Amahoro Tours becomes first Rwandan tour operator to open office in the US

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by Gilbert Mwijuke

Amahoro
Tours, one of Rwanda’s biggest travel companies, has opened a new office in the
United States. The first Rwandan tour operator to make such a move, Amahoro
Tours is since early this month operating out of a full-fledged office at 1283
Englewood Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55104.   

“This is
part of the company’s long-term strategy. We need to brand our company to
mutate with the changing environment. We need our presence to be felt
everywhere,” said Greg Bakunzi, the man who founded Amahoro Tours in 2001 and
built it up to include two more successful travel concerns: Amani Safaris and
Red Rocks Rwanda.


Theophille Kamana explains to tourists the medicinal use of one of the plants.


Amahoro
Tours is an eco-tourism company with headquarters in Musanze, northern Rwanda.
Amani Safaris operates in the Democratic Republic of Congo while Red Rocks
Rwanda’s operations mainly focus on Rwanda and neighboring Uganda.


Citing the
old adage that says, “If the mountain will not come to Moses, Moses will go to
the mountain,” Bakunzi says there is no better time than now for his
16-year-old company to expand its sales operations.


“Now is the
time for Amahoro Tours to spread its wings to most corners of the world,” said
Bakunzi, who returned to Rwanda from the US a few days ago. “Even though we
started small, I feel we are heading toward the right direction. In the near
future we shall be opening more offices in different parts of the word.”


The US, UK,
Russia, India and Germany are some of the biggest source markets for Rwanda’s
tourism, a sector that has been growing steadily over the past decade.


Tourists to
the small central African country are mainly drawn by the unique mountain
gorillas that inhabit the country’s Volcanoes National Park.

However,
trekking these critically endangered species is no longer cheap as Rwanda
recently doubled the price of gorilla permits, which Bakunzi thinks was a bad
idea.


“The gorilla
is the meat of Rwanda’s tourism. Such a sudden, massive hike must have sent shockwaves
across the industry. Even though we have not yet felt the impact, I’m sure
there are going to be challenges very soon,” he says.


In earlier
times when Amahoro Tours had just been established, the gorilla permit in
Rwanda cost a modest $250. However, over the years, the fee was progressively
hiked from $250 to $375 to $500 to $750 – and now stands at a staggering $1,500.


However, Bakunzi
says that even though Rwanda’s tourism depends mainly on mountain gorillas
trekking, “there are many other things to do in Rwanda.”


In his own
words: “We have mountain hiking, a savannah teeming with a wide range of
wildlife, a huge tract of montane forest, different attractions within the
Virunga range of volcanic mountains, as well as community-based tourism, among
others. Also, Amahoro Tours’ clients can choose to check out other attractions
in neighboring DR Congo.” 

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