Rwanda generates over Rwf290 billion from tourism in first half of 2023

On 11 August 2023 at 06:46

Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has announced that Rwanda’s tourism sector generated US$247 million (equivalent to over Rwf290 billion) in revenue during the first half of 2023. The development comes as Rwanda gears up for the 19th baby gorilla naming ceremony, known as Kwita Izina, scheduled for September 1st, 2023.

This 2023 edition will take place on the foothills of Volcanoes National Park in Kinigi, Musanze District, joining the communities living around the home of the endangered mountain gorillas in the ultimate celebration of nature and conservation.

The ceremony will see the naming of 23 baby mountain gorillas born in the last 12 months. 374 baby gorillas have been named since the beginning of the naming ceremony first held in 2005.

This year’s participants, to be announced closer to the event, will include prominent partners, conservationists, both international and local figures, dignitaries, and friends of Rwanda. The celebration aims to highlight Rwanda’s conservation achievements, particularly its successful approach to gorilla tourism characterized by low volume and high value. This strategy has not only facilitated the thriving of the gorilla population but also provided enhanced trekking experiences for visitors.

Current tourism statistics reveal that Rwanda’s revenue from tourism amounted to US$247 million during the first half of 2023, reflecting a notable 56% surge compared to the US$158 million reported during the same period in 2022.

Commenting on the development, Clare Akamanzi, CEO of RDB said: "We are thrilled to return to Kinigi this year for the 19th Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming ceremony. Our celebration marks the remarkable progress achieved in both tourism and conservation, notably the majestic mountain gorillas. Last year, gorilla tourism stood out as the best-performing segment, and the trend indicates that 2023 is poised for further growth, propelling us beyond recovery and closer to our national targets. This translates to greater benefits for communities, enriched experiences for tourists, and a thriving gorilla population, all thanks to the active engagement of stakeholders in their daily conservation."

Akamanzi also emphasized Rwanda’s diversification of tourism revenue streams, promoting additional attractions and new offerings like the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events (MICE) and sports tourism sectors.

The upcoming Kwita Izina ceremony in the next month will also spotlight the Rwandan government’s initiatives to uplift the livelihoods of park communities while advancing wildlife conservation through the Tourism Revenue Share Program. This program, launched in 2005, aims to guide investments in areas surrounding Rwanda’s national parks by directing 10% of park revenues back to the communities.

Since its inception, the Tourism Revenue Share Program has channeled over Rwf10 billion (around US$9 million) into more than 1,000 community-based projects surrounding Akagera, Nyungwe, Volcanoes, and Gishwati-Mukura National Parks.

This year, RDB is launching two community projects: a maternity unit and a conservation unit for potato seeds, aimed at providing maternal healthcare and quality seeds in Muganza Sector, Nyaruguru District, Southern Province.

Moreover, RDB, in collaboration with the African Leadership University, will host the 2023 Business of Conversation Conference from August 29th to 31st, 2023.

Various events are planned as part of this year’s Kwita Izina celebrations, including the Rhino Velo Race in Akagera National Park, familiarization tours across the country for international tour operators and travel media, and a Kwita Izina concert.

About Kwita Izina

The Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony is modeled off a centuries-old tradition in which Rwandans name their children in the presence of family and friends. For three decades before the first official gorilla naming ceremony, park rangers and researchers named Rwanda’s mountain gorilla babies to monitor each gorilla in their family and habitat.

In 2005, Rwanda began officially naming mountain gorillas in what has become a global celebration of nature. By giving a name to these majestic animals, they are given the value they undoubtedly deserve.

The ceremony is, first and foremost, an opportunity to thank the communities that live around the gorilla habitat, Volcanoes National Park, research partners, vets and the dedicated conservationists, rangers and trackers who protect the gorillas daily.

Over the last fifteen years, more than 350 mountain gorillas have been named. Today, Kwita Izina forms part of an ambitious strategy to preserve Rwanda’s natural heritage and further expand the role of tourism in the country’s transformation. As a result of the naming ceremony, Rwandans from all walks of life understand the intrinsic value of gorillas and their contribution to the country’s economic prosperity. Rwandans have become gorilla guardians.

Overall, Rwanda has emerged as a conservation and sustainable tourism leader on the continent.

For instance, while in the 2010 Census, there were 480 mountain gorillas, the 2016 Census report indicated 604 individuals in the Virunga Massif. These efforts have contributed to the increase in mountain gorillas worldwide (1,063) and are categorised as no longer critically endangered.

Over the last fifteen years, more than 350 mountain gorillas have been named in Rwanda.