Burundi banks on domestic tourism to revamp sector

January 13, 2022

Burundi is banking on local tourism to restart the sector that has experienced a downturn following travel restrictions that saw tourists keep off.

This comes as latest figures shows that the country only received 553,389 visitors in 2020, down from 2.6 million the previous year, data from Burundi Tourism office showed.

This week, President Evariste Ndayishimiye started a domestic tourism circuit to promote tourism in the country.

Tourism in Burundi is among the sectors that were severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Burundi closed its airspace and borders in efforts to contain the spread of the virus that led to a sharp decline of tourists in an already struggling sector.

It, however, did not impose a total lockdown even as the coronavirus cases surged.

Domestic tourism

“The promotion of domestic tourism is a good way to boost national pride. This tour is also a patriotic approach while it helps in transmission of knowledge and cultural values,” President Ndayishimiye said during his three-day country tour.

Accompanied by his family, he visited the Karera water falls in Rutana and several sites in Gitega, the country’s capital and historically known to have been home to the King.

“I call on local and foreign economic operators to invest massively in tourism because this is a sector with high potential,” he said.

Tourism in Burundi before the pandemic contributed more than 20 percent of the foreign exchange earnings for the country, according to the government.

The country has more than 120 tourist attraction sites.

In a move to boost tourism and investment in Burundi, the government waived visa processing through its embassies in December last year and introduced visa on arrival for all foreign nationals willing to visit or invest in the country.

The communique, which was released by the Burundi Internal Affairs Minister Gervais Ndirakobuca indicated that foreigners will be able to apply for visas upon arrival at the airport or border points.

“It is very important for the country because it eases and facilitates tourists to travel to the country, and we hope this move will boost tourism in the country,” George Nimubona, the Director General of Burundi Tourism Office, told The EastAfrican.

“The most important thing is peace and security, which is a reality in Burundi and this now will help boost the number of tourists. We are planning to promote tourism from Burundi to Africa and the entire world.”

Currently, most of the highly rated tourist spots in Burundi charge around 10,000Bif (approximately $5) for nationals while foreigners pay 40,000Bif ($20).

Burundi Immigration office charges $90 visa fees for foreigners with the exception of East Africans.


In Burundi, tourism falls under the Ministry of Trade, Transport and Industry where the government allocated more than $4.3 million for the 2021/22 financial year.

However, the funds allocated for the ministry had no specific allocation for tourism, leaving the sector underfunded despite contributing to 20 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings.

Within the EAC, tourism sector contributes to 7 percent of the region’s employment, 17 percent of the export earnings and 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Since 2020, the sector was the most negatively impacted area as tourism dropped by 67 percent, from almost 7 million tourists in 2019 to 2.25 million in 2020.

The East African Business Council (EABC) study on the impact of Covid-19 in the tourism and hospitality sector revealed 2.1 million jobs were lost in 2020 in the EAC region.

East Africa Community (EAC) Partner States are estimated to have lost international tourism receipts to the tune of $4.8 billion in the year 2020, following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tourism sector is one of the most affected areas in the region reflected in the massive reductions in international tourist arrivals, receipts, jobs, visitors to parks and hotel occupancy rates.

From March 2020 when the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in the region, the report reveals that 4.2 million foreign tourists were unable to travel to their preferred destinations in the bloc.

The study also revealed that visitors to national parks declined significantly by about 65 percent, impacting negatively on wildlife conservation efforts in the region.

With countries now opening up borders after almost two years of strict Covid-19 measures, Burundi says tourism will be among its top priorities in helping the country’s economic recovery.


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