By Joseph Oindo
Today, Rwanda joins the rest of the world to celebrate World Tourism Day. And with almost 1.2 billion people travelling abroad every year, this industry has become a powerful economic sector and a passport to peace and posterity, plus a transformative force improving millions of lives.
In Rwanda, different sector players have come on board to find innovative ways through which tourism can be enhanced. While the country’s flagship tourism attraction remains gorilla trekking, it’s instructive that there are some organisations that now look beyond mountain gorillas and have turned their focus on other strategies of marketing the country to tourists.
Globally, scientific tourism is not a new phenomenon. However, few people in the country have heard about it, and now one organisation called One Health Approach for Conservation (OHAC), with its newest initiative Gorilla Health project, has put itself at the forefront of promoting scientific tourism.
Dr Jean Felix Kinani, the founder and executive director of OHAC, explains that the new initiative is focused on supporting integrated conservation of non-human primates through monitoring, interventions, capacity building, research and raising awareness.
“We provide for tourist and visitors a one-hour power point presentation focusing on our work in conservation and especially the care of the famous mountain gorillas that reside in the Virunga Massif,” he explains.
Science tourism is a travel topic grouping scientific attractions. It covers interests in visiting and exploring not only scientific landmarks, including museums, laboratories, observatories and universities, but also in site research and findings.
Rwanda is rich in stunning attractions and incredible sites where such innovative solutions to tourism can easily find a home. For example, the Museum of Rwanda, based in the capital city Kigali, is a repertoire of cultural artefacts where the country’s rich cultural and scientific history is preserved.
And ever since the Genocide against the Tutsi that was carried out in 1994, the country has made tremendous progress, particularly in the education sector, and many universities now serve as a sea of opportunities from where science knowledge can be drawn.
The country’s rich flora and fauna can also serve as a bedrock of the science tourism project.
Dr Kinani observes that tourism is a significant branch of science. “People travel to recreate or to learn something new. We would like to bring you to the field where scientific knowledge is preserved and communicated from generation to generation,” he says.
The new product is also focused on sensitising “wildlife friends” on the value of conservation for sustainable tourism activities.
“Our presentations touch different subjects and tourists can ask questions on the subject following their interest within conservation issues,” Dr Kinani explains.