When Carmen Nibigira was appointed to the position of Director General of the Burundi Tourism Office, a breath of fresh air took hold almost immediately, and suddenly there was a buzz about Burundi in the wider region, and regular tourism observers took notice. Coming home from a successful ITB, where the Burundi Tourism stand was runner up in the race for “Best African Exhibitor,” the country’s fledgling tourism industry took hope that they too would soon join their more successful partners in the East African Community in making tourism a growth industry and tapping into tourist dollars and euros.
Carmen, back then, merely just over half a year ago, went on record saying: “I am humbled by the new opportunity given to me and the new team at the National Tourism Office of Burundi. It is my belief that with sustained efforts towards achieving a common goal and working harmoniously as a team that we will be able to achieve more for Burundi – to attract more tourists, more investments, and change the image of the country locally, regionally, and internationally. Our commitment is to work with both the public and private sector in Burundi to first and foremost help re-brand our country as a favorable tourism and investment destination that should be the pride of all Burundians.” Her optimism was not misplaced as a series of activities unfolded, putting the spotlight on Bujumbura and Burundi, which she progressively transformed into East Africa’s culinary and art center, with sporting events thrown in for good measure.
In a communication to this correspondent, Carmen made the direction of the “new” Burundi Tourism office known when she set the yardstick higher:
Come and make your unique experience in Burundi and share it, adding value to the regional economies and improving the lives of our people while at the same time giving visitors to this region a whole new experience. It is in this spirit of regional cooperation that saw Burundi take part in last year’s Magical Kenya Travel Expo in Nairobi, Kenya, and we reiterate our commitment to continue working with regional tourism bodies to better our tourism offering across the region. We want to complement the existing tourism offerings from the region and in the process, develop a product that is unique to this destination.”