Skip to content

#VisitBurundi, promoting national tourism online

Rather poverty, the civil war of the 1990s and, more recently, the political crisis that shook this small landlocked country in the heart of Africa’s Great Lakes. So many ideas that the VisitBurundi initiative wants to go beyond.

“We decided to show the beauty of our country, to show the culture, to finally change the image of our country, different from the one it has abroad”explains Bruce Niyonzima, 27, in Bujumbura, the economic capital.

“We want Burundians and foreigners to come and visit our country because it’s a good country that has a lot to show for it”he continues, welcoming AFP to the Living Museum, an outdated but not without charm place, halfway between an animal refuge – a lone leopard rubs shoulders with crocodiles and turkeys – and a craft market.

It’s time to drink for the chimpanzees of the Living Museum of Bujumbura.

Launched in 2021, the initiative is carried out by a dozen young people who give their time to set up organized trips bringing together a few hundred people, help modernize tourist sites and, above all, communicate. Their strategy can be summed up in three words: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.

“The communication strategy we use is based on social networks because we have understood that now a lot of people” use it, underlines Darlène Nahayo, 28, events and public relations manager. “Our target is largely young people”adds the one who is also co-host of a Youtube channel dedicated to women.

Influencers

Burundi is ranked by the World Bank as the poorest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita, but its extremely young population (65% of Burundians are under 25, according to UNICEF) is increasingly connected , especially in cities. As elsewhere, influencers and youtubers are the stuff of dreams. VisitBurundi therefore calls on them with polished posts and videos – in English, Kirundi or French – to convey its message.

Local artisans carve souvenirs for the Living Museum of Bujumbura, in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Local artisans carve souvenirs for the Living Museum of Bujumbura, in Bujumbura, Burundi.

In a promotional T-shirt, the Burundian singer and influencer Alvin Smith thus lent himself to the exercise at the sanctuary of the sacred drums of Gishora, a tourist mecca. In this digital strategy, the organizers say they were inspired not by the Rwandan neighbor – whose “VisitRwanda” is spread even on the jerseys of Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal – but by Dubai, which knew during the pandemic attract many influencers to its beaches and cocktail bars.

Bujumbura is not yet Dubai, but for VisitBurundi attracting tourists, both local and international, is now more feasible than just a few years ago.

In 2015, less than ten years after the civil war (1993-2006), the country plunged into a political crisis with the controversial candidacy for a third term of President Pierre Nkurunziza, killing at least 1,200 people and creating a climate of terror. The situation has calmed down since the election in 2020 of a new president, Evariste Ndayishimiye, and the United States and the European Union have announced in recent months that they are lifting their sanctions and resuming their aid.

The government – which did not respond to AFP’s interview requests – was, however, singled out in September by a UN commission of inquiry, saying the human rights situation remained “disastrous” in Burundi.

Fishermen on the Burundian shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Fishermen on the Burundian shores of Lake Tanganyika.

“Now we have stability in terms of security and we have a president who encourages young people, who wants us to develop our country. I think it’s the right time”, insists Mr. Niyonzima. He adds that he is in discussion with the authorities to formalize a partnership.

“Not much”

With very few tourists, the infrastructure has never really been developed – except in Bujumbura, where hotels and beach restaurants are dotted along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Expanding them is one of VisitBurundi’s priorities.

On the outskirts of the Kibira, a dense forest sheltering 200 to 300 chimpanzees, no tourist accommodation yet exists but a lodge with a few rooms is under construction, with a breathtaking view of the surrounding green tea fields.

“People really like this forest (…) so it’s better to create a lodge to allow people to sleep” here, welcomes Deus-Dédit Niyiburana, tourist guide in this national park. “Not much is missing”wants to believe this passionate, inexhaustible on each plant of the Kibira.

Since December, foreigners can obtain their visa on arrival at the airport, which greatly facilitates the once laborious procedures. A key step in the long journey in which the young people of VisitBurundi have embarked.

Local vendors at the entrance to Kibira National Park in northwestern Burundi.

Local vendors at the entrance to Kibira National Park in northwestern Burundi.

.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.