In a bid to make the local people benefit from tourism revenues, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and other international partners have developed a new 202km trail along the shores of Lake Kivu in the Western Province which will be sold to tourists as an attraction.
The trail, which stretches from Rubavu district through Rutsiro, Karongi, Nyamasheke to Rusizi districts comprises a number of tourist attractions that will be marketed to tourists in a bid to allow local communities fight poverty by tapping from tourist while at the same time the country diversifies from Gorilla tourism.
The 8-day by foot and 3-day by vehicle trail to be known as the Congo-Nile Trail which snakes along the shores of Kivu is being developed by RDB in collaboration with United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and SNV Rwanda.
During a 4-day familiarisation tour organised for journalists and tour operators, it was revealed that the trail project is targeting poverty reduction in areas of the Western Province which have the second highest incidences of poverty in the country.
“The strategy here is to market the trail to tourists so that local communities can be able to reap from the revenues brought in by tourists---basically this is taking tourism to the people. There is a lot to offer on this trail in terms of attractions,” said the RDB-WTO coordinator of the trail, Karim Gisagara.
The targeted attractions along the trail include the Rubona Hill and BRALIRWA Bay in Rubavu district, coffee and tea experiences, several isles and bays on Lake Kivu as well as camping sites on top of Mugonero Hill in Karongi district.
Also, to be developed as a major stop for tourist is the Congo-Nile Divide Watershed in Rutsiro district - a high point where the Nile Basin separates from the Congo Basin. The point provides a spectacular view of Lake Kivu and the ranges along the Western Rift Valley.
According to RDB officials, the trail if developed and packaged well to attract tourists, will boost the incomes of communities and businesses that fall along.
The trail also covers historical heritage sites including Gihaya Island which had the residence of King Baudouin of Belgium as well as Richard Kandt’s residence at Ishangi, Rusizi District.
It will also comprise of a boat cruise on the Kivu in the new Umunezero Boat acquired by RDB.
It is expected to reduce on the monopoly of gorilla tourism given its untapped potential attractions as the country diversifies the sector to tap more revenues from visitors while at the same time reducing poverty levels.
“There is a lot to expect out of this. Not only will local people gain employment opportunities, but they will also benefit from direct sales of goods and services to the tourists,” Gisagara told The New Times.
Some of the tour operators The New Times spoke to noted that the trail will provide great opportunities and choices to tourists but expressed the need for the government to develop infrastructure along the route especially roads to allow easy access.
“I found the entire L. Kivu trail amazingly beautiful but I am utterly surprised that it is not an already existing trail. I would like to see it implemented into an active trail as soon as possible because it is something special,” Andrew Nganga, of A Thousand Hills travels said.
The trail is part of the Sustainable Tourism-Eradicating Poverty (ST-EP) project implemented by RDDB, UNWTO and SNV Rwanda. It targets promoting tourism Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises along Lake Kivu with an objective of using tourism to reduce poverty.