Rwanda to focus on medical tourism

In an effort to generate more tourism revenues, Rwanda is to focus on medical tourism.

The nation is looking at all options to sustain the budding tourism sector that registered high foreign exchange receipts last year, It is now planning to focus on medical tourism as another option that could further enhance its tourism earnings.

Rica Rwigamba, the head of tourism at Rwanda Development Board, said, ‘The government is courting investors to set up advanced medical facilities in the country; we believe this will help make our country a regional tourism hub.’

The official also acknowledged that the nation could become a tourism hub only if it has world-class medical facilities, which would be difficult without the participation of private entities. Hence, the nation is embarking on a campaign to attract stakeholders who can establish facilities and infrastructure in the nation to make it a medical tourism hub. Rwigamba said that medical tourism would improve the foreign exchange receipts needed to bridge the current trade deficit that the country is facing. Rwanda’s trade deficit stands at over USD1.2bn.

The head of the tourism board said, ‘Medical tourism is something that requires a different approach if one is to attract world class health investment like Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital in Kimironko, Gasabo district. It is also about wooing people to provide quality medical services at affordable rates. Rwanda is in a good location in terms of climate, the security and quiet environment, which patients need when going through the process of healing.’

The department is also looking to tap into the domestic sector because there are many instances in which locals are referred to other nations for treatment. While the treatment itself may be economical, travel-related charges could be very costly.


Bahamas PM concerned by rising crime

The prime minister of Bahamas has aired his concern about rising crime in the country.

Prime minister, Perry Christie, said that the increasing incidences of crime could have a bearing on tourism in the nation, to the extent that there was no bigger threat to the future viability of tourism in the region than crime. He was addressing a group of delegates at the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Travel Marketplace, at the Atlantis on Paradise Island in The Bahamas. The prime minister observed that the escalation in criminal violence, robbery and theft within the respective jurisdictions of the region has become a grave concern for the authorities. He was also concerned about the ripple effect that crimes could have on tourism, which is a significant revenue earner for the state.

The prime minister, who is also a former tourism minister, said that the problem did not only manifest itself in crimes against tourists. He said that stigmatisation of entire nations or tourism destinations as crime-ridden enclaves was destructive and self-defeating.

Christie said, ‘The combination of travel advisories against certain destinations, coupled with media publicity in the major markets discouraging tourism travel to certain destinations, is a trend that is bound to not only continue, but to accelerate and widen unless we manage to bring criminal activity down, way down, in our respective countries all across the region.’

The PM also called on concerned authorities to continue to aggressively market locations in the region as friendly places for vacation experiences. He assured that policing would be increased in order to ensure the safety of tourists.


China to encourage outbound tourism

China is rolling out initiatives to encourage outbound tourism.

The ASEAN-China Centre (ACC) in Beijing has plans to launch a series of programmes in 2013 to increase tourism from China to other states. The initiative will especially focus on Southeast Asian regions where tourists from China have not been going in large numbers.

ACC secretary general, Ma Mingqiang, said, ‘Some 90 percent of Chinese travel to Europe, the US, Japan and South Korea, but only about 11 percent head to South-east Asia. There is obviously still a lot of growth potential for this region. Chinese tourists spent USD7.2bn in Europe during the last Lunar New Year holidays. Why should Chinese tourists go all the way to Europe when the same luxury products they desire can be found in Singapore and Malaysia too?’

The focus of the initiative is on developing local markets and also markets in nearby nations, which will generate returns for China in the long run. The centre said that it would employ a number of means, the most important being awareness through the media.

There is a general belief that the Chinese know little about the 10 ASEAN countries, and there are plans to promote documentaries via China’s TV channels and hold a tourism exhibition at the Wangfujing building in Beijing during the Labour Day holiday, which sees 310,000 visitors daily. A travel guidebook for Chinese travellers will also be produced

Welcoming ACC’s initiatives, Saly Phimphinith, director general for tourism marketing department at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism in Laos, said, ‘I hope (ACC’s efforts) will drive the middle- and high-end segments to Laos, as Chinese tourists to Laos are generally lower-spending compared to Europeans.’


UK Ground Transport and Flights Disrupted By Bad Weather

Flights to and from the UK have been hit by severe bad weather. Yesterday, London Heathrow airport saw cancellations of one in ten flights due to snowfall and bad weather conditions.

In a statement Heathrow has reported that, ‘The airport is fully operational although there may be some disruption to flights due to weather conditions in the United Kingdom and across Europe. Please allow extra time for your journey to the airport and check the status of your flight with your airline before travelling.’

Flights from all other UK airports, including Bristol, Aberdeen, Luton, Birmingham, Southampton, Belfast, and Stansted, have also been disrupted, and passengers have been advised to check their flight status before leaving for the airport.

Meanwhile, train services have seen most disruption on those routes served by ScotRail, Grand Central, First Hull Trains, First Great Western, and East Coast rail operators. All other train services in the UK are currently running on time.

More snow is expected in Southern England. The Highways Agency of the Department for Transport (DfT) has reported, ‘Road users in South West England are being advised to check the latest weather forecast and road conditions before they travel today (Tuesday 22 January and overnight into the morning of Wednesday 23 January), due to the forecast of further snow. As a result of the snow the Highways Agency has issued an Amber Alert and customers are advised to take extra care when travelling due to the increased risk of adverse driving conditions.

The Highways Agency, which is responsible for motorways and other major roads in England, and is working closely with the Met Office to monitor weather conditions and maintain safe roads and reliable journeys.

Drivers are also advised to plan their journey before they set out, to check the forecast and road conditions, to leave extra time if travel conditions are poor and to consider delaying their journey if the weather becomes severe.

Up-to-date information on road conditions across England’s motorways and trunk roads is available on the Highways Agency website at or by calling 0300 123 5000.’


East Midlands Trains Operating On Schedule In Spite Of Snowfall

East Midlands Trains, a UK-based train service, has confirmed that it will be continuing its services, in spite of the heavy snowfall affecting parts of the country.

The train operator is currently running its trains on schedule.

David Horne, the managing director for East Midlands Trains, said, ‘We have put a huge amount of planning into preparing for the bad weather to keep our services running for customers. Our staffs are working incredibly hard to keep our trains running and we have extra staff from all areas of our business out clearing snow from station platforms to help keep them safe for passengers.

We’re pleased to have been able to maintain our full timetable throughout the past few days despite some heavy snowfall affecting large parts of our network, and our services are currently running very well.

We’re currently providing a full service on all of our routes, but as with any form of transport, there are times when the severe weather can have an impact on the service we can operate.

We will continue to monitor the weather conditions throughout the day and would advise passengers to keep an eye on how their local transport services are running.

We do understand that it may take people longer to get to the station due to some treacherous road conditions, and we would advise people to allow extra time for their journey to the station and speak to a member of our staff who can provide assistance with onward travel.’

The train company has announced that it will be considering its discretionary powers in the case of passengers that have a pre-booked ticket but cannot make it to the station due to heavy snowfall.


The ins and outs of travel insurance

Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York in November, caused much destruction and disruption for both residents and tourists in its wake and has put the onus firmly on insurance firms.

Many victims were thoroughly dismayed to learn that their policies did not provide adequate cover and compensate them for the effects of the tragedy.

Despite the fact that according to the ABI (Association of British Insurers), a total of £416million was paid out by its members last year to policy holders affected by the hurricane, many complaints have been raised about the lack of clarity with regard to the depth of cover provided by travel insurance policies.

Accordingly, this article seeks to remove some of the mystery:

1) An accident occurred on the motorway on my way to the airport causing lengthy tailbacks and I missed my flight – can I make a claim to regain the cost of the missed flight?

This is a common cause for complaint, because unfortunately the answer to this question will normally be ‘no’. Only if your car was directly involved in the accident will you receive compensation – personally injury specialists such as first 4lawyers solicitors are great for this kind of eventuality.

2) A tornado caused a falling branch to fall on top of me and I need treatment- will I be able to claim on my travel insurance?

Most definitely. Any treatment that you need will be covered, as will the cost of medical repatriation. If you feel that you have been the victim of medical negligence after your accident and wish to seek compensation, you should perhaps contact medical injury lawyers like at the earliest possible opportunity.

3) I’ve bought my tickets but the airline I was flying with has gone bust – will the terms of my insurance agreement force the insurance firm to pay out?

Generally no, as travel insurance is designed to cover risk only. However, a small number of policies do now include Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI).

4) I was supposed to be going to Egypt at the end of the week, but a terrorist bomb has just exploded near my hotel, and now I’m too frightened to go – will my insurance company pay out for a cancellation?

This is a tough one. This is referred to in insurance quarters as ‘disinclination to travel’ and is not usually covered, but a handful of policies will cover you if the UK government specifically advises against travelling to that particular destination.