Rwanda Development Board (RDB) revealed the Kwita Izina activity roadmap for 2019 at a press conference held at the Kigali Convention and Exhibition Village today. Held under the ‘Conservation is Life’ theme, this year’s naming ceremony will take place in Kinigi at the foothill of Volcanoes National Park, Northern Province on 6th September 2019.
Kwita Izina, a uniquely Rwandan event, was introduced in 2005 with the aim of creating awareness of conservation efforts for the endangered mountain gorillas. 25 infant mountain gorillas will be named this year.
As part of this year’s Kwita Izina ceremony, Rwanda will host the first ever Business of Conservation Conference (BCC) from 8-9 September. The BCC, organized in partnership with the African Leadership University (ALU), will bring together global conservation leaders, providing a unique platform linking conservation with sustainable tourism by embracing all layers of the value chain. Furthermore, a conservation exhibition focused on conservation trends and practices will take place on 7, September. The exhibition is open to the general public
On 23, August, RDB will donate 729 cows to communities surrounding the Volcanoes National Park in Burera, Nyabihu, Musanze and Rubavu districts as part of the RDB Tourism Revenue Share Programme. This program, initiated in 2005 by the Government of Rwanda, aims to guide investment in the areas surrounding the various national parks in Rwanda by ensuring that 10 per cent of all park revenues is given back to the communities.
Over Rwf 5.2 billion has been distributed by RDB to 647 community-based projects since 2005.
These projects have availed clean drinking water, milk, health centers, classrooms and housing to members of the communities living around the three national parks; Akagera National Park, Nyungwe National Park and Volcanoes National Park.
Speaking to the gathered media, the RDB Chief Tourism Officer, Belise Kariza, said;
“The increasing number of mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park is proof of the strides that we have made in gorilla conservation. This could have not happened without the support and collaboration of our conservation partners as well as the cooperation of the members of the community surrounding the park.
Initiatives such as the Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony play a major role in conserving
gorillas. Thanks to the conservation efforts, we have been able to improve the gorilla trekking experience for our visitors and also increase the amount of support we have given to the local communities through the revenue sharing program.
Rwanda’s tourism strategy has always focused on two important areas, sustainability through responsible tourism and conservation and community involvement. It has always been about protecting our natural heritage, providing world class experiences that highlight the diverse natural beauty of Rwanda while ensuring that Rwandans benefit from this tourism and conservation. No one has been left behind,” Kaliza explained.
Speaking on this year’s Business of Conservation Conference, Fred Swaniker, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ALU said:
“I am excited about promoting Rwanda as a destination for events, conferences, and meetings. Kwita Izina is the perfect platform for the Business of Conservation Conference. Our goal is to use this forum to promote economic development by bringing together influential leaders in sessions that foster collaboration and deal making. This year we are asking, “What does it take to make conservation a ‘growth industry in Africa?” We know part of the answer is leadership. That is why Rwanda is a perfect partner for BCC.”
As a result of conservation efforts such as Kwita Izina, the population of the endangered mountain gorilla increased to 604 in 2016 in the Virunga Massif compared to 480 in 2010. The Virunga Massif is comprised of Mikeno Sector of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Mountain gorilla numbers in the entire region had fallen as low as 242 in 1981.
- This year, using the park revenues in 2018, RDB distributed Rwf1.4 billion in total to the revenue share program. This was up from Rwf 741 million in 2017.
- In 2018, Rwanda hosted 1.711 million visitors. Visitor arrivals increased by 8% compared to 2017.
- Akagera NP, was the most visited park with 51, 724 visits in 2018, an increase of 17% since 2017. Nyungwe received 15, 665 visitors in 2018, up 9%. Overall park revenues reached over $ 21,153,292 in 2018
- In 2018, RDB sold 15,132 gorilla permits worth US$ 19.2 million, a 25% increase compared to 2017. In 2016, before the increase in the permit price, RDB sold 22,219 permits worth US$ 15 million.
- High-end US tourist visits to Rwanda have grown by 114% according to Virtuoso. The luxury agency network, Virtuoso in their latest data release noted that Rwanda was among the top 10 countries that have experienced significant increases by percentage in year-over-year bookings among American travelers.
- US visitors spend an average of $12,000, making them the most lucrative source market. Chinese nationals spend an average of $1,084, ranking 10th. Nigerians are the top African spenders, spending an average of $1,498 per stay, raking higher than Australians and only slightly below the French.
- In terms of accommodation, Rwanda now has up to over 14,000 hotels rooms, up from only 4,000 in 2009.
- Since 2010, RDB saw a jump of over 200% in the number of Rwandans visiting Akagera, Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Parks. Just in one year, from 2017 to 2018, RDB saw an 21.5 % increase.
- Through the Tembera u’Rwanda local campaign, RDB has given over 400 young Rwandans the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to trek the endangered mountain gorilla for free.
- Before the signing of the partnership between Arsenal and RDB last year, 71% Arsenal fans globally did not think of Rwanda as a tourist destination. At the end of the first year of the partnership, half of Arsenal fans would consider Rwanda as a destination to visit. In terms of overall value, the partnership so far, in year one, is worth £ 36 million (over Frw 36 billion). This number is based off of TV viewership and social media. These statistics were compiled by Nielsen, Blinkfire Analytics and research agency Hall and Partners.