Known for its tragic past, Rwanda is once again in the spotlight as a small East African country that attracts more than one and a half million tourists from all over the world every year. And to attract more people, the country of a thousand hills with their green landscapes has opted for sports.
It is sponsoring the jersey of the prestigious Arsenal football club, with an attractive slogan “Visit Rwanda” in order to attract more visitors and double the income from tourism.The mention “visit Rwanda” now appears on the left sleeve of all Arsenal teams’ jerseys, including those of young people and women. In an interview, Arsenal’s director Vinai Venkatesham said that Arsenal FC is one of the most watched teams in the world, and its jersey is seen 35 million times a day around the world, a real marketing coup, for Rwandan tourism, which aims to be more competitive.
The agreement even provides that Arsenal players should travel to Rwanda where training camps will be organized to promote the development of this great sport. And to introduce it, two Arsenal legends Lauren Mayer and Alex Scott made a special trip to Rwanda last month during the Kwita Izina ceremony, dedicated to the naming of gorillas.
And of course, Rwandan President Paul Kagame is a real Arsenal fan, and his various tweets reveal his love for this great club in England, which certainly explains this choice! But what is the impact of this partnership on tourism in Rwanda?
Kigali’s decision to sponsor Arsenal FC, for an estimated amount of US$40 million over three years, was controversial at the time. On social networks, critics pointed directly at the Rwandan president saying, “Paul Kagame leaves his country to give astronomical sums to Arsenal when Rwandan orphans are so poor that they cannot afford a ball to play football”.But in response to these criticisms, the Rwandan presidency had indicated that this campaign is financed by tourism revenues and, in addition, the country has more or less made a return on what it has invested and that it expects much more. The Rwanda Development Council already estimates the value of tourism benefits at 20% higher than the $40 million invested in Arsenal jerseys.