Government statistics show that from January to March 2011, 75% of visitors to Rwanda came from the six neighbors, who are member states of the East African Community (EAC) except DR Congo.
Rwanda is also a major trading partner to these five countries. The country targets US$216m tourism receipts this year from $200m last year.
During the first three months of 2011, Rwanda received 201,088 visitors accounting for 26% increase compared to 159,977 in the same period 2010. Visitors generated US$56.6m, an increase of 32% compared to $43m in the same period 2010.
The Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Mr John Gara attributed the increase to the perception that Rwanda is increasingly becoming attractive to investors.
Gara said that Rwandan national parks were also central in attracting visitors.
For instance, visitors to Nyungwe national park, west of the country almost doubled because of the recently introduced canopy walkway in the park.
During the same period, accommodation and food services emerged the most attractive areas for investments replacing real estate, which was leading in the same quarter 2010.
New investments in accommodation and food services hit $34m out of $87m registered in the entire quarter.
Holidaymakers represented 45% of the arrivals while business accounted for 42% with Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) accounting for 9%.
Non-transit visitors and those visiting with other purposes accounted for 4% of all the arrivals.
Most visitors from Africa arrived by land while those from outside Africa entered by Air.
Visitors from Africa generated 40% of all the receipts and the remaining 60% came from visitors outside Africa.
Visitors from DRC alone reached 74,000 while those from Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania hit 78,000.
Total visitors from African countries including EAC countries and DRC rose by 27% to 168,501 compared to 132,594 in the first quarter of 2010.
At least 86,333 people, the largest number of visitors from EAC and DRC went to Rwanda for business purposes.
Rwanda has been pushing the tourism sector over the years to realize the potential of a sector that gets ignored by many African governments.
Compiled by Jackie