TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Fourth edition October 2010
UWA SAGA RAGES ON
Senior Presidential Advisor John Nagenda, himself a former chairman of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, has last weekend in his regular Saturday column in the country’s leading newspaper ‘The New Vision’ once again used his pen to expose the going on’s at the instigation of the tourism minister and his hand picked ‘chairman’, adding pressure on government to intervene and rescue the institution. The World Bank and many other development partners are also said to be increasingly concerned over the safety of their funding already in UWA bank accounts and their overall past assistance, which in the case of the World Bank, through their PAMSU project, has reached tens of millions of US Dollars, all at risk should the institution collapse through the antics of the ‘chairman’ and his minister. And it should be mentioned here that in a contribution on my blog site (www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com), given the deserved contempt it deserved the ‘educated’ chairman, while rambling Latin phrases, asked me to apologize to him within 30 days – long since expired of course and in your dreams mate!
Here is the full text of John Nagenda’s column for the benefit of my readers, able to make up their own mind over this mindboggling saga and enjoy John’s comparison of the present UWA chair with Uganda’s most notorious dictator Idi Amin …
Mayhem continues unabated at UWA Friday, 22nd October, 2010
By John Nagenda
IF you thought there was a lull at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) games, think again. The staff experiences life which we thought gone with the fall of the bad old regimes, of Idi Amin Dada, and the second coming of Apollo Milton Obote. Indeed to call this “life”, is wrong usage: nightmare being more apt.
Minister Otafiire, of Trade, Industry and Tourism appointed as Chairman a monster daily devouring its own children in the form of Dr Muballe, whose earlier life calls for scrutiny. From eastern Uganda, he trained in medicine in Iraq (not a crime) from where he whizzed from place to place, hardly staying in each more than two years. Perhaps for advancement; perhaps a case of “the rolling stone that gathers no moss”; imagine such a one hitting you from a stiff precipice! It is what is happening at UWA.
Almost every day staffers bite the dust, totally illegally. I wrote around a month ago that UWA staff is terrified: look for a harsher word now. And all this happens in broad daylight in our New Uganda! “Where is Cabinet?” I asked then. Where indeed! Is it simply frightened of confronting one of its own, the General, and his thug, who have brought havoc and mayhem unfettered to UWA? Where will it stop? Will it stop? Are those in power capable, and willing, to stop it?
What this Odd Couple (Otafiire/Muballe) seem incapable of understanding is that there is a moral field in which Uganda should work. Shall Uganda wait until the last child is devoured, and then feebly beat its breast? I wonder if Minister Otafiire (for Muballe is ultimately only his unwieldy tool) might be beginning to experience bad nights. Supposing his nature has a better side, shouldn’t it worry that when UWA, which took so many years to build (and now at this rate hardly any time to destroy) is done for, he might deservedly be next to be swallowed? How does Otafiire hope to shovel this dirt from view, and at what cost to Uganda?
With modern information the world is a village, and many tourists are already cancelling Uganda.
This week saw the summary expulsion of Sam Mwandha, Director, Conservation, Olive Kyampaire, Partnership Coordinator, Eunice Mahoro Duuli, Director, Tourism Business Development, Joseph Tibaijuka, Director, Financial Services. They had been sent on leave pending the forensic audit haphazardly ordered by Chairman Muballe. They were kicked out, without a hearing, and no reason given for their termination, other than being told their “services are no longer required with immediate effect”. What power Muballe wields, but according to which constitution!
President Museveni says that it takes years to groom officials, and to simply terminate them without proper evidence and investigation is criminal. Probably Muballe never heard this, but surely Otafiire did. The above expelled have served, as I recall from my UWA chairmanship, for upwards of 10 years each. Later, Ivan Kakooza, Ag Director, Tourism and Business Development Services, Naboth Katongore, Procurement Manager, and Josephine Mayanja Nkangi, bright and highly educated daughter of my old friend, Gentleman J. Mayanja Nkangi, were also summarily given the boot.
Where on earth can UWA get replacements? Do they “grow on trees”? Muballe cares not, but the man who plucked him from God knows where, and why, should. Otafiire has given long and distinguished service to the Movement. Is he content to see mighty UWA assassinated this way? Incidentally, has he heard rumours in town that his man might be wanted by South Africa’s Medical Council for questioning? Over to our Leader of Government Business, [The] Right Honourable [Prime Minister] Apolo Nsibambi!
TOURISM MINISTER ABSENT FROM SERENA PARTY – THREATENS TO LEAVE NRM
After being beaten into a very very distant second position by incumbent NRM Secretary General Amama Mbabazi during the recent national elections for NRM party offices, not all was well with tourism minister Kahinda Otafiire. Embroiled in controversy, once again, over the developments at the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the minister last week was found absent from a major event at the Kampala Serena Hotel, when the Serena Group CEO introduced the new General Manager and paid tribute to outgoing GM Killian Lugwe, who was at the helm of the hotel for the past 6 ¾ years.
Tongues were wagging why no senior representation from the ministry was visible only to learn the next day that Otafiire had reportedly threatened to leave the NRM and join another party, should his nomination as candidate in his constituency not be confirmed swiftly – the matter is under ‘petition’ by his party rival who claimed a range of inconsistencies and irregularities during the process. The man, who recently made headlines when he claimed he could be a ‘minister of crocodiles’ still seems to be in some distress over his loss at the party elections last month, and with the main election campaign now unfolding progressively towards the end February general election, further developments will be watched with keen interest.
AIR UGANDA STILL NOT GRANTED ‘SELF HANDLING STATUS’
Inspite of repeated representations to the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, to be granted the status of ‘self handling’, i.e. being able to look after their own planes when on the ground, U7 remains sequestered with ENHAS in Entebbe for their handling. The airline has in the past claimed that handling charges at Uganda’s main international airport are a multiple of what they have to pay for such services for instance in Nairobi, where a truly competitive environment now permits airlines to choose one of several competent handling companies, while in Entebbe the quasi monopoly of ENHAS seems well protected. Entebbe’s second handling agency DAS Handling, which looks after Kenya Airways following an alleged row several years ago between ‘the Pride of Africa’ and the owners of ENHAS, some of whom were also involved with a Ugandan registered airline trying to muscle into KQ’s market through political intervention and alleged threats over the withdrawal of ‘slots’, does not have many more clients on their register, leaving ENHAS to ‘rule’ Entebbe until the CAA will eventually either yield to Air Uganda’s request by matter of reason or through political instructions, or else eventually permit the establishment of a third concessionaire for airport handling.
At the next ‘Presidential Investors Round Table’ due for November this year the matter will undoubtedly be raised once again, and also the airline’s request to be granted ‘national carrier’ status for Uganda and be given similar support and incentives as RwandAir enjoys in neighbouring Rwanda.
U7 was on its inception warmly welcomed by the powers that be, very warmly in fact considering that the government backed Victoria International Airlines had just folded within a month of start up and taking government’s share capital down with them, but Air Uganda continues to wait for a number of ‘promises’ given to them, like self handling, to be implemented. What exactly are we waiting for to deliver on those commitments dear government?
USAID TO SUPPORT UGANDAN TOURISM SECTOR
The United States government, through their international development agency, has set aside some 6 million US Dollars to support conservation and tourism activities over the next five years in Uganda, commendable stepping into the breach left by grotesquely insufficient budget allocation by government to the sector, in particular towards marketing the country and supporting vocational training in the sector through the ‘orphaned’ Hotel and Tourism Training Institute in Jinja.
USAID in recent years has invested about 30 million US Dollars in conservation related projects across the country to promote biodiversity and protect or restore ecosystems thought to be of critical importance to nature and wildlife based tourism.
The programme however must also be taken with a grain of salt, as the professed aim to promote more tourism to Uganda is often impacted by the US State Department’s anti travel advisories, against Uganda and other countries in the region.
Uganda’s biodiversity is rivalled by few other countries across the globe and with daily international air connections by leading international airlines has the capability to receive substantially more visitors, yet is poorly marketed abroad due to chronic lack of sufficient funding for the tourist board’s activities. It is therefore overall commendable that reportedly some of the funds now set aside will also be used in marketing support, mirroring similar efforts by the EU some years ago. Their ‘Uganda Sustainable Tourism Development Programme’ however has almost entirely evaporated due to lack of follow up by the responsible ministry and government at large, as was highlighted in the final report and programme analysis prepared for the EU by a team of consultants, and unless there is a major shift in emphasis towards supporting tourism and conservation with funds, and not just words, the country’s tourism potential may remain below par for some more time to come, benefitting our neighbours where tourism has indeed been given the high economic priority status the industry so much deserves. Watch this space.
FLOODS HIT THE CITY AGAIN
Torrential downpours over the last weekend have once again show the public how little the so called city fathers actually do, as far as maintenance and clearance of drainages is concerned.
Key traffic bottle neck ‘Clock Tower’, one of the few entry and exit points from the central business district and main route to the international airport in Entebbe, was reportedly flooded by a metre or more of water accumulating again, as drainages were either clogged by rubbish and mud or else – as often pointed out to city engineers – grossly under-dimensioned. Flooding at the ‘Clock Tower’ is especially dangerous for city residents as the fire brigade’s main facility is located there too and during periods of flooding also suffering problems of exiting, should they be called for deployment.
Other parts of the city suffered too, in particular areas where crucial natural drainages, i.e. wetlands and swamps, have been encroached with impunity in past years. It is here in particular that heavy rain triggers a prompt backlash by nature, when water levels rise as the drainage routes of old have been build over and cut off, leaving residents in such areas scrambling for safety every time the clouds open up, quite normal in fact for the city during the rainy season.
The mayor of Kampala made a further mess of things when he blamed ‘nature’ while rejecting blame from city residents while adding that ‘they should stop the blame game’ – a notion immediately rejected by political leaders from the affected city divisions who blamed the lack of drainage and poor maintenance.
In other parts of the city, regularly ‘visited by floods’, shop keepers and residents were reportedly seen putting their belongings and wares on to roof tops, covered by tarpaulins to avoid once more losing their possessions and livelihoods.
NEMA, the national environmental management authority, seems to sit on their hands as information provided to them about ongoing encroachment into drainage wetlands in the city’s ‘Konge Valley’ have falled on deaf ears, as developers are by day and night filling up the swamps with excavated soil and murram from building sites to ‘reclaim’ land for buildings. One is left to wonder what the wrath of mother nature will eventually look like as in the present pre-election period key government organs are seemingly doing little or nothing at all to carry out their institutional duty and protect the environment.
MT. ELGON WOES RE-EMERGE
Renewed troubles are brewing along the boundaries of Mt. Elgon National Park, with residents using the upcoming election period to ‘sell their votes for land’ as one regular source from the area has put it. Conflict between communities surrounding the park and the Uganda Wildlife Authority is flaring up at periodic intervals, fuelled by burgeoning populations but also unscrupulous politicians inciting residents to move into the park land for farming and to put up residences. In one case this had deadly consequences when several such villages inside the park were buried under a landslide allegedly trigger by poor farming methods when an entire hillside, weakened by prolonged rains and where trees had been cleared to grow food crops, came down killing hundreds at the time. Evacuations were swift then as were relocations of other such illegal villages but since then many have tried to return and resume residence.
With elections coming up in Uganda the matter will undoubtedly be politicised once more and votes will be promised for those promising land in turn, not an environmentally and ecologically sound ‘deal’ as Mt. Elgon is one of the nations water towers and further felling of trees and encroachment will only add to the fall out of climate change and global warming, which has already impacted on this and other areas of Uganda, most notably and visibly across the Rwenzori mountain range, where the ice caps are continuously shrinking endangering future water supply for an entire region. Watch this space.
ICE HOCKEY IN NAIROBI?
Sky News gave Kenya added exposure over the weekend when screening a piece about the emerging ice hockey sport in the Kenyan capital. It appears that an ice rink has attracted lovers of the game, few as they may still be in Kenya, and they now train and play apparently regularly taking over the rink from those seeking to train their skills of figure skating or just ‘normal recreational skating’ as it was put to this correspondent.
That all said, being in the ‘good news’ of a major global news channel is indeed GOOD NEWS for Kenya which this year is looking at record tourism arrivals and revenues, and every bit of help to expose the destination further is of course most welcome, especially when it is free.
KENYA AIRWAYS SHOCKS COMPETITORS WITH NEW MOMBASA FARES
No sooner had Kenya Airways matched the fares of their main competitors on the route between Nairobi and Mombasa [reported here last week], when they lowered their ‘off peak’ fares by over 20 percent, did they go one better with a ‘special fare’ of Kenya Shillings 7.999 return (depending on the fluctuating exchange rate about 100 US Dollars), inclusive of all taxes though subject to terms and conditions, a further drop of over 10 percent on their ‘off peak’ fares.
The recent acquisition of a second B737-300 from partner airline KLM and the upcoming delivery of their new Embraer 190’s has given the Kenyan flag carrier the ability to increase capacity on the coast route, and the introduction of renewed flights on Embraer 170 aircraft to Malindi from early December too will help them to recover marketshare from private sector competitors.
The airline announced last weekend that they will also increase, effective early November, their number of flights to Mombasa, offering added time slots and making it in particular for frequent flyer card holders attractive to use KQ’s services, given the greater flexibility of departure times.
The ‘other’ airlines operating on the route to Mombasa are said to be scratching their heads at present trying to strategize over their counter measures, but predictions are that they either lower their own fares to the level of Kenya Airways’ special offers or may have to go even below those levels in order to protect their own market share and ensure their survival in an increasingly competitive environment. Passenger numbers overall are expected to rise though at the expense of travelling by bus, as the attractive special fares are bound to have ‘budget’ travellers now increasingly opt for the air option again for the sake of greater speed and safer travel.
Said one airline analyst in Nairobi when the question was posed to him: ‘Kenya Airways can afford a price war because they make a lot more money from their regional, African and Intercontinental operations. On the domestic market this is only about 5 percent of their overall business but for the private airlines flying to Mombasa it is a make or break situation. For some of them it is most of their revenues and they will have to fight tooth and nail to survive now. If KQ keeps those fares beyond the pre Christmas period, it may change the entire market and some of the financially weaker airlines may have to sit down and talk cooperation, even merger, to create a bigger critical mass of passengers and revenues. Mergers can also improve on asset utilisation, since the ‘joint units’ could take poorly performing departure slots off the market and then fly with fuller planes. I would not want to be in the hot seats right now but observing from the side lines is one of the most interesting periods in Kenyan aviation I remember.’
Meanwhile, the return of KQ to Malindi is at least in part being attributed to the commencement in mid December of flights from Nairobi to Rome / Italy. Malindi is popular with Italian tourists and many investors from Italy have put up hotels and resorts in recent years, while individuals have also been buying holiday residences between Malindi and Watamu, two of Kenya’s renowned resort towns. Providing Italian tourists, flying with KQ from Rome to Kenya, with onward connections to Malindi, is a key requirement of keeping the entire ticket revenue ‘in house’ but these developments also made it possible for Kenya Airways to return ‘en force’ to the domestic market flying to Malindi – and going by the present battle for the skies on Kenya’s domestic routes to the coast, the fare announcements will be keenly awaited. Watch this space.
AS FLY 540 TURNS 4, TWO ‘HUBS’ BECOME REALITY
The regional low cost airline Fly 540 is turning four years old soon, having commenced flight operations between Nairobi and Mombasa with an ATR 42 aircraft in November 2006.
Now, four years down the line and growing from strength to strength with operation centres in Uganda and Tanzania, the ‘teething’ period has undoubtedly come to an end and Fly 540 is now Kenya’s leading domestic airline in terms of scheduled flights across the country to airports, aerodromes and airfields in locations, one would not immediately associate with regular flights but rather with the more costly version of air charters.
As a result, the airline has now opted for a two hub approach in Nairobi, when it moved all the safari operations to Wilson Airport, which is nearer to the city and the preferred choice for business trips to up country destinations and the national parks.
Regional flights by jet to Entebbe, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Mombasa and Malindi, but also to Eldoret and Kisumu, continue to take off from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to ensure easy connections for transit passengers, while those flying into Nairobi and then going on an ‘air safari’ need to take a road transfer from JKIA to Wilson.
At Jomo Kenyatta International Airport the fleet is ‘mixed’ between CRJ200 aircraft and ATR’s (both of the 42 and 72 types) while the safari flights from Wilson Airport are operated on both ATR’s and smaller twin engined ‘commuter’ planes like the Beechcraft 1900. Well done Fly 540, and undoubtedly the birthday cake will have your trademark ‘orange’ icing – Happy Landings and Happy Birthday …
NAIROBI SERENA HOTEL TO UNDERGO 30 MILLION US DOLLAR TRANSFORMATION
Serena CEO Mahmud Janmohamed making the announcement, flanked by Mugo Maringa (left) and Killian Lugwe (right)
Serena Hotels has committed a massive 30+ million US Dollars towards the expansion and refurbishment of their flagship hotel Nairobi Serena, Group CEO M. Janmohamed announced last week while in Kampala. More funds were also committed, as reported elsewhere here, to the refurbishment of a recently ‘signed up’ hotel in Bujumbura as well as selected expansion of the group in areas of interest, mainly the safari sector. TPS East Africa recently expanded their share base creating the foundation for the ambitious plans, which include the proposed construction of three lodges in Uganda too, while also considering similar opportunities in Mozambique, where Serena operates the Polana Serena Hotel in Maputo, arguably the best hotel in the capital city.
Meanwhile has a major round of transfers of General Managers from the group’s city hotels and key resorts taken place, which saw long time ‘Kampalean’ Killian Lugwe take charge in Nairobi where he will oversee the upcoming work on the hotel, while experienced Mugo Maringa has moved to Kampala from Kigali, where he takes overall charge of the Kampala Serena and the Lake Victoria Serena in his capacity as country manager cum general manager. Watch this space as the vibrant tourism industry in the region eyes expansion and new opportunities, further opening up the region as a prime tourism destination – East Africa, one destination with many attractions.
BUSH ADVENTURES EXPANDS ‘BUSH CRAFT PROGRAMME’
Visitors going on safari with ‘Bush Adventures’ now have a wider range of options available, some dedicated for kids, some for entire families and some especially tailored for adults. Bush Adventures specialises in ‘bush craft programmes’ whereby Masai guides are teaching tourists, and locals by the way, skills to survive in the wilderness, make fire, prepare ‘weapons’ i.e. bows, arrows and spears, and generally how to read spoors and interpret what can be seen while in the bush on foot.
Family adventure programmes, cross country running training and other specialised ‘tours’ can be prepared to suit a client’s time frame and budget. Write to Laura Alessandrini via email@example.com for more details and information about this ‘off the beaten track’ holiday option in the Kenyan highlands.
FIX THOSE ROADS OR ELSE – KENYA GOVERNMENT TOLD
Drivers and management of leading tour operators have over the past weeks once again expressed their disgust with the state of the main road leading into the Masai Mara Game Reserve, which after heavy rains again saw vehicles stranded, unable to make their way through the mud.
Predictably has central government passed on the blame to the Narok County Council, the main financial beneficiary of hundreds of millions of Kenya Shillings from gate receipts by visitors to one of the country’s best known parks, but they too showed little interest in making emergency repairs until the drivers threatened to block the road to force immediate action.
The issue was and is being raised at regular intervals and the tourism minister did not respond to questions about this matter earlier in the year, when he conveniently ignored several attempts to respond to this correspondent. Sources also point out that the present set up of oversight of the reserve ought to be revisited, as should be the responsibility for the upkeep of the road. Said one regular contact: ‘when I hear we should fly visitors to and from the Mara it is almost cynical, an excuse not to do their jobs in repairing and maintaining this important road link. Not all visitors can afford air safaris, in fact most cannot, so are we to subsidise them? The repairs of our fleet is eating into our profit margins, for every trip to the Mara one expects to buy new shock absorbers or weld the exhaust again. The Narok guys just eat the money they get from the gates but how much do the put into infrastructure. It is high time they open their books and let the tourism industry from where they get their riches monitor them. Roads and bridges should always be kept motorable, regardless of the weather, and we don’t want to be told about ‘acts of God’ when the roads flood, it is simply negligence, ignorance and corruption, those officials should all be removed and prosecuted.’ Harsh words indeed but considering how long the problems were known and how little was done, not entirely unexpected. My advice, don’t kill the goose which lays the golden eggs …
CONTINUED FOREST RAPE TRIGGERS GOVERNMENT RESPONSE, AT LAST
Ongoing media and public attention to the illegal logging in Tanzania’s forests has finally prompted some more visible government reaction, when again several shipments of suspected ‘illegal logs’ were netted by security organs in Tanzania.
It was also learned last week that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism was to form a special probe committee to deal with the matter and facilitate investigations across the country into logging practises depriving the nation of precious resources of tropical hard wood.
In this connection was further information unearthed that unscrupulous and most likely corrupt elements within the forestry department have allegedly conspired to sell off government forests to private sector groups at a fraction of the real value of such reserves, giving a clear indication of the scams presently going on while the politicians are on the campaign trails and paying little heed to what is going on in their ministries. Targeted are in particular teak plantations, and suspected ‘buyers’ and importers come from as far as China, the Gulf region, the South East but also from Turkey, which of late has shown a growing hunger for the resources of Africa under the cover of ‘promoting trade’.
It was also learned from a source in Dar es Salaam that export documents and licenses are often subject to forgeries, at times trying to make the wood look as ‘in transit’ from for instance the Congo DR or Zambia, while in fact the origin of the freshly felled trees could upon further scrutiny be placed into the territory of Tanzania.
As is incidentally the case with the greed and hunger for ivory and other animal products, so seem the tropical forests of Eastern Africa now become endangered too, with illegally felled trees exported to the usual suspect countries, who are ever keener to strip Africa of its natural resources and then walk away from us once those are depleted and we have served ‘the purpose’.
Colonialism has a new faces apparently and flora and fauna in Eastern Africa needs better protection at all levels if we are to survive and hand our children and grand children the abundant nature we received from our fore fathers.
APPLICATIONS FOR AIR SERVICE LICENCES UP
The TCAA has last week provided information, that the demand for air service licences, compared with 2009, has risen by more than a third in the recent past. More than half of the applications send to the Tanzania Civil Aviation licensing committee were for ‘new’ applications with the balance being for renewal of existing licenses already in place and operation.
However, like in Uganda, the aviation sector seems almost ‘stunted’ compared to the regular flow of new applications in Kenya, where the KCAA holds quarterly licensing hearings due to the interest by investors and air operators from outside Kenya to establish a base there, being the most vibrant aviation market in Eastern Africa. Still, every new application, as long as the applicants propose to use new state of the art equipment and make proper presentation about their planned maintenance, is welcome as – once the East African Community will fully open up again – aviation is a key sector to keep trade and visits flowing.
DISCOVER THE SELOUS WITH SERENA
The Selous, known by relatively few and yet the largest game reserve in Africa and probably the world, has always been a ‘magic name’ to this correspondent. Accessible largely by air, from Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar or Arusha, tourists fly in to experience the remote and barely discovered wilderness ‘galore’, either while on game drive, guided walks or by boat on the Rufiji River.
A flight by twin engined aircraft from Dar es Salaam takes approximately 45 minutes and will deliver visitors to ‘Stiegler’s Airstrip’ from where Serena’s latest additions to the ‘family’ can be accessed.
In recent months Serena has opened the Mivumo River Lodge and the Selous Luxury Camp, both about half an hour’s drive from the airstrip and kept small to stay exclusive. 12 ultimately luxurious tents at the camp and equally 12 cottages at Mivumo keep the ‘crowds’ small and the daily safari experience intimate, private and secluded. No expense has been spared in these two ‘new babies’ in the Serena stable to combine the ultimate luxury in the rooms and public areas with their renowned hospitality and great food.
Serena’s own fleet of 4×4 vehicles and boats, based at these two locations, will take visitors on game drives and river journeys, and manned by their own well trained guides this too will provide for an experience of a life time.
The two new properties, besides a handful of other and longer established camps in the Selous, still hardly scratch the surface of what is to be discovered in the reserve, where according to reliable sources from Dar es Salaam the largest concentration of elephant can be found – no wonder considering the size of the Selous being greater than the entire Alpine country of Switzerland. 55.000 square kilometres of wilderness await discovery and, considering the regular and often massive sightings of animals and birds, one can easily spend an entire safari holiday in the Selous alone, something especially recommended for repeat visitors to Eastern Africa who want to stay put and not move every other day to a new location just to ‘tick off’ the parks. The Selous is a gem of a park in its own right and Serena’s latest camp and lodge openings there have definitely put an even greater sheen on this exotic destination. Wilderness pure – hospitality at its best.
Visit www.serenahotels.com for more information or bookings.
ZANZIBAR ELECTIONS WILL HAVE ‘NO IMPACT ON TOURISM’
The upcoming elections on the islands making up Zanzibar are not expected to have any significant impact on the tourism industry, unlike at previous elections when emotions and passion was running high and beyond. A recent change in law as a result of a referendum will give the islands a ‘government of national unity’ to win or lose, the parties will form a government together, albeit with different ‘weight’ behind them when discussing issues on the cabinet table.
The referendum was conducted peacefully too, and the present election campaign, especially in previous election hotspot Pemba, has been going well too, giving rise to hope that next weekend’s general election will be conducted in a calm environment without giving tourists any hair raising experiences.
Outgoing Zanzibari president Amani Abeid Karume has in the meantime said his goodbyes to the institutions across Zanzibar while supporting his party’s chosen successor in his final campaign days. Watch this space.
BUSARA FESTIVAL PREPARATIONS GETTING INTO HIGH GEAR.
The next ‘Sauti za Busara’ music and culture festival, due to be held between February 09th to 13th next year, is getting into the ‘hot’ period of preparations, with the 100 day countdown coming into sight. The festival organizers have in their latest update once again provided loads of information for potential participants and visitors, and with the Tanzanian government now firmly in support of this best known Tanzanian culture and music event across the entire world record attendance is expected for the 2011 edition. Visit www.busaramusic.org for all the details, in particular the new feature which is an African music film programme, aimed to promote African films dedicated to culture and performing arts.
The recently sent newsletter has also revealed he provisional line up of music performers and groups during the 5 day festival as follows for the information of readers, and for those ‘going’ it is a line up of the best Africa has to offer:
|Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou (Benin) Blick Bassy (Cameroon) Cheikh Lô (Senegal) Otentikk Street Brothers (Mauritius) Kassé Mady Diabaté (Mali) Kwani Experience (South Africa) Mlimani Park Orchestra (Tanzania) Culture Musical Club (Zanzibar) Mohamed Ilyas & Nyota Zameremeta (Zanzibar) Maulidi ya Homu ya Mtendeni (Zanzibar) Sukiafrica Sukiyaki Allstars (Various) Yaaba Funk (UK) Sousou & Maher Cissoko (Senegal / Sweden) Sinachuki Kidumbak (Zanzibar) Swahili Encounters Group (Various) Les Frères Sissoko (Senegal) GEATA (Ethiopia) Djeli Moussa Diawara (Guinea) Groove Lélé (Reunion) NEWS Quartet (Various) Vusa Mkhaya & Band (Various) Nomakanjani Arts (Zambia) Maureen Lupo Lilanda (Zambia) Les Go de Kotéba (Cote d’Ivoire) Djaaka (Mozambique) Muthoni The Drummer Queen (Kenya) 100% live on stage – no playback!
RWANDAIR GETS LUSAKA RIGHTS
It was learned over the weekend that the national airline of Rwanda has recently secured traffic rights between Kigali and Lusaka / Zambia and plans are underway from late this year to actually commence flights between the two countries.
Immediate priority right now however is to put final touches for RwandAir’s first ‘long distance’ flights out of Africa, when on November 03 the airline will launch their Kigali – Mombasa – Dubai route, using their B737-500 aircraft.
It could, due to the narrow timeframe available between receiving the information and going ‘to press’, not be ascertained if the Lusaka flights would be operated in conjunction with other destinations, i.e. if the flight might route through to Johannesburg, although details filtered back that a Zambian airline, also given traffic rights as a designated airline, could commence operations too under the bilateral air services agreement. Watch this space for updates.
CANADIANS NOW NEED VISA TO RWANDA
‘Free entry’ will shortly come to an end for Canadian visitors to Rwanda, according to a source in Kigali. No specific reasons were given for the move, and after more than two decades of ‘free entry’ Canadian citizens are now off the list of ‘preferred travellers’. Countries like Germany, the United States, Britain, South Africa, Sweden – amongst others – however continue to enjoy the privilege and substantial increases in visitor arrivals from these countries justify the measure.
The new rules come into effect on November 01st already but intending visitors from Canada can apply for Visa on line and hand over their printout at the Kigali International Airport on arrival, pay their US Dollars 60.- fee and get their clearance to enter Rwanda there and then.
Other nationalities may have to go through different processes of application and approvals and relevant Rwanda Immigration and tourism websites provide up to date information for intending visitors.
NYUNGWE NATIONAL PARK TO BENEFIT FROM NEW ATTRACTIONS
The opening last week of Rwanda’s first ‘canopy walk’ at the Nyungwe National Park has rang in a period of intense work to create more infrastructure across the forest park, all aimed to attract a lot more visitors under the tourism diversification plan of the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation.
The park was only officially created in 2005 and started to feature in focused promotions and marketing activities from 2008 onwards, when plans became known that Dubai World was constructing the ‘Nyungwe Forest Lodge’, which has opened earlier in the year and provides top range accommodation for tourist visitors. A new interpretation and information centre for visitors is now also open and will allow tourists to learn more about the forest’s flora and fauna and appreciate efforts by Rwanda to maintain and where necessary restore the fragile ecosystems on which the country depends as water towers and tourism attractions. As part of Rwanda’s diversification drive for the tourism industry Nyungwe was a welcome addition to the range of attractions on offer for visitors, apart from tracking Mountain Gorillas of course, and bird watchers are a growing segment amongst visitors to see and hear a large number of birds, many of them endemic to Rwanda’s forests and lake shores. Estimates given by the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation are that visits to Nyungwe are likely to triple or quadruple over the coming two to three years from the present about 4.500 visitors per annum, which would be a substantial boost of course for the locally ‘grown’ guides, the local economy and the country at large.
SERENA TO INVEST IN BUJUMBURA
Information was received last week that Serena Hotels, headquartered in Nairobi but active all over the Eastern African region, including in Mozambique’s capital Maputo, has entered into a management and refurbishment contract for one of Bujumbura’s main hotels. The ‘Source of the Nile’ hotel presently features 146 rooms and suites and is due to an upgrade and overhaul, and probably some extensions in coming years. Serena was not yet able to give a precise figure of funds needed for the extensive works, but going by previous experiences in Kigali or Kampala, it will certainly run into multi millions of US Dollars.
Only recently has Serena floated shares on the Nairobi Stock Exchange to raise more capital, ostensibly aimed to retain the region’s top spot as leading hotel, resort and safari lodge company through constant product upgrades and expansion into hitherto ‘blank spots’ across the wider region. Watch this space for regular future updates about this exciting project which is putting Burundi finally on the Eastern African tourism map.
SEYCHELLES LOOKING AT NEW ARRIVAL RECORD
By early August this year just under 100.000 visitors had come to the Seychelles giving rise to hope that the full year 2010 will see a new record established for tourist arrivals to the archipelago.
The 99.756 visitors recorded by early August constitute a 12 percent rise over 2009 figures and should the trend prevail, something not in doubt for informed observers of the Seychellois tourism scene, the country could see substantial economic benefits derived from the sector, like greater foreign exchange earnings and faster creation of new jobs, besides added domestic and foreign investment in the industry. Leading nationalities on the arrival statistics were once again France, followed by Italy and Germany while in percentage terms arrivals from Asia were up by a whopping 57 percent, followed by visitors from Africa which are up by 27 percent as a result of a focused campaign to attract more tourists from the continent. Tourism and fishing are the two mainstay economic activities for the Seychelles and when these sectors do well the entire country does well too.
DOES EMIRATES WANT MORE AFTER GOING DAILY TO MAHE
After getting their 7th flight between Dubai and Mahe sorted out two weeks ago, reportedly after political intervention, the national airline of Dubai reportedly wasted no time in setting their sights on to their next target in the Seychelles.
Information has emerged from well placed sources that the airline, now in its ‘silver jubilee year’, has expressed ‘dissatisfaction’ with the allegedly ‘poor’ ground handling services provided by Air Seychelles, the sole provider of such services at present. Such ‘complaints’ are often used to prepare the way to push ‘the door open’ and is ostensibly aimed to paving the way to either have the government in Mahe ‘encouraged’ to decide on a privatisation bid and / or a split of the ground handling from the main airline operation. The other scenario could be to ask sooner rather than later to form their own competing ground handling company after government would eventually lift the present monopoly.
The consequences for Air Seychelles could be stark, as it was incidentally the case in Uganda when the then national airline ‘Uganda Airlines’ found their ground handling division suddenly taken from them upon political intervention and literally overnight had to pay for ground handling instead of earning money from it on a daily basis. Starved of the substantial cash flow at the time the Ugandan national flag carrier went into an immediate financial downward spiral which ended eventually in its closure, as bidders during a last ditch privatisation effort all found it to their disadvantage that the profitable handling operation had been hived off from the airline before then seeking investors to ‘come up with the upkeep and survival money’.
Maintaining national airlines has some merit, especially for smaller countries depending on tourism to the extent the Seychelles does, but while global competition and markets cannot and should not be ignored, governments ought to be careful in leaving their national carrier financially exposed by splitting off profitable divisions or privatising such services too soon, when economic conditions are still fragile. Leaving the crucial component of air transport overwhelmingly in the hands of foreign airlines does have its challenges and shortcomings and a more holistic approach, considering all the pros and cons, is well advised before lasting damage – at times only emerging and seen after some years – comes home to roost.
Long term success for the archipelago’s tourism industry is hardly imaginable without a financially sound and operationally successful Air Seychelles but only time will tell to what extend this is appreciated in the circle of decision makers where ultimately the dice are rolled.
AIR SEYCHELLES AND AIR INDIA TO ‘CODE SHARE’\
Reports from Mahe confirm that Air Seychelles, aka HM and Air India have sealed a code share deal last week, which will see both airlines benefit from putting their respective flights numbers on the service between Chennai and Mahe, and vice versa.
HM will also be able to sell flights beyond Chennai into the domestic network of Air India, although no specifics were provided as yet which key cities this might involve, while AI passengers can fly via Mahe to Mauritius and South Africa, a swift and direct route to their final destination beyond the Seychelles.
What is however not yet confirmed is a previously raised question if AI would grant the Air Seychelles flight, which routes on from Chennai to Singapore before returning via India to Mahe, would also be a ‘code shared’ flight which would permit HM the opportunity to fill up the plane on this sector and make the route financially much more viable.
In related development it was also ascertained that the airline’s third B767-300 will be retrofitted with flat bed seats in business class in Singapore between November 08 and 18th, bringing the conversion programme to a conclusion. Watch this space to find out soon, right here.
CITY AND GUILD OF LONDON INSTITUTE ACCREDITS STA
The ‘City and Guild of London Institute’ last week signed a comprehensive agreement and Memorandum of Understanding with the Seychelles Tourism Academy, permitting STA to teach internationally recognised courses, and administer examinations according to the CTLI standards.
The cooperation agreement provides for hospitality management courses leading to Advanced Certificates and Diplomas, for hospitality programmes but also including one in ‘International Tourism’.
Advances Diploma and Degree courses will remain under the auspices of long term partner ‘Shannon College for Hotel Management’ which in turn is associated with the National University of Ireland.
Students at STA, and future prospective students, will have learned the new developments with anticipation as their qualifications at the end of their courses will be at a level of international recognition and provide young aspiring Seychellois with options to go abroad and work as expatriates, gain experience and exposure before returning home and assume senior positions in the country’s growing tourism industry.
STA Principal Flavien Joubert also welcomed the development, a further feather in his hat and that of the institution of course and sign of sustained efforts to make the Seychelles Tourism Academy an institution of excellence in the Indian Ocean region.
In a related development has the newly accredited Austrian Ambassador also assured the government of the Seychelles that Austria will continue to support vocational and tertiary training for the hospitality industry across the archipelago with relevant programmes under which Seychellois students will be identified, brought to Austria and undergo their training and courses there, before coming home to practise their ‘craft’ and newly acquired skills.
MORE HOSPITALITY OPERATORS JOIN CONSERVATION PROGRAMMES
It was learned during the week that several privately owned resorts and residences have committed themselves to becoming part of the government’s biodiversity programmes, which are presently being funded by UNDP and executed by government and leading environmental NGO’s working across the islands.
One of the aims of such programmes is to raise awareness amongst business operators and owners of the need to preserve the biodiversity and ecosystems near their places of operation, to keep the environment in its present pristine condition and encourage return visitors and new visitors from across the world to come to the Seychelles and enjoy ‘intact nature’, sadly lacking elsewhere nowadays in many parts of the globe.
The programme also includes a shift to energy conserving equipment used in the ‘back of house’ of hotels, resorts and residences, to reduce water and energy consumption while the use of solar equipment too is being encouraged, tapping into the daily sunshine for which the islands are also well known.
‘Paradise in action’ – thanks to UNDP and other development partners.
SEYCHELLES TOURIST BOARD GETS BANKERS INPUT
Bankers from across the Seychelles last week met with representatives of the Seychelles Tourist Board to discuss relevant issues concerning the roll out of the country’s tourism master plan. Also represented was the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, government representatives from relevant ministries and bodies, dealing with matters from investment promotion over regulatory aspects to conservation and fisheries issues – fishing being the second key component of the archipelago’s economy.
The bankers were thought to hold one of several keys to the economic growth of the islands by providing venture capital, working capital and overdrafts and ‘being on board’ was, according to a source at STB of ‘crucial importance for the future growth of the tourism and hospitality industry’.
STB, under the able leadership of Alain St. Ange, CEO and his team, has progressively embarked on a series of dedicated sessions with key stakeholders, not just in tourism but the economy at large, all aimed at producing consensus and design a viable and feasible long term approach to the challenges the Seychelles tourism sector has to meet to maintain its success story.
And in closing some selected material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, sent out by Gill Staden week after week – thanks my dear …
The Coat of Arms for Livingstone has been repainted in front of the Council offices courtesy of Livingstone Adventures. Looks very smart. I am so glad that the Council decided to change it back to the original.
There is one thing about history – you can’t change it. Livingstone has a long history and we should be proud of it and … make use of it. So many of our visitors come to see the historical side of Livingstone and this emblem is part of our history.
From Robin Pope Safaris, Luangwa Valley
It’s not often that two 50th birthdays and a silver wedding anniversary all coincide but when they do it’s worth celebrating. This is what Elaine Booth and her husband Bill, both pilots for British Airways, thought when it happened to Elaine’s sister, Wendy and her husband. And to celebrate they treated them to a safari at Robin’s House in the Luangwa Valley.
Whilst at Nkwali the group visited Kawaza School in order to deliver some books and it was this visit that inspired Wendy to think of ways to help. Shortly after returning home Wendy, a Business Manager at Elmtree School in the UK, contacted Project Luangwa about sponsoring a local child to attend school. Over the ensuing emails the relationship between Wendy and Project Luangwa deepened as discussions took place about twinning Elmtree with a school in the Luangwa Valley.
Wendy then met William, who works for a book recycling organisation and, never one to miss an opportunity, she decided to collect children’s books and surplus classroom resources from Elmtree and the neighbouring schools to send to Project Luangwa for distribution at Kawaza.
But how to get them to Zambia without it costing a fortune? Well, Wendy is not shy of asking a favour or two . . . . . especially when it comes to her sister. Knowing Elaine and Bill’s love of South Luangwa – they married whilst on an RPS safari – Wendy asked them to take a suitcase or two on their regular flights to Lusaka.
But the books still had to get from Lusaka to Mfuwe. Robin Pope Safaris came to the rescue and arranged for Proflight to add the cases to their regular Mfuwe run whenever they had the space. At the beginning of September Bill brought out just one suitcase of exercise books and it proved a successful trial run.
A few weeks ago Elaine delivered her first consignment of three hernia-inducing bags of much needed books and stationery to Lusaka and the very next day Proflight transported them to Mfuwe. Just two days after it left Heathrow, Project Luangwa has been able to deliver the whole consignment to Kawaza School.”
Thanks Karen – together with Project Luangwa we would like thank British Airways, Elaine, Bill and the other BA pilots, Wendy, Elmtree School, William at GT-Recycling and Proflight themselves for coming together and making “Pilot Post” a reality.