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Can Rwanda Be "Fun"?

Rwanda tourism

In a world where free wifi is increasingly seen as a basic right, the bar for enticing tourists gets higher and higher. "Rwanda Bores Tourists," a recent African newspaper headline declared, and the article detailed how plenty of people come to this nation, once ravaged by genocide, but they don't stay very long.

Granted, in 2011, tourism brought 900,000 visitors and $250 million to Rwanda, and 2012 will likely reflect a nearly 20 percent uptick in visits. Plus, web site GlobeSpots just ranked Rwanda as No. 6 in their Top 10 global destinations. After all, Rwanda offers cool gorillas that live in the Virunga mountains, world-class bird-watching, hiking trails, as well as a lot of coffee and tea—and, for better or worse, a heavy sense of history.

But, some ask, how about some fun already? "Why can't our government departments [support] dancing, shopping and other recreation programs," one tourism official said, "to make visitors spend more?"

There may be some truth to that. But anyone who remembers the horrific devastation during the 1990s might still cringe at the thought of going to the nation for discos or zip-lines.

Even so, Rwanda has had worse problems that being a little dull—and that in itself may be good news.

Photo by Bob Krist/Corbis

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