Weekly roundup of news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands, Fourth edition December 2012

AVIATION, TOURISM AND CONSERVATION NEWS from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.

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

You can get your daily breaking news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthome, join me on www.facebook.com/WolfgangHThome where the articles also ‘cross load’ or read the daily postings on my blog via www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com which you can also ‘follow’ to get immediate notification when a new article is posted.

Fourth edition December 2012

FAST JET REACHES PRELIMINARY DEAL TO BUY SOUTH AFRICA’S 1TIME

As suggested here some weeks ago, at the time strenuously denied – what else – have news broken in South Africa that the owners of FastJet have reached a preliminary agreement with the owners of 1Time, a South African LCC which recently halted operations and started winding up proceedings, to acquire the airline, subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals.

Should FastJet get approvals from South Africa’s Civil Aviation body, they would acquire route rights covering at least 5 domestic destinations plus a number of near regional destinations in neighbouring countries. 1Time in fact only halted flights to Mombasa, from Johannesburg, in September this year as a result of weakening demand and risen cost in Kenya, before then going into a financial spin resulting in a halt of all operations by mid November.

The same source giving the initial tip off suggested that flight operations, once all required approvals have been secured, would only be able early in the new year and that very likely FastJet would initially use some of the 1Time MD aircraft to resume flights, for the time being at least, considering the available type rating of crews and logistical infrastructure not being ready for the immediate introduction of Airbus aircraft.

Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from the Eastern African region and beyond.

East Africa News

EMIRATES TURNS TO JANUARY DUBAI SHOPPING FESTIVAL PROMOTIONS

While reiterating Emirates’ latest destination, the award winning national airline of Dubai is now flying 5 times a week to Lyon in France, a regular source at the Emirates office in Kampala has moved the focus beyond the Christmas and New Year holidays to the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, which is kicking off on January 03rd.

This is one of the year’s big events in Dubai. All the big malls and shopping centres are participating. Hotels are giving special deals also for travelers. When you book a trip with Emirates they can arrange for Visa and hotel all in one package deal from one source. This is the time of year you get the best deals in shops for everything.

From electronics to clothes or appliances, visitors can expect big price reductions and also special deals for the attractions. Entry fees will be reduced in many places and some of the Emirates packages include such offers. Dubai is waiting for visitors and even the weather is cooler than normal, so this is as good as it gets’ said the source in a conversation while also emphasizing the use of a wide body aircraft for their daily flights between Entebbe and Dubai. ‘Lyon will be 5 times a week with an A340 aircraft. Emirates only uses wide body aircraft so comfort from Entebbe to the final destination is guaranteed. And next year will be very exciting also because we are getting a lot more A380 and the airline is expanding the use of this aircraft to a lot of new places. And our frequent flyer members can always be sure of that extra attention’.

While for now all eyes are surely on the forthcoming Christmas and New Year vacations, there is clearly not time like the present to promote events in the 2013 already now, and it is to be seen what reaction this latest pre Christmas sales blitz by Emirate in Uganda and the other East African countries will prompt the competition to take, once again left trailing in the wake it seems. Hello Tomorrow – here is surely a practical application of that slogan.

Uganda News

BRUSSELS AIRLINES ANNOUNCES CHANGE OF TRAFFIC DAYS FOR EARLY 2013

The Kampala office of Brussels Airlines has just announced that come February 2013 their traffic days between Entebbe and Europe’s capital city will change.

From 25th February onwards the traffic days will be Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, nonstop from Entebbe to Brussels but with a one stop enroute in Kigali on the southbound leg of the journey.

The airline uses an Airbus A330-200 on the route, featuring the new cabin product which had made such an impact for their daily flights to New York, and code shares the flight with partner Lufthansa. It is not known when the previously operated 4th weekly flight will resume. Watch this space for regular and breaking airline news from the Eastern African region.

KASUBI TOMBS RECONSTRUCTION CONTRACT AWARDED

One of Uganda’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Kasubi Tombs of the Kingdom of Buganda, which burned to the ground in March 2010, is now finally seeing some action towards restoration and rebuilding, when news broke overnight that a 2.3. Billion Uganda Shillings contract has finally been signed with a construction company.

Donations were received from UNESCO, which availed 1 million US Dollars towards the reconstruction of the tombs, while the kingdom’ subjects and the Government of Uganda too contributed significant amounts of money. The tombs, which were initially built in 1882 and were until the fire a focal point for the king’s subjects and a must see for visitors from around the world, housed several graves of past Buganda kings and were tended to by a select group of kingdom subjects, trained in the lore and history of looking after the memorial site. Clans traditionally responsible for the maintenance and construction of royal tombs will be closely involved it was learned to uphold the ancient traditions and ensure authentic thatch and wood works when restoring the monuments.

Kasubi was elevated to WHS status by UNESCO in 2001 and the raging fire consumed the traditional wooden frame and thatch structures within hours and with it burned priceless ancient artifacts. Replacements were received from private donations but will also be drawn from other kingdom tombs ahead of the re-opening, as well as from the Uganda Museum but with a construction period of an estimated 15 months that is only expected in mid to late 2014.

Watch this space for progress reports in future editions.

Kenya News

THE NEW ‘CHUI’ HOSTS NAIROBI TRAVEL AGENTS FLOWN IN BY SAFARILINK


Soon after the official re-opening of the Leopard Beach Resort and Spa on the 12th December did trade partner Safarilink fly a group of 25 Nairobi based travel agents to the Ukunda airfield, where they were met by the resort’s vehicles and taken to get a good look at the new spots this Chui has added.

Hotel supremo Chris Modigell and his team were at hand to greet the agents and show them the new facilities during their 3 day stay, wining and Chaine de Rotisseur dining included.

The Chui team also shared information with this correspondent that the award winning resort, recently crowned a three time in a row champion by the World Travel Awards as Kenya’s best beach resort, now receives over a third of its annual business from within Kenya and the wider East African region, where word of mouth propaganda by past guests has become a successful marketing tool.

Cooperation with airlines such as Air Uganda, which fly daily nonstop from Entebbe to Mombasa, has made the sale of coast holiday packages easy for Ugandans and expatriates living here and the superb quality of accommodation, food and hospitality in general draw ever larger numbers to the Chui.

National airline Kenya Airways too operates holiday packages in conjunction with the Leopard Beach, bringing in guests from across the African network for visitors to enjoy the endless white beaches of Diani, themselves repeatedly named as among the Best Beaches in the World.

Latest information from the resort is that it has been fully booked since the 16th of December until well into the New Year and that the completion and addition of the new 2 and 3 bedroom private villas, 28 in total, cannot come soon enough, considering the demand the resort enjoys. Happy Holidays indeed.

KENYA AIRWAYS AND RWANDAIR AT THE VERGE OF FORMING A MAJOR PARTNERSHIP


Reliable sources from Nairobi have confirmed that a principal agreement has been reached between Kenya Airways and RwandAir, when KQ’s Dr. Titus Naikuni and RwandAir’s Chairman Girma Wake put pen to paper to outline future cooperation and work together to increase connectivity for their respective passengers.

The two airlines fly a total of 7 times between Nairobi and Kigali at present but will now aim at a range of tighter collaboration in cargo handling, crew training – Kenya Airways’ Pride Centre offers a state of the art B737NG simulator in Nairobi – as well as maintenance, where KQ’s MRO at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport can provide the closest such facility for RwandAir’s B737fleet. Dr.Naikuni was quoted to have said on upon reaching the deal: ‘In line with our strategy to exploit the untapped economic potential of the African continent, this partnership with RwandAir allows us, together with our colleagues in African aviation, to further strengthen and enhance our services and network.’

In turn RwandAir’s Chairman Girma Wake responded: ‘We’re pleased to have agreed this cooperation intent with Kenya Airways. We can now offer more choice for passengers who wish to travel to Rwanda where tourism, trade and investment are on the rise. It is important that we provide the right infrastructure together with partner airlines’.

It is understood that additional areas the two carriers are eyeing for future cooperation are the possible alignment of RwandAir’s Dream Miles programme with Kenya Airways’ much more advanced ‘Flying Blue’, scheduling alignments, harmonization of the reservation systems and handling.

There is intense speculation among regular aviation pundits that this newly found spirit between KQ and WB to work hand in hand is also aimed at regional upstart FastJet to limit their future options vis a vis potential partners in the region and start, as one source close to Kenya Airways’ put it ‘containment measures by raising the thresholds for them’. Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from Eastern Africa’s vibrant aviation scene.

KENYA’S FIRST BEST WESTERN OPENS IN NAIROBI

A 96 room and 6 suite Best Western franchise has opened in Nairobi’s Hurlingham area last week, the second of its kind in Eastern Africa after Dar es Salaam. Located along Arwings Kodhek Road the newly opened hotel adds yet another global brand name to Kenya, where in 2013 a number of other hospitality giants are also due to open new properties, hot on the heels of major oil discoveries. 2 rooms are suitable to serve the special needs of physically disabled guests.

According to information received the hotel features one restaurant, open between 06.30 a.m. and 10 p.m., a cocktail lounge on the roof and offers guests a free breakfast, besides the now almost expected free high speed WiFi. Meeting rooms are also available and leisure time can be spent at the swimming pool or in the fully equipped gym. Room service is restricted to the hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the hotel.

Welcome, or as we say here, Karibu Nairobi.

EAST AFRICAN WHALE SHARK TRUST TO SET UP OPEN WATER AQUARIUM

The world’s largest whale shark aquarium in Atlanta / Georgia will be dwarved by a new open sea aquarium due to open around March next year, which will be about 100 times bigger, according to sources at the Kenya coast.

The enclosure is said to be some 2 km long and over 600 metres wide and have an average depth of 14 metres, allowing the ‘inhabitants’, two juvenile whale sharks, to thrive in a protected environment.

Whale shark sightings have dramatically decreased in recent years, as the fish is increasingly seen as a major bounty by local fishermen, prompting calls for an increased protected status of this species.

Located at Waa, a fishing village between the famous Diani Beach and the island of Mombasa, the new project is in high gear to finish the various preparations, so that visitors can be allowed to see the two sharks close up and personal, with an excursion packages reportedly selling for around 100 US Dollars.

According to the reports at hand, though not from the project promoters directly, it is understood that a marine rescue and ‘fish hospital’ station is to be added to the project, and that efforts will be made to promote a breeding programme for shark whales in the future, to stabilize and eventually raise population numbers again.

Figures sent in from a survey of whale sharks in Kenyan waters speak of just under 60 sighings over a two week interval some 6 years ago while a similar survey this year took 6 weeks to spot only 12 of the species, attributed to overfishing. ‘They are talking about sharing revenues from visitors to the marine aquarium with local fishing communities in exchange for a moratorium on whale shark hunts. Perhaps it is a way forward but we know the problems we have in Kenya with normal game parks and even though KWS gives support to local communities, poaching is still increasing a lot. They are also promising that the sharks kept in the aquarium will be released after a few months and others brought in, and although I don’t know how this will work on the ground it sounds like a good idea not to keep them captive forever’ said the source.

Efforts are underway to obtain more specific details on the planned breeding programme, the ‘exchange of tenants’ as projected every six months and the long term plans of the facility, and as and when available be sure to read more about it right here, so watch this space. More information is available via www.giantsharks.org

VIPINGO RIDGE GETS DAILY FLIGHT FROM NAIROBI’S WILSON AIRPORT

Vipingo Ridge has announced that with effect from 21st December a daily afternoon flight will operate from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport to Vipingo Ridge, the unique coastal getaway gated community spread over 2.500 acres of land. Leaving Wilson Airport at 4 pm daily the flight will reach the private Vipingo airstrip at 5.30 pm before returning to Nairobi at 7.30 pm. The flight is operated by Severin Air Safaris’ using a Cessna 208 Caravan.

The last flight will then take place on 06th January, effectively covering the entire extended holiday period, allowing property owners and their guests to fly from the capital directly to the estate without having to embark on the long journey by road or else having to fly via Malindi or Mombasa.

The cost for a ticket on the ‘shared charter’ will be US Dollars 300 return or US Dollars 200 one way, all fees and taxes included.

Vipingo Ridge is a pioneer development of gated living, featuring its own beach club, a central country club, two 18 hole golf courses, an airstrip suitable to land single and twin engine turboprop aircraft and a range of other community amenities and facilities. Other similar such estates are presently under development like one on Ol Pejeta as well as in the Great Rift Valley near Naivasha. Visit www.vipingoridge.com for more information.

Tanzania News

MINISTER OUT OF CONTROL SAY HOSPITALITY SOURCES AS SECOND HOTEL ORDERED SHUT

Sources from Dar es Salaam have on condition of strict anonymity for fear of the almost inevitable vengeful repercussions sent information, that a second hotel at the ocean front, the Giraffe Oceanview Hotel, has been given closure orders yesterday too.

Dr. Terezya Huvisa was by other hospitality sources described as ‘drunk with power and out of control’, said by hoteliers who are equally threatened with similar action. Several individuals in periodic contact with this correspondent were describing her as ‘misguided, unable to look beyond herself and unwilling to discuss acceptable and feasible time frames to sort out the affluent discharge while Dar es Salaam city council sleeps’.

The Giraffe Ocean View is the second hotel facing closure after the Double Tree by Hilton was told to shut shop, although at least two sources from Dar es Salaam confirmed yesterday evening that the hotel was still open and doing business. ‘Ministers think they can just mouth off and give directives like in the old days. They have to serve papers, properly drawn up and quoting the respective violations and if all prior written notices have been ignored, and even then a hotel can challenge in court. One can get an injunction showing what damage to the business such a no brain order would cause. What our problem is in Dar is the city council. They fail to connect us or collect affluent and it is them who should be closed down. We are victims of these circumstances. Treatment plants cost a fortune, we need tax and duty relief, accelerated depreciation and tax and duty free import of the materials needed to run such a plant. Government only makes demands, they must learn to contribute to solutions.’

The 98 room and suite Giraffe Oceanview Hotel is thought to be the second hotel targeted but more hotels and resorts are on a secretive hidden list of properties the minister reportedly has issues with and some have already vowed that should they too be told to close they’d go straight to court for injunctions while continuing to operate in defiance of verbal instructions or even served documents.

This calls for dialogue between representatives of the hotel sector, government, city council and lawyers to find a solution, not unilateral action just ahead of the busy holiday season. The entire fashion how this is done suggests ill will and ulterior motives and the minister should be given orders to lay low for a while until a workable solution has been developed. It is also not fair to blame us as anti environment. We need a good clean environment but mitigation takes time and money. Why would we spoil the beaches on which our hotels are built’ said another source.

Tough times it seems, on this front and as recently reported here vis a vis harassment too of foreign investors in tourism, where seemingly the greed of officials has ended up properties in trouble by using allegedly political connections to browbeat owners into paying officials off or else be bombarded with red tape and fake investigations. Watch this space as this latest Tanzanian saga evolves.

DOUBLE TREE DAR ES SALAAM ORDERED CLOSED – VENDETTA SUGGESTED

Information was received from a regular source in Dar es Salaam, that the Double Tree Dar es Salaam was closed down by order of a government minister, who also reportedly on the spot revoked the environmental certificate over allegations of uncontrolled discharge of affluent into the nearby Indian Ocean.

This follows an earlier order to pay a fine, which according to the source the hotel has not done following a growing dispute by the hotel industry in Dar es Salaam with the Tanzanian government and the Dar es Salaam city council over the issue of sewerage connections. A number of other hotels are reportedly targeted too, raising suspicion that so close to the holiday season there are rather more murky issues at hand now, with one of those asked to comment responding: ‘Why do you even ask. You lived long enough in East Africa to know what that means when they come with closure notices just ahead of the holidays. They want something and that something is not compliance. It cannot be compliance because Dar city council has failed us all and now someone needs a punch bag. So take an educated guess what these so called visits by officials are really looking for or do I need to spell it out’.

From feedback received it is clear that the city of Dar es Salaam has catastrophically failed to increase its capacity to deal with affluent and process it and in a number of cases hotels claim they are unable to feed affluent into the city’s sewer system.

Survey results undertaken in Dar among city residents and businesses and recently published suggest that 78 percent of those sampled singled out their dissatisfaction with sewerage services and at least one source has suggested that hotels seeking connections are asked for exorbitant payments which points to ulterior motives.

Many investors have accused government to turn on them once they have brought in their money and got their projects off the ground in Tanzania, in some cases alleging that a number of government ministers and officials are still mentally rooted in the days of the command economy of the 70’s, when bureaucrats could almost at will decide on the fate of businesses under the then socialist policies.

Hoteliers have in the past demanded better police patrols in their neighbourhoods following a sharp rise in violent attacks, robberies and muggings of guests and – as reported her a few weeks ago even a murder of a tourist visitor when a mugging went wrong – but have met with a lukewarm response from authorities. ‘They are quick to send in dozens of riot police when they think there is an opposition political rally somewhere and always have fuel and resources for that. When we bring our issues to the table we are told resources are limited, there is not enough fuel, not enough officers and such sorry excuses. Doing business in Tanzania can be quite maddening’ added another source while discussing the circumstances of the closure order.

At least one contributor with an apparent insight into the specific issues at hand said: ‘When a hotel cannot connect to the main sewerage lines they need to use septic tanks and have them emptied on a regular basis. The hotel industry has raised this issue but it seems government is turning the table on them, demanding that each hotel near the sea must install an affluent treatment plant. This is not possible to do in just a week or two. It requires detailed planning, and for that matter permissions and licenses to do that and the bureaucratic red tape here is a nightmare. I seen willingness from hotels to do the job the city council has failed to do, after all it is their mandate and responsibility, but it takes time to accomplish that. So when they now come and close a fellow hotel, single it out, there is a lot more to it. There is no goodwill, there is a motive for something else. I am sure they tried something and failed and this is how they react’.

The sad reality of doing business it seems and being at the mercy of a bureaucrazy – pun intended – gone crazy. Efforts to ascertain if the hotel has since asked the guests to leave and cancelled planned Christmas and Holiday Season functions were not successful at the time of going to press. Watch this space.

TANZANIA TOURIST BOARD SIGNS MOU WITH ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES

Information from Dar es Salaam speaks of a new cooperation agreement which was signed yesterday between Ethiopian Airlines and the Tanzania Tourist Board for an initial two year period of cooperation. Ethiopian Airlines flies multiple daily frequencies from Addis Ababa to Tanzania, covering Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro International Airport and Zanzibar. Dr. Aloyce Nzuki, the CEO of the Tanzania Tourist Board, signed the agreement and expressed his hope that the partnership would help to increase visibility for Tanzania Tourism while offering support to the country’s tourism industry vis a vis joint promotions, reduced air fares when attending international tourism trade fairs and by bringing in travel agents, tour operators and members of the international media to write about the country’s wide range of attractions.

This partnership is good but we need to expand this programme to include other big international airlines, like Emirates, Qatar and Turkish or KLM. I hope we have not done this as an exclusive deal because otherwise we as Tanzania could lose out by missing the others. We should work with all airlines bring international tourists to our country so that it is easier to target new markets. Those Gulf airlines are now flying everywhere and we can get their passengers from all over the world to come to Arusha or Dar es Salaam very easily. And some of these airlines have big promotion budgets. That is what we have to tap into because alone we have a limited capacity to reach our target markets’ said a regular source from Arusha when the news broke and stakeholder input was sought. No comments were available from the airline nor could it be established who signed the MoU on their behalf alongside Dr. Nzuki. The agreement is effective immediately and runs over an initial 24 months period.

TANAPA LOSES CESSNA IN FLIGHT MISHAP

An unexplained dive soon after takeoff from the Mpanda airfield in Tanzania’s Katavi region led to the loss of a Cessna 182 aircraft, owned and operated by Tanzania National Parks, bearing registration 5H FZS. The aircraft, sponsored by the Frankfurt Zoological Society, hence the registration FZS, is considered a total loss as it broke apart on impact but the pilot of the plane reportedly survived the crash landing with only minor injuries. TANAPA uses light aircraft for aerial surveillance, game counts, supporting anti poaching operations but also to ferry senior staff in and out of the parks, when time is of essence.

Sketchy reports from a source in Arusha indicate that the plane may have suffered an engine failure and the unfolding air accident investigation now underway by the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority is expected to take statements from eye witnesses and the pilot while also examining forensic evidence from the wreckage before determining the cause of the accident. It is also expected that all maintenance records of the plane will be seized by TCAA’s accident investigation panel to ascertain if maintenance procedures and intervals were followed as required.

The local reporting in Tanzania also caused some intense amusement amongst the aviation fraternity as one reporter named the aircraft as a jet, clearly not having a clue of aircraft types and making a mess out of the situation.

Watch this space for breaking and regular news from East Africa’s aviation scene.

Rwanda News

KITABI COLLEGE GRADUATES 15 IN CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT

15 students were on Friday awarded Advanced Diplomas in their respective courses in conservation and environmental studies at the Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management in the presence of Ms. Rica Rwigamba, Head of the Tourism and Conservation Department of the Rwanda Development Board, under which auspices the institute falls.

Also present at the graduation ceremony were representatives from the Ministry of Education according to the details received from a Kigali based source, in addition to tourism stakeholders and relatives of the graduates.

The college, located on the outskirts of the Nyungwe Forest National Park, serves as a resource and training centre for those seeking positions in wildlife conservation, research, surveillance and monitoring of game and nature but also for staff wishing to work in the tourism private sector as guides or in management entry positions.

While tourism has become a mainstay of Rwanda’s economy and is the leading sector in terms of foreign exchange earnings, the country has been playing catch up with building and strengthening the human resource development element for the sector. The Rwanda Development Board in particular has taken a lead role in recent years through hospitality training, vocational training and of course at the KCCEM where environmental and conservation courses are taught in order to inject skills and competence into the industry for improved service delivery across the board.

Congratulations to the graduates who had Christmas come early when they got their graduation certificates before leaving the college and all the best for their future.

RWANDA’S FOREST COVER REACHES 24.5 PERCENT

As The Land of a Thousand Hills prepares to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Rwanda Patriotic Front, the liberation force which eventually drove the notorious killer militias out of Rwanda and had the country rise like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes of the 1994 genocide, did news emerge that one of Rwanda’s ground breaking policies is bearing fruits. The small East African country had under past dictatorships allowed forests to be invaded, wide scale logging was tolerated to generate profits and easy cash for regime sycophants and it was not until the RPF took power that the trend was arrested and eventually reversed.

In 2006 a new national forest policy was developed, setting the country a goal to restore forest cover from then just about 20 percent to 30 percent by 2020. Major initiatives like making Nyungwe Forest a national park and evicting encroachers from Gishwati National Forest helped to get an ambitious re-forestation programme underway and the objective to eventually link Gishwati with Nyungwe is now thought quite possible by forest experts.

Gishwati’s own elevation to national park status is also progressing and numerous tree planting campaigns have since 2006 driven the forest cover up by well over 4 percent to now 24.5 percent.

The government’s deal entered earlier this year with the New Forests Company from the UK too has added extra initiatives as the company will use the Nyungwe buffer zones to plant commercial timber plantations, shielding the main forest from periodic tree poaching while allowing the country to develop a sustainable source of wood.

All in all good news and evidence that re-forestation can work when supported by government and people, as is the case in Rwanda. Congratulations to the RPF and as usual, watch this space.

Seychelles News

WITH 6 WEEKS TO GO SEYCHELLES UNVEILS NEXT CARNIVAL SONG

The Ministry of Tourism and Culture in the Seychelles has announced the launch of the theme song for the 3rd Annual ‘Carnaval de Carnivals’ after a hotly contested competition produced the top ten entries from artists across the archipelago.

The 10 winning songs have been named as: Nou Karnaval (Micheal Savy aka Ion Kid), Karnaval O Victoria (SeyToile – Terrence, Terry & Angelique), Carnaval Aux Seychelles (Daniella Larue), Carnaval Aux Seychelles (Earonn Humhrey), Karnaval dan Kapital (Clifford Alexis), Carnaval des Seychelles (Herve Adrienne – Liba), Karnaval Viktorya (Clency Marengo aka Curious), Karnaval Ankor Enn Fwa (Louise, Ivan, Andy & Andrew), En lot Edisyon Karnaval’ (Eclispe – Herbert, Aubrey & Hubert) and Karnaval Mae Sesel (Yannick Raoudy).

According to the information received there were a total of 18 entries, and the 10 best songs that were short-listed as winners by a seven-member jury were awarded with cash prizes, ranging between R25,000 and R2,500.
The 2013 Carnaval International de Victoria song competition was based on several key criteria and was open to musical artists of all ages who could have entered either as a solo artist or a group. All entries had to be in Creole, and should have not exceed more than five minutes.

The artists had to guarantee that the songs were their own original compositions and had not been previously released on any CD, cassette and on any compilation or in other lyrics nor aired on any radio stations, televisions and performed in any night clubs.

The Carnaval International de Victoria compilation music CD is now available at various sales points, including the National Arts Council store in Victoria, the STB offices in Victoria and Praslin, as well as at its head office at Bel Ombre and at a stall at the Victoria Post Office.

Visitors to the islands for the festival in early February can expect to hear these songs played on the archipelago’s radio stations and on national TV and the top song will needless to say feature at the official launch of the Carnival International de Victoria on February 08th. See you in the Seychelles.

SEYCHELLES SEEK UNWTO EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP

The UNWTO has formally advised member countries of Seychelles’ intent to seek a seat on the UNWTO Executive Committee, representing the African region.

The election will be held during the 55th Regional Commission Meeting alongside the 20th Annual General Meeting jointly hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe next year.

Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture Mr. Alain St. Ange commented on the news that UNWTO had published the notice: ‘Africa has everything to be the new Continent for Tourism, from the Big Five Safari concept to spectacular island beach holidays with unrivalled swimming. Africa also offers ski holidays on the equator with cultural tourism possibilities, to big game fishing, sailing holidays or diving breaks. Africa has its Natural Wonders of Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Aldabra Atoll of the Seychelles, the Table Mountain of South Africa to name just a few of mind boggling attractions and this we need to work through the World Tourism Organization to consolidate it for our respective countries.

The time has come to work with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to take tourism in Africa to greater heights. This we can do by getting the African Union to see tourism as one of their development growth areas. With giants like South Africa and Nigeria working together through the African Union alongside their many smaller tourism destinations [the] sky is the limit’.

The Seychelles will this year record a 7 percent growth in visitor arrivals, catapulting overall numbers for the first time ever across the 200.000 threshold inspite of weakening demand in key core markets in Europe, after implementing a new global marketing strategy, supported by airlines like Air Seychelles and in particular Emirates, which now connects the archipelago with the rest of the world. In February will the world of carnivals once again meet in Victoria, the Seychellois capital city, showcasing the Indian Ocean’s if not Africa’s only carnival event recognized and supported by the carnival organizations from around the world. Minister St. Ange also revealed the background of the bid to become a UNWTO Executive Member when he said: ‘This was initiated by our President in a bid to consolidate the industry for the long term. The President wanted the Seychellois at large to see themselves in the industry that remains the pillar of their economy. That was a sure way for the people of our islands to not only support the industry, but also to defend it and ensure that everyone works for the consolidation of the industry’.

All the best for this election as few would be more eminently qualified to serve on this panel than Seychelles Minister for Tourism Alain St. Ange, representing his Creole island nation on the table of world tourism. Seychelles, truly Another World.

AIR SEYCHELLES STARTS TICKET SALES FOR HONGKONG AS APPROVALS GRANTED


A regular source from Victoria has confirmed that national airline Air Seychelles has now opened up bookings and ticket sales for Hong Kong, the carrier’s next destination with flights expected to commence early 2013.

A second Airbus A330-200 is expected to join the fleet in January at which time the airline will start to fly three times a week between Mahe, via Abu Dhabi, to Hong Kong every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Another source, close to the airline, defended the decision to drop earlier plans to fly nonstop to China and routing the flight via Abu Dhabi, saying that the code shared operation will give Air Seychelles partner Etihad the opportunity to also offer Hong Kong, a destination they are not flying to until now, which in turn will attract higher load factors for passengers and cargo. ‘You know the financial history of Air Seychelles. The airline has turned the tide but cannot afford to operate nonstop for now because the load factors would not make the route viable for some time. It is therefore better to fly via Abu Dhabi and take additional traffic on board there so that our operation can get into the black a lot faster. Air Seychelles has to make money at a very early stage on this flight but if loads out of China grow a nonstop flight to Mahe can be looked at’ said the source on condition of anonymity, happily granted considering past reactions from the airlines’ executive suite.

Tourism stakeholders on the archipelago have expressed their excitement over the new connection to China, still hesitant though over the one stop operation, as the Chinese market has shown the fastest growth in recent years and offers a potential for doubling arrival numbers next year when the connection is available. ‘My colleagues would prefer a nonstop flight like Air Mauritius will be offering to Port Louis. It is more competitive. Right now Emirates and Qatar are connecting traffic from China through their hubs. We should be looking at nonstop to beat that detour and make flights faster between Seychelles and China. But we also understand the financial reasons why for now they go via Abu Dhabi. As long as our own national airline can eventually go nonstop when there is enough traffic, the same as we are asking for Paris by the way’ said a regular contributor who is also a senior stakeholder in the tourism sector, clearly speaking not just for himself but his colleagues too.

For now though, all eyes will be on Air Seychelles when in early January the second Airbus arrives and flights to Hong Kong start. Happy Landings as and when and watch this space.

ALDABRA TO GET MAHE BASED VISITOR CENTRE AS IT CELEBRATES 30 YEARS AS WHS

The Seychelles Island Foundation, custodian of the archipelago’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, has on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of having the Aldabra Atoll recognized by the world body, announced the construction of Aldabra House at Roche Caiman on the main island of Mahe.

The SIF Chairman Ambassador Maurice Lousteau-Lalanne made the announcement in the presence of President James Michel, whose presence once again underscored the commitment of the island state to conservation measures, belying recent allegations of ‘green washing’ by sections of the media. Also present on the occasion was the Seychelles’ Minister for Tourism and Culture Alain St. Ange, the CEO of SIF Mrs. Frauke Fleischer-Dogley and members of the diplomatic corps, among other invited guests, to celebrate both Aldabra as well as the country’s conservation record.

The income from the second UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Vallee de Mai on the island of Praslin, is to a large extent used to support research, monitoring, surveillance and conservation on Aldabra, an atoll almost 1.200 kms distant from Mahe which can only be reached by a combination of air and sea travel, keeping visitor numbers low and the fragile environment, at times described as a remnant of the Garden of Eden, literally untouched.

Expeditions to Aldabra, where the population of the giant sea tortoises is a multiple of the better known Galapagos Islands and reportedly stands at about 100.000 at certain times of the year, are rare and only once have visitors numbers reached 1.000 per annum, before the global economic crisis struck and Somalia’s ocean terrorists made the sea lanes unsafe. Regular fund raising is taking place in both France and in the Seychelles, to maintain the presence of a small team of researchers based on Aldabra who collect crucially important information on the effects of climate change, rising ocean levels and their effect on marine life.

The announcement by the Seychelles Island Foundation has been largely hailed across the archipelago and abroad as the new building will then offer a showcase of Aldabra on the main island, for all those who cannot ever make it to the atoll in person. Congratulations on the 30th anniversary of attaining UNESCO WHS status, to the board, management and staff of SIF.

Getting there: By air from Mahe International Airport to Assumption Island, STOL capable concrete airfield of 3.963 x 41 ft with GPS data available through SCAA and SATC, and then 3+ hours by boat each way weather permitting, to be arranged in advance through the Seychelles Island Foundation offices in Victoria, or else by supply boat or private yacht or explorer cruisers, anchoring off shore as there are no sleeping quarters to be had for ordinary tourist visitors. Permission / clearance to visit must be pre-arranged through the Seychelles Island Foundation in Victoria and immigration procedures, for those travelling there from abroad, must be followed ahead of landing on Aldabra. Visit www.sif.sc or www.seychelles.travel for more information about the atoll or look up this correspondent’s feature article from October 2011: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/seychelles-conservation-story-aldabra-the-apple-of-the-eye-in-the-garden-of-eden/

PRE CHRISTMAS PROMOTIONS FOR SEYCHELLES POLICE

The Minister for Home Affairs and Transport Joel Morgan last Friday presided over a promotion ceremony at the Seychelles Police Training Academy, during which more than 90 police officers were promoted to higher ranks as a result of dedicated service and successful operational performance.

Earlier in the year a batch of new recruits was passed out too, overall strengthening the force’s ability to carry out wider controls, both uniformed and plain clothes, to support the archipelago’s tourism industry in their work to provide safe beaches for visiting tourists.

A regular source close to the industry body Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, the main private sector counterpart for government, hailed the recruitment of new officers during the year and the promotions now made formal as a step in the right direction. ‘The tourism industry has in a number of interactions with government, the tourism and home affairs ministry, pointed to a number of areas where surveillance and patrolling must be increased. There are spots were the regular presence of police officers is a deterrent against incidents of petty theft of items left on a beach when swimming. In other spots patrols will make sure that our tourists will be safe to walk from their hotels to restaurants near by or go for long strolls along the beaches. Security is crucial for us to maintain an otherwise very good record we have in Seychelles. We pride ourselves not just in our beaches and crystal clear waters, marine and terrestrial parks and reserves, and our festivals but also that our visitors stay is otherwise problem free. The industry is in regular talks with government and with our tourism minister we have a champion for our sector in government. Still, we need more work done here, and more officers and more patrols will help us all accomplish our common objective‘ did the source say.

The Seychelles are also set, any day from now, to celebrate a new visitor record for the islands to be celebrated at the airport and to make the vacation for that one person, and spouse, something to remember for a lifetime.
Watch this space and visit www.seychelles.travel for more information on the islands attractions and resorts.

NEW MARKETING STRATEGY PRESENTED TO STAKEHOLDERS

Following the ‘inhouse’ strategy sessions last week at the Hilton Labriz and interaction with stakeholders on the direction the tourism marketing strategy for 2013 is to take, was the new policy paper formally presented to the public over the weekend, while at the same time also celebrating UNWTO’s announcement that for the first time ever a billion people travelled in 2012.

The Secretary of State in the Office of the President Mr. Barry Faure, who is also the Chairman of the Seychelles Tourism Board was at hand as was the Minister of Tourism and Culture Mr. Alain St. Ange, accompanied by Louis D’Offay, Chairman of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, when Mrs. Elsia Grandcourt, CEO of STB, presented the new marketing strategy to the assembled stakeholders.

Mrs. Grandcourt said: ‘The Seychelles Tourism Board Global Strategy vision is to achieve for Seychelles the status of the most desirable island destination on the market offering the unique, Seychellois way of life, at the right price, and within a sustainable eco-friendly environment. In its drive to further raise visitor numbers, the Seychelles Tourism Board will continue to develop and maintain an authentic, dynamic and sustainable product at home, based on professionalism and value for money, innovation, and cost effective marketing campaigns throughout core and emerging markets’.

She then continued by highlighting the targets set for next year, including the strategic priorities which have been identified to be the following: Brand Awareness, Niche Market Development, Education, Product Delivery of Market Needs, Events Positioning, Market Segment, E-Strategy and last but not least Research.

Before Elsia’s presentation of the 2013 marketing strategy, Mr. Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture explained that the role of the Seychelles Tourism Board is to go into the marketplace to promote Seychelles and get Seychelles more visible.

Touching on the diversification of Seychelles markets, the Minister pointed out that ‘Seychelles is today lucky, as over two years ago we moved to diversify our target market which today is making up for the void made by the losses from the main traditional core markets of France, the UK and Italy.’

The Minister explained that Seychelles had invested a lot over the years in getting itself known in these core traditional markets, and this is why during the two-day marketing meeting, emphasis was placed on re-looking at the Seychelles strategy for these main core markets.

Budget for marketing has always been a point of criticism of the Government, and discussions on that matter was always raised by everyone in Seychelles. Today Government has heard this plea, and today Government has come up with a solution for everyone who benefits from tourism to help with its marketing for the benefit of every investor, large or small and to help guarantee the consolidation of our island’s tourism industry. The smaller Seychellois investors in tourism are set to benefit from the increased visibility campaigns from the marketing fund, and this will ensure that visitor arrival numbers continue to grow as per the country’s set targets This will in due course increase the yield from tourism as supply and demand logics kicks in. The Tourism Board just needs to continue to market and to diversify the target markets as they have been guided by the trade during the Marketing Strategy meeting and by the Marketing Committee set up in conjunction with the private sector’ Minister St. Ange said.

Alone the Seychelles Tourism Board will not get far’ the Minister emphasized before continuing ‘This is why Seychelles needs to continue to work with partners as we are doing with the ICPT and Vanilla Islands concepts. In unity, we have a stronger region and as we make it stronger, we will find that we will get more business to the region’. He also appealed to the whole of the Seychelles tourism industry to work together to protect and defend the industry which the main pillar of Seychelles economy.

From observations made, directly and through interaction with a number of stakeholders over the years in the Seychelles, the archipelago’s tourism industry has forged a remarkable cooperation between the private and public sector and while at times discussion pressing issues with emotion and passion, have been united in public when promoting the country. This has undoubtedly set the destination apart from other countries, where often public spats and squabbles between public and private sectors impact on the effectiveness of marketing efforts. Whatever differences exist, they are largely dealt with behind closed doors and effectively resolved before they cause damaging headlines. And it has to be said here, the Seychelles arguably run the smartest worldwide network to engage with the global media to keep the destination in the headlines way beyond a country of this size would ordinarily see happen. Clearly, it is not size which matters here but the beautiful Creole nature of the people, nature galore, pristine beaches, more than half of the territory dedicated to conservation and an immense pride and passion to tell the story, day in day out. Seychelles, truly Another World.

AND in ending today some more interesting material from Further Down South courtesy of Gill Staden:

National Heritage Conservation Commission receives funding from Government

Government has given K2.3 billion for the rehabilitation of the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site. The money will be used to revamp the area in time for the UNWTO.

According to the report the work will include upgrading of pathways, toilets and fencing. I do not know any more details except this. I am assuming that the fencing will be a replacement of the current fence which includes razor-wire and chain-link will be replaced – I hope so – we can do better than this.

New Fence for the National Park

During the week I took a drive around the airport (on Knight’s Drive) and noticed a new fence being erected for the National Park. It seems a little bit premature to put up a fence without first doing something about the road which is badly eroded. In some sections the rains have washed away huge gullies going down the hill. Surely these should have been fixed first? I also wonder about what the elephants are going to make of this fence. I think they will knock it down – it crosses their migratory routes.

Also, as you near the old Chalets Motel which is now used for ZAF personnel, I think, the fence is very close to the road. This fence is an electric fence. If a private operator were to erect a fence so close to the road and a potential danger to the public, there would be a massive outcry.

Lukusuzi National Park

As there was not much to write about this week, I thought I would have a look at one of Zambia’s lesser known parks. I chose Lukusuzi.

Photo from COMACO Website

Lukusuzi is near the Malawi border to the east of South Luangwa National Park. There are no facilities for tourists and, according to one website there is just one track which runs through the park. The park is mainly rolling hills with miombo woodland – mixed woodland, generally on poor soil.

In 2004 Peace Parks signed an agreement with both the Zambia and Malawi Governments to form the Malawi/Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area which included Nyika Plateau (Zambia and Malawi), Lukusuzi (Zambia) and Kasungu (Malawi). On the Peace Parks website it gives us the following ‘latest news’:

The officer’s house in Kasungu National Park was completed while four tents for the officers’ camp in Lukusuzi National Park were delivered to the Zambian authorities. An operations room for Lukusuzi National Park was constructed near the entrance gate and VHF radios and related equipment for the installation of a network were procured. A VHF radio network system was also established in Kasungu National Park. Approval was subsequently received to install radios using the same frequency but different channels in the two parks. GPS and VHF radio solar charging equipment for both parks were also procured.

It would appear that most of Peace Parks efforts at the moment are concentrated on the Nyika Plateau area where there has been restocking of wildlife. But, as you can see from their report, at least scouts are now on the ground in Lukusuzi. If anyone knows more, please let me know.

According to the Joint Research Centre of the European Union which undertook a survey/data collection of the area in 2010, this is the mammal list for the park:

Mammal List for Lukusuzi

Wild Dog, Cheetah, Lion, Impala, Hartebeest, Wildebeest, Hyena, Giraffe, Roan, Sable, Waterbuck, Puku, Klipspringer, Oribi, Grysbok, Reedbuck, Buffalo, Kudu, Eland, Pangolin, Baboon, Otter, Jackal, Caracal, Blue Monkey, Vervet Monkey, Wild Cat, Bushbaby, Bush hyrax, Cape Porcupine, Serval, Leopard, Duiker, Bushbuck, Zebra, Antbear, Mongoose, Honey Badger, Weasel, Civet, Genet, Warthog, Bushpig, Elephant

There was no bird list, or even number of birds …

COMACO

Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) is working in the area around Lukusuzi to provide livelihoods for the people through crops grown sustainably. In this way they are reducing the need for people to cut trees and to poach. Their products are on the market under ‘It’s Wild’ and are available in the shops. The other day I bought some of their Chama Rice and I can definitely recommend it. It is excellent – try some …

From COMACO website:

KEEPING FORESTS SAFE WITH THE RIGHT MARKETS

In areas around the Lundazi National Forest, and in particular Chief Chikomeni’s area, people regard charcoal-making as an important income source, especially for those with a meagre income. Over the years, the result has been a steady loss of forests and a gradual degradation of the landscape. Not far away in an area between Lukusuzi National Park in Zambia and Kasungu National Park in Malawi there is a land bridge that covers much of Chieftainess Mwasemphangwe’s area. Charcoal-making there was also a serious problem for many years until the Chieftainess realized her area would soon be without trees and launched a campaign to stop the practice. She recognized that COMACO’s markets could provide a better alternative to charcoal and began educating her people to learn new skills that would qualify them for these markets. Through her persuasion and close partnership with COMACO, the Chieftainess succeeded and since 2010, no one from her area has sold charcoal. Instead they rely more on the market opportunities COMACO has brought. …

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