It has been six weeks since the lockdown was instituted in Rwanda. A couple of days ago, President Paul Kagame confirmed what we were already speculating. The reopening of the economy will be a gradual process. You don’t have to be an expert to understand that the war against COVID- 19 is far from over. We still have a long way to go.
There is pressure to go back to work because the economy is ailing. However, if the lockdown is completely lifted now, all the hard work and sacrifices made so far will be erased.
We will eventually get back to work but things won’t return to normal overnight. As a matter of fact, things won’t return to normal anytime soon. Our lifestyles will be remodelled and our modus operandi will be modified. Some businesses will open sooner than others and some form of assistance or economic stimulus plans will be administered here and there but in most cases, we will have to tap into our own reservoir of resilience to get back to our feet.
We miss sports and concerts but we need to brace ourselves for life without the excitement of derbies and the captivation of events for a while. We miss the way our favorite DJs used to keep the energy flowing in the clubs but we need to come to terms with the fact that we won’t be flocking those facilities for a long time. We miss our aerobics sessions and the vigorous car-free day activities but we have to figure out how to exercise within the confinement of our houses until normalcy is restored. Heightened vigilance will be the norm in a foreseeable future.
I have spent years visiting different parts of Rwanda and offering communication and digital marketing services to investors in the tourism sector. Tourism is one of the most affected industries and its pace of recovery is likely to be slow.
As painful as it is, we need to stay at home a little longer. Pressure is mounting but defying stay-at-home orders is jeopardizing progress and extending the duration of the restrictions. Defying stay-at-home orders is risking the escalation of the crisis to an unmanageable level.
The reopening of the economy will be done in phases. From the look of things, passenger planes won’t start flying anytime soon and borders will remain closed for an extended period of time.
Obviously, tourism will stay dormant long after internal movement resumes. We don’t expect much from domestic tourism this year but it will be wise to promote it more aggressively when the invisible enemy is contained. Non-travel enthusiasts, who will be struggling to rebuild their businesses, won’t prioritize Temberu Rwanda all of a sudden but we can still bank on them. We don’t expect laid off employees to become active tourists all of a sudden but they will still be part of our target clientele. At some point, a lot of people will turn to tourism to reclaim their lost peace of mind.
We are not in a position to predict the future accurately. There are more questions than answers. Nonetheless, we are committed to reviving the industry that accounts for 10% of the global GDP. That commitment begins with enduring the lockdown a little longer.