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:
“We also seek to learn and work closely with our counterparts within the East African region and our message to them is simple. Burundi is part and parcel of the East African Community. We remain committed to working together with our counterparts in the region to ensure that tourism in East Africa is continually developing and…
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.”
Related to the single tourist visa, Burundi has taken the following position:
“East African Tourist Visa:
We laud our Kenyan, Ugandan and Rwandan counterparts for the recently-launched single tourism visa for East Africa. We think that this is a huge first step towards joint marketing campaigns for East Africa and will go a long way into helping market East Africa as a single tourism destination. Burundi is committed to making this happen, and we will be joining the single tourism regime as soon as we are able to meet some set guidelines and requirements. Looking ahead into 2014, we want this to be the year that Burundi fully embraces itself and walks out of the dark shadows of the past. We have seen an increased investment in the tourism sector in Burundi that has mainly been driven by local investors who have shown a strong sense of belief in the tourism prospects for Burundi. We do not take this for granted and that is why we are currently embarking on a tourism inventory process that will see us identify and develop our tourism product so that it first attracts the Burundian people and the expatriate community resident in Burundi and then going further to attract the regional and international community to Burundi. But that should not stop you from coming to Burundi; we welcome you with open arms and hope you get to share with your friends, family and the entire world your own unique Burundian experience.”
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