Eloi Ntsinzi had a busy 2019. The charming resident of Muhoza Sector in Musanze District is a tour leader and water sports instructor working for Kingfisher Journeys. His uplifting spirit and friendly demeanor make it easy for his culturally diverse clientele to get along with him.
Leading groups of thrill seekers at Mukungwa River, Lake Kivu and the twin lakes of Ruhondo and Burera, Eloi finds himself answering all kinds of questions thrown his way by inquisitive tourists — visitors who are eager to soak up as much information as possible about the destination he knows like the back of his palm. From flora and fauna to natural resources. From Ethology to Geology, Eloi teaches much more than simply holding paddles and propelling canoes, kayaks and boards. Tour guides wear more hats than you can imagine.
The past few years have seen Rwanda’s popularity as a destination skyrocketing. As a result, Kingfisher Journeys was recording more bookings prior to the outbreak of COVID- 19. Plans were underway to train and hire more tour guides in response to the growing number of tourists. More jobs were in the pipeline and 2020 was expected to be the busiest year in history of the company but the novel coronavirus had other ideas.
After investing enormous resources in the promotion of tourism, Rwanda, like all other destinations, was forced to suspend tourism activities until normalcy is restored. From record bookings to a complete shutdown of the industry, this dramatic turn of events is a bitter pill to swallow.
As the global economy continues to crumble, tourism is one of the hardest hit industries. Borders are closed and passenger planes are grounded. Billions of people around the world are under restrictions of movement. From curfews to strictly enforced lockdowns, approximately half of the world’s population is in some form of confinement.
Eloi finds it hard to stay at home pondering uncertainties. However, he understands that staying at home today means paddling tomorrow. "I am a claustrophobic, outdoor person. I love nature. It’s hard for me to stay at home but I have to do my part. Reading, meditating and exercising help me to cope with the lockdown." He says.
The energetic adventurer, who is also planning to venture into photography, is optimistic about what the future holds but he is worried that the pandemic will be prolonged by lack of global coordination. "Working together is the right thing to do but I haven’t seen much of a collective effort. If all players involved were on the same page, the disease would be mitigated faster." He says.
Eloi’s hometown of Musanze is blessed with abundance of food. He believes food security won’t be an issue but he is itching to go back to work. "In my line of business, we can’t work from home. I can’t wait to go back out there and do what I do best."
The author is a travel enthusiast on a mission to discover what Rwanda has to offer. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on Twitter @ExposureRwanda