Two years ago, the Covid-19 pandemic surged and brought many business sectors to a halt, particularly the tourism industry. And here we are in 2022, and life goes on- thanks to the health workers, and everyone who contributed to producing Covid-19 vaccines.
Despite the challenges that the pandemic has brought, the East African tourism industry has stood resilient.
I had a chance to speak to chat with Augustin Ndikuriyo, who runs Augustine Tours a Rwanda-based tour operator, and about how his business has survived the pandemic.
What inspired you to develop your idea of creating Augustine Tours?
Before founding the company Augustine Tours back in 2010, I spent five years in hotel management whereby I fell in love with the hospitality industry. The feeling of helping somebody explore your country and talking to people from every corner of the planet is just amazing.
Where does your company name Augustine Tours come from?
Well, I was inspired by a quote from Saint Augustine” The world is a book and those who don't only read a page”. I believe that tourism is an excellent channel for both educational and cultural exchange. From there, the idea of creating a company offering custom tours in East Africa for families, small groups, and solo travelers was born.
As you may know, tourists go places for different needs. Some want to experience the local culture, while others are just interested in Gorilla trekking tours and wildlife game drive safaris. They all have one thing in common- they want to see the country.
Why do you prefer to offer tailor-made tours?
After over a decade in the tourism industry, I came to realize that travel needs are different. I believe offering a personalized tour experience is one of the ways to answer that need.
As a local travel expert, it doesn't require much to craft a fresh custom-made tour reflecting the client's needs. The East African travel experience goes beyond the Rwanda Gorilla trekking tour and Tanzania's great migration safari experience.
Where do you currently get tourists from?
In 2020, most of the tour bookings we had been postponed for 2021. The good news is we are now seeing more travelers from Europe and United States looking for a gorilla trekking experience in Rwanda and Uganda.
You mentioned gorillas, when is the best time for a gorilla trekking tour?
Trekking gorillas is a pillar of Rwanda and Uganda's tourism potential. The Gorilla trek can run any time of the year.
However, most tourists find visiting the gorillas during the dry season preferable. The reason is that the low rain season makes hiking through the forest easier. The best time to trek gorillas is June-September and December-February.
Any last word you want to share with our audience?
Although tourism hasn't fully recovered from the pandemic, there are green signs that things are improving. With the opening of borders and the introduction of vaccines, countries have allowed more tourists and travelers in. Countries like Uganda have dropped mandatory testing for incoming and outgoing travelers.
I hope to even see more travelers coming to experience the beauty of East Africa, its exquisite wildlife game drives in Tanzania and Kenya, and life-changing gorilla trekking tours in Rwanda and Uganda.