures we were anticipating at the beginning of the year, the year did show some positive trends including longer stays and a higher spend per person,” reads the report.

At the start of 2020, Akagera had plans to build on the success of the previous year considering that in 2019 Akagera was at about 90 per cent self-financing, and on the last stretch to self-sustainability.

“Unfortunately, soon after, the pandemic began to impact the park resulting in the temporary closure of Akagera National Park. After a three-month lockdown, tourism activities in Rwanda resumed. Akagera reopened in mid-June with the aim to recover from the knock of the pandemic,” the park officials say.

Despite closure and loss of revenues from tourism, they say, 271 contracted employees were not laid off under the support of major donors.

Key park’s species

According to the report, 2020 saw the first ever foot-survey to count some key species in Akagera.

A total of 3,716 animals were counted including rare species, 63 elands and 19 roans.

In 2019, the park received five eastern black rhinos from a zoo in Czech Republic further growing interest in the park.

The return of rhinos to the park gave it the ‘Big 5’ status; lions, buffaloes, rhinos, leopards and elephants.

Before the reintroduction of the rhinos, the park had in 2015 re-introduced lions in Akagera National Park in 2015 after they were transported from South Africa.

The report shows that their tree nursery produced over 25,000 trees mostly indigenous and fruit species. At least 17,000 of the trees were planted in schools with their survival rate is over 90 per cent.

“To increase the survival rate, the trainees learned about tree care management, watering and mulching, and tree nursery preparation,” the park managers say.

Community projects

Despite having to postpone several activities, community engagement work continued around the park.