Rwanda Office for Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) has been selected to be a model for executing e-tourism in Africa.

This development followed a long-term partnership between the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Microsoft that will see them provide ICT systems and tools for emerging tourism economies to improve their product quality, competitiveness and support skills, where the primary focus will on Africa.

This pact was announced at the e-tourism meet held in Cape Town during which the director general of ORPTN, Rosette Chantal Rugamba made a presentation about Rwanda's Tourism Strategy.

Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect, Bill Gates described the partnership with UNWTO as the kind of implementing program that will help over 40 million people in Africa drive toward future economic growth.

"Microsoft wants to play a hands-on role to help countries and entire regions develop their knowledge-based economy, create jobs, spur growth and enable innovation. We can do this by providing easy and affordable access to technology and helping our partners build robust local software economies," Gates said in a statement posted on the UNWTO website.

A Microsoft team is expected to travel to the country in three weeks time to look at modalities of executing the plan. With e-tourism (also called IT enabled tourism) in Rwanda, tourists interested in traveling to the country will be able to make online reservation, bookings and receive an immediate confirmation, which removes a lot of obstacles that are often faced by tourists.

The UNWTO estimates that US$682billion was spent abroad by tourists in 2005, up $49billion (3.4%) on the previous year. This means on average, tourists abroad spend over US$2billion a day. Africa, however benefits only 7.8% from this trade.

Rwanda currently receives 20,000 tourists every year, earning the sector $26million. ORTPN has plans of increasing the sector's contribution to GDP to $100m by 2010 and maybe with the adoption of e-tourism, it can make that target more achievable.

East African Business Week