Continues to lead sustainable rural development through tourism

Early last year the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recognized Greg Bakunzi, founder of and Red Rocks Initiatives For Sustainable Development for his role in pioneering sustainable tourism development in Africa.

Presented by UNWTO Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili, the award was in recognition of what Greg Bazunki has been doing to promote tourism, conservation, and community development in and around the Volcanoes National Park. The community tourism operator is using his vast amount of knowledge and experience to lobby for the inclusiveness of local Rwandans into destination and product management, which ensures that the community plays a greater role in developing cultural products that are both directly beneficial while ensuring they sustaining their environment.

Mr Bakunzi‘s humble beginning is a journey that spans over 15 years in the travel and hospitality industry. It began working as a young Rwandan tour organizer and guide for various international tour operators and through gradual hard work over the past years, he has gained experience and exceptional understanding of the needs and desires of the communities surrounding the National Park. Using his wide range of networks, he has been able to motivate and engage locals in beneficial culturally based tourism activities that offer visitors memorable experiences while creating sustainable sources of income for the community.

Greg Bakunzi accepts his award from UNWTO Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili. IMAGE: Kojo Bentum Williams

Mr Bakunzi continues to serve his community with passion, continuing his philanthropic work which has created awareness for the protection of environmental and natural resources. Under the initiative for sustainable development, he has been able to bring under-served communities together into the tourism supply chain and supports community development projects that help people, help themselves. This is through initiatives like the Igihogo Banana Seed Bags and the Art for Conservation Artisans Empowerment Program that is working with the next generation of youths in the community to inspire and equip them for a more sustainable tomorrow.

The Red Rocks Initiatives For Sustainable Development continues to be a place where the local communities benefit from tourism directly, thereby improving their standards of living. Mr Bakunzi believes that to achieve rural development in tourism destinations we all need to focus on advocating for responsible tourism through providing jobs, ensuring that we understand what challenges communities face and how to overcome them by using their abilities as a base for finding sustainable solutions.

Greg recently featured on TellMeWhere2Go and discussed his work and Rwanda with editor Kate Webster. You can listen to the podcast here ––Greg-Bakunzi-elr3kk

About Greg Bakunzi

Greg Bakunzi gained experience working as a Rwandan tour organizer and guide for various international tour operators. His professionalism and exceptional understanding of the needs and desires of international visitors have gained him respect among the members of local communities.

He is the Co-Founder and President of the Ruhengeri Community Eco-Tourism Association, a local association of people collaborating to enhance tourism development in Rwanda. He moulded Red Rocks Rwanda to be community-based organizations, where the local community can gain from tourism activities, and in the process, have a sustainable income. Greg is the Founder of Red Rocks Initiatives For Sustainable Development.

In 2013 he was awarded a certificate for being a TOP 100 mid-sized company for the year 2012/2013, presented by Rwanda Development Board (RDB) at the Business Excellence Awards.

In August 2015, Greg’s name was added to the A-Team for Wildlife ‘Wall of Fame’ for his contribution during their Giving Grid Fundraiser.

In 2015, Greg was a panellist on the roundtable at the 36th edition of the International Tourism Fair of Madrid (FITUR), where he spoke alongside members of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), FITUR and Casa Africa.

Greg has been recognized by several Rwandan based organizations for his efforts in promoting responsible tourism and community development agenda, leading to his invitation to name a baby mountain gorilla at the 2017 Kwita Izina Ceremony, an annual ceremony for naming mountain gorilla infants born in the past year and is based on a traditional Rwandan naming ceremony for humans. The honour of naming a baby gorilla is for individuals with verified track records in conservation and tourism, be it locally or globally.

Greg was recently appointed by the African Tourism Board to be in their steering committee representing the interest of African members on the platform.

About Red Rocks Initiative

Red Rocks Initiative for Sustainable Development is an African non-governmental organization established in 2017 to enhance sustainable development in the Virunga Mountains region in East Africa. Red Rocks Initiative supports locally-led environmental conservation and sustainable tourism initiatives. Our initiatives provide viable livelihoods for local communities and have the power to lift underserved communities out of poverty and instil in them a sense of purpose and pride. Red Rocks Initiative is registered as an NGO with the Rwanda Governance Board under registration number N° 741/RGB/NGO/0C/07/2020. We are also a member of the Rwanda Climate Change and Development Network and the Rwanda Environment NGO’s Forum. Our sister organization, Red Rocks Rwanda, is a social enterprise and cultural center offering camp facilities, eco-tours, and philanthropic opportunities.