Last week from 20th - 22nd May 2014, the Rwanda Development Board introduced the Rwanda MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) tourism at IMEX (International Meetings Exhibition) in Frankfurt Germany 2014.
The introduction follows the launch of Rwanda’s MICE tourism and the Rwanda Convention Bureau to stakeholders at National level two weeks ago. IMEX is the largest trade show on the global calendar for incentive travel, meetings and events where destinations, companies /organizations meet to showcase their MICE product and transact business. IMEX 2014 attracted around 9,000 hosted buyers and over 3,500 exhibitors from all over the world; besides Rwanda, other African countries participating at the event included Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa, Morocco and Egypt.
Speaking at the IMEX, Mr. Murangwa Frank who is in charge of MICE at RDB said, “The launch created a great platform for Rwanda to be showcased at the international level as an emerging MICE destination. Hundreds of visitors visited our stand and potential business to the value of almost US$ 6 million was transacted”.
Rwanda’s international launch as a MICE destination coincided with the African Development Bank Annual Summit that was held in Kigali from 19th - 23rd May 2014. With over 3,000 delegates events such as this continue to boost Rwanda’s positioning as an international conference hub. Mr. Rick Taylor, contracted by RDB to streamline MICE strategy, stresses that Rwanda is on the right path for the development of the MICE sector and with the newly established Rwanda Convention Bureau as the conduit office, Rwanda is ready to receive and host regional and international events. Rwanda is the second country in Africa to establish a Convention Bureau after South Africa.
The economic potential of the MICE sector for Rwanda is immense. Total revenues based on MICE tourism in 2013 were US$ 49m. This is projected to triple to US$ 150m in 2017, 16% of all national export earnings and 34% of the overall tourism receipts.
While leisure tourism remains a vital part of the national tourism strategy, business tourists have been shown to spend up to three times more than leisure visitors. Rwanda’s share in the international meetings, incentives, conferences and events industry is presently minimal. The latest International Conference and Congress Association’s (ICCA) research ranks Rwanda as 21st in hosting global association meetings in Africa. The Rwanda Convention Bureau is a Destination Marketing Organisation with a sales and marketing objective to see Rwanda enter Africa’s top 10 by the year 2016. With this growth in MICE tourism, Tour Operators, hotels, restaurants, Professional Conference Organizers (PCO’s) and Event Managers, who form part of the nationwide tourism value chain, will be required to enhance their product offering to service delegate demands.
Tremendous efforts have been exerted on availing infrastructure and investment in new international meeting, conferencing and accommodation products. These include the iconic Kigali Convention Centre, a number of five star business hotels (Kigali Radisson Blu, Kigali Marriott, Park Inn, Kempinski and Protea amongst others), the development of transport links through Kigali International Airport as well as the expansion of RwandAir. In addition the upgrading of Kigali International Airport increases passenger capacity to 1,500,000 per annum.
Furthermore, Rwanda offers soft infrastructure such as biodiversity, city management, peace building and reconciliation as well as gender and health initiatives, making it a role model for the respective themes.
The National MICE strategy is in line with diversifying the current tourism product offering while complementing existing gorilla tourism, eco-tourism, cultural and community based tourism products that are the mainstays of Rwanda’s economy.
24th June, 2014: Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda will give preferential treatment to foreigners residing in partner states by issuing an East Africa Tourism visa for six months subject to validity of the existing work/residence permit. The visa can be accessed on http://www.visiteastafrica.org/
The East Africa Tourism visa which took effect early this year resulted from a joint initiative and decision made by Heads of State of the respective countries. The cross-border visa between the three northern corridor states which costs US$100 and is valid for 90 days for a foreigner will now cost the same and be extended for six months for foreign residents residing in any of the states.
Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) Managing Director Mr. Muriithi Ndegwa said the preferential treatment to foreigners in the member states would entice them to tour and extend their stay within the northern corridor States.
“These expatriates form a bulk of travelers in any destination and the six- month long tourism Visa will go a long way in tapping into this potential group,”said Ndegwa.
The Rwanda Development Board’s Head of Department in charge of Tourism and Conservation Ambassador Yamina Karitanyi said:
“What this means is that any foreign holder of the East Africa Tourist visa will move freely to and fro any of the countries of residence to visit without having to pay for an extra visa for a period of six months. Therefore they have a longer period to visit any of the tourism products in any or all the states combined. This is also a good opportunity for our tour operators to offer experience packages and itineraries combining the three countries.”
Uganda Tourism Board’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Stephen Asiimwe said this was a great development for tourism in the region and regional co-operation. The preferential treatment initiative means increased business for hotels, airlines, travel operators, the service industry and jobs for our people. “The residents also get to sample and have an experiential taste of the great variety of the wildlife, culture, history and heritage that the region has to offer,” Asiimwe said.
The introduction of the visa, will enhance the tourist product offering in the three countries and as a result increase the number of tourists to these countries that have a diversity of experiences to explore.
From January to March this year, Rwanda received 305,752 visitors and US$ 75.1 million in receipts compared to 291,418 visitors and receipts worth US$ 71.5 million in the same period last year indicating a 5 percent increase. The noticeable increase of travelers from the region could partly be attributed to the visa initiative as well as better and diversified packages in all the three countries.
Kinigi, 1 July 2014: Rwandans today celebrated the birth of 18 baby gorillas at the 10th anniversary of Kwita Izina, the annual gorilla naming ceremony. The event was held at the foothills of the Virunga Mountains in Kinigi, Northern Rwanda, and brought together more than 40,000 residents of Musanze District and visitors from all over the world. This year’s Kwita Izina was held under the theme: “A Decade: Conserving-Empowering-Growing.”
The CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza said:
“We celebrate, for the tenth time, the growth of the gorilla family by naming 18 baby gorillas born over the last year, bringing the total population of the endangered species to over 600 in the Virunga Transboundary Parks.”
Ambassador Rugwabiza added that the increase in mountain gorilla numbers is thanks to the tireless collaborative efforts of the Government of Rwanda, the local communities neighbouring the park and conservation partners.
“We acknowledge the role of local communities in the sustained conservation of the Volcanoes National Park, specifically the protection of the gorillas and their habitat. We believe that in the empowerment of our local communities, we also gain sustainable tourism development,” Ambassador Rugwabiza said.
The 10th Kwita Izina was marked by a series of activities ranging from conservation, business, cultural and entertainment that led up to the big day. These included the launch of Basumba Primary School in Bigogwe, Nyabihu District. The school of six classrooms was built with funds from the Shared Revenue Scheme which gives 5% of tourism profits from the national park back to the communities surrounding the gorilla habitat.
Over 100 regional and international tour operators and media came to experience Rwanda and took part in business to business meetings organised with RwandAir. These meetings led to business partnerships with local tour operators. In addition, Kwita Izina guests joined in Global Umuganda (community work) in Nyamata. They also participated in the Igitaramo, a community celebration with residents in Kinigi, Musanze at which local artist Jay Polly performed.
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. Early this year, Kwita Izina won second prize in the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance. In the nine years since the event was established, 161 gorillas have been named in a celebration of nature and the communities who protect the majestic mountain gorilla.
This year’s Kwita Izina has attracted over 470 international guests from countries including Kenya, Nigeria, China, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Russia, Japan, South Sudan, South Africa, Gabon, Ghana, among others.
List of designated 2014 gorilla namers:
- Rt. Honourable Pierre Damien Habumuremyi- Prime Minister of the Republic of Rwanda
- H.E Leoni Cuelenaere - Ambassador of Netherlands to Rwanda
- Mr. Omar Samra –Tour operator representing Egypt and the Middle East
- General Mushyo Kamanzi - Army Chief of Staff
- Mr. Charles Onyango Obbo – Editor, Mail and Guardian AFRICA
- Amb. Tegla Loroupe - Kenyan Athlete and Peace Ambassador
- Mr. Ikechi Uko - Publisher, ATQ Publisher- Nigeria
- Ms. Uwamahoro Agnes - Local Community President of COPAV Mararo, Nyangye Sector
- John Sempebwa – Deputy CEO United Tourism Board, Uganda
- H.E Donald W. Koran - Ambassador of the United States of America to Rwanda
- Mr. John Mirenge - Chief Executive Officer RwandAir
- Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed – Principal Secretary for Commerce, Tourism and East African Affairs, Kenya
- Ms. Lisa Karanja – Senior Director Business Competitiveness, Trade Mark
- Hon. Barnaba Marial Benjamin – Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, South Sudan
- Mr. Bigirimana Francois –Volcanoes National Park Guide, Rwanda Development Board
- Dr. Adam Woo – Chief Operating Officer, Chinese Business Network
- Ms. Keiko Mori – Japanese Friends
- Mr. Fidel Nizeyimana- Tracker, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda Development Board
Kinigi- Kasugho: On Monday, May 19th 2014, IHIRWE, an orphan gorilla was transferred from Kinigi, Rwanda, back to her home in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The endangered female from the Grauer Family was taken from poachers in August 2011 and had been living in a facility in Kinigi, Rwanda where she was being nursed by a team of veterinarians (Gorilla Doctors)
The gorilla transfer to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was organized through the joint support of the Rwanda Development Board,Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Directorate of Immigration and the Rwanda National Police. The gorilla was taken to the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) in Northeastern DRC, where she will join 13 other orphaned gorillas.
Dr. Mwamba Tshibasu, the Executive Secretary of Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration GVTC, who has been working with the team on the transfer said ‘The success of this operation to bring Ihirwe back home to the DRC shows the strong commitment that both Rwanda and the DRC have in reinforcing the conservation not only in their countries, but also with neighbors through the Transboundary collaboration.”.
Dr. Jean Felix Kinani from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project who has taken care of this gorilla since 2011 said "I watched Ihirwe recover after her rescue from the poachers I hope she will integrate easily at GRACE Sanctuary.
Sonya Kahlenberg, GRACE Executive Director added “GRACE is honored to be part of these conservation efforts and looks forward to helping Ihirwe adjust to her new life.”
Eastern Lowland gorillas – also known as Grauer’s gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) -- are classified as “endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, and are found only in eastern DR Congo. Seriously threatened by habitat loss, human encroachment, illegal trade, disease, and regional instability, only about 5,000 Grauer’s gorillas remain in the wild.
- Rwanda Development Board’s(RDB) core mandate is to fast track Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth.The Department of Tourism and Conservation within the Rwanda Development Board is responsible for conserving the rich biodiversity of the Protected Areas and developing sustainable tourism in collaboration with stakeholders for the benefit of all the Rwandan People’.
- INSTITUT CONGOLAIS POUR LA CONSERVATION DE LA NATURE (ICCN) is the Democratic Republic of Congo's Wildlife Authority. ICCN has a legal mandate to enforce the conservation laws that are designed to protect Congo’s flora and fauna.
- THE GREATER VIRUNGA TRANSBOUNDARY COLLABORATION (GVTC) is a mechanism for strategic, transboundary collaborative conservation of the biodiverse Greater Virunga Landscape found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. The mission of GVTC is to strengthen transboundary collaboration for conservation and sustainable development across the Central Albertine Rift. www.greatervirunga.org
- THE DIAN FOSSEY GORILLA FUND INTERNATIONAL is dedicated to the conservation and protection of gorillas and their habitats in Africa. Founded by Dr. Dian Fossey as the Digit Fund and renamed after her death, the Fossey Fund operates the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda, and maintains a staff of scientists, trackers and anti-poaching patrols in Volcanoes National Park. The Fossey Fund also studies Grauer’s Gorillas and their habitat and works with community-managed reserves in the Democratic Republic of Congo through its Grauer’s Gorilla Conservation and Research Program. In addition, the Fossey Fund operates extensive education, health and other community outreach programs. For more information, visit www.gorillafund.org. To read about Fossey Fund’s role in Ihirwe’s rescue and care, visit gorillafund.org and type “Ihirwe” in the search box.
- Mountain Gorilla veterinary project/GORILLA DOCTORS - Founded in 1986 at the request of the late gorilla researcher Dian Fossey, the Gorilla Doctors are dedicated to conserving Central Africa’s endangered mountain and Grauer’s gorillas through life-saving veterinary care and a One Health approach. www.gorilladoctors.org
- GORILLA REHABILITATION AND CONSERVATION EDUCATION (GRACE) CENTER - Founded in 2009 by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International in collaboration with the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) and Tayna Center for Conservation Biology, GRACE is the only facility in the world dedicated to providing in situ rehabilitative care for orphaned Grauer’s gorillas and ultimately aims to reintroduce gorillas back into the wild. Please visit www.gracegorillas.org
- GREAT APE SURVIVAL PARTNERSHIP (GRASP) is a unique alliance comprised of 95 partner nations, United Nations agencies, conservation organizations, zoos, and private supporters working to conserve great apes and their habitat in Africa and Asia. Founded in 2001, GRASP focuses on global issues such as political advocacy, illegal trade, habitat loss, disease monitoring and trans-boundary collaboration. For more information, please visit www.un-grasp.org.