I am very pleased to join you to open the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit, the first-ever, as said earlier, in Africa.
We are very honoured by the presence here today of my sister, Her Excellency President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
Madam President, I thank you most sincerely for your presence.
I also thank the other countries represented here today, especially from our East African region. This is very important.
After all, when tourists visit Rwanda, they usually also have a stop in Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, or Uganda as well.
We are actually a single destination, with attractions and experiences that reinforce one another.
To WTTC, I thank you very much for choosing Rwanda as the venue for this year’s summit, and for the excellent work that you and your members are doing.
You honour not only our country, Rwanda, but also Africa as a whole. From here, Africa can connect with the rest of the world, and vice versa.
Let me explain why this moment is so meaningful for us.
Almost thirty years ago, Rwanda experienced its darkest moment.
This was a place that people fled from, a situation that the world looked away from, in horror.
But we vowed not to let the past define us.
This meant building a nation, where all Rwandans live in peace and dignity.
And indeed, beyond that, we imagined a Rwanda that anyone in the world would want to travel to.
That is how, early on, we identified tourism as a key driver of economic growth, and employment.
We have not been disappointed.
Every year, we welcome so many visitors, who come to Rwanda and to enjoy the unique natural beauty, to attend sporting events, or to participate in gatherings like this one.
This is a privilege and a trust that we do not take for granted.
Conservation is a big part of our strategy to build a more sustainable future. We are delighted that the Nyungwe National Park is now a World Heritage Site.
We are also investing in the infrastructure and skills to host major sporting events, such as Basketball Africa League.
Globally, the travel and tourism industry has recovered strongly.
But the high cost of air travel to Africa, and within Africa, remains a barrier. Implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is therefore an important priority.
We also removed visa restrictions for citizens of every African country, as well as many other countries.
Let there be no mistake about it: Any African can get on a plane to Rwanda whenever they wish, and you will not pay a thing to enter our country.
We should not lose sight of our own continental market.
Africans are the future of global tourism, as our middle class continues to grow at a fast pace in the decades to come.
We must work closely together with partners like you, to continue developing Africa into a premier destination for global travel.
I hope you will take some time to visit Rwanda before you depart, and that you will return here, often.
I wish you productive deliberations, and I thank you for your kind attention.