By Our Reporter
When Greg Bakunzi submitted the Volcanoes National Park to this year’s Sustainable Destinations Top 100 competition, it was just another fishing expedition for the Amahoro Tours man. He was not certain his reluctant efforts would actually earn his country a place among the world’s top 100 green destinations.
During the selection process, applications were rated basing on nature and scenery, environment and climate, culture and tradition, people and hospitality, as well as sustainable destination management. The winners of this year’s green label were recognised at the two-day Global Green Destination Day (GGDD) international conference, which took place in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on September 27-28.
Mr Bakunzi nailed it for Rwanda after a brilliant presentation of Rwanda’s monthly community work that is locally known as Umuganda, the country’s ban on plastic bags, as well as the sustainable management of the Volcanoes National Park, the last of which he effortlessly proved with evidence of the rising numbers of the critically endangered mountain gorillas.
“The government decided to limit the number of visitors to a maximum of eight permits per gorilla group each day in order to reduce stress on the apes and create a more sustainable activity. Furthermore, part of the revenue collected from tourists goes to the local communities surrounding the park,” competition organisers noted.
Mr Bakunzi also rattled off about how, over the past few years, the number of tourists to the country has increased significantly due to Rwanda’s efforts towards responsible and green tourism.
“In total, 154 applications were received but only 97 were recognised and out of these only nine were African destinations,” says Bakunzi, who flew to Slovenia to pick up the coveted certificate on behalf of his country.
But what does this recognition mean for Rwanda? “Rwanda being among the winners means that our country is now on the map as one of the greenest and most sustainable destinations in the world,” he says. “This will not only play a major role in increasing the number of tourists visiting Rwanda, but the recognition will also enhance foreign direct investments in the country’s tourism sector.”
Apart from Rwanda, five more countries from Africa were recognised this year, including South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana and Nigeria.
The annual Sustainable Destinations Top 100 competition is an initiative of Green Destinations, Travelmole’s Vision on Sustainable Tourism and the Destination Stewardship Centre.