Tourism Day marked in Nyungwe National Park
TOURISM remains one of the key pillars of the national economy and protecting natural resources and touristic sites is a responsibility of every single individual, the Minister of Trade and Industry, François Kanimba, has said.
He made the remarks on Friday during celebrations to mark the World Tourism Day (WTD held annually on 27 September.
The day, which was marked in Bushekeri Sector of Western Province’s Nyamasheke District, just at the edge of Nyungwe National Park, was held under the theme: “Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future”.
This year’s theme highlights the role of tourism in water conservation and access while also shining light on the actions currently being taken by the sector in order to contribute to a more sustainable water future as well as the challenges ahead.
Kanimba said that Nyungwe was chosen to host the celebrations because it remains Rwanda’s major water reserve.
It is estimated that the Park is the source of more than 70 per cent of Rwanda’s flowing water, making its conservation critical to the country’s future, Kanimba said.
He said the day was an occasion to showcase the importance of conserving Nyungwe National Park while at the same time positioning it as a unique and must-see tourism destination.
“Protecting Nyungwe forest equals to protecting a world valued natural resource,” Kanimba told thousands of residents, conservationists, environmentalists, tourists and officials who braved Friday’s heavy rains to mark the day.
The minister noted that the forest contributes a lot to the socio-economic life of the country, particularly the lives of people living in its surroundings.
He tasked residents to resist the ‘few remaining encroachers’ who continue to threaten the ecosystem within the natural reserve.
Nyungwe remains one of the unique, richest, and most diverse eco-systems in the World. The natural rain forest is home to a variety of wildlife and plant species with over 86 mammals that include 13 primates, 285 bird species, and more than 100 tree species some of which are said to be found only in Nyungwe.
Nyungwe is currently on the list of the seven places on the African continent short-listed for the 2013 World Travel Awards-having been nominated alongside Kalahari Game Reserve (Botswana), Etosha National Park (Namibia), Kruger National Park (South Africa), Masai Mara National Reserve (Kenya), Serengeti National Park (Tanzania), and Kidepo National Park in Uganda.
The Awards acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across sectors of the tourism industry. Kanimba said the nomination is yet another reason to keep conservation efforts ongoing.
“It is a testimony of the recognition of what has been achieved in preserving the park,” he noted.
Tourism remains the foremost foreign currency earner for Rwanda, according to official figures. The sector generated more than $280(around RWF186billion) last year.
Over a million tourists visited the country in the same period.
“Tourism remains undoubtedly one of the pillars of our economy,” says Rica Rwigamba, head of Tourism at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
The World Tourism Day was also celebrated with special activities to highlight the role of tourism in communities around the country.
The two-day celebrations, which started on Thursday, consisted of a series of activities including the inauguration of the newly-accredited Kitabi College of Conservation and Environment Management (KCCEM), a specialised college mandated with producing skilled labour in environmental conservation and management.
Other activities included a visit to Kitabi Cultural Village which offers community tourism around Nyungwe Park, the laying of a foundation stone to pave way for the construction of a new hotel on the outskirts of the park, and a conservation symposium on progress made in Nyungwe Park over the last 25 years.
Contact email: jp.bucyensenge[at]newtimes.co.rw