Today Rwanda joins the rest of the World to commemorate the World Tourism Day celebrated every September 27.
This years World Tourism Day will be celebrated under the theme ‘Tourism and Biodiversity’ and international celebrations will be hosted by China, with many other events taking place around the world.
Within the framework of the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity, this year’s World Tourism Day theme is aimed at raising awareness of the close relationship between tourism development, biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction.
Through this year’s campaign, UNWTO draws attention to the two most pressing global challenges of our time: the sustainable use of environmental resources and the eradication of extreme poverty.
In an interview with The New Times, the Minister of Trade and Industry Monique Nsanzabaganwa said that this year’s theme is in line with the country’s plan ensuring sustainable tourism can result in positive impacts for biodiversity conservation.
“This year’s theme is relevant for us because our tourism promotes conservation and protection of biodiversity because we know tourism and biodiversity are closely interrelated,” Nsanzabaganwa said.
“We are celebrating this day at the time when we have the tourism policy and legal framework in place. We also have the 2010/20 Tourism Master plan and the legal framework of the use of our 3 national parks,” she added.
Nsanzabaganwa also said that there has been cooperation with neighbouring countries in the conservation of biodiversity as well as the harmonisation of standards of hotel and hospitality facilities. She added that the EAC Single Tourist Visa is in the offing.
“The draft has been finalised by our technical people and it will be tabled before the decision makers of the community and that’s a very good thing.”
She said that the tourism sector has fully recovered from the effects of the Global Financial Crisis and is now booming. She said that 2009 revenues reduced by 6% which was minor compared to other countries where the sector was hugely affected.
Nsanzabaganwa commended Rwandans for assisting government efforts to conserve the environment, urging them to continue with the good job of protecting biodiversity.
She added that Rwandans should also take time to enjoy the country’s tourist attractions and do away with the assumption that they are reserved for foreign tourists only.
According to Rica Rwigamba, the head of Tourism and Conservation at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), there will be a series of activities to mark the day and will climax with the launching of the Canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest, slated for October 15.
Rwigamba said that 2010 has been a great year for the tourism industry with tourism earnings going up by 9% in the first half of the year and a number of high profile events including the 2010 Kwiti Izina which coincided with World Environment Day (WED) as well as FESPAD all hosted by Rwanda.
She said that the tourism sector recorded a 9 percent growth in the first half of the year generating $87.3 million against $80.1 million registered last year during the same period.
Rwigamba said that 2010 has been a year during which diversification of the tourism sector is being realised with a number of new attractions including bird watching, the yet-to be launched canopy walk and cultural tourism.
She said that bird watching, cultural tourism and the canopy will be given priority and be marketed as priority alternative tourist attractions’, adding that a new book containing all bird species in the country is in the pipeline.
According to UNWTO, the world tourism body, many tourism attractions are strongly linked to biological diversity, such as protected areas, beaches and islands, coral reefs, wildlife viewing etc. Biodiversity is thus a key tourism asset and fundamental to its sustained growth.