Focus Media: Bird watching is the fastest growing aspect of tourism, and bird watchers are often the richest and most philanthropic tourists. Bird watching tourists normally come in groups, and they spend the longest time (not less than eight days) which means more money for the host country. ORTPN (Office of Tourism and National parks) has decided it's time for Rwanda to tap into the goldmine that is bird watching tourism. The Minister of State in the Commerce and Tourism Ministry, Vincent Karega, said Rwanda has to share in this up market tourist development."People who come to watch birds have to pay close to US$ 4000, yet that goes mostly to neighboring countries which have developed bird watching. We have to share in that market", he said. And why not? Whereas research has established that 15% of the world's bird species are found in the Eastern African region, Rwanda alone boasts of 650 bird species, 44 of which can only be found in Rwanda. The Shoe Bill, the Purple-bleasted Sunbird, the Rwenzori Turaco, the Red-faced Barbet, the Little Bee Eater, the Rockefeller's Sunbird, Collared Apalis, and Fraser's Eagle Owl are some of the most sought after birds that can be seen in any of Rwanda's national parks; Akagera, Volcanoes and Nyungwe. An enthusiastic ORTPN Director General Rosette Chantal Rugamba said that ORTPN aims at maintaining innovations in tourism, and bird watching is a good example. "It targets a richer clientele who like to take their time, and this will help us achieve our target of keeping tourists in Rwanda for at least 7 days, and earning US $100 million from tourism by the year 2010", she beamed. She added that cave tourism will also be started before the end of this year, and will be followed by butterfly watching.
Tourism is already the third foreign exchange earner in Rwanda,. The success with which ORTPN has marketed the gorilla world wide is an indicator that bird watching might be the next big money spinner.