After two years of virtual ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has announced September 2 as the date for this year’s Kwita Izina or Gorilla Naming Ceremony in Kinigi, Musanze District.
According to Xinhuanet, the annual event is set to give names to 20 endangered mountain baby gorillas born over the last 12 months.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the flagship annual ceremony was held virtually over the last two years, said Ariella Kageruka, head of RDB’s Tourism & Conservation, at a press conference in Kigali, the Rwandan capital.
“We are excited to return to Kinigi this year for the 18th Kwita Izina ceremony after holding it virtually for the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
The event will ensure a safe return of participants to the foothills of Volcanoes National Park, joining the communities living around the home of the endangered mountain gorillas in the ultimate celebration of nature and conservation, said Kageruka.
“This year, we are celebrating the gains made in our conservation efforts, notably the increase in our gorilla population and the partners and communities who actively participate in the daily conservation and sustainability efforts to ensure a harmonious human-wildlife coexistence,” she explained.
According to her, RDB will next week embark on activities including Rhino Velo Race in Akagera National Park, countrywide familiarization tours for international tour operators and travel media, Rubavu lakeside brunch, Kwita Izina concert, business conservation conference and community-led conservation exhibition at Kinigi to pave way for the naming ceremony.
The baby gorilla naming event has become a major tourism ceremony in the small central African country. It has boosted efforts to conserve the endangered mountain gorillas which have enabled Rwanda to tap tourism revenues hinged on conservation.
Since the inception of this annual event in 2005, 354 baby gorillas have been named in the gorilla conservation event. Revenues increased by 25 percent from 131 million U.S. dollars in 2020 to 164 million U.S. dollars in 2021.
This year, the tourism sector is showing signs of going back to pre-pandemic levels, with the sector generating over 168 million U.S. dollars between January and June compared to 55.6 million U.S. dollars that were generated during the same period last year, said RDB.
Responding to a question from a Xinhua journalist about Rwanda and China partnership in tourism marketing and promotion, Kageruka said that Rwanda has been promoting tourism products and packages through China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba.
“We have been working with Alibaba for the last few years. We have been engaging China virtually through webinars due to the COVID-19 pandemic which restricted travel. We have also conducted press trips in Rwanda of Chinese travel media,” she added.
According to her, Chinese tourism and travel influencers produced content that has helped RDB to promote tourism packages and products on the Alibaba platform. This year’s baby gorilla namers will include notable partners, conservationists, international celebrities, dignitaries and friends of Rwanda, according to RDB.