Rwanda has been lauded for its efforts toward sustainable tourism development by promoting eco-villages and sustainable real estate construction, sustainable home-stays and wildlife viewing in its national parks, as well as the sustainable transportation facilities.
Clarence Fernandes, the chairman of Rwanda Renaissance, a Mumbai-India based firm that promotes tourism, trade, investment and culture between India and Rwanda, said such initiatives help make the country more attractive and competitive in the global tourism market.
Fernandes was speaking during the World Tourism Conclave and Awards in Mumbai, India on September 26, where Rwanda Renaissance was recognised for supporting sustainable tourism efforts, as well as promotion of bilateral tourism and cultural relations between India and Rwanda by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
South African Tourism is the other agency on the continent that received a similar award, according to a press release from organisers, Creed Entertainment and Young Environmentalists. The event attracted stalwarts of the global tourism industry, officials from Climate Reality, the UN World Tourism Organisation (WTO), the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, and diplomats from different parts of the globe celebrated. Sector players and organisations that promote a sustainable tourism industry were also recognised during the event.
The World Tourism Organisation declared 2017 as the year for international sustainable tourism sector development with the theme “Sustainable tourism – a tool for development”, recognising the immense contribution of the sector toward development efforts of nationals.
The conference explored the contribution of tourism to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and called for enforcement of sustainable tourism norms across the world.
“The planet is facing immense threats, including dumping of toxic materials, uncontrolled development, deforestation, and increased carbon emissions in the name of modernisation. Therefore, it is important to ensure systematic and sustainable development,” Fernandes said in an interview with The New Times yesterday.
“Development and modernisation always come at a price, but it is only sustainable initiatives promoted by governments in all areas of the economy, including the tourism industry, which will yield positive and long-lasting results.”
He lauded Rwanda Development Board’s move to hike gorilla trekking permit fees from $750 to $1,500.
“On the face of it, the sharp increase in charges fee seems to be unreasonable, but if one analyses further the logic behind this fee increment, they will realise the economic impact of the same, especially ensuring sustainable gorilla trekking and protecting the environment,” he noted.
He argued that sustainable tourism leads to sustainable development, adding that Rwanda should take advantage of its rich natural heritage and forests, mountain gorillas, culture and the numerous tourism sites to attract more visitors into the country. During the awards gala, Rwanda Maldives, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Spain, Ecuador, Brazil, and Latin America were applauded for implementation of sustainable tourism initiatives, including promotion of eco-villages, sustainable real estate, as well as sustainable transportation and sustainable wildlife viewing.
Tourism sector stakeholders at the event pledged to support, promote and contribute to the green initiatives in their countries to “fight climate change and travel with a purpose” to promote sustainable development, the statement said.
Tanya Satish, the CEO of the World Tourism Conclave and Awards, called for the protection of the global ecological sites, saying that they are often taken for granted.
“The world’s flora and fauna, including forests, coral reefs, tell us a story and preserve the biodiversity record of certain species and evolution, which is sustainable natural inheritance and should be left conserved,” he said at the function on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Rwanda Renaissance chief has urged local tourism players to embrace innovation, saying it is a key factor in the development of the sector to make it more competitive.
He said: “The opening of direct flights to Mumbai and London by RwandAir is a huge boost to the tourism sector as it makes it easier for international travellers from India and Europe to visit the country.” The impending flights to the US by the national carrier will make international connectivity even easier.
Rwanda should also exploit the huge potential offered by religious tourism, the official added.