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Besides the obvious advantage of bringing money to a country, there are several benefits to having visitors from one country to another. The reputation of the host country is enhanced by the pleasant experiences that the visitor then relates to friend and family. A small country in a scenic area (for example, the coastline and island countries of the Caribbean) can assuage fears of visitors regarding alien cultures, language, etc. and enhance its international reputation. In turn, businesses will see those countries as favorable venues to do business. Governments seeking financial investment can point to favorable tourist experiences as proof that the economy is safe. The Gross National Product of a country, especially a small country, can often depend on tourist activity for its financial health. Finally, the local native population benefits from exposure to other visiting cultures.
Every few months, it seems, there is a flurry of passionate and well-intentioned opinions that question the viability of tourism centered on poor villages, arguing that the benefits to be gained are outweighed by the potential for exploitation of poor people. Some of the rhetoric in this ongoing debate has shed more heat than light on the issue, but let's focus on some real, on-the-ground facts and positive impacts.
In Rwanda, tourism is currently the largest foreign-exchange earner. The majority of revenue comes from wealthy safari tourists in Kenya and Tanzania who jet in for 2-3 days to see Rwanda's legendary mountain gorillas. However, Rwandans recognize that more tourism is needed and that each additional day a tourist spends in country translates into jobs and growth. That's why a tourism cooperative and a small private tour operator decided to establish a full-day village tour in Mayange, just an hour south of Kigali.
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