• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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Kwita Izina: Incredible adventure, boost to Rwanda tourism receipt

Kwita Izina: Incredible adventure, boost to Rwanda tourism receipt

On September 1, 2023, over 40,000 residents of Musanze District and visitors from all over the world gathered at the foothills of the Virunga Mountains in Kinigi, Northern Rwanda.

The visitors, who came from far and wide in their droves, were in the local enclave to witness and partake in the annual gorilla naming ceremony in Rwanda popularly called Kwita Izina by the locals; an event that is better witnessed than narrated.

This year, 23 baby mountain gorillas born in the last 12 month were named by 23 special guests, including music artiste, Hollywood actors, sports legends, diplomats, deserving Rwandan citizens, among others.

The annual visits of the tourists are also the reason Rwanda’s tourism has increased its tourist arrival.

But as local as the name sounds, Kwita Izina appeals to a lot of tourists, conservationists, global personalities, and especially, the locals whose lives have been impacted positively by the various activities of the visitors during the ceremony.

Now in its 19th edition, the ceremony was marked with a series of activities ranging from conservation, business, cultural and entertainment that came to climax on the big day, which is the naming ceremony.

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The activities included; launch of two community projects (a maternity unit and potato seeds collection), conservation unit for residents to access maternal healthcare and quality seeds in Muganza by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Rhino Velo Race in Akagera National Park, countrywide familiarisation tours for international tour operators and travel media, and a Kwita Izina concert.

Earlier, RDB, in partnership with African Leadership University, organised the 2023 Business of Conversation Conference on August 29-31, 2023.

Some of the global personalities that named the gorillas include; Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary general, United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), who was very excited to visit Rwanda for the first time and be part of the ceremony. “Tourism has been a major part of saving mountain gorillas and I am thrilled to be invited to join in naming the gorilla babies born over the past year,” he said.

As well, Bukola Elemide, a Nigerian-French singer-songwriter, who stages as Asa, joined the namers in Kinigi last Friday.

Other namers are; Joakim Noah Ribeiro, former Chicago Bulls Centre Forward and Lais Ribeiro, his Brazilian international model wife; Cyrille Bolloré, CEO, Bolloré; Sol Campbell, Arsenal and England legend; Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba, celebrity power couple; and Kevin Hart, comedian.

However, three Rwandans were among the gorilla namers. Queen Kalimpinya, a fast-rising rally driver and former finalist in Miss Rwanda beauty pageant, and Innocent Dusabeyezu, a ranger in the Volcanoes National Park since 2007. His many years of service have been honoured by giving him an opportunity to name a baby gorilla.

Excited at the success of the event, Clare Akamanzi, RDB chief executive officer, said:

“We are excited to return to Kinigi this year for the 19th Kwita Izina Gorilla naming ceremony. This year we are celebrating the gains made in our tourism and conservation efforts, notably the majestic mountain gorillas. Last year, Rwanda’s gorilla tourism was the best performing segment and the trend shows that 2023 is expected to grow further and take us beyond recovery and towards our national targets. This means the communities are benefiting more, tourists getting enhanced experiences and the gorilla populations are thriving thanks to all stakeholders who actively participate in their daily conservation.”

According to her, Rwanda is diversifying its tourism revenues by promoting other tourist attractions and new offerings such as the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events) and sports tourism industries.

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This year’s Kwita Izina also brought to the fore efforts by the government of Rwanda to improve the livelihoods of park communities while enabling wildlife conservation through the Tourism Revenue Share Program, the RDB chief executive officer concluded.

Rwanda generated US$ 247 million in the first half of 2023 from tourism, a 56 percent increase compared to US$ 158 million in the same period in 2022.

Kwita Izina is inspired by the ancient Rwandan tradition of naming babies soon after they are born. The ceremony has transformed from being a local event in 2005 to becoming an international gorilla conservation event that also promotes tourism. In the 19 years since the event was established, 374 gorillas have been named in a celebration of nature and the communities who protect the majestic mountain gorillas.

While wildlife and adventure lovers look forward to the 20th edition next year, credit goes to the locals, government and the country’s tourism agency for using gorilla conservation to grow its tourism arrivals.