The number of Chinese tourists visiting Africa grew to over 1.8 million in 2013, an 80 per cent increase compared to previous years, figures from the National Tourism Administration of the Peoples’ Republic of China show. However, this figure is largely insignificant when compared to the number of Chinese tourists going to other destinations, including Europe and America.
Statistics show that in 2013, China recorded over 89 million citizen departures. Last year, Rwanda attracted just over 2000 Chinese tourists, a 57 per cent increase compared to the previous year, figures from the Chinese tourism body further indicate. Neighbouring Kenya received over 40,000 Chinese tourists in the same period. In an interview, Xiong Shanhua, the Deputy Director General, China National Tourism Administration, said Chinese tourists are interested in exploring the attractions in Africa but a lot needs to be done to market Africa’s tourism potential.
“Africa remains largely unknown to Chinese tourists despite the numerous tourism attractions it offers,” he said. “African tourism bodies have to learn how to deal with Chinese tour agencies to market and attract Chinese tourists,” he added.
Rwanda is one of the 19 African countries that have acquired an Approved Destination Status. The status allows the country to receive Chinese tourists. Albert Rugaba, the Rwanda Development Board chief representative in China, said Rwanda needs to invest more in tourism marketing and national image branding to attract more Chinese tourists.
“Some institutions are using pre-1994 figures to rank Rwanda, which puts us at a disadvantage. We also need to update the Chinese representatives in Rwanda to ensure that we have a positive security ranking in the Chinese foreign travel advisory ranking,” Rugaba said.
Rugaba says his office has established contact with elite Chinese tour agencies to attract high-end Chinese tourists to Rwanda. Chinese tour agencies choose the destinations on behalf of their clients. Rugaba said the Rwanda Development Board is developing a marketing strategy for the Chinese market. Other challenges stifling Africa’s tourism potential, according to Chinese officials, include insecurity in some countries and the lack of direct flights on the China-Africa route. Only six African airlines operate direct flights to China.