Home Environment Rwandan conservationist appointed to UNWTO advisory board

Rwandan conservationist appointed to UNWTO advisory board

Greg Bakunzi is the founder of Red Rocks Initiatives for Sustainable Development, a nonprofit that works to preserve biodiversity and foster sustainable development
Greg Bakunzi is the founder of Red Rocks Initiatives for Sustainable Development, a nonprofit that works to preserve biodiversity and foster sustainable development

Rwandan conservationist Greg Bakunzi has been appointed to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) Best Tourism Villages advisory board for 2024.

Mr Bakunzi is the founder of Red Rocks Initiatives for Sustainable Development, a Rwanda-based nonprofit that works to engage communities, preserve biodiversity, and foster sustainable development.

A report released during COP27 in Sharm el Sheik last year indicated that tourism contributes at least 11 per cent of global carbon emissions and that’s predicted to double by 2050.

Founded in 2011, Mr Bakunzi’s organisation promotes environmental protection and climate action through community awareness, education and environmentally conscious tourism.

International acclaim

Over the years, Mr Bakunzi has enjoyed national and international acclaim for his work in tourism and conservation.

In 2011, he received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for his work in promoting responsible ecotourism and sustainable community development in Rwanda.

In 2015, his name was added to the A-Team for Wildlife Wall of Fame in recognition of his work to save endangered animal species, especially the prized mountain gorillas whose population currently number about 1,000 individuals worldwide.

A year later, he became a panelist on the topic “Africa – The Future is Now” at the Tourism Investment and Business Forum for Africa organised by the UN World Tourism Organisation, FITUR (the global meeting point for tourism professionals and the leading trade fare for incoming and outbound markets in Latin America), and Casa Africa.

In 2018, Mr Bakunzi was appointed to serve on the African Tourism Board’s steering committee. In 2022, Nkotsi, his humble village in Musanze district in northern Rwanda, received the Best Tourism Village award from UNWTO for preserving local culture and traditions, celebrating diversity, providing opportunities to the locals, and safeguarding diversity.

Early this year Mr Bakunzi’s Red Rocks Rwanda, a non-profit hostel, was selected by New York-based TIME Magazine as “one of TIME’s 2023 World’s Greatest Places in Musanze, Rwanda.”

“In light of the above and of your remarkable expertise in this field, I am pleased to invite you as one the distinguished Members of the Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO Advisory Board for 2024,” Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO’s Secretary General, wrote to Mr Bakunzi on December 29, 2023.

Mr Pololikashvili went on: “I truly look forward to working with you on this important initiative which I am confident will substantially help us advance the contribution of tourism to rural sustainable development.”

About Best Tourism Villages

The Best Tourism Villages initiative was launched in 2021 by UNWTO – a specialized agency of the United Nations – to make tourism a key driver of rural development and wellbeing.

The initiative aims to value and safeguard rural villages along with their landscapes, knowledge, biological and cultural diversity, traditional values and activities, including gastronomy.

The initiative was endorsed by the 24th session of the UNWTO General Assembly and it includes the Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO, recognising villages that are outstanding examples of rural tourism destinations with documented cultural and natural assets that preserve community-based values, products and lifestyle.

The Best Tourism Villages also have a clear commitment towards economic, social and environmental sustainability while promoting tourism as one of the key drivers of positive transformation, rural development and well-being.

The Best Tourism Villages Advisory Board is responsible for providing technical advice in the areas and criteria that will guide the evaluation, examining and assessing applications, and recommending the list of villages to be recognised as Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO and those to be included in the Upgrade Programme.

The Advisory Board will guarantee the standards, impartiality and transparency of the initiative. The mandate of the Members of the Advisory Board will end on 31 December 2024 and no honorarium or fees are envisaged for the collaboration, according to UNWTO.

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