Weekly round up of news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region – Fifth 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

Fifth edition March 2011

 

JAPAN’S GENEROSITY IN TIMES OF INTERNAL DISASTER AND HARDSHIP IS HUMBLING

A few weeks ago, it seems ages already, a massive earthquake of 9 on the open ended Richter scale struck off the coast of Japan, causing major damage to the country’ infrastructure, only to be topped by a gigantic tsunami wave, in some areas as high as 30 metres, which swept survivors, buildings and in fact all in its way across the plains and fields of that part of Japan, inundating farm land with salt water and worst of all, causing a nuclear catastrophe in a country all too well aware of the power of nukes from the end of the second world war.

Up to today not all damage to the nuclear reactors has been brought under control, and various explosions have torn through the plant causing radioactive clouds to escape and contaminate people, land, water, food and the ocean. Food shortages are reported from Japan, embassies have been shifted from Tokyo to other ‘safer’ cities and the supply chain to produce and export the country’s famous products has been extensively damaged, leading to major factories of Japan’s leading export brands being shut down due to lack of supplies and deliveries.

Holiday travel from Japan abroad has all but come to a standstill, leaving far away destinations too suffering from the fallout of economic disruption and travel into Japan has reduced also to a bare trickle, as holiday plans have been cancelled for fear of radiation contamination, leaving Japan’s resorts, lodges and hotels to suffer just as much.

Yet, to the surprise of many, here in Eastern Africa the embassies of Japan have reassured their host countries that bilateral projects already committed would continue to receive financing and support as promised and in fact new projects lined up would be dealt with and continue in a normal fashion, inspite of the tragic events back home.

When hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans some years ago, the governments and people of the member states of the East African Community were swift to raise funds and make donations to those in need there, who had lost their homes and all possessions. Considering that Japan has just suffered an even more traumatic event – and yet has assured us here that their commitments towards our development would not falter, not be dialled back but honoured to the fullest extent – it is time to dig into our pockets again and show some solidarity. Galloping inflation, drought and economically hard times often bring out both the worst but also the best in people and it can only be hoped that our governments and people can share the little we have here in East Africa to donate  to the people of Japan and to reciprocate the generosity over decades from that country by responding to their calamity.

 

Uganda News

ROAD PLANS NEAR KYAMBURA RUN INTO OPPOSITION

While not on the scale of the anti Serengeti highway plans at this stage, protests are nevertheless gathering momentum against a planned road cutting across an ancient game migration route.

Leading conservation groups in Uganda, and individual conservationists have demanded from government to spare the wildlife migration corridor between the Kyambura Game Reserve – which neighbours the Queen Elizabeth National Park and is home to a popular chimpanzee tracking site – and the more distant Kitomi Forest Reserve.

It was according to a report in Uganda’s leading daily newspaper, The New Vision, claimed that cutting off migration between the two areas would lead to inbreeding and diminishing genetic stocks, which would have a far reaching impact on the future reproductive process of the game found in the two reserves.

A staff member of the National Forest Authority, which is ‘in charge’ of the Kitomi Forest Reserve, was quoted as pointing fingers at politicians, who demanded a new road ahead of the recently concluded elections and easier access to voters – of course, wildlife does not vote and therefore regularly does not matter!

Said one regular contributor to this correspondent’s topics: ‘nothing is sacrosanct any longer. Across East Africa, maybe with exception of Rwanda, roads, industries, mining, agriculture are eating up the spaces previously set aside for wildlife. Do our politicians understand that tourists are coming for the wildlife and if it is reduced to small pockets it will be like zoos and they lose interest coming over here? Not every road which is possible must be built, let the roads we have be improved for easier and safer travel but not  separate two ecosystems, already badly encroached, even more. But our ministry does not have focus on such issues, UWA is weakened and NFA also has problems, so it is easy for politicians and business people to get away with almost anything’. Only too true, too often …

 

FLY 540 WILL TEMPORARILY SUSPEND MONDAY MORNING FLIGHT TO ENTEBBE

Effective 02nd May, and until 30th June, will Fly 540 suspend their Monday morning flight between Nairobi and Entebbe, while the Tuesday morning flight will route Entebbe – Nairobi – Juba – Nairobi – Entebbe according to a regular source at the airline. Regular travellers on Fly 540 between Kenya and Uganda are however assured that as of first week of July the Monday morning flight will be back, as yet more aircraft are expected to join the fleet of the region’s first true low cost carrier.

 

MORE ATTACKS ON UWA RANGERS AT MT. ELGON

Mt. Elgon National Park remains a hot spot for conservation and the staff of Uganda Wildlife Authority are putting their life on the line day in day out, as the latest news from the East of the country confirm. One ranger was seriously injured in an attack by suspected encroachers and poachers, who set on him with pangas and spears while also using dogs to attack and chase away the game rangers.

Mt. Elgon is regularly in the news, sadly so, and as a result suffering as a tourism destination, when stories break over encroachment, fights, devastating and deadly landslides, which tend to scare tourists away. Said a source in UWA: ‘this is our biggest problem park we have in the country. We have often made representation to government about the issues, but the incitement by politicians continues. They promise people land to resettle them inside the park. The park boundaries were reviewed a few years ago after a long consultative process and then demarcated. But encroachers in league with criminals and poachers keep removing the boundary posts and markers and when we try to chase them out of the park they run to politicians for help and claim it was their land. Poaching is another big problem there, and so is illegal logging of tropical trees. Encroachers also do not know the dangers of cultivating on steep slopes and during heavy rains which are common on this mountain landslides can just swallow up a whole village. This happened last year, then government was quick to evict people from those parts of the park but they keep coming back. This is a battle conservation cannot win without political support. Mt. Elgon is a crucial water tower for the East of the country. Deforestation and illegal logging spoils it and then, during dry season times, the water in the streams dries up and everyone comes running ‘why why’ but the truth is, they were told time and again that what UWA does in the park is for the good of everyone. It is also a transboundary park we share with Kenya and therefore has good tourist potential. But everytime such news come to the media we are losing out on visitors. Once a Belgian tourist was killed there and it finished tourism almost completely that year. As long as gangs of poachers are free to roam because they have political godfathers protecting them, what can we do’.

UWA’s main motto speaks of conservation for generations but in the case of this park the question must be asked here where government stands on this issue and what, if any effect on policing boundaries and managing the park the recent upheavals at UWA had on their capability to robustly carry out their mandate. Watch this space.

 

BANK OF UGANDA SEIZES LIBYAN SHARES IN TROPICAL BANK

No sooner had the formal announcement been made that Uganda would fully comply with the UN resolution to freeze the assets of Libya’s faltering dictator Gadaffi et al, did the Bank of Uganda react and seized the Libyan shareholding in Tropical Bank.

Compelled two weeks ago already to issue public statements that ‘the bank is safe’ to avoid a run on it, the government’s acceptance of the UN resolution reportedly brought relief to the halls of Uganda’s central bank as it finally could step in to restore consumer confidence in the bank by direct intervention.

The Libyan Foreign Bank owned nearly 100 percent of the shares in Tropical Bank, previously known as Tropical Africa Bank, and as was customary during Gadaffi’s heydays what was Libya’s was his for all practical purposes. The Bank of Uganda went a step further and relieved all Libyan appointees and nationals in management of their positions and appointed bankers to take over the day to day running of Tropical Bank with immediate effect,

This now sets the stage for a much wider scenario to unfold in coming days, as the Laico Lake Victoria Hotel, Uganda Telecom, the National Housing Corporation and a number of other investments too are in the cross hairs of the respective regulators and government oversight agencies for similar action. It was learned late Friday that the Libyan board members – for all purposes cronies of Gadaffi, subject to the UN freeze order too and as guilty as himself in looting their country – and Libyan appointed management staff are said to be in a state of panic following the events at Tropical Bank yesterday. Watch this space for further updates in particular at Laico Hotels, which will also have a likely trigger effect on hotels and resorts in Kenya, Rwanda and the rest of the continent.

 

LIBYAN ASSETS IN UGANDA TO BE FROZEN AFTER ALL

Uganda has late yesterday confirmed that in compliance with relevant UN resolutions the assets of Col. Gadaffi, his close cronies and in fact of Libya herself in the country will be frozen. It was also confirmed that Uganda’s Ambassador to the UN has formally asked for guidance on the February 26th resolution of how to implement the asset freeze, and to clarify on a range of points in regard of ownership and affected persons.

The issue was raised here on the day after the asset freeze resolution was passed in New York by the UN, but subsequent statements here in Kampala, by companies very likely affected by the freeze and by various governmental sources initially refused to accept the possibility, now having a rude and belated awakening. It is thought likely that board seats in companies affected and held by Gadaffi appointees, may be victim too of the asset freeze so as to remove any form of control over these assets, many of which have been flaunted as ‘Gadaffi’s own’ yet should for all purposes be property of the Libyan people.

How this will affect operations of the Libyan investments here in Uganda, like Laico Hotels’ Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe, Uganda Telecom, Tropical Bank, National Housing and a range of other commercial investments, is presently unclear and time will tell how these enterprises will conduct business once the formal freeze notice has been affected on them.

Laico also has the Grand Regency in Nairobi in its portfolio, a hotel in Kigali and several more across sub-Saharan Africa and it remains to be seen how those will be affected when the respective national governments act on the UN’s directives. Watch this space.

 

UGANDA’S FALLEN RANKINGS LEAD TO MORE SQUABBLES

When news broke yesterday that Rwanda’s tourism sector’s competitiveness had risen to now top their standing within the East African Community, more squabbles were reported from within the sector in the New Vision of today. Predictably, as was the case with the previous CEO of the Uganda Tourist Board, attacks were launched at the current office holder, by sectoral stakeholders ever ready to engage in mudslinging and character assassination rather than seeking lasting solutions and addressing the core reasons and root causes of the sector’s less than optimal performance.

One senior stakeholder in regular contact with this correspondent said: ‘…funding remains the biggest problem for UTB. The ministry is seen as not capable of fighting in cabinet for our industry, not able to make an impact on the ministry of finance when it comes to allocating the annual budget. They even failed to protect the budget they were given because whenever government discovers financial needs somewhere else, tourism is always finding fund transfers cut down. We also suspect that there are forces within the ministry not happy with the tourism policy and the new tourism act and are hindering the implementation of the levy. It is high time that the law is operationalised and the levy introduced to secure regular funding for UTB and other intended beneficiaries. One thing is clear though, we cannot let government collect and keep that money because experience tells us we would not get value out of it, they’d keep much of it and not use it for the intended purpose. So collection methods, administration of the fund etc need to be safeguarded to avoid another UWA story in a few years when someone discovers there is money and they can get rich from it. Now about UTB’s staffing, unless there are funds to attract the brightest marketing minds this country has, and there are some very good people out there who have excelled in branding their companies, there is only so much that office can do so it is not fair to blame individuals working there for collective failures which start with our government and our ministry.’

Many of the major developments over the past 15 years in the tourism sector were driven by funding from development partners but the only significant programme presently underway is USAID’s STAR project which is aimed at promoting sustainable tourism and biodiversity in the Albertine Graben but does not have the comprehensive brief previous European Union funded programmes had. Watch this space.

 

Kenya News

KENYA AIRWAYS SHARES HIT BY ESCALATING FUEL COST

The predicted fallout from the sharply risen fuel cost for airlines operating in Kenya has driven the share price of Kenya Airways to a two year low, as the value of KQ’s shares has slipped by nearly a third since the beginning of the year. Investors, both individual as well as institutional, are getting jittery over the fallout of continuously rising fuel cost, while at the same time, at least on domestic routes, Kenya Airways continues its low fare offensive in order to regain market share at the expense of domestic competition on the routes between Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.

A source within the airline, on condition of anonymity, has played down the development saying: ‘Our fundamentals are still intact. We have fuel hedging contracts in place to cushion the effect of fluctuating aviation fuel prices. Our domestic market drive has brought back occupancies and market share. On the continental and international routes we are doing ok and further expansion is only hampered by the delay in having more aircraft. Of course, such big fuel cost variations are a concern for every airline, us included. We are looking at a range of options to cushion this effect by devising measures to save fuel in flight but while the share price has admittedly dropped since the start of the year mainly because of profit forecasts now being less than anticipated due to higher fuel cost, we expect investors to come back once these spikes are levelling out. You yourself wrote about the impact of the politics on oil prices a few weeks ago if I remember and yes, it will be a challenging year for global aviation. I agree with you that the world economy is still in recovery mode from the 2007/8 recession and that Japan and North Africa / Mid East will have a greater impact on the world economy than initially expected. Yes, it may have an impact on holiday plans for people from our main markets but some oil producers have increased output to make up for the temporary loss of sales from Libya. Overall, while we must be cautious and prudent in our decisions, I don’t think that the positive fundamentals have changed to reverse economic recovery.’

That all said, maybe the lower share price for Kenya Airways presents an opportunity to snap up a bundle of them at a bargain price and benefit from a rise in coming months. Watch this space.

 

HOTEL GRADING TO BE ‘EYEBALLED’ BY ANTI CORRUPTION BODY

The Kenya Hotels and Restaurant Authority’s unfolding grading exercise, long delayed for lack of funding but now finally confirmed to commence by the end of March, will be subject to oversight by the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission following pending complaints by sections of the hospitality industry. Previous ‘awards’ of star rating has often drawn severe criticism from within the sector, that some establishments were ‘over rated’, prompting swift allegations of corrupt practise and influence peddling. While restaurants and hotels have the opportunity to challenge the findings of the inspection teams and demand a ‘second opinion’ to have ‘unfair’ results reviewed, little can be done at present against ‘over rating’ as competing hotels and resorts do have little chance to contest star ratings thought to be ‘too high’.

Subsequently has Hon. Najib Balala, the Minister for Tourism in Nairobi, directed the involvement and oversight of the exercise by the KACC to be sure of an independent outcome reflecting reality on the ground. The star rating can be an important tool to market a property and will undoubtedly support Kenya’s drive towards higher quality tourism products and moving away from the wrong image of being a ‘mass tourism destination’ only fit for cheap charter tourists.

Results of the nationwide grading of hospitality businesses are expected by the last quarter of 2011 in time for the high season.

 

KENYA TALKING OF NEW TAX ON AIRFARES WHILE UK DELAYS FOR 4 YEARS

News have emerged from Nairobi overnight that the Kenyan government plans another financial assault on air passengers, seeking to introduce a tax ‘to pay for HIV treatment’.

The health ministry, responsible for this planned air travel tax atrocity, claims that donor funding is no longer enough to deal with and pay for the treatment of HIV infected patients and a number of related illnesses, and will therefore present a white paper to cabinet soon for broader discussion.

The aviation sector however, upon learning of these plans to use a tax on tickets for ‘alien purposes’ is equally vowing to mobilise and lobby against this latest government scheme to put its hand into the pockets of air travellers.

The budget reading in the UK yesterday in fact deferred the hugely controversial additional tax on tickets for at least 4 years, following advice against such plans from IATA and airlines flying to the United Kingdom, and against the odds – that government too has empty pockets for that matter and much deeper holes to fill – decided the damage done to the aviation sector would be too huge and counterproductive in terms of jobs, expansion plans for aviation facilities and route development and delayed the tax until 2015.

In Kenya however aviation observers are far from sure that their government has the capacity to approach this issue logically and two regular sources commented overnight: ‘with the election coming up next year it is obvious that our government is hell bent to present ‘show cases’ to the electorate no matter where the money for that comes from. Already the cost of implementing the new constitution is almost prohibitive, and cost of administration and in particular parliament and a bloated cabinet unsustainable. There are also constant allegations of corruption in the health sector. The ministry of health should address their internal anomalies and seek out areas where they can save money, and not come to a sector which is at best fragile right now, considering the fuel cost explosion in recent weeks, inflation, global concerns over the economy after the Japan earthquake and tsunami and the fall out of political unrest across North Africa and the Middle East. Taxing passengers even more will most likely kill off growth prospects for the aviation sector and make it unaffordable to fly, therefore it should not be allowed by cabinet’.

The other source, more outspoken, had this to say: ‘What ******* nonsense this is. Has this minister even one clue what the financials for airlines right now are. Cost for fuel is escalating weekly and due to intense competition on domestic routes I expect one or the other go broke anyway or having to merge. You see, if taxes on tickets were to be used for the development of Wilson Airport, of Jomo Kenyatta, Moi International, Malindi, Kisumu etc, at least there would be some justification for it as the proceeds would be invested in aviation infrastructure, maybe even training. But even then our sector might have something to say about it during consultations, but this minister never even consulted us. The entire tourism industry, we are part of it, is being shortchanged by government year after year. KTB is never getting the percentage back of what the sector earns government to increase foreign marketing. Let them start there, let government give the aviation related taxes back to the sector and let other sectors like health root out corruption first, examine their operations like the private sector would be doing, consult widely before taking such rash approaches, before committing day light robbery through ill considered and damaging taxes on other sectors, especially aviation. HIV treatment should be available to all affected but so should be other benefits for tax payers too. The figures in the public domain over the cost of the new constitution, what cabinet costs, what parliament costs, let them take from there and tighten their own belts first before ransacking the airline industry’.

Harsh words but very understandable, considering the razor thin margins especially on the main domestic routes from Nairobi to Mombasa, Malindi and Kisumu, run away aviation fuel prices  and increased competition on the African continents by foreign airlines impacting on the traditional markets of African airlines. Watch this space.

 

KENYA’S TOURISM AWARDS SET FOR JUNE 23RD

Information was received overnight that Kenya’s tourism sector is planning to hold an award ceremony for leading tourism enterprises but also for the media covering tourism events and developments. The industry category will see as many as 7 awards being given while there will be three for journalists.

The announcement was made by the CEO of the Kenya Tourist Board and the CEO of the Kenya Tourism Federation, showing the unity between private and public sector and the common purpose of working together hand in hand for the common good of the industry.

While discussing the information with regular sources in Kenya the issue of the 2012 elections was also raised with the sector reiterating their demand that politicians refrain from any form of incitement and instead seek compromises in parliament over the many crucial issues related to the new constitution, so that peaceful elections can be held in Kenya next year and the growth of the tourism industry and its achievements over the past three years not be put into danger.

Only recently have industry leaders demanded positive behaviour from their political leadership, using the record breaking performance of 2010 as an example how well the country can do when peace and stability are assured and maintained.

 

KENYA AIRWAYS TURNS GREENER

Passengers flying with the ‘Pride of Africa’ can now make individual contributions towards carbon emission offsets by using the IATA Carbon Offset Calculator to establish the ‘value’ of their ‘pollution’, KQ’s latest effort to go greener in their operations. The voluntary contributions made by passengers are then passed on from the airline to a dedicated IATA account which supports selected environmental projects and programmes aimed at creating ‘offsets’ for emissions.

Besides this Kenya Airways was one of the first African airlines to sign up to the EU’s carbon offset trading scheme now in place and pledge full compliance, unlike all the Chinese airlines flying into the EU, which have just ‘protested’ the European Union’s move towards greater measures to protect our environment and safeguard the planet’s health for future generations.

KQ’s passengers, booking through the airlines’ website [www.kenya-airways.com] can easily ‘click’ on to the tool and make their individual contribution while those booking the traditional way through their chosen travel agency or in the airline sales offices too can make their offset contribution.

 

Tanzania News

PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE LOCKS HORNS WITH TOURISM INDUSTRY

Safari lodge and camps, tour and safari operators in Tanzania expressed their concern yesterday when it emerged that the parliamentary public accounts committee had reportedly ‘cancelled’ the current concession and royalty fees charged by TANAPA after claiming that it generated a huge loss for the country and waving the magic ‘corruption’ wand around.

Apparently the members of parliament sitting on the committee felt fit to assume powers of ‘directives’, something which commonly rests with the executive and not the legislators in such a case, and adding one more when demanding that TANAPA’s insurance contracts also be cancelled, again alleging corruption.

Operators have immediately denounced the ‘directive’ as illegal and un-constitutional, also pointing out that the last round of fee increases for park entrance and concession / royalty payments was arrived at after a lengthy consultative exercise between private and public sector, and that while TANAPA put proposals up for discussion the negotiated results were arrived at fairly and kept a balance between the need to generate income for the wildlife body and the effects on the cost of safaris which the market could absorb.

Said one regular and quite outspoken source in Arusha to this correspondent: ‘some of these parliamentarians really do not know much about how our sector works. They have made an alliance with a few TANAPA board members who tried to show off by claiming government was robbed of billions of revenue. The truth is that some of them are suspected to try for better remuneration for themselves which the present income structure does not allow. They think if they multiply fees they swim in money and can ‘eat’ but that shows no regard for what prices the market can tolerate. We do not live in isolation, we are not the only country offering safaris. Yes, Tanzania has a unique position and very good parks but if we become too expensive safari clients will go and visit other countries. You in Uganda should know, if you would suddenly charge 1.000 dollars for a gorilla permit, that your market will drop completely. Some in TANAPA wanted to raise the per night fees on royalties and concession fees to something like 50 US Dollars per tourist staying there, and that would have been a tenfold increase. Tariffs are reviewed at regular intervals, there is a mechanism in place for that, but increases must be gradual with all aspects of impact considered. Some of our parliamentarians are just seeking cheap popularity and wave the placard of corruption, corruption around for their own ends. Have they even consulted us, the private sector, when they talked this issue, not that I am aware of, to whatever they said is arbitrary and one-sided’.

Watch this space as the ‘battle for the fees’ unfolds.

 

PRECISION AIR’S COMPLAINT OVER AWARD OF AIRPORT HANDLING LICENCE SUCCEEDS

Information was received from Dar es Salaam, that following a formal complaint by Precision Air Ground Handling Services and one other bidder, the Tanzania Airport Authority was instructed by the Public Procurement Authority of Tanzania to cancel the award they made and in addition pay compensation to the complainants for the cost they incurred.

A new tender is now being prepared in compliance with the PPA’s ruling, making sure that a level playing field exists for bidders and that the eventual contract award is free of corrupt practices as has been alleged in this case. Precision Air Ground Handling specifically cited TAA’s complicity in ‘tailoring’ their evaluation method to suit the company they awarded a 5 year contract for ground handling to, but got ‘caught in the act’ when details leaked and the PPA stepped in to halt this glaring irregularity.

Precision Air is Tanzania’s leading airline and has been seeking licenses to not just handle their own flights but also offer their ground handling services to other carriers flying into Tanzania.

Said a regular aviation source in Dar es Salaam overnight to this correspondent: ‘Ground handling in Tanzania has been very lucrative, especially when we had a monopoly, which is now gradually being broken up. Airlines often complained about the charges for ground handling services being too high, but with only one company for a long time they just set their tariff and it was either take it or leave it. Now others have started coming in and for Precision is was crucial to get self handling, to control the cost of handling, and then also take other clients for revenue. This is common practice everywhere. But here the tenders and contracts were always eyed with suspicion when the successful bidders lacked qualification and experience while those who did were shut out. It is good that TAA was shown its limitations and given marching orders to issue a new tender and the procurement authority will sit on this now and see it through to conclusion to avoid another bad award’.

 

RIVERTREES TO CLOSE FOR ANNUAL SPRUCE UP

One of this correspondent’s favourite places when staying in Arusha, the Rivertrees Inn located on the Usa River between the international airport and Arusha itself, will be taking its annual break as of the beginning of April and will reopen by mid May once again. During that period of time staff will take their annual leave while the rooms will undergo a complete spring cleaning to ‘come back’ all bright and shiny, ready for another year.

Rivertrees is an ideal place to start or end a safari to the Northern national parks of Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti, but also a tranquil and restful location for participants in conferences, as transfers to and from the main international conference centre and other meeting facilities is at most half an hour away. Visit www.rivertrees.com for more information, rates and bookings, or just to see what makes this little gem so special.

 

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR’S NEW B737-800 TO FEATURE INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

Information was received last week that RwandAir has signed up for the installation of inflight entertainment for their two new B737-800, which will be delivered in July and September this year. The system will permit travellers flying with the new Boeings to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster films, classic movies, news and series and will of course also feature audio channels.

Both aircraft will incidentally be delivered with the ‘new look’ interior Boeing has been introducing, giving a roomier impression to passengers and more space in the overhead lockers. Information at hand in fact indicates that the ‘new look’ interior will become the first on the African continent, although other airlines with B737 NG’s on order have reportedly also now opted to have the interior outfitted with the ‘latest’ on the market.

The two Boeings will reportedly be deployed on the routes from Kigali to West Africa, to Dubai via Mombasa and to Johannesburg, although – especially during the launch phase, they may also make ‘appearances’ on the East African network destinations like Nairobi.

The inflight entertainment will be provided by  IFE Services which have been contracted by RwandAir.

 

Burundi News

BURUNDI SCOOPS TOP PRICE AT ITB

The recently concluded International Tourism Bourse in Berlin / Germany saw little Burundi outshine all other African exhibitors, when taking first price for their stand display and presentation at their first appearance. Traditional dancers and a ‘homestead’ setting convinced the judges, and visitors for that matter, that the Burundi exhibition stand deserved to be honoured as ‘Best African Exhibitor’.

Fancied Rwanda, accustomed to taking top spot, this year came a respectable second and to the surprise of many, Tunisia, just emerging from a violent overthrow of their government, occupied third position.

East African tourism giants Kenya and Tanzania did not make it to the top three, as incidentally did South Africa fail to get into the top rankings, while the absence for instance of the Seychelles amongst the top three, offering an impressive performance again in their 2011 appearance, was generally regretted. Meanwhile though it is congratulations to Burundi, and this award will hopefully change their tourist board’s communication and PR practice to the better, as they have in recent years been largely ‘mute’ and non-responsive to enquiries and pro-active marketing methods.

 

Ethiopia News

ETHIOPIAN SECURES ADDITIONAL FINANCING FOR B777’S

It was learned overnight that Ethiopian Airlines has been given approval by the African Development Bank for a co-syndicated secondary loan of 40 million US Dollars, towards the five Boeing B777-200LR, which from part of an extensive order for newer and additional aircraft. ET has been at the forefront of African aviation and operates an impressive inter African network, connecting the world via Addis Ababa through their direct flights and their codeshared flights from Frankfurt with Lufthansa.

Due to formally join Star Alliance later in the year the entry into the globally leading airline alliance will further strengthen Ethiopian’s position to distribute traffic to Africa from their own overseas destinations but also in close partnership with their alliance partners.

In a related development it was also learned that ET will be going ‘daily’ on the route to Beijing from May onwards, just as soon as more of the ordered B777’s arrive at their base and can be taken into service.

 

Seychelles News

ALDABRA ATOLL ‘GETS CONNECTED’

The lesser known ‘other’ but nevertheless unique and in fact second to none UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Aldabra Atoll’ in the Seychelles, managed by the Seychelles Island Foundation, has now been ‘connected’ to allow VOIP calls via Kokonet, a service provider tapping into an existing internet connections to allow voice calls to land lines and mobile phones. Located over 1.000 kilometres from the main islands of the archipelago the ecosystem is ‘occupied’ by a permanent research team from the SIF, but also hosts guest researchers and is open for a chosen few to visit as tourists, who however have to stay on board their yachts and ships off the shores overnight to protect the fragile environment of the atoll and have the least possible impact on bird and aquatic life forms. Gone are the days that connections depended entirely on short wave radio or the expensive satellite phones since an internet dish for up- and down links was established on the island but VOIP connections are novel and allow both office communications as well as private calls for the resident researchers and other staff to call home once in a while.

Several others of the outer and more remote islands, unable to get linked via the Seychelles main GSM mobile systems, have also signed up with Kokonet to go high tech, used by guests staying in small private resorts on these solitary islands but also for the staff working there. Way to go to stay connected.

 

SEYCHELLES TOURIST BOARD TO CONSULT FOR GABON

Impressed by the sterling performance of the Seychelles tourism industry and the concerted efforts of private and public sector to sell ‘Brand Seychelles’ around the world, the Gabon government recently invited the STB Chief Executive Alain St. Ange to Libreville to discuss closer cooperation between the two African Union member countries. While in Gabon Alain St. Ange met with the minister responsible for tourism in this West African nation Hon. Magloire Ngambia and tourism advisor Annie Blondel for extensive talks, following which it was agreed to have a formal agreement drawn up between the two governments to map out future cooperation.

Information from the Seychelles reveals a large scope for the consulting team, including the setting up of a Gabon Tourist Board, tourist information offices, training cooperation with the Seychelles Tourism Academy, an institution respected around the African continent, the production of tourism guide material but also creating a new regulatory and supervisory framework for the sector with special emphasis towards the hospitality industry.

The Seychelles have in recent years aggressively marketed the country, and developed a vision for the economically most important tourism industry for coming years, to ensure that an ever increasing number of visitors receives excellent services wherever they stay, from locally owned and managed Bed and Breakfast establishments to luxury resorts, second to none from anywhere in the world.

Well done indeed and bouquets galore for sharing the Seychelles tourism experience with those countries in Africa who can do with some help.

 

 

 

And in closing today once more some relevant material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly, compiled and distributed by Gill Staden:

 

Zambia Tourism Roadshow

From ETN

 

The Zambia National Tourism Board has announced that the Zambia Tourism Roadshow will take place from April 11-15, showcasing products from key tourism suppliers and operators to agents across South Africa and Namibia. The roadshow will take place in Johannesburg at the Southern Sun Grayston hotel on April 11; in Durban at the Southern Sun Elangeni hotel on April 12; in Cape Town at the Southern Sun Cape Sun hotel on April 13 and in Windhoek at the Safari Court Hotel on April 15.

Comments from readers of this article on the website:

I just have to share my experience with Zambia Tourism Board with everyone: In May 2006 you had a Zambia Tourism workshop at the Table Bay hotel in Cape Town. I was the lucky winner of the main draw – 8 days all expenses paid trip to Zambia. It is now 5 years later and I still have not received that prize! I have had various discussions with Mr Solistor Cheelo, heading the Pretoria office and we even had a discussion with the Minister of Tourism at Indaba two years ago. Each time I was promised they will send me the details of the trip etc but to date I have not received anything. They don’t even respond to my emails. I am getting very reluctant to promote tourism to this country because if they don’t even look after the operators selling this country, how are they going to treat our clients??  

 

before they come to town, can they jack-up their visa operations ? try pretoria office (ext 17 ) – no replly. try e-mails to pta and lusaka head office – no reply. result : 2 hong kong tourists cancel and go to kruger instead. their loss, our gain. 

 

 

 

Branding Zambia Competition … and the winners are …

         

              From Michel Scarantino      


    Discover Zambia, Experience Africa           
from Kelly Geoghegan 

 

 

From Robin Pope Safaris Newsletter

Kathy and David Richardson

 

Visit to Kasanka National Park

During the day, the bats, which weigh about a kilo each and are somewhat dog-like in appearance, with long noses, big eyes, even bigger ears and sharp teeth, roost in a relatively small area of Mushitu Forest.  Their bodies are packed together so tightly on the trunks and branches of the trees that it is not uncommon for the branches to break under their combined weight. (We were told that their biomass is equivalent to that of 10,000 elephants!!) As dusk approaches, there is increasing restlessness in the colony, with lots of upside-down squirming bodies on the branches and more and more bats taking to the air for brief periods of time. The bat chatter becomes louder and more incessant. Finally, at precisely 6:10 p.m. (slightly earlier if it’s overcast) they all take to the skies at once for a night-time of feeding. Well, as you can imagine, when the sky turns black with millions of twittering bats in every direction, it’s really quite a show of sight and sound!  …

And then to Liuwa Plain National Park

The plain is amazing for its vast open areas, its abundance of wildlife and the almost complete absence of other visitors. The annual rains had just begun when we arrived but already the pans were filling with water and becoming encircled by vibrant green grasses and intense yellow flowers. Bright pink lilies dotted the almost treeless landscape as far as the eye could see. The skies were magnificent too, brilliant blue with spectacular cloud formations, often signalling a storm somewhere in the distance.

We saw huge herds of blue wildebeest and plenty of zebra too on a daily basis. Many were grazing contentedly, while others frisked and galloped about, apparently just for the fun of it. In addition, we had regular encounters with roving bands of hyena, the area’s main predator, as well as with large packs of wild dogs, often at quite close range and lasting an hour or two. No matter what they were up to, they were always fascinating to watch and we were never in a hurry to move on. And, of course, we saw Lady Liuwa, the last surviving lioness in the area, as well as her two lovely black-maned male companions, brothers who were recently introduced from Kafue, in hopes that Lady would produce offspring. Alas, Lady’s not become a mother yet.

 

Adds W. to this piece: Officials taking poorly thought out and ill informed decisions are legion on this continent and have done immense damage to the tourism sectors across Eastern and Southern Africa in the past, then repaired at great cost when they had to eventually concede that their decision was pure nonsense …

 

 

Botswana Tour Guides

From Mmegi On Line

Speaking at BOGA’s (Botswana Guides Association)  annual general meeting at Sedie Riverside Lodge here (Maun) last Friday, (Kenson) Kgaga said in terms of a recent policy, lodges can conduct prime time game drives while mobile safaris can only go into parks “after 11 o’clock when wildlife sighting is difficult”.

The banning of mobile safaris from conducting game drives in the morning was a threat to their survival,” he noted. “The mobile safari business is about giving clients ample wilderness experience,” Kgaga said.

“What do we show our clients if we can only go into the (Chobe National) park when animals have already taken refuge from the heat under trees?”

He also criticised the policy of one-way roads and limited routes for game viewing in the Chobe National Park for marginalising tour operators who are unable to conduct safaris to the satisfaction of their customers.

The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila, was criticised for failing to attend to roads in the Moremi Game Reserve, especially the pothole-riddled South Gate – North Gate and South Gate – Xakanaka – Third Bridge routes that were described as deplorable.

 

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