RwandAir launches non-stop flights from London Gatwick to Rwanda

Rwandan airlines RwandAir is planning to launch the first non-stop flight from the United Kingdom to Rwanda, one of the emerging tourism destinations in Africa, on May 26, Gatwick Airport said in a release.

Operating three times a week from London Gatwick to the Rwandan capital Kigali, the service is scheduled with UK passengers in mind. The flights will be operated on a new Airbus A330-200, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The flight time is 8 hours 40 minutes, with return fares starting from £372.00. Passengers travelling on the new RwandAir service in Business Class will have the facility of fully-flat beds on overnight flights.

With the new service, British travellers can explore Rwanda’s incredible scenery and the rich ecosystems in its three national parks. Volcanoes National Park, along the Congo border, is known for its mountain gorillas as well as the endangered golden monkey. The Nyungwe forest in Southern Rwanda offers travellers rich biodiversity, with over 300 bird species, over 75 species of mammal and 12 primate species. Akagera in eastern Rwanda is home to all of Africa’s most famed game animals. With the arrival of the new black rhino, in addition to elephants, African buffalo, leopards and lions, Rwanda offers an exciting safari experience in Africa.

Guy Stephenson, Gatwick Airport Chief Commercial Officer, said: ‘This new service makes the adventure of a life time in the heart of Africa a real possibility for more people than ever before, be they spotting gorillas in the wild, game animals on safari or visiting the beautiful tea plantations.

‘Rwanda is the latest long haul destination Gatwick serves and we know proudly boast more than 50 long haul routes in total – a claim few other international airports can make. Only last week Gatwick became the world’s top low cost airport, a ranking helped by our growing low cost long haul services to North America and the Far East.’

Ms. Belise Kariza, the chief tourism officer at the Rwanda Development Board, commented: ‘Rwanda has seen a transformation in recent years and is now becoming one of the most sought-after destinations for premium travellers. With the new non-stop RwandAir flights to Kigali, and the opening of several premium lodges, Rwanda will be making a big impact as a must-visit country.’

Leading travel brand One&Only will launch a new lodge in Nyungwe this year, while Wilderness Safaris is planning to open Bisate Lodge near Volcanoes National Park, the airport said. Tour operators like Red Savannah, Expert Africa and Wild Frontiers are also offering personalised holidays and tours in the country, it added.

Rwanda to focus on medical tourism

In an effort to generate more tourism revenues, Rwanda is to focus on medical tourism.

The nation is looking at all options to sustain the budding tourism sector that registered high foreign exchange receipts last year, It is now planning to focus on medical tourism as another option that could further enhance its tourism earnings.

Rica Rwigamba, the head of tourism at Rwanda Development Board, said, ‘The government is courting investors to set up advanced medical facilities in the country; we believe this will help make our country a regional tourism hub.’

The official also acknowledged that the nation could become a tourism hub only if it has world-class medical facilities, which would be difficult without the participation of private entities. Hence, the nation is embarking on a campaign to attract stakeholders who can establish facilities and infrastructure in the nation to make it a medical tourism hub. Rwigamba said that medical tourism would improve the foreign exchange receipts needed to bridge the current trade deficit that the country is facing. Rwanda’s trade deficit stands at over USD1.2bn.

The head of the tourism board said, ‘Medical tourism is something that requires a different approach if one is to attract world class health investment like Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital in Kimironko, Gasabo district. It is also about wooing people to provide quality medical services at affordable rates. Rwanda is in a good location in terms of climate, the security and quiet environment, which patients need when going through the process of healing.’

The department is also looking to tap into the domestic sector because there are many instances in which locals are referred to other nations for treatment. While the treatment itself may be economical, travel-related charges could be very costly.