The annual gorilla naming ceremony, locally known as Kwita Izina, is the biggest tourism event in Rwanda. With the annual week-long event now shifted to September from being held in June or July in the past, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) intends to have it well organised and have more private sector participation to generate the highest impact in terms of the activities scheduled to take place, number of visitors and revenues.
Amb. Yamina Karitanyi, the Chief Tourism Officer at the Rwanda Development Board, says the annual event is meant to celebrate conservation efforts which have seen the gorilla numbers grow by 26.3 per cent since 2010 as per the last census.
The reason why Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s most popular tour- ism promotion event, was shifted to September, Amb Yamina says, is mainly to tackle the issue of seasonality in tourism and show tourists that they can visit Rwanda at any time of the year.
“The period from June to August, during which Kwita Izina was held in the past, is very busy and hard for tour operators to leave their countries, therefore promoting the event does not have as big an impact as expected. So we want to have it in September when the low season starts, so that we are not only selling in the three or four months of high season but are spreading it in the other months,” she explained in an exclusive interview with The ServiceMag.
Amb. Yamina said that with the event now held in September every year, there would be better consistency com- pared to before and enough time to prepare for as many promotional activities prior to and during the event.
In addition to that, Kwita Izina will be celebrated as part of the World Tourism month activities which hap- pens to be September and will give Rwanda much more exposure in terms of telling her sustainable tourism and conservation story on the global arena.
Activities expected in this year’s Kwita Izina
Going by the event’s calendar and schedule, the week will start with a cultural ceremony focusing on the importance of cows in the Rwandan tradition and their impact on the socio-economic wellbeing of Rwandans.
The ceremony, dubbed “Inka Z’URwanda” (loosely translated as ‘The Cows of Rwanda’) will be celebrated in the Eastern Province and will also serve to expose Rwanda’s national cultural heritage to visiting tourists.
Other events to be held in the build up to the ceremony will be a conservation forum themed ‘A conversation on conservation’, a photo exhibition, a familiarisation trip and regional tourism business to business forum, launch of a community project and the famous community party which will be held on the eve of the gorilla naming ceremony featuring traditional dances and cultural story telling.
The naming ceremony, to be held under the theme “Con- serving now and for the future,” will see 24 baby gorillas named, up from 18 that were named last year.
Amb. Yamina noted that Kwita Izina continues to contribute to the growth of Rwanda’s tourism industry; one of which is image building.
“There have been global commendations for Rwanda especially in the area of sustainable tourism and conservation.”
Five per cent of all tourism revenue is given back to the communities surrounding the three main national parks in the country, thus empower- ing the communities to own up the conservation process and fight illegal acts such as poaching, she says. This contribution is used to fund lo- cal priority projects such as schools, health centres and businesses.
“Rwanda has been a model and reference especially in gorilla conservation and as mentioned earlier, through the annual Kwita Izina, we recognize these efforts,” she said.
The event is becoming more and more popular internationally with more people coming from all over the world to Rwanda for the event. In Musanze District, where Kwita Izina is held, the occupancy rate in hotels is usually at 100 per cent- a win for the private sector.
It also begs the question of how involved the private sector plans to make this year’s event an even better one for visitors.
Greg Bakunzi, a Rwandan conservationist and proprietor of Amahoro Tours, a tour operating firm, told The ServiceMag that they currently have a programme dubbed as ‘Summer camp festival’ aimed to create awareness of Rwanda’s conservation efforts and promoting it as a tourist destination.
“Our objective is to create awareness between now and the Kwita Izina ceremony so that the turn up for the event is large,” he said.
Tourism is Rwanda’s number one foreign exchange earner and it continues to play a crucial role in the country’s development. Revenue from tourism almost tripled from US $187 million in 2010 to $303 million in 2014 with over 1.2million visitors having come to Rwanda last year.
“We are working with the hotels, airlines, tour operators and the entire industry to see that we all take advantage to see as many visitors come for this year’s event,” Amb. Yamina said.