Rwanda State Airline Seeks New Routes to Drive Tourism, CEO Says

(Bloomberg) -- RwandAir is prioritizing adding new routes and overhauling its existing fleet over short-term profitability as the state-owned airline focuses on supporting the country’s growing tourism industry, Chief Executive Officer Yvonne Manzi Makolo said.

Rwanda earned $438 million from tourism last year and is targeting doubling that in five years to accelerate economic growth that has averaged more than 7 percent since 2000. The industry is the biggest generator of foreign exchange for the East African nation.

“The government has put a lot of focus in terms of developing the aviation sector in order to drive tourism,” Makolo said in an interview Tuesday at an aviation conference in Mauritius. “This is not the right time for us to consolidate. It’s time for us to grow.”

The Kigali-based carrier, which flies to 26 destinations, is reviewing its fleet of 12 aircraft. In 2019, four more -- two Airbus A330neo and two Boeing Co. 737 Max planes -- will begin operating. RwandAir will reduce its aircraft categories to three from four and will use planes from Airbus SE for long haul flights, Boeing Co. for mid-range routes and Bombardier Inc. for regional destinations.

New routes being considered include two in China and the U.S., along with others in Africa, Makolo said.

“We are looking at Guangzhou, China, and New York next year for our long haul, and additional routes in Africa as well and increase frequency for the ones that we are not doing on a daily basis,” she said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.