A leader in the field of sustainability in tourism, Lambert Hategekimana is General Manager at Rwanda Eco Company and Safari. Before his 10+ years in the tourism sector, Lambert worked as an educator. Now, he works alongside some of his former pupils to introduce travelers to Rwanda and other East African countries. In 2022, Lambert was a guest instructor for the course “Conscious Travel in Rwanda” as part of the RISE Conscious Travel Series.
Lambert discusses with host Amy Hager about the value of communities’ sustainable development through empowerment and exposure to the external world.
Host: Amy Hager - Social Media Manager at The RISE Travel Institute
Video and Audio Editing: Kate Mulvihill - Video and Podcast Producer at The RISE Travel Institute
Graphic Design: Shirley Wong - Freelance Art Director
Music: On My Way by Kevin MacLeod (License)
Hello and welcome. Wherever you are in the world today, thank you for joining us for The RISE Traveler, unpacking conversations of sustainable travel. We are here to talk to eco minded and socially conscious travelers, diversity and inclusion specialists, wildlife conservationists, environmental activists, and anyone using travel as a way to uplift and inspire. Together, we will go a step beyond the Instagram-ready world of travel, and take a look at how travel can be a source of growth and development for all people in all communities.
This podcast is an extension of The RISE Travel Institute, a 501c3 nonprofit committed to empowering young travelers through educational programs, research, study tours and scholarships. Visit risetravelinstitute.org to learn more. And now, here's your host, Amy Hager.
Hello, hello, wherever you are in the world today. Thank you for joining us on The RISE Traveler, unpacking conversations of sustainable travel. And we're here to really talk about how travel can be uplifting and inspiring and going a step beyond that Instagram-ready world that we kind of see and know of travel. And we really want to take a deeper look at how travel can be a source of growth and development for all people in all communities. Here at the RISE Travel Institute we're committed to empowering young travelers through educational programs, research study tours and scholarships. So if you're interested in learning more about RISE, please check us out at risetravelinstitute.org. I'm your host, Amy Hager, welcome.
Today, I'm excited to have Lambert join me from Rwanda. And we're gonna dive in through a lot of different things in our conversation today. But the first thing that I would love to talk about Lambert is you have created a conscious travel and Rwanda short course for us here at the RISE Travel Institute. And can you just tell the audience a little bit more about that course? What will they learn if they take that course?
Thank you, Amy. Thank you for having me. Having this opportunity to talk about isolation, yeah. small countries, Central Africa, very big history. So the course is about Rwanda, of course, the country, Africa, different cultures, languages in different histories. So through the course people will be able to know us if they wonder, then Rwanda has had the tragic history, they have a genocide that actually happened in 1994, where 1 million people were feeling the only 100 days. Yeah, so people will get to understand how this genocide happened in the 20th century, whereas the word has declared never against genocide, also know how the country tried to to fight the genocide. Today. Rwanda have been put of people are visiting people, I fated to see to connect with the people, people that are motivated to work so that people will be able to know the journey we have gone through from all these stories until now for a peaceful country that everyone is willing to visit.
And so by taking part in the short course, like getting, I think that history understanding what happened with the genocide and what what the country is like now is really, really great, because I know that it, you know, Rwanda probably isn't on a lot of people's bucket lists to go travel to, right. So by taking this course, and learning more about the country's history, you know, do you think more people are interested in coming to visit Rwanda now?
A lot of people coming to visit Rwanda, from other countries, neighboring countries. So there are lots of things to learn from the history through how they proceeded to have been benefited to through the console, again, the people that have been killing each other and see how their communities are now being improved through different activities and including further contributing to the livelihoods, so to the welfare of the community is called one of the attractions all activities that are visited their local communities, initiatives, some are even very responsive to the issues left out by the genocide because we have widows who have who were not having any other thing to generalize to them. Some venues have shown to be one of the responses to those issues, employing people in the community and those who didn't have to go to school that can have opportunities as far as making crafts, performing some curricular activities, performances that people can visit, even be willing to pay some money for those people to live their lives.
And I will dive a little bit more into the impact that tourism has on Rwanda. But before we move on, tell me a little bit more about you. And what's your background? And how did you get into tourism?
Thank you very much. As you said, my name is Lambert Hategekimana. I'm a tour operator. And the same time funding as a general manager of Rwanda Eco Company and Safari, Rwanda Eco Company and Safari, for over 10 years in service organizing some foreign travel services in Rwanda and across East Africa. When I say across East Africa, that means the countries of East Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo. So these are the countries that we are working and organizing tours .
So my work includes the cooperation, office management and marketing. This involves even connecting with clients that are really interesting, some through different platforms, visit Rwanda and connect them with the destinations we have in Rwanda, the local communities, the local attractions.
So I entered in as far as I have been studying some sectors. I've been a teacher have been a manager of a high school and the left side and work for the National Commission for Children with different positions, even managerial level. But during my teaching career, when I met the students, it was my student at the time, but later would make a very good method from first school and you want the operating company. So when we discuss a short list some other opportunities. Traveling has been always my my hobby, but speaking, discussing with them showed me how even far you can travel you can even offer some other good opportunities.
With my commitment and willing to support cause our seeing some cases through my work, vulnerable people that are not even having something to eat. Some courses and some process put on for I later found out so that I can have business. I can still travel as my hobby, but I can also help people to check their lives. The truth was my former student who is now my, my personal one who introduced me to combine his skills for the graduation from tourism school, he had the skills. But we also have the managerial skills from my experience in different positions, so we're able to create something very big in the first place. This company is now operating in different cities and we really believe that we are now at a level that we are happy that we are producing something for ourselves and for the community and for the country in general. We are generating something that will help everyone take pride in our circle.
So you're making a positive impact. And so it was a student when you were a teacher is now your business partner. And you're one thing I've recognized about you in our conversation today is you really do a great job of building connections. And I know you knew someone who introduced you to our Executive Director Vincie. And so through connecting travelers to the communities that you represent in Rwanda and the people there, how have you seen like, tell a story of the impact that you've seen on the lives that you've been able to create because you're bringing tourists into Rwanda, who may not have gone into the communities before.
Thank you very much actually, we will always receive feedback from people that we are working with some of them and other people in the community. You know, the team as far as we are selling products. So there are different community initiatives around the national festival that we have in Rwanda. We have the gorilla trekking that attracts many people.
We have some cultural villages, some craft shops around. We have tour guides that we are using to guide the tour. So we sell all these products. We use these people in communities there to help organize the tours. So we don't have any other choice other than working with them, always using them, and see how happy they are. See the feedback that they are giving us, how their lives, even our service with them to see how they are improved.
Of course, we have to be well organized, how they can organize themselves, how they can improve the product, but all the feedback that we are getting. You are seeing a widow who had no hope in the future, because they had children, have no job. Most of the women are widows of the genocide, they had no chance to go to school. In our history, women were not given opportunities to go to school.
After genocide, the genocide, they were hurting many men. So imagine, a widow with about two five kids. And she's not educated, she has no other revenue.
So it gave them the opportunity to do the crafts. Because you don't need to be educated to do the crafts. You don't need to be educated to do a cultural performance, to do a cultural dance. So we serve them to help them organize themselves to make some products that are really rewarding for them.
But in the end when we hear their story, we have some women that will tell you “my kids are now graduated from university because I have been able to raise them, to buy them shoes, buy them things.” We have many testimonies that are shared with us.
When we have people traveling to Rwanda, we let them hear from the communities, we let them hear from these parents who have been able to raise their children to change their lives themselves. And we are we do not propose them themselves. It's really exciting and interesting that we are doing some changes.
And so you're providing these opportunities to the widows from the genocide, you have children who they would have no money for clothes, college, university and so being able to help them build these micro businesses so that they can interact with the tourists and really make a future for themselves. And so when you really look into that crystal ball and you look into the future of tourism in Rwanda, what does the future look like?
Yeah, I will say that it's promising, promising as far as tourism is a very growing sector, a very productive sector in the country. The government is putting in to market the destination, we encourage investments in the sector, building some hotel facilities. Facilitating us as tour operators, as ourselves, facilitating the tools to do our job with good organization.
I will assure you that our clients prefer to come because of the good organization. Imagine a country five years back, the genocide, people are killing each other. Now this is a country that you can travel to. So I will say that from my view, we are seeing how it is improving lives, how it is generating money, and responding to the issues that we have in the past and the issues we are having now.
I will say that we had a genocide. And the widows and the orphans have been able to get chances to go to school because of improving their parents. Now the issue that we are having is improvement. Because kids are able to go to school and are able to get some jobs in other structural services. But tourism is one of the sectors that is employing many people.
Yeah, and the orphan children are now serving as tour guides, and kind of back to something that they've probably known really well. I'm sure if there's been tours happening since they were little, now that they are adults, they are able to participate in the community.
Actually, those graduates are now helping to improve the parents initiatives. Someone who is coming from school will be able to help the parents improve on what they’re doing. What we are now experiencing, something that we are seeing, is a very good improvement of people responding to issues by the service sector to be really interesting.
Yeah. And so then, when you think about the legacy that you want to leave behind in this world, what is that?
That’s a good question. I will tell you that some of the guides are my former students. We have them working, we see how they are improving, how they now become grown up and doing good. So the legacy I want to leave behind is to see all of people that have passed in my eyes, in my hands, are being developed into responsible citizens.
Some of the people that can if they help, they can change the lives of their fellows. Like I've said, my former student, I'm calling him, my partner, but I should be calling him my boss, because he was the one who introduced me. You see, if you can have a chance of seeing those people that have grown in your eyes, that you have helped to grow up. It is something that is heart-touching. Something that I need to see in the future, when I will be all done, the people moving around. Always receiving messages from parents, from people who I have helped throughout my career. So I want to look for people that can benefit from my efforts. It’s very impressive to me.
Yeah, it's impressive to see how many people you've been able to have a positive influence on and really improve their lives, Lambert. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. And joining us on the show. It was really great to get to know a little bit more about you, but also about Rwanda and conscious travel. We’ll visit there. So thank you for sharing more.
Yeah, thank you very much for this opportunity, and the opportunity to welcome you and even everyone who is listening and who will have a chance to listen to this story. We have a lot of stories to share about, things to show people. I can assure you that if you visit Rwanda, you will see some interesting, interesting and heart-touching stories that everyone can be proud to hear.
Awesome, well thank you. As I said, that brings us to an end of our journey today. But if you've liked what you've heard, and you want to hear more, subscribe, like, and comment. You can follow us at RISE Travel Institute on Facebook and Instagram. And here at The RISE Travel Institute, we believe that travel is a powerful tool for transformative change. And just like Lambert shared today, you know, the impact that can be made on these communities in the lives of people are really important to us. And so if you're a college student, maybe planning a study abroad trip, a young professional thinking about a gap year or really, anyone who wants to travel the world in a sustainable way. We encourage you to head to risetravelinstitute.org. To learn more information about our educational courses, and we'll be back soon with another episode but until then, keep roaming, keep learning and continue to be a race traveler.
This podcast is an extension of The RISE Travel Institute, a 501c3 nonprofit committed to empowering young travelers through educational programs, research, study tours, and scholarships. Visit risetravelinstitute.org to learn more.