Sup­port­ing Sus­tain­able Tourism Projects in Rwanda

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL - By Des Langk­ilde.

Rwanda should be con­grat­u­lated for in­creas­ing the price of its go­rilla per­mits. Con­sid­er­ing what the funds are used for, it’s a small price to pay in sup­port of the coun­try’s sus­tain­able tourism projects.

Rwanda is well-known for its moun­tain go­ril­las, with go­rilla trekking be­ing its main tourist at­trac­tion. This en­dan­gered species has made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the na­tion's travel and tourism in­dus­try thanks to events such as the Kwita Iz­ina go­rilla nam­ing cer­e­mony and the con­ser­va­tion ef­forts of the Rwan­dan gov­ern­ment, which seeks to en­sure the safety and long-term sus­tain­abil­ity of its go­rilla pop­u­la­tion in or­der to main­tain the con­stant flow of tourists to the coun­try.

Over­tourism - a phrase that refers to the neg­a­tive im­pact that host­ing too many tourists si­mul­ta­ne­ously can have on a des­ti­na­tion's nat­u­ral as­sets - is a valid con­cern. Per­haps then it is un­der­stand­able that as cus­to­di­ans, the Rwanda De­vel­op­ment Board an­nounced on 6 May 2017 that the price of go­rilla per­mits will in­crease from US$ 750 to US $1,500 for all vis­i­tors with im­me­di­ate ef­fect. The price in­crease will not af­fect tourists who had al­ready pur­chased their tick­ets prior to, or at the time of this an­nounce­ment.

Tourists who visit other na­tional parks ( Nyungwe and Ak­agera) for a min­i­mum of three days, in ad­di­tion to go­rilla trekking will re­ceive a dis­count of 30%. Sim­i­larly, con­fer­ence tourists, who stay pre or post con­fer­ence dates to see go­ril­las will be el­i­gi­ble for a 15% dis­count.

In line with Rwanda's high-end tourism strat­egy, the price in­crease aims to strengthen con­ser­va­tion ef­forts and con­trib­ute more to the de­vel­op­ment of com­mu­ni­ties liv­ing around the Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park.

Along with the new tar­iff, the tourism rev­enue shar­ing rate for com­mu­ni­ties ad­ja­cent to the park, will also in­crease from 5% to 10%, which will quadru­ple the ab­so­lute rev­enues re­ceived by com­mu­ni­ties.

Over the last 12 years, more than 400 com­mu­nity projects have been com­pleted in­clud­ing hos­pi­tals, schools, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment cen­ters and wa­ter sup­ply sys­tems to fa­cil­i­tate ac­cess to clean wa­ter. These projects di­rectly ben­e­fit the peo­ple liv­ing around the parks.

Com­ment­ing on the go­rilla per­mit price in­creases, Ms. Clare Aka­manzi, the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer at Rwanda De­vel­op­ment Board said: “Go­rilla trekking is a highly unique ex­pe­ri­ence. We have raised the price of per­mits in or­der to en­sure sus­tain­abil­ity of con­ser­va­tion ini­tia­tives and en­hance vis­i­tors' ex­pe­ri­ence. We also want to make sure that the com­mu­ni­ties liv­ing near the park area re­ceive a big­ger share of tourism rev­enues to fund de­vel­op­ment projects and em­power them eco­nom­i­cally.”

New, high-end lodges are open­ing in Mu­sanze and plans are un­der­way to im­prove vis­i­tors' ex­pe­ri­ence at Kinigi, in­clud­ing ren­o­va­tion of the in­for­ma­tion cen­ter to equip it with mod­ern of­fices and tourism ser­vices such as con­ser­va­tion ed­u­ca­tion, chil­dren's learn­ing space as well as dig­i­tal fa­cil­i­ties.

In terms of tourism at­trac­tions, Rwanda is not just about track­ing for go­ril­las, which too many vis­i­tors fly in to see then leave, miss­ing out on this coun­tries many trea­sures, such as:

Pri­mates. Rwanda is home to one fifth of the pri­mate species in Africa. These in­clude the golden mon­keys, chim­panzees, black and white colobus mon­keys and many more.

Avi­tourim: Rwanda boasts one of the high­est con­cen­tra­tions of birds in Africa, with over 700 species of bird, 27 of which are en­demic to the Al­ber­tine rift.

Moun­tain go­ril­las are an en­dan­gered species with only around 880 re­main­ing in the world. Of those in in the Virunga Mas­sif, Rwanda ac­counts for 62% of the go­rilla pop­u­la­tion. Strin­gent con­ser­va­tion mea­sures have sig­nif­i­cantly con­trib­uted to a rise in go­rilla num­bers. There are cur­rently 20 fam­i­lies ha­bit­u­ated for tourism and re­search in Rwanda, up from just 9 fam­i­lies in 2010.

Forests: Nyungwe is one of Africa's old­est moun­tain rain­forests stay­ing green even through the ice age which ex­plains its bio­di­ver­sity. Home to east Africa's only canopy walk­way (70m high and 200m long) it pro­vides an ex­hil­a­rat­ing chimp's eye view of the for­est.

Vol­ca­noes: Hik­ing to the craters atop the coun­tries stun­ning moun­tain vol­cano es is ex­hil­a­rat­ing; the high­est point is 4,507 mon Karisimbi. The views are just as stun­ning from the base of these ma­jes­tic-vol­ca­noes at the park of­fice of Kinigi.

Sa­fari Tourism. Ak­agera Na­tional Park, just two hours from Ki­gali is home to big game such as ele­phant, buf­falo, leop­ard, hippo, ze­bra and gi­raffe. Lions and Black Rhino have been rein­tro­duced.

Agri­tourism: Tea is Rwanda's largest ex­port prod­uct and these stun­ning rich green plan­ta­tions can be seen through­out the coun­try. These ‘tours for the senses' take you to tea and cof­fee plan­ta­tions and fac­to­ries where you can sleep, pick, process and taste you morn­ing cuppa.

His­tor­i­cal Tourism: The geno­cide mu­seum in Ki­gali gives a look into Rwanda's painful past which has la­belled the coun­try for years. The in­cred­i­bly pos­i­tive out­look and warm hos­pi­tal­ity of this young na­tion is an im­pres­sive turn­around one which has turned them into an in­spi­ra­tion among other African na­tions.

Beach Tourism: Just one hour drive from the Go­ril­las are trop­i­cal beaches on the shores of lake Kivu where you can re­lax and un­wind or en­joy wa­ter sports or boat rides on the lake.

Cul­tural Tourism: Tra­di­tional In­tore dancers are a true spec­ta­cle to

see as they per­form their war­like dances with spears and shield. Once only per­formed for the royal court, this en­er­getic dance can be seen at mu­se­ums and events through­out the coun­try.

City Tourism. Ki­gali, the cap­i­tal city of Rwanda is one of the clean­est most mod­ern cities in Africa with lots of new de­vel­op­ments and smart build­ings. Roads and pave­ments are spot­less and plas­tic bags are banned. It is manda­tory that ev­ery­one par­tic­i­pates in acom­mu­nity clean up day (Umu­ganda) on the last Satur­day of ev­ery month.

Busi­ness Tourism. Did you know that the Ki­gali Con­ven­tion Cen­tre can seat 2600 del­e­gates, is just 10 min­utes from the Ki­gali In­ter­na­tional Air­port and has 1000 high-end rooms in close prox­im­ity? Rwanda is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing a des­ti­na­tion of choice for in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences and event or­gan­is­ers.

Rwanda is also the first coun­try in East, Cen­tral and North Africa to be­come a mem­ber of the highly pres­ti­gious In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil of Tourism Part­ners (ICTP) – a global al­liance of re­spon­si­ble des­ti­na­tion co­op­er­a­tion and mar­ket­ing in tourism. It pro­motes best prac­tices and be­ing on its list is con­sid­ered a sign of ex­cel­lence.

Con­clu­sion

Tourism is a key pil­lar in the coun­try's Vi­sion 2020 as the top for­eign ex­change earner and the coun­try's largest em­ployer, but Rwanda still needs rev­enue from per­mits and levys to im­ple­ment its sus­tain­able tourism projects – and that's where your help is in­valu­able.

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