Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Fifth Edition June 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Fifth edition June 2010

 

Uganda News

LAB REPORT CONFIRMS ANTHRAX IN HIPPPO DEATHS

As reported here recently a number of hippopotamus died in a remote part of Queen Elizabeth National Park, leaving open questions as to the actual cause of the deaths. The Uganda Wildlife Authority was swift in sealing off the area and burning the carcasses to prevent any further spread, an action well considered now that the lab reports confirmed Anthrax as the culprit.

Anthrax outbreaks across Eastern Africa are periodical, as the virus goes dormant and often hides in soil before going active again, often only after decades, for no apparent reason at all. In 2005 the same park experienced a much larger hippo death toll, and the lessons learned from then helped UWA and other governmental bodies to act swiftly, seal off the affected area after discovering the first dead animals and prevent a further spread into hippo populations nearer the main tourist areas. Again, well done UWA for the decisive action.

 

UNESCO PLANS TO CONTRIBUTE A MILLION DOLLARS TO KASUBI TOMB REBUILDING

While Ugandans from all walks of life continue to contribute generously to the fund established by the Buganda Kingdom towards the rebuilding of the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Kasubi Tombs’, UNESCO too is seeking to contribute a million US Dollars towards the cause. The Ugandan government too has made contributions and commitments of further support to restore the site to its former glory, as the tombs have indeed over the years become a magnet for foreign and local visitors, learning about the rich cultural history of the kingdom or else paying their respect almost in pilgrimage style.

The commitment by UNESCO was made by the organization’s Director General Mrs. Irina Bokova, who was in Uganda last week for a continental conference which brought together over 40 countries from Africa at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel.

 

Kenya News

KENYA’S TOURISM SECTOR NOW ADDS GOLF TO LIST OF ATTRACTIONS

A number of championship golf courses across Kenya, several of them within or just outside the country’s capital city of Nairobi, has prompted added promotional activities to attract golfers from across the world to come to the country and play ‘safari golf’ on the many upcountry courses but also sample the world class courses like Muthaiga, Royal Windsor and other more recent additions even at the coast.

Golfing generates mega billions of US Dollars in revenue each year and many aficionados travel the globe to play a couple of rounds on a course they fancy, and are willing to pay a great deal of money for the privilege in not just green fees but their entire travel arrangements, tickets, accommodation, meals, transport and extras spent on location.

In Kenya several specialised operators have in the past been tapping into this market but it appears that the Kenya Tourist Board has adopted this niche as one of their target groups too, intensifying marketing efforts to promote and popularize golfing in Kenya alongside the more traditional vacation products like safaris, beach holidays and cultural travel. KTB and private sector tourism stakeholders have now brought a number of officials of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators into the country to show them a range of Kenyan golf courses and club facilities and get their input how best to put Kenya on the global golfing map, following Kenya’s success at the last International Golf Travel Market, where the country was declared ‘Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year 2009’. As expected, at the end of the visit to Kenya’s leading golf courses, has the CEO of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators Mr. Peter Walton heaped praise on his hosts and encouraged Kenya  to do more in terms of global promotion of the sport, saying also ‘golfers will get value for money here’. It was also learned that the courses visited were ‘audited’ and will receive grading marks which golf tourists can follow.

The established major Kenyan golf clubs like Nairobi’s Muthaiga, Royal Windsor and Karen have invested heavily in recent years to raise the level of facilities and add to the challenge of their courses and private investors have put up championship courses at the South coast of Mombasa already some years ago and are putting final touches on the much expected new ‘Vipingo Ridge’ golf course at the North coast of Mombasa, where also residential properties are being built for purchase by those wanting to spend more time in Kenya every year. It is such levels of investments, and the foresight in doing so, which has moved Kenya ahead of her East African competitors as few facilities of true international standards otherwise exist in the wider region as yet. Opportunities knock on many doors, but apparently only some open their doors to let them in!

 

KENYA SETS UP SPECIAL ANTI PIRACY COURT

Following further agreements between development partners, members of the international naval coalition against piracy and the Kenyan government has a new court been set up which will deal exclusively with nabbed ocean terrorists delivered to the judiciary system of this East African nation.

Earlier in the year had Kenya signalled that resources were simply not available to deal with a lot of added trials due to lack of personnel and already high pressure on their court system and that they would need to suspend trials if no dedicated funding could be made available.

This triggered immediate talks and a subsequent agreement between the Kenyan government in Nairobi and partner countries, and let to the establishment last week of a dedicated court dealing exclusively with the problem of piracy on the high seas off the Eastern African coast.

Kenya and the Seychelles are the only two countries at present with concluded, ongoing and upcoming trials against the pirates, who in the Seychelles are also facing terrorism charges besides ‘ordinary’ piracy, a move much welcomed by this correspondent who has long advocated for a tougher line against the menace. When looking at the fallout in economic terms to the East African economies one almost must be in favour of a naval blockade of the pirate havens in Somalia and to intercept any traffic from these hideouts looking like and acting like pirates – in fact, a change of the mandate and rules of engagement towards a self defence mode would be in order now, the moment motherships and skiffs are spotted, allowing the coalition vessels to engage the ocean terrorists on the high seas in a robust fashion, before then also permitting the coalition forces to do ‘hot pursuit’ on to land to prevent the further use of land based infrastructure supporting future piracy and terrorist missions. Watch this space.

 

MINISTER’S STATEMENT ANGERS TOURISM SECTOR

Kenya’s foreign minister stepped into the proverbial recently when appearing before a parliamentary committee and claiming ‘the reduction of Visa fees [done last year from 50 to 25 US Dollars for foreign visitors] lowered Kenya’s international prestige and reduced earnings from tourism’. Flabbergasted tourism stakeholders rushed their opinions to this correspondent, claiming the minister not only mis-spoke but displayed a complete lack of understanding and was out of order to make claims which could not be supported by fact.

The Minister for Tourism had advocated strongly at the time, when the world economic crisis had come home to roost and tourism arrivals were dropping fast, to lower Visa fees as part of a strategic package put together by the private and public sector to bring visitor numbers back up, and going by the arrival data available from KTB this approach has worked for them. The foreign minister’s statements that ‘Kenya is now levelled as a cheap destination’ and ‘we have lost out on high quality tourism’ too was met with bewilderment, as a series of new properties on the safari sector but also along Kenya’s beaches have in recent months been awarded international recognition for their quality, achieving ‘Best in Africa’ status, and staying in such properties can now easily reach between 500 to 1.500 US Dollars per day – not exactly lending credibility to the minister’s extraordinarily misleading statements that Kenya was ‘cheap’.

Tourism stakeholders in Nairobi and Mombasa were left scratching their heads over what may have prompted the minister’s outbursts, and one regular source added: ‘tourism is not a sector to play around with, the minister’s statement as plain and simple wrong, because lowering the Visa fees was part of creating a business environment to bring the tourists back. Government may have lost on the fees but the sector overall has more than made up for that loss in many multiples through taxes, retaining and creating new jobs in tourism and new investments. We are looking at a record year in terms of arrivals for 2010. Arrival numbers are up 30 percent and revenue is up by nearly 20 percent. Who gave the foreign minister such a briefing with no substance? Who knows, maybe he just shot off his mouth trying to gloss over some other problems he has elsewhere. But he must know, leave tourism alone, we have a competent minister ourselves and need no lectures from other ministers who know little or nothing about the tourism industry.’ Strong words, but undoubtedly well deserved. Meanwhile, tourist board and ministry of tourism sources remained diplomatically silent but it can be expected that the tourism minister will have a word with his colleague overseeing foreign affairs to give him some facts and figures and avoid future outbursts of this nature, which are, needless to point out, not helpful for Kenya’s international reputation abroad.

 

Tanzania News

FIRST MULTI STAGE BIKE RACE TAKES PLACE IN ARUSHA

 

The Arusha Cycling Club recently organised the first ever three day / four stage ‘Karibu Arusha’ cycling race from the municipality, bringing together 10 teams from across the country, comprising 57 riders. The event featured individual time trials, team time trials and the ‘open race’ from Arusha to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area gate for which the men had to cover 330 kilometres including climbing the escarpment at Mto Wa Mbu and further up Ngorongoro. The ladies ‘only’ needed to do 220 kilometres, still a very considerable challenge for the participants and a source of pride for all the finishers.

Main sponsor of the event was Tanzania’s premier airline ‘Precision Air’, sponsoring logistics, prize money and other ‘goodies’ for the participants.

For more information and to monitor upcoming cycling events in and around Arusha / Tanzania, please visit www.arushacyclingclub.org

 

LAKE TANGANYIKA NEXT TARGET FOR OIL COMPANIES

Oil exploration in the waters of Lake Tanganyika has come a step closer when an Australian exploration firm won the bid to carry out test drilling and signed a Production Sharing Agreement, in short PSA with the Tanzanian government. Government sources were quoted to have pointed to the major oil finds in and around Lake Albert, which is shared between Uganda and Congo, claiming that the underlying factors in other Rift Valley lakes would make it very likely that natural gas and oil reserves may also be found in Lake Tanganyika and other lakes within the Great African Rift Valley.

However, great challenges await the oil exploration activities, as infrastructure near the lake is presently not up to scratch, while the lake itself is thought to be the second deepest in the world, posing technical problems to the exploration firm they have very likely not encountered before and which may require new technologies.

Meanwhile it was also learned that test drilling is now also being prepared in the Lake Edward area of Uganda, which would make it the second national park area after Murchisons Falls to go ‘active’ in the search for oil and gas. Dominion, a UK based oil exploration company, presently under a license extension for previous inactivity, must drill or risk losing their license and any investment made so far, and has reportedly yielded to this pressure and commenced work on site last week. The company reportedly also holds a concession across the lake’s common border in the Congo DR but has according to sources in Goma also not started any concrete work there. In a related development, once more underscoring Congo’s inability to live up to contractual commitments and exposing the regime again as one of ‘grab, cut and sell again’ was the Tullow licence across Lake Albert from their Ugandan license areas reportedly cancelled last week. Tullow, according to media reports, insists they have a valid license and given no cause for any cancellation, but the regime in Kinshasa is simply notorious for cancelling such concessions and licenses arbitrarily and at the whim of the moment – as done repeatedly in the past in particular with mineral concessions – and resell them to the highest bidders – and speculates this correspondent more than likely the ones with the fattest brown envelopes.

Concerns about drilling in lakes and near wetlands and protected areas have considerably risen in recent months following the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling and production platform. Visible daily on television are the ever increasing damages to US’ beaches and beach communities along the Gulf of Mexico, to fragile ecosystems, wetlands, protected areas, the fishing industry and the tourism sector along hundreds of kilometres and the prospect that hurricanes and ocean currents could carry the spill effect even further. This has opened up a fresh and agitated debate even here in East Africa over the pros and cons of oil exploration and production with calls getting louder to introduce added legislation and regulations to prevent such disasters and deal with any potential problems. Considering the technological might and available logistics in the United States and seeing how literally helpless they are in combating the growing spill, it can only be hoped that ALL precautions are taken here in East Africa and equipment is being positioned immediately, at the expense of the oil companies, capable of dealing with an extensive oil spill, to allow in a worst case scenario an instant response without having to waste days and possibly weeks waiting for equipment to arrive which would help to bring a problem under control.

Pictures available to this correspondent from the Niger Delta in Nigeria however speak a language free of any ambiguity and indicate what lax government regulations and oversight can result in – biologically dead wetlands, swamps, mangrove forests where no aquatic-, bird- and wildlife is now found and which has stripped the coastal communities living there of any opportunity for fishing to supplement their food sources, compelling many to leave as their livelihood has been spoilt beyond repair. Watch this space.

 

TANZANIAN DRIVER GUIDES CALL OF STRIKE – FOR NOW

Sources from Tanzania have confirmed that the planned strike by driver guides and tour guides will be called off for the time being, after other stakeholders prevailed upon the Tanzania Tour Guide Association, in short TTGA, to consider the damage to the industry, should they go ahead. TTGA had earlier in the year given notice to stakeholders like the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, the tour companies, the lodges and camps in their cross hairs and governmental departments that they intended to go on strike over ‘appalling conditions’ in some of the lodges and camps for drivers and guides.

One source in Arusha, known to this correspondent, added his own views: ‘conditions in some places are very bad. Often there are no mosquito nets, we have to share rooms, the bathrooms stink and the food is bad. We have told those managers to change things but we are told that either there is no money for ‘such things’ or we are told to shut up ‘or else’. At times clients ask why we are not fresh in the morning, and we have to be diplomatic. We are treated very well in some of the lodges, they have single rooms or twin rooms for us and offer good food and clean bathrooms, but there are some which just ignore us.’

A leading stakeholder in Dar es Salaam also commented, saying a strike could only ever be a very last resort, while appealing to the lodge and camp operators to attend to the welfare of the drivers and guides. He added: ‘a strike now would cripple our recovery after the global crisis. In fairness they (TTGA) gave a long notice but maybe some camps and lodges need more time, but I think they know now that if they do not change that they will be singled out and it will be bad for their business’.

Another guide in Arusha also sent his comments as follows: ‘you know, even when clients invite us in some places to eat with them, and they pay for it, management there makes our life difficult. They try to keep us out of the dining and the bar, and at times our clients must insist strongly to have a drink with us in the evening or sit down for lunch or supper. I am not saying this is pure racism, but some of the managers have an agenda of their own. I have been told many times to stay out of the dining after being invited by my clients, is their money for my meal not good? You see, we spend a lot of time with our clients, and when enough is enough we can tell them a place is not good. We have started to tell our companies to stop booking clients in some places because we sleep and eat badly there, but we will see’.

Adds this correspondent with the experience from his days in top management of some of Kenya’s leading safari companies that the lodges and camps in the cross hairs of the driver guides really ought to pull up their socks and improve these facilities, as a driver guide can make or break a safari experience by exposing such contempt towards their wellbeing … not something some of those otherwise fancied places would care to read subsequently on Facebook or TripAdvisor … at the same time all compliments to some of the lodges and camps which have excelled in providing good accommodation, facilities and meals to the driver guides and are therefore ‘favourites’ on the safari circuit.

 

ELECTRICITY PRICE INCREASE DEMAND SHOCKS HOTELIERS

The Tanzanian power company has earlier this week gone public with plans to raise electricity tariffs by a staggering 34 percent, prompting immediate responses from consumers, industry and also from hotel operators to reduce the increases to a more manageable level. Hotels, in particular those located along the Tanzanian beaches and in Dar es Salaam, depend on reliable electricity supplies to run their airconditioning plants and cold rooms, and one source in Dar has swiftly pointed out to this correspondent that ‘power bills are already at all time high and a major source of expense for us. Supply has been erratic and when we use our own back up generator it is even more costly. Now if bills are to go up by another third, we must raise tariffs ourselves because this cannot be absorbed. It is our guest who will pay a lot more and we worry about being competitive in the region. Kenya is bringing in a lot of green energy sources and Uganda has found oil, but we in Tanzania have to be able to compete, not only in quality but also by pricing’. It was also mentioned that the tourism sector ought to lobby for a more moderate increase in electricity prices and be present at the public hearings government intends to hold to get opinions from all walks of life before either approving or rejecting TANESCO’s application. 

 

SUMBAWANGA AERODROME IN URGENT NEED OF REPAIRS

The gateway airfield to the Katavi National Park and Lake Tanganyika is in urgent need of added repairs and upgrades, according to reports received from Dar es Salaam. While light single and twin engined aircraft can land at the strip, as they need a shorter take off and landing space, larger twin engined turboprop aircraft able to carry between 30 and 50 passengers are finding it difficult to land, especially in wet weather conditions, according to remarks attributed to the manager of the aerodrome.

The East African Community has in past years embarked on a programme for the member states to improve aviation facilities across the region to promote air transport to more remote areas, but Tanzania being the largest of the five member states has more airfields and aerodromes to look after than others. It is understood that the annual budget allocation to the aviation sector for field upgrades and maintenance have steadily improved, but a source at TCAA has indicated that the authority is following an agreed workplan according to which the various aerodromes are being targeted for improvements. The source also confirmed that Sumbawanga is on the ‘to do’ list and urged ‘those making noise now’ to be patient a little longer.

 

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR PRIVATISATION ‘WILL COME’

The Rwandan national airline is continuing to work towards achieving operational and financial status which will allow the government to rekindle the search for a partner airline. This information was given last week by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of RwandAir Mr. John Mirenge. The airline only very recently recruited a new CEO, Mr. Rene Janata, who previously held senior management positions with Germany’s Lufthansa – making it an interesting constellation when privatisation efforts go underway again after two years of relative inactivity.

Lufthansa now owns a major share of Brussels Airlines, and will soon decide to acquire a majority of the Belgian national airline’s shares and it was in fact SN which had put in a bid for RwandAir four years ago. This bid however was found wanting at the time, as the proposal was based on the introduction of BAE 146 aircraft, generally thought unsuitable for the operational altitudes of airports in the region with the added alleged sensitivity of the engines to dust and grit giving also giving cause of concern.

However, under the new constellation the bid could be renewed, giving the Lufthansa group a ‘base’ in the East African region through partnerairline SN. RwandAir now has two CRJ200 aircraft flying, incidentally purchased from Lufthansa inclusive of maintenance support at the Kigali home base, setting the stage for financial and operational savings and improvements required before the Rwandan government will renew the search for a choice partner. Watch this space for up to date news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean aviation scenes.

 

PAN AFRICAN FESTIVAL OF DANCE COMES TO RWANDA

Rwanda is hosting this year’s African Union dance festival, due to be held in the capital Kigali between July 24th to 31st. Created 12 years ago under the auspices of the African Union, aimed to bring together the rich cultures of the African continent in a single annual festival, the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism & Conservation will oversee the preparations. Dozens of dance groups, representing their own countries from across the continent, are expected to come to Rwanda and perform traditional African dances, but also show contemporary performances and ‘free style’ presentations. Alongside the dance festival will a number of cultural workshops take place in Kigali aimed to promote culture, art and in particular dance to the Rwandan youth and those attending the gathering from all over Africa.

 

KLM COMING TO KIGALI

By the end of October this year will KLM extend their present 5 weekly connections from Amsterdam to Entebbe on to Kigali / Rwanda, according to an aviation sources close to the carrier’s Kampala office. The airline will continue to use their Airbus A330-200 equipment on the route, which is operated in a two class configuration of Business and Economy. It could not be established by the time of going to press if the flight will then return nonstop from Kigali to Amsterdam or make another stop en route again in Entebbe, but going by the flight operations into East Africa by Brussels Airlines it is more than likely that a routing AMS – EBB – KGL – AMS will be on the cards. Tourism sources in Rwanda this correspondent spoke with earlier in the week expressed excitement about the prospect of having another major European airline fly into the country and provide much needed seats, besides the cargo space also available then for imports and exports. Airline sources were however guarded when asked about the prospect of eventually going daily, when the Kigali extension had taken root, but should traffic growth meet expectations, this will likely be the next announcement you can read here. Watch this space for further updates as and when available.

 

Southern Sudan News

BAHR EL JEBEL OFFERS MORE SOUTH SUDAN EXPEDITIONS

Following the recent publication of articles on Southern Sudan and its upcoming tourism opportunities, and mentioning the Bahr el Jebel expedition itinerary for a planned trip later this year to the region, demand has kicked in for more such unique safaris to one of the last unexplored parts of Eastern Africa. Destination for the two January 2011 expeditions by Bahr el Jebel will be the Boma National Park, located along the border with Ethiopia, where very large numbers of white eared kobs, tiangs and mongallas can be found, besides much other game and many bird species unique to this park.

The migration of these species from the Boma National Park to the Nile and back is thought second only to the great migration of the wildebeest and zebras from the low grass plains in the area between Ngorongoro and the Southern part of the Serengeti, but is still largely unknown to many, even in the East African tourism industry, leave alone further abroad – a well kept secret so far by those in the know and who have been there to witness the spectacle.

The expedition will be setting up camp at Pibor Post in a mobile tented camp, from where daily game drives will lead into the park proper, assisted by a single engine aircraft based at Pibor for the duration of the expedition which will relay GPS information from the air to guide the vehicles directly to the big herds. Participants in the expedition will be able to participate in these aerial surveys, adding ‘spice’ to the activities and offering the great views from above.

Visit www.bahr-el-jebel-safaris.com/The_Greatest_Migration_of_Mammals_in_the_World_.html for more detailed information and bookings.

 

NEW PUBLICATION COMING IN JUBA

Els de Temmerman, hitherto well known Editor in Chief of Uganda’s leading newspaper ‘The New Vision’, has left her job in Kampala and reportedly travelled to Juba last week, aiming to set up a newspaper in the Southern Sudanese capital. Els has a long affiliation with Uganda, in particular Northern Uganda, about which she wrote a book, and her departure for Juba will undoubtedly signal some serious project being underway. Els also co-owns the Cassia Lodge on Buziga Hill in Kampala with her husband Johan van Hecke, a former leading Belgian politician, but with the new project coming up will have to spend a lot more time in Juba from here onwards, to see the new media ‘baby’ through inception to reality. Good luck Els.

 

Seychelles News

SEYCHELLES SEEKS TO RESTORE AIRLINKS WITH TANZANIA

It was learned earlier in the week that efforts are underway to renew aviation links between Tanzania and the Seychelles, which were halted some time ago due to lack of suitable aircraft and a perceived lack of potential traffic potential between the two countries. However, Seychelles has taken their efforts for more tourist visitors to the East African countries in recent months, signing cooperation agreements and MoU’s, all aimed at stimulating travel. With Air Tanzania at present not capable of operating such flights in view of their lack of aircraft and operational and financial problems, the prime partner would be Tanzania’s Precision Air, but all parties are keeping this well under wraps at present. There is speculation that when more aircraft are delivered to Precision, the route may come under more active consideration, but for now it is Kenya Airways with their current two flights a week connecting East Africa with the archipelago.

 

 

And in closing here is some material taken from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ – always providing interesting insight into the happenings ‘further down south’ on our continent…

 

Friends of Hwange

Hwange National Park has no permanent water sources where the animals can drink.  All water sources are artificially filled using diesel-fuelled pumps.  It costs a lot to keep these pumps going for the sake of the animals.  Throughout all Zimbabwe’s dark years, Friends of Hwange has continued to bring fuel to the Park and to maintain the ancient pumps to keep the animals alive. 

Golf Day
There is a fundraising golf day being held at Sherwood Golf Club in Harare on Saturday the 17th July. If you would like to enter individually or a team, please see us at the craft fair or email us at foh@strachans.co.zw or call Dave Dell on +263-712 630152 or call Johan Smit on +263-915 403002. All welcome.

Walks in Hwange
Due to cancellations, there are still a few spaces left for the fundraising ‘Walks in Hwange’ in August this year. This is a unique opportunity for a leisurely walking with Professional Guides and comfortable camping trip in the Hwange wilderness. Please email foh@strachans.co.zw or call Dave Dell on +263-712 630152 for more information on this ‘Once in a lifetime’ opportunity.

If you would like to hold a fundraising activity in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact us at foh@strachans.co.zw. Every cent helps to prevent animal suffering.

 

Caprivi Magazine and Map

I have copies of a magazine and a map which have been produced by the Caprivi Promotional Project.  The magazine has some interesting articles on Caprivi history, environment and conservation.  The map has all the parks and lodges on it with some other useful information. 

The magazine is K35,000, the map K25,000.  Let me know if you would like either or both and I can drop them off in town. 

[write to Gill via gill@livingstonian.com for information how to get this publication from her]

Protea Hotels – comment by Colin Bell of Wilderness Safaris in Hotel & Restaurant – June 2010 

I have read the opinion in the May issue of Hotel and Restaurant about the “Hysterical Campaign” against Protea Hotels’ proposed development along the Lower Zambezi as well as Protea’s press release published on-line as to why they had withdrawn the project.

Both of these articles give a one-sided view to Protea Hotels’ plan to develop a 144-bed hotel along the banks of the Zambezi River directly opposite Mana Pools.  There is however, a very different story once one gets past the PR put out by Protea.

You state that this development would have brought tourists to the country, would have created jobs, etc.  Unfortunately it appears that you have not been told the true situation on the ground.

Contrary to your view, I believe that if this development had gone ahead there would have been a nett loss of jobs in the region in the medium- and long term; foreign tourists would have been put off travelling to the country and the region (especially now that Zimbabwe is on the comeback trail) and a World Heritage Site would have been irreparably damaged. 

In hindsight, Protea should be extremely grateful that there was that muted outcry that caused them to reflect and withdraw.  If they had gone ahead, I believe that Protea would have felt the full effect of the biggest-ever consumer and trade boycott in Africa travel history and their brand would have been immeasurably damaged.

The campaign had just started gathering a head of steam and this was not merely a campaign being led by a few 4×4 drivers and Nimbys as Hotel and Restaurant states.  This campaign would have led to a full-scale travel industry boycott of all of Protea’s properties by travel people and the public right around the world, such as the level of disgust held by a wide range of people in the know.

The brief background to this development is that Protea’s Zambian partners had acquired the rights to a small piece of land on the banks of the Zambezi river just upstream from the Lower Zambezi National Park – but within the GMA of the area.  There are many lodges on both sides of this site.  This incidentally was one of only two areas along the Zambian side of the Zambezi River where Maloney’s monkeys can be found.  The Protea site is located at the point where the Zambezi Valley/Mana Pools is at its narrowest and where this development would have had the most negative impacts on both sides of the river.

Protea had planned to squeeze in a massive 144-bed hotel onto this site.

They had convinced (bullied??) the local authorities to give the go ahead for the development – ignoring local stakeholder opinions, management plans and casting a blind eye to the fact that this scale of development in a place like the Lower Zambezi was inappropriate and an eyesore (see the attached picture of the design of the lodge.  There would have been four blocks of these I believe on one small site).

Protea’s rationale was that this project would create 100 long-term jobs, and had local support, etc, etc.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

  1. The Lower Zambezi is already overcrowded.  There are already too  many lodges along the Zambian side of the river; too many boats; too many aircraft and the game drive roads are far too limited for the number of beds as the floodplain on the Zambian side of the river is extremely limited in breadth – unlike that on the Zimbabwean side.  If this development had gone ahead, one of Africa’s most beautiful parks would have been irreparably destroyed.
  2.  Average annual occupancies at the properties all along the river are already low and this development would have started the process that could have killed the Lower Zambezi as a destination.  Guests and the travel trade have a wide choice of destinations throughout Africa to choose from and tend to keep away from those destinations that are crowded with crass developments.  Zimbabwe’s resurgence as a destination is already threatening Zambia and there is no need for Zambia to antagonise or alienate the market and encourage business to move back to the south bank of the Zambezi.  This development would have been that catalyst.
  3.  The management plan for the area had already put a stop to further developments of this magnitude.
  4.  Protea state that local people had supported this development.  Their press and EIA conveniently omitted the letter of objection from a local community. 
  5.  Protea state that this development would have created 100 jobs, but they ignore the fact that many other local lodges would have had their occupancies negatively impacted and some would have gone insolvent if this hotel had gone ahead.
  6.  Hotel & Restaurant mentions that foreign tourists would be attracted to the region if this development had gone ahead.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  Foreign tour operators don’t book massive hotels built inappropriately in sensitive areas.  The travel industry had already created a lobby group that would have banned business to this development if it had gone ahead and that ban would have been extended to all of Protea’s hotels.

I could go on and on.

Sadly Protea chose to ignore the advice to develop on a location further upstream where there is a perfect site for a hotel of this magnitude near the town of Chirundu.  This location has easy road access from Lusaka and would have been perfectly suited for their target market without impacting on the spirit of the Lower Zambezi.  Protea chose to use their local stakeholders muscle within Zambia to steamroll this development past the authorities.  Fortunately the power of the market is much stronger than they anticipated. 

My concern is that the tourism industry is a double-edged sword and we as an industry and Hotel & Restaurant as part of the respected and responsible media need to ensure that what we promote will translate to something positive on the ground for both the environment and for local people as well as the shareholders.

This development, if it had gone ahead would have been a destroyer for all.  There are few wild places left and our generation needs to ensure that we leave a legacy for future generations and not be driven purely for profit for today. 

The alternative is too ghastly to contemplate and the tourism cannot create its own sub-prime crisis that leaves nothing to future generations. 

Another side of the story …

As stated above, the plans for the development of the hotel have been shelved.  However the statement below, which was first published in Zambia, indicates that the people of the area near the proposed development are in favour of it.

“I am compelled to issue this statement in light of the distorted negative publicity about this project portrayed by foreign media especially in Zimbabwe and South Africa to the extent that my position on this project has been totally misrepresented.

“I was saddened to read in a South African newspaper dated 19th March 2010 the insinuation that 12 of 15 traditional leaders in Chiawa had allegedly signed a document opposing the building in Lower Zambezi – Chiyaba chiefdom.  This article is a complete fabrication and total misrepresentation.

“My firm position on the Protea hotel project in Chiawa is that it is welcome as long as it is done in compliance to Zambian law, especially the Environmental and Pollution Control Act. 

“The project is being undertaken on a private property held on leasehold and it is not customary land.

“Consequently, as chieftainess I have no jurisdiction on the matter.  It is patently wrong to suggest that as a chiefdom we should reject a project of this nature when the majority of my subjects are wallowing in hunger and poverty.  Therefore I am encouraging the promoters of the project to proceed with it.”

The statement, which has been edited slightly for legal reasons and to enhance clarity was signed: Yours in traditional leadership, Her Royal Highness Chieftainess Chiyaba.  Chiyaba Chiefdom – Chiawa.

Zambia Visas reduced … for some … for a short while …

18 June 2010

GOVERNMENT has with effect from today reduced Visa fees for holders of the South Africa FIFA 2010 World Cup event, VISA to enable many entries into Zambia to sample the country’s tourist attractions.

The reduction does not, however, apply to nationals who are not holders of the South Africa FIFA 2010 World Cup event, VISA.

Home Affairs Minister Mkhondo Lungu announced at a media briefing yesterday all nationals who were holders of the FIFA 2010 World Cup event would be issued with visas at points of entry at a reduced fee of $25.

The minister said the reduction would end on July 31, 2010.

As a matter of interest … when the team from the Ministry of Tourism visited Livingstone a few weeks ago to tell us all about the work they had been doing, we discussed visas.  When I mentioned that, as a British citizen, I did not pay a visa into Botswana, Namibia or South Africa, they all seemed surprised.  I think our tourism experts need to do a bit of homework …

If we are ever going to compete with our neighbours who have much better facilities and are cheaper to reach by air, we need to reduce our costs … roadshows around Europe will not help if we continue to be expensive. 

 

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Body Workout 101

Comments are closed.