The World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit 2023 was a 3-day event held in Kigali, Rwanda from 1st to 3rd November. The summit attracted many delegates and experts in travel and tourism, and people from over 45 countries to Rwanda to craft a new vision on how the sector should become sustainable. Rwanda became to first African country to host this global summit.
The summit also featured informational and educational seminars with keynote speakers shading light on a wide range of topics. As a host country, Rwanda is to benefit from WTTC several sustainable initiatives to ensure that Travel & Tourism benefits people/businesses, as well as nature & the environment.
For instance, the WTTC unveiled a groundbreaking digital system that tracks the climate footprint of the global travel and tourism sector during the 22nd global summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2022. The primary objective of this carbon footprint data is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses from industrial activities and, in turn, mitigate the effects of climate change.
Rwanda expressed her interest to join the initiative and has been developing its own carbon emissions trading and readiness scheme. According to the Clean Development Mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Rwanda received about 2.25 million carbon credits which could unleash an estimated annual $82 billion in value, at $120 per tonne of carbon emissions, as well as create 167 million additional jobs.
Moving towards a sustainable future, Rwanda is also reducing the single use plastic products, one of the initiatives of the WTTC. Single Use Plastics were banned in 2008 as a bid to protect the environment. Additionally, in an effort to foster a sense of environmental responsibility among its people, the government implemented the Umuganda Community Initiative, which involves all Rwandans cleaning their villages on the last Saturday of each month. According to the Observer Research Foundation, Kigali capital city is the cleanest city in Africa.
When it comes to conservation in 2022, Rwanda opened Gishwati Mukura National Park which became the fourth national park in the country. The country also celebrated the 18th edition of Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony, in which 21 gorilla babies were named in Volcanoes National Park. The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the ‘Gorilla Gram’ , a new innovative use of Instagram to protect and conserve gorillas and promote ecotourism, were inaugurated.
It is apparent that Rwanda has made strides in upholding the global sustainable goals. This year’s global summit was intentionally hosted in Rwanda to recognize the positive impact the travel and tourism industry has had in Africa for the past 3 decades. Despite the impacts of Covid-19, the sector has continued to recover from transforming the livelihoods to fostering local economic development to enhancing human health and biodiversity conservation.
According to RDB, Rwanda received 1,105,460 foreign visitors in total in 2022 of which almost 60% came from within Africa. This proves that Rwanda is becoming a magnet for travelers and an economic hub. Owing to its rich culture and biodiversity including mountain gorillas, Big 5 African mammals, and over 700 bird species. Overall, the sector generated $445 million in 2022 which represents 89.3% recovery from the pre-Covid-19 levels. Rwanda’s tourism sector is hugely boosted by gorilla trekking safaris which take place in Volcanoes national park in the northwest of the country. Rwanda is one of the only 3 countries in the world where the endangered mountain gorillas are found. The other two countries are Uganda and DR Congo.
From dark history to economic prosperity
For a country rising from the ashes to host such a high level summit and conference is an important milestone in the development of the country since her darkest days. Over 800,000 people lost their lives and 2 million fled the country to escape danger during the Rwandan 1994 genocide against Tutsi.
Make sure to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial to learn about the historical Rwandan Civil War. The Rwandan economy after the war declined with the service and industry sectors basically becoming almost non-functioning. The country was one of the worst in the world to do business.
However, it shouldn’t surprise you that as the country marked the 29th anniversary of the genocide this year, she is ranked among the second among the top 10 African countries with ease of doing business. She is a nation transformed in many aspects including good governance under His Excellency President Paul Kagame that has promoted oneness and attracted investments over the past 3 decades.
According to the World Bank, Rwanda strives to become a Middle Income and High Income earner by 2035 and 2050 respectively. Some of the vigorous investments in the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism sector include the state-of-the-art infrastructure such as Kigali Convention Center which accommodates over 5,600 people along with conference arena and auditorium and internationally recognized hotel brands such as Marriott, Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson. Kigali Central Business District now has a capacity of 10,000 guest rooms which has positioned her to host high level summits like this Global Summit among others such as World Economic Forum. And there are plans to double that capacity by 2025 with some hotels implementing technology to recycle water.
Rwanda also has an efficient information and technology system to educate citizens and improve access to basic services. She has also integrated wildlife conservation and environment protection into the national development plan. Through the Environmental Protection Agenda, Rwanda intends to become a climate resilient and carbon-neutral economy by 2050. All these plans align with the WTTC global theme “Building Bridges to a Sustainable Future.”