Weekly round up of tourism and conservation news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region, Second edition March 2011

TOURISM, AVIATION AND CONSERVATION NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

A weekly roundup of reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Get daily breaking news updates via Twitter @whthome or on my blog: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com

Second edition March 2011

 

Uganda News

KAFTC EXPANDS FURTHER

The Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre in Kajjansi continues to grow from strength to strength inspite of ongoing troubles with the supply of AVGAS, one of the ‘Shell is Hell’ legacies left behind by the outgoing global company. Inspite of many assurances, meetings and even interventions by the Ugandan CAA Shell has not found it necessary to establish a reliable supply logistic for AVGAS, an aviation fuel used by piston engined light aircraft, which are widely used in safari flights, general aviation and for almost all privately owned aircraft. Besides facing accusations of profiteering – AVGAS prices in Uganda are very very substantially higher than for instance in Mwanza / Tanzania or Kisumu / Kenya – Shell is also accused of being deaf to the needs of the aviation sector to have reliable fuel supplies and enough of the precious liquid in store to weather a general supply crisis.

That said, KAFTC has in the past resorted to direct imports bringing fuel drums across Lake Victoria from Mwanza, and has boosted their own tank capacity at their own expense, while quietly expressing their hope that when Shell Uganda has finally sold and transacted their departure from the country things can only get better in the future.

Meanwhile though has KAFTC signed up for two DHC Twin Otters, one of the -400 series and a second of the -300 type ‘for back up’.

Their new expanded hangar is also now ready for use, since KAFTC also holds a full UCAA licence as an MRO, allowed to maintain their aircraft ‘in house’ at Kajjansi, instead of having to ferry their ‘birds’ to Nairobi or elsewhere for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance requirements.

KAFTC has since the early 90’s grown into Uganda’s premier air charter company, operating from the Kajjansi airfield outside Kampala and engages in flight training, safari flights, sightseeing flights and commercial charters but not scheduled operations. The airline operates a mixed fleet of fixed wing single and twin engined aircraft plus a helicopter and has been free of fatal incidents since being formed by Captains Jeremy McKelvie and Russell Barnes. Visit www.flyuganda.com for more information.

 

UGANDA ‘EXPECTING’ THREE MORE RHINOS

The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary of the Rhino Fund Uganda has just released information, that the three female adults are all in the family way once again. Ziwa presently is the only sanctuary in Uganda where rhinos can be seen it he (semi)wild, and 6 adults and 3 now adolescents are roaming the nearly 17.000 acres of the conservancy which is conveniently located along the route between Kampala to Murchisons Falls National Park. The arrival of baby rhinos in 2009 created major media coverage, as they were the first in over 30 years to be born on Ugandan soil, after the species was poached to extinction in the early 1980’s when the dictators then running the country cared little if for anything to do with wildlife and conservation.

Angie Genade, Executive Director of RFU and of the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary has confirmed to this correspondent that ‘Nandi’ is due to deliver in July this year, while ‘Bella’ is thought to be due in December 2011. The third female, ‘Kori’ will be the last of the three and likely have another calf by early 2012.

Angie also shared further information that RFU is now just waiting for the final go ahead from donors and financiers to obtain another 6 females from Kenya’ Solio Rhino Conservancy – which is located not far from Nyeri in the central highlands of Kenya – before then translocating the selected animals to Uganda.

With the three expected rhino babies the total number of the Southern White Rhino will rise to 12 and the addition of a further 6 would bring this to 18, a sound foundation to ensure regular breeding and lay the foundation to eventually release some of them into planned rhino enclosures within Kidepo Valley National Park and Murchisons Falls National Park.

Well done in the meantime to Angie and her team at Ziwa and of course all the best to the ‘expecting mothers’ – watch this space for future announcements and write to angie@rhinofund.org for information how best to support the Rhino Fund Uganda.

 

THAT MUSEUM MUST GO – SAYS MINISTER

Uganda’s controversial tourism minister Kahinda Otafire, by his own description aka minister of crocodiles, has again stepped into the spotlight when dismissing the pleas of members of the East African Legislative Assembly and civil society by saying categorically that ‘the museum must go’. He accused those lobbying for the preservation of the post independence building of being ‘backward’ and vowing that plans to build a 60 storey tower on the site will go ahead. It was also learned from ministry insiders that the building would be done in private public partnership, considering that government has no money presently as per the minister of finance’ own admission, the only way forward, but also a controversial way if not all provisions of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act are strictly enforced and the search for a ‘partner’ conducted in a fully transparent and open manner.

The minister was in the ‘badlines’ late last and early this year over his appointment of a board for the Uganda Wildlife Authority which was thrown out by the High Court in Kampala, which sided with the argument of the plaintiffs that those appointed were lacking the qualifications required under the Wildlife Act. The former appointees, in particular the former chairman, entered their appointments ‘with intent’ and acted like financial Hoovers when multiplying their own allowances and other benefits, which when resisted by management then led to the sacking of almost the entire senior executive team.

Said one individual known for his affinity to preserving buildings in Kampala for posterity and to retain some historical links with the country’s past to this correspondent: ‘This minister is known for his angry reactions and his sort of statements. Tourism deserves better, like when Migereko was still in charge of that ministry, but after he left that place went to sleep and now it is full of controversy. The department of antiquities and monuments is barely tolerated when they speak up to preserve things and other than salaries there is no money for them to do many activities. I can’t personally wait for a new cabinet and only hope that a more enlightened politician takes over that place, because as he says the museum must go so many others say it is actually he who should go’.

Strong words spoken in defence of principles.

 

EAST AFRICAN LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY MEMBERS TO CONDUCT TOURISM SURVEY

Information was received overnight that members of EALA will begin a region wide assessment and survey of the tourism sector to get first hand feedback of how the EAC’s programmes towards tourism and wildlife management are being received, implemented and effective.

The first ‘destination’ will be Bujumbura, followed by Kigali and Kampala, before then targeting the EAC home turf of Arusha and visiting Zanzibar. No details are yet available when Mombasa and Nairobi tourism stakeholders will be consulted.

Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, is arguably the least visible tourism destination in the region, and while the country does have national parks and lake shores, it has ostensibly done little if anything of substance to integrate into and copy the East African Community member states’ strong tourism sectors. Habitually are enquiries not answered, the country still is overwhelmingly francophone which hampers communications with other member states’ tourism sectors – unlike Rwanda, which has made English the first language of trade, business and even THE medium in education, signalling a total transformation as part of the ‘Phoenix from the Ashes’ rise since 1994 – making cooperation more difficult. The lack of available materials both printed and on the web are an added factor why Burundi is ‘overlooked’ when planning tourist itineraries covering more than one country in the region. EALA will therefore likely find the most need in Bujumbura of transforming Burundi’s tourism potential into a major economic force, while the subsequent visit to Kigali will undoubtedly show them that the EAC membership of Rwanda is working very well and that tourism, like in Kenya for instance, has become an economic powerhouse, here in particular also enjoying the full backing of Rwanda’s government, by both word and deed.

The final visit of this tour will take EALA members to Kampala, where notably only the other day a statement from a senior tourism stakeholder claimed that Uganda should first look after herself before joining EAC initiatives like ‘One Region with Many Attractions’, a clear sign that EALA will need to be persuasive in their arguments when meeting tourism stakeholders to show them that unity offers the local tourism industry better options in the global market place than ‘going it alone’. Here at home it is however undisputed that the pathetic funding of the Uganda Tourist Board is a major cause for its limited ability to ‘work the world’ and carry out generic marketing of the country and while a greater budget has been set aside during the current financial year 2010/11 compared to past years, it is also a sad fact that the financial limitations of the Ministry of Finance has affected the actual money transfers to the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry substantially, leaving UTB, aka Tourism Uganda, again in the financial cold to the detriment of the sector and preventing tourism to exploit its full potential. Watch this space.

 

SHERATON LEADS LOCAL HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY IN OBSERVING ‘EARTH HOUR’

The Kampala Sheraton Hotel has in line with Starwood’s global commitment to go ‘green’ also agreed to turn all but the most important security lights off on the evening of the 26th March, from 20.30 hours onwards for 60 minutes, following the World Wildlife Fund’s annual appeal to conserve electricity during ‘Earth Hour’. Second to commit in Uganda was Marasa, owners and operators of the prime Ugandan safari properties of Mweya Safari Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park and the sister lodges in Murchisons Falls National Park Paraa and Chobe. Speke Hotels too have responded in the affirmative while a number of other hotels and lodges did not even find it necessary to respond, a damning indictment on their in house policy of saving energy, conserving water and in the process, not to forget, save cost by the way.

Notably several other hospitality businesses answered an enquiry by this correspondent with ‘what exactly is this you are talking about’, pleading ignorance to this global event, followed by two of them then saying ‘it is impossible to turn the lights off in a hotel / lodge’ – yet claiming to be ‘ecofriendly’ in their sales publications and marketing materials. So well done and bouquets to those who committed to participate and barbs galore to those who seemingly prefer to treat our environment as a global waste basket.

 

DON’T TAMPER WITH UGANDA’S NATIONAL MUSEUM SAY EALA DELEGATES

The presence of EALA (East African Legislative Assembly) members in Kampala, where they arrived two days ago to assess the implementation and impact of various tourism and wildlife related programmes the East African Community has currently underway, was also used by ‘friends of the museum’ who enlisted the support of EALA delegates. The museum is presently threatened with being knocked down to construct a highrise building, supposed to house the ministry of tourism and the tourist board, amongst others and these plans have raised strong opposition, as the land on which the national museum is located is extensive and offers other options. Yet, died in the wool bureaucrats, and it has been suggested they have their own agenda over the project, insist that they must go ahead and raze one of Uganda’s most valuable post independence buildings with no regard of heritage, tradition and preservation. In fact it was learned that one faction within the ministry, charged with overseeing the museums and monuments in the country, was categorically opposed to the plans, but being only of ‘minor’ interest and influence within the ministry’s bureau’cracy’ – pun intended – their pleas and submissions would likely be casually waved off like one keeps flies away. One source in particular has in fact suggested that the powers that be at the ministry have constantly cut down budget allocations to the museum meant for regular maintenance and upkeep so as to create ‘a dilapidated scenario’ giving them another reason to propose knocking the building down. This, while not independently verified, is however entirely plausible, knowing the modus operandum of our bureaucrats.

The parliamentary committee on tourism too has now gotten involved, and has already threatened to block any plans and lobby for the withholding of funds to the project, which they termed a ‘national heritage’, after meeting with their EALA counterparts at parliament building yesterday. Indeed, while there are many museums scattered around the country, and often critically underfunded, the national museum is a treasure hive for both locals and foreign visitors about the long history of the country’s kingdoms, the pre- and post independence periods and has much to offer, besides the sheer aesthetic value of the building itself. 

The tourism ministry has of late been in the media for all the wrong reasons, mainly over the saga surrounding the Uganda Wildlife Authority, where in particular the minister himself is accused of having created the crisis by making blatantly wrong and biased decisions, an allegation supported by past decisions of the High Court in Kampala which threw out the board appointments made by the minister, from which all the troubles stemmed. Watch this space.

 

BRUSSELS AIRLINES GETS MORE SHORT HAUL AIRCRAFT TO MEED GROWING DEMAND

A regular source at the Brussels Airlines office in Kampala has broken news that the airline is going to phase out part of their AVRO 85’ fleet, as a handful of their leases is coming to the contractual end. Instead the airline is introducing initially two A319’s, formerly owned and operated by Mexicana, a larger and more comfortable aircraft equipped with the new seats the Lufthansa Group is now bringing ‘on board’ of their short and medium haul fleet [it is understood that Austrian and Swiss too will make a changeover to the lighter and more ergonomic seat types].

The source said for the forthcoming summer season the airline will add a total of four A319’s and at least two more A320’s, increasing available seat capacity as demand continues to rise inspite of the current spike in fuel prices. It was also pointed out that the increase in overall aircraft numbers will permit the airline to offer yet better and swifter connections for travellers flying with SN via Brussels into Europe and beyond. Key destinations with added flights will be amongst others Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Austria and Switzerland, the latter two also through increased code shares and cooperation with sister companies Austrian and Swiss.

Travellers from East Africa presently enjoy daily flights from the region to Brussels and through the Miles and More frequent flyer programme enjoy a series of top rate benefits, including the use of lounges, across the SN and LH network around the world.

 

Kenya News

EAST AFRICAN MEDIA SUMMIT SET FOR NAIROBI

The Nairobi Hilton Hotel will be the venue for this year’s East African Media Summit, which is jointly organised by the East African Community and the East African Business Council.

The two day meeting will take place from 14th until 15th of March, a year after being held in Kampala / Uganda. The meeting is aimed to take both stock of the achievement of the past year as well as look into the future or journalism in Eastern Africa, where journalists continue to experience sedition charges for articles filed and published, are exposed to often violent attacks by security personnel and unlike in many Western countries where the freedom of speech is enshrined in the respective constitutions find themselves in a rather harsher work environment. The media summit will therefore bring together not only journalists and reporters but also the management of media houses, government representatives and NOG watchdogs promoting the freedom of a responsible press.

 

FLY 540 ROUTES KILIMANJARO FLIGHTS VIA WILSON

In a sharpish departure from conventional wisdom and operating practices, that scheduled regional flights beyond Kenya’s borders only depart from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, has Fly 540 just introduced a routing for their flights to and from Kilimanjaro / Arusha via Wilson.

Customs and immigration are in any case set up already to facilitate the handling of charters and private flights and the vicinity to the city, compared with the added distance to JKIA, will undoubtedly meet expectations of safari operators providing a multi country vacation to their clientele. The flight, using presently a Beechcraft 1900, or larger aircraft as required, will operate WIL – JRO – NBO – WIL on a daily basis leaving ‘the world’s busiest safari airport’ at 1 p.m.

Travellers coming for instance from Entebbe on Fly 540 however may now require a road transfer to Wilson to catch the JRO departure, something the airline is working on reportedly, but NOTE, that a transit Visa may be required for non-East African citizens.

 

OL PEJETA’S NORTHERN WHITE RHINOS ‘IN THE MOOD’

Information was received over the weekend from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in the central Kenyan highlands, that the Northern White Rhinos, now just over 15 months on site since their relocation in December 2009 from a zoo in the Czech Republic, have started to begin ‘mating’ activities. This long hoped for behavioural change seems the final confirmation, that the four have ‘shed’ their non procreational ‘coexistence’ habits they had developed while in captivity and have under the watchful eyes of veterinarians and wardens returned to a ‘normal life’.

Ol Pejeta is home to the highest concentration of the Eastern Black species in Kenya, and the region for that matter and together with both Southern White and the four Northern White over 100 rhinos now live on the 90.000 acres sprawling conservancy cum cattle ranch. Ol Pejeta is one of the few successful examples how wildlife conservation and cattle ranching, re-introduced a few years ago, can go along hand in hand and help the owners to make the returns needed to keep conservation alive and well.

Should the sub species successfully breed it would be beyond initial hope that the Northern White can actually survive. Four more are still in the Czech Republic, but considered too old to successfully breed and the last of the species in the wild was poached in Garamba National Park, Congo DR, when a few years ago an arrogant and ignorant ‘minister’ in the Kinshasa regime at the very last moment halted a relocation of the dozen or so Northern White from the park to Ol Pejeta, claiming he had the capacity to protect them. Reality though proved the man utterly wrong, when rebels killed them all for their horns, and every effort over the past 2 years to spot any survivors of this ‘rhinocide’ from the air and on the ground failed to produce evidence that there is even a single one left. Allegations have never died down since then that the minister actually ‘wanted something’ and when not getting it stopped the ‘rhino evacuation’, in the process literally killing off the subspecies in the wild.

However, Ol Pejeta now truly is mankind’s last chance to see the Northern White sub species being rescued from total extinction and visitors to the conservancy are having the one in a lifetime opportunity to possibly spot them while out on gamedrives. The conservancy offers accommodation in self catering units for visitors but several tented camps are also found on the estate, including Serena’s Sweetwater Safari Camp and Gamewatchers’ Porini Rhino Camp. Visit the Ol Pejeta website for more information or subscribe to their regular newsletter via www.olpejetaconservancy.org to stay updated on rhino conservation and tourism activities. When visiting Kenya, ask your safari operator to  include Ol Pejeta, as this is an experience not to be missed.

 

WIKILEAKS ALLEGATIONS TOWARDS KENYA AIRWAYS ‘BASELESS AND TOTALLY WRONG’

The information WikiLeaks published about the alleged ‘blocking’ by Kenya Airways of direct flights by Sky Team alliance partner Delta between the US and Kenya are ‘outrageous and totally false’ according to a regular and highly placed source in Kenya Airways.

WikiLeaks documents suggest that KQ was opposed to flight to the US, conveniently forgetting key aspects which would make such flights possible, while at the same time working against their alliance partner’s intention to fly to Kenya via West Africa.

In the first instance, Kenya’s main airport in Nairobi is still awaiting FAA certification as a category one airport, and it is expected that only after the ongoing workscope by the Kenya Airports Authority is complete, that this can be achieved. Presently for instance are the passenger flows of arriving and departing travellers still meeting in the departure lounge levels, and this is a key demand, the clear separation of these two, before Cat 1 can be certified.

Secondly do the WikiLeaks documents overlook that Kenya Airways currently does not have the aircraft available to fly to the US, considering the years of delay of the delivery of the long ago ordered B787 aircraft. Until KQ’s fleet has expanded enough, they will not be able to add US flights, while reportedly being happy to enter into a code share with Delta, should that airline finally be given clearance to come to Nairobi.

It is here in particular, where the WikiLeaks documents appear extremely weak and far from reporting facts, as it was the US administration which on the eve of the planned inaugural flight stopped Delta from taking off – guests at both ends who had come to witness the occasion were told to go home again – citing obscure security reasons why and American airline could not fly into Kenya. This was in aviation circles in Kenya seen as a deliberate affront, considering that leading world airlines like BA, Virgin, Emirates, South African, Swiss, KLM and many others fly daily to Kenya without such concerns halting their operations.

Added the source in Nairobi: ‘KQ from what I know has no plans to fly soon to the US but would support Delta, as they are an alliance partner already. KQ’s plans, when new aircraft finally arrive, will be to expire and exchange the B767 fleet and concentrate on serving Europe, the Middle and Far East and Africa. Only when the fleet has grown substantially enough to dedicate an aircraft to a service to the US can the airline consider the route, and then maybe match Delta, I believe they wanted to initially come four times a week, with the alternate traffic days. That most likely would be a code shared service as KQ also does with partners to Europe and via Bangkok to Korea and Australia. Whatever the WikiLeaks documents allege, the source clearly has no understanding of how aviation works and is simply speculating over issues he or she knows nothing about’.

Ooops to that for WikiLeaks – for sure they got that one wrong …

 

RICE OR ENVIRONMENT – ANOTHER CONTROVERSY UNFOLDS

An investor in growing rice in Kenya has found themselves at cross roads – and crossing swords – with the environmental community, when it became known that the single inflow of water of the River Yala has been largely blocked and diverted to water the rice fields. This measure, illegal as it is to start with, has shown a prompt impact on the Yala Swamps and on Lake Kanyaboli, where the water levels have fallen and in particular sections of the Yala Swamps dried up.

Dominion Farms was exposed earlier this week as the main culprit and conservationists have appealed to the local administration and government at large to immediately intervene and stop the investor from interfering with the water flows and the environment.

Yala Swamp, though no national park but ‘only’ a national reserve, albeit also managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service, may be an upcoming attraction in Western Kenya for tourist visitors wishing to ‘pay homage’ to the paternal village of US President Barack Obama, and while in this part of Kenya then also take time to see for instance the rare Sitatunga gazelle, which is found in the Yala Swamps.

The accusations have rocked the company management and one source claims they swiftly opened gates and blockages when the news broke to get away with their previous deeds, while the company blamed low water levels in the river for the problems downstream for the swamp and the lake, an explanation largely dismissed by a conservation source in Nairobi who said: ‘yes there is a drought again, but the problem for Yala and Lake Kanyaboli is made much worse by the rice grower diverting the little water there is. It is the diversion which is making the problem so bad, if the river could just be left alone these ecosystems could still survive’.

He also advised the company not to use boreholes to feed the rice fields as this too would lower the water table but seek to tap into the waters of Lake Victoria and pump from there.

 

KENYA AIRWAYS SET FOR ALL LADIES CREW ON WOMEN’S DAY

It is understood from a usually very reliable source that Kenya Airways aka ‘The Pride of Africa’ is planning to honour the International Woman’s Day with ‘all lady flights’, whereby crews on certain flights and aircraft are ‘womanned’ by an entirely female crew in the cockpit and the cabin.

KQ has done that before, amazing many when they came to realise that equal opportunity policies have indeed brought more ladies into the cockpit, away from the traditional role as flight attendants, and KQ now employs a growing number of female pilots, including captains.

I wish all of them a happy Woman’s Day and happy landings, wherever and whenever they cruise the skies over East Africa.

 

MORE PILOTS FOR ‘THE PRIDE OF AFRICA’

It was  learned last week from a source in Nairobi that Kenya Airways, currently already employing almost 380 pilots, is sending yet more for the initial basic training to South Africa, where the ‘aspirants for wings’ will join another 45 colleagues, presently undergoing their induction into flying a first ‘light’ and then eventually commercial aircraft. Few if any of them appears to have had any prior knowledge of private or commercial aircraft operations and will learn their new craft from scratch, i.e. undergoing all the rigours of learning how to fly, how to navigate and lots more of course, before being able to eventually to their first ‘solo flight’ in a couple of weeks.

The more than 5 million Kenya Shillings cost of the course is being financed by Co-Operative Bank of Kenya and will be repaid in instalments once the trainee pilots have been deployed and are earning their first salaries with KQ, which in turn guarantees employment to every successful graduate of the course. It does appear that they will be ‘bonded’ for a period of time, to allow the airline re-coup training expenses and their investment in manpower development, but this is almost normal these days, considering the extremely high cost involved, before a trainee pilot can be deployed on one of their aircraft. The training school is based in Port Elizabeth where the students will progressively graduate through the various stages, the first being the PPL or Private Pilots License, followed by the Commercial Pilots License before eventually reaching the final stage of attaining an Air Transport Pilots License or ATPL.

Kenya Airways has for years been engaging in such training support in order to ‘grow’ their next generation of pilots from within and not having to rely on the recruitment of expatriates or having to poach pilots from other airlines. 

 

FAIRMONT TO TURN THEIR LIGHTS OFF TO HONOUR ‘EARTH HOUR’

Fairmont’s Kenyan properties will join their global colleagues on the 26th of March at 20.30 hrs (08.30 p.m.) to honour the World Wildlife Fund’s request to reduce energy consumption in a bold visible action.

The Kenyan properties of Fairmont, most notably The Norfolk Hotel and the Mount Kenya Safari Club, will go ‘candle light’ for one hour, although especially in the city hotel the emergency lighting on fire exits and other crucial points will remain on, to ensure that safety standards are not compromised. Guests will be advised by hotel management of the annual initiative and be asked too to observe the WWF sponsored initiative which will unfold across the globe.

Supporting such initiatives turns the spotlight to the ever rising energy consumption and the options individuals and companies actually have to play a part in reducing their own levels of electricity usage, by switching equipment from ‘standby mode’ to actual ‘off mode’, introducing energy saving state of the art domestic and industrial equipment like fridges, flat irons, toasters and a range of other electricity guzzlers, and turning lights off unless they are absolutely necessary. This will help save energy and will also be making a positive impact on the bills at the end of each month. Thank you for participating.

 

Tanzania News

CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY TO CONSIDER APPLICATIONS

Applicants for Air Service Licenses and licenses for ground handling and other service elements in aviation, including maintenance (MRO) and training facilities were yesterday invited by the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority to send in their formal applications and related documentation. The Board of the TCAA will hold its next licensing meeting reportedly on May 18th at which it will decide on the merits of each and every application submitted.

In a related comment have aviators demanded that the multiplicity of permits and licenses across East Africa be streamlined and simplified with one in particular saying: ‘We now have joint East African Air Service Regulations which were developed by all partner states, ratified and have been implemented. So we are actually working under the same regulatory requirements. We then also have CASSOA, the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency which is now based in Entebbe. They have also implemented and demanded a re-certification of all licensed airlines which was mandatory for all licence holders of an AOC, maintenance or training facility. Now why do we still have to go to each member state’s CAA to get an ASL or an AOC or be approved as an MRO, when the licensing process is the same everywhere. Once we have a license in say TZ this should be valid also in Kenya or Uganda or Rwanda.’

This in fact is a sentiment often expressed ahead of licensing meetings when the aviation fraternity time and again raises such issues, but promises made to aviators, ostensibly to sign on to the partly controversial regulatory regime, that an ombudsman position would be established, have not been honoured, as have other verbal commitments been discarded, leaving many aviators embittered and angry with their national regulators. Watch this space..

 

PROMOTING TOURISM THROUGH EMBASSIES ?!?

Tanzania’s tourism minister, elevated from the deputy position after the last election into the cabinet seat, something several stakeholders say is too much to handle for him, has dug deep into the arsenal of the command economy days when proposing last Friday that tourism promotion abroad should be handled through embassies, where ‘tourism officers will be posted’.

Considering that such almost ancient methods of tourism promotion only creates yet another layer of bureaucrazy – pun intended – and comparing other destination’s efforts how best to position their own country’s tourism attractions in the global market, stakeholders – while politely silent within Tanzania over the latest ‘state of the art proposals’ are quietly in disagreement.

‘Tourism promotion should be carried by a partnership between TTB and us’ said one regular source in Arusha while another from Dar es Salaam commented: ‘If the minister cannot find the money to give to the tourist board to carry out global marketing, how then will he find money to post a tourist officer in each embassy or high commission? Only a few days ago he admitted that money was in short supply and told TANAPA etc to share their funds with TTB. The private sector is willing to partner and carry its financial share but the other side has to be facilitate like us to succeed. If TTB has not enough money, how are they going to travel and pay for the big delegation of government functionaries doing trade show tourism at our expense.’

In contrast many tourist destinations have gone the extra mile to draw in the private sector, going as far as handing their tourist board organisations to a majority private sector set up, and in particular the success of the Seychelles stands out as a glowing endorsement of how to go about tourism promotion.

Across the border the Kenyan government has given substantially more money this year to the Kenya Tourist Board, after a record breaking year 2010, and across another border has Rwanda facilitated tourism and conservation under the Rwanda Development Board to turn tourism into the number one economic factor in that economy, 15 years after rising from the ashes of the genocide.

While wishing Tanzania as a part of East Africa’s tourism circuit all the best in promoting their undoubtedly many attractions, new thoughts and approaches are called for instead of returning to the 70’s repertoire.

 

FORM A REGIONAL AIRLINE TO GET MORE TOURISTS?

Tanzania’s tourism minister Ezekiel Maige yesterday advised tourism stakeholder to ‘form a regional airline’ aimed at allowing tourists to visit other countries within the Southern African Development Community, in short SADC. He went on to cite lack of connections to for instance Namibia or Angola from Tanzania, displaying a remarkable lack of understanding of airline reality and in the process also giving cause for concern to the East African neighbours of Tanzania, which many of the country’s tourist visitors also like to travel to but are hampered by long standing objections and delays to a single East African tourist Visa by national immigration bodies, which could immediately attract a lot more cross country visits by foreign tourists. 

In fact, overnight a comment was procured from an aviation source in Arusha/JRO, who claimed: ‘we must start to see a concerted campaign pro SADC and anti EAC here. We have three main airlines flying in and out of Tanzania into Nairobi, from where one can connect several times a week to Luanda in Angola, and connections to Windhoek in Namibia are possible via Johannesburg. The minister knows this and yet talks publicly of the need of forming another regional airline in SADC, when he could support travel by Precision Air, Fly 540 (Tanzania) or even Kenya Airways which has the biggest network in Africa. I think the man has no idea what logistics are involved in setting up an airline, the amount of money needed and considering the current economic climate in aviation, where fuel prices have skyrocketed again, this is not a viable option. It is known even in Tanzania that Precision Air’s life is made difficult because they are associated with Kenya Airways. They invest to build a brand new multi million dollar hangar in Dar and the airport fails to construct a taxiway, rendering it useless. Law suits are brought against Precision to stop their plans of launching and ISP on the Dar stock exchange and instead of supporting Precision as a national airline of Tanzania our government in Dar continues to talk about reviving Air Tanzania. I think the minister needs to get some education on the EAC protocols of cooperation and the need to strengthen what we have instead of misleading his audiences with cheap rhetoric.’

It was understood that the audience the minister spoke to came from Southern Africa and needless to say, politicians as he is, he played to the expectations of those present but in the process ruffling feathers once again across the East African region, where anything pro South and anti East has shrill alarm bells ringing, nationally and within the EAC head quarters, where integration and cooperation are the catch phrases and not ‘sneaking out the back door’. Watch this space.

 

NOW UNIONS DEMAND SACKING OF ATCL MANAGEMENT

The Communications and Transport Workers Union in Tanzania has, following a series of negative headlines and scandals, also demanded from government to sack the ‘inept’ management of Air Tanzania, a call which can only be supported. What cannot be supported though was the instantly made second demand that the Tanzanian government recapitalize Air Tanzania and keep them afloat, while seeking a ‘strategic investor’ – a search which has been going on for years and yielded nothing but expensive ‘fact finding missions’ and otherwise hot air. With the tendency that such a financial injection may yet again be used for purposes other than settling huge outstanding debts – the airline has been sued in South Africa by agents whose ticket refunds have been pending for several years now, incidentally without IATA taking any decisive action over this travesty of rules and regulations – it is not recommended that money is being wasted on an parastatal, which sell by date has long expired.

Aviation experts in Tanzania seem largely united in their opinion that ATCL is a dead horse not worth flogging any longer and that government instead should make life easier for other Tanzanian airlines by granting them support, incentives and beginning to treat them like partners in progress and not a threat to the outdated notion that the ‘national airline’ was under threat by them, especially as there is no longer even a resemblance of a national airline left.

It has often been pointed out here that while verbal commitments chase each other from government functionaries, the ‘real’ action behind the scenes is lacking greatly, as the TAA’s failure to create a timely link from existing taxiways to the new Precision Air hangar amply demonstrates. Fly540 sources too quietly say that getting operating permits in the first place was not easy and that route expansion should be facilitated with greater ease. Other regular aviation sources were generally suggesting that the entire legislative and regulatory framework for aviation be subjected to a stakeholder review, with KCAA compelled to take observations and suggestions more seriously than done in the past to enable growth for a sector, which feels stifled and undervalued and certainly not understood by the powers that be.

 

TANZANIA TOURIST BOARD PRESENTS NEW BRANDING AND SLOGANS

The Tanzania Tourist Board is expected to launch a new logo and branding for Tanzania Tourism today, when presenting the tourism industry, a wide section of stakeholders and the general public with the results of months of intense soul searching, brainstorming and hard work.

TTB felt that the ‘old’ slogans and logos were no longer reflecting the reality of today, and that the country’s marketing, especially ahead of the world’s biggest tourism fair ITB, needed a substantive boost and fresh creative approach.

It is widely expected that the approach to marketing the wide variety of attractions for tourists coming to visit Tanzania will shift focus from the best known parks and mountains to some of the lesser known game reserves and national parks, including some of the less explored islands off the Tanzanian mainland, to showcase to the world that a visit to Tanzania can be complete entirely on its own, and that there is plenty of more to discover and explore even for repeat visitors.

One of the set backs though is the poor funding for the tourist board, which unlike their colleagues in Kenya and Rwanda for instance, who comparatively get a lot more money for global promotions, are like the Uganda Tourist board the ‘poor cousins’. It was noteworthy therefore that the minister for tourism earlier in the week gave a thinly concealed directive to TANAPA and related bodies to ‘pool resources’ for better marketing results, prompting immediate negative comments from ‘unhappy staff’ of those organisations about the minister appropriating himself powers over their budgets instead of fighting at cabinet level for more and better funding for the tourism board and other bodies.

Said one regular source from Arusha: ‘this government is damaging tourism and conservation, not supporting it. The planned highway across our park here is to benefit few at the expense of a thriving tourism industry. They think that tourists must come there, they do not, there are other choices they have. You have also written about the Stone Town in Zanzibar and Stieglers in Selous. All these are UNESCO sites and that is very valuable but our government seems to be out of tune with these things. Now they tell us to pool our resources with TTB because they in the first place starved them out of money. Our promotional budgets are targeting certain things and what we spend has been approved, our budgets have been approved and our targets for promoting Serengeti and Ngorongoro are not always the same like TTB. Of course we coordinate with TTB, we talk and we consult, but if what the minister is now directing comes through the next thing he wants to merge us all. We are not competing with TTB or other bodies but covering our own niches and targets. He was deputy minister in last cabinet but has he learned about tourism and conservation, this is very disappointing. And our bosses are just told what to do or else they are sacked or branded anti government and all for the failures of a system and one man’.

Harsh words but considering what is at stake here totally appropriate and justified. The source did also say they intend to consult with private sector stakeholders, but not officially and talking to parliamentarians especially those with a link to tourism, to enlighten them on the real issues without going ‘public’ as yet for fear to their careers and professional future.

 

Congo News

SEARCH FOR OIL MAY ‘KILL THE VIRUNGAS’

Information has been unearthed that another UNESCO World Heritage Site is under increasing pressure, this time the Virungas in the Congo DR. Dominion Oil has been cited as one of the main culprits behind this youngest assault on Eastern Africa’s ecosystems, and the regime in Kinshasa is said to be in cahoots with them, already scheming how to reduce the size of the national park so as to freely permit oil exploration to commence without the ‘burden and troubles of doing it in a park’ according to a source in Goma.

Congo has in recent years torn up existing contracts for oil exploration blocks and re-advertised some of them while others are said to have quietly been given to ‘companies in friendly countries’, willing to dig deep into their pockets while not bothering with such issues as human rights, anti corruption measures, transparency, good governance and environmental protection.

Congo’s Virunga National Park, part of the transboundary ecosystem which is habitat to the endangered mountain gorilla, has in past years seen the highest ratio of poaching of these animals and is often suspected of paying lip service towards conservation goals, when participating in trilateral discussions and talks. Two regular sources in Kigali and Kampala, well acquainted with the conservation work for the gorilla national parks in the three countries, did comment that while their direct counterparts do try to uphold conservation ideals and joint decisions, especially those individuals posted in the Virunga National Park, it is their political masters they suspect in Kinshasa who are alleged to obstruct and water down implementation of resolutions, being willing stooges of politically more influential and senior figures linked to mineral exploration in that country.

Dominion and another company have reportedly denied having any gorillas in or near their allocated exploration blocks but the key question, why oil exploration blocks were initially extended into clearly demarcated national park areas, have not been answered and collusion if not worse is also expected there. Pressure by global conservation groups, similar to the anti Serengeti Highway coalition, is said to be building up fast and local, regional, African continental and international NGO’s and individuals are busy digging up more information, which could implicate the oil exploration companies and the regime in Kinshasa in such a way that they wished they never had touched the Virunga area.

In past years the mining of coltan and gold made often headlines during the height of the civil war in Eastern Congo, when militias carved up areas of interest and forced villagers to become slave miners for them, so that they could trade the valuable materials for more weapons, ammunition and other supplies. At one point even sections of the UN forces in Eastern Congo were implicated to have traded actively in minerals for turning a blind eye on militia activities or letting them ‘repossess’ confiscated weapons caches.

Existing law make oil exploration in national parks presently impossible but exceptions can be granted for ‘scientific purposes’ which it is understood Dominion has been seeking permission for, while the other option would be to amend the law or substantially reduce the size of the park, robbing the gorillas of yet more of their natural habitat. Watch this space.

 

Seychelles News

ALL LADIES CREW FLIGHT ENROUTE FROM PARIS TO MAHE

Air Seychelles is once again highlighting their equal opportunities commitments today when an all ladies crew is flying the airline’s B767-300 from Paris to Mahe, due to arrive on the morning of the globally celebrated ‘International Women’s Day’.

The event is being widely covered in the French media and a special welcome is planned later this morning in Mahe for the crew, and a group of the six winners of a quiz carried out in the French media. In charge of the flight is Captain Nicole Chang-Leng, Air Seychelles’ first female pilot and now a senior captain, assisted by First Officer Lishad Matharu. An all female cabin crew completes the ‘line up’ on this special flight. Air Seychelles currently employs 462 female staff and 429 male staff, with more and more ladies actually taking up senior positions in the airline in both flight operations as well as on the ground. Well done ‘Creole Spirit’, happy landings to you all and continued success in everything you do.

(Picture courtesy of Air Seychelles)

 

AIR SEYCHELLES EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN RETIRES

The ongoing restructuring of Air Seychelles is going into an even higher gear following the retirement of Capt. David Savy as Executive Chairman of the archipelago’s national airline.

Only last week was it reported here that the expatriate CEO of Air Seychelles had also left the airline and a young Seychellois Mr. Garry Albert been appointed as Acting CEO for the time being.

Capt. Savy looks back at an illustrious career, started 30 years ago as a pilot and for the last 14 years as Executive Chairman of the airline. It is understood that the position of Executive Chairman will be phased out during the present restructuring, with a non-executive board chairman then overseeing the airline together with other board members.

While the restructuring, and recruitment of a new CEO is now in full swing, the Chairman of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority Mr. Loustau-Lalanne is for the time being stepping in as HM’s board chairman – temporarily relinquishing his chairmanship at the SCAA as well as his position as Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Capt. Savy is according to information from Victoria moving to the Ministry of Transport as aviation consultant, making it clear that his expertise in aviation continues to be appreciated and needed by his country.

President James Michel paid tribute to the work done by Capt. Savy during his years at the helm of Air Seychelles following his acceptance of the retirement request. Capt. Savy reportedly also thanked the President and government for the opportunity to serve his national airline in such a responsible position for 14 years expressing his thanks and appreciation.

From this correspondent, well acquainted with Capt. David, it is best wishes and ‘happy landings’ for his professional future.

 

 

And in closing today again some material from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ all courtesy of Gill Staden – THANK you very much …

 

Zambia Ornithological Society

Annual General Meeting

(Newly elected officials of ZOS)

 

Election of Office Bearers

David Ngwenyama conducted the election for office bearers for 2010/11 as detailed: 

Chairperson – Guida Bell-Cross – Prop. Cathy Goody Sec. Kevin Shone 

Vice Chairperson – Mwape Sichilongo – Prop. Guida Bell-Cross, Sec. Daniel Mwizabi 

Treasurer – Patricia Bingham – Prop. Guida Bell-Cross Sec. Mwape Sichilongo 

Member – Cathy Goody 

Member – Jerry Grieve 

Member – Daniel Mwizabi

Member – Paola Manfredi

Member – Janet Micklem

Member – Chris Kangwa

Member – Pete Chalcraft

Technical Advisor – Bob Stjernstedt

ZAWA representative – Wilfred Moonga

Copperbelt Nest – Kevin Shone

 

Zambia International Travel Expo

Dates to remember: 24th – 26th March

TIGER FISHING:  TEST OF THE BEST

Kariba’s extremely popular annual Kariba Invitation Tiger Fishing Tournament (KITFT) held each October attracts teams of avid fishermen from all over the region.  2011 is a landmark year for the Tournament: its 50th Anniversary!  The 2011 competition will take place on 26th/27th & 28th October this year.  E-mail kitft@mweb.co.zw for more information. 

WILD ZAMBEZI PARTNERS RECOGNISED FOR ACHIEVEMENT!

Wild Zambezi is proud to congratulate four of its partner organisations which have been nominated in the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards for 2011.  Three of these are nominated for a Conservation Award (in the Special Category), and one for the Photographer of the Year Award (in the Community and Arts category).  They are:

Tashinga Initiative (Conservation)

Zambezi Society (Conservation)

Aware Trust (Conservation)

Scotty Photography’s Christopher Scott

 Public voting for the winners in each category has already started and will end on Friday 1st April 2011.  Vote at this link: Zimbabwe Achievers 

 

And here is a sadly deluded comment picked up via Gill’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ – AS IF the present government in Harare would be able to garner the level of support for a ‘carnival’ as the Seychelles have just accomplished … Considering tourism businesses are now targeted too for takeover by regime cronies as was the agricultural sector in past years …

From Takunda Maodza in VICTORIA, Seychelles 
ZIMBABWE will host its first-ever tourism carnival this year in a development set to put the country on the world map as a destination of choice, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has said.

The announcement came as Vice-President Joice Mujuru yesterday said the country was capable of hosting an event of such a magnitude.
She was speaking after witnessing the official opening of the Carnival International de Victoria on Friday by Seychelles President Mr James Michel.

The grand event attracted dignitaries from across the world.
“What I saw last night was 1 percent of the Miss Zimbabwe Tourism pageant. Nothing is difficult at all. I am sure Zimbabwe can do it 100 percent-fold,” she said.

“Let’s show the world that we can do it. Tourism is easy money.  … “

And this is perplexing too … in Zimbabwe rowdy gangs accosted owners and guests of hotels, resorts and safari lodges, got a little slap on the wrist and are reportedly planning similar activities again, and here is the Zimbabwe tourism minister ‘honoured’ for presiding over an industry which is now – as the Zimbabwe agricultural sector – and ‘endangered species’ …

From

http://news.cheapzimbabweflights.com/?p=527

Harare – Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Walter Mzembi, was last week crowned the African Tourism Minister of the Year at the Africa investor Tourism Investment Awards in South Africa.

Mzembi received the prestigious award to take over from another Minister from the Sadc region, Zambia’s Catherine Namagula who scooped the accolade last year. …

Minister Mzembi was given the award because of his sterling efforts in reinvigorating Zimbabwe’s tourism sector, which had been heavily affected by the country’s economic meltdown as well as the bad publicity especially from the western media.

 

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