Weekly roundup of news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands, Fourth edition September 2013

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

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Fourth edition September 2013

MORE SPOTLIGHT WORKSHOPS FOR AFRICAN TRAVEL TRADE AHEAD OF SANGANAI EXPO

(Posted 18th September 2013)

Ahead of the Sanganai Zimbabwe Travel Expo in Harare, scheduled for October 10th to 12th, will Derek Houston of Houston Travel Marketing Service hold one of his trademark Spotlight on Africa workshops, where business to business contacts are a given in preparation Zimbabwe’s premier travel trade show. Derek’s workshops of course need no further introduction as scores of his clients have followed him from Africa to Europe where the Spotlight on Africa workshops over the years have generated plenty of business for the participants.

The Sanganai Zimbabwe Travel Expo in Harare though perhaps needs a bit of a greater introduction for those not too familiar with events in Southern Africa.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has availed the following details about Sanganai:

Sanganai/Hlanganani – World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair is an annual Tourism Trade Fair organized by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. It showcases the widest variety of Africa’s best tourism products, and attracts international visitors and media from across the world. The Fair is the successor of Shanyai/Vakatshani, the Zimbabwe International Travel Expo (ZITE) that was held annually at the Harare International Conference Centre. ZITE started asa small expo in 1982 and grew over the years to become one of Africa’s leading tourism showcases by 2007. The past four editions of Sanganai/ Hlanganani were a resounding success and attracted the leading African destinations and major world tourism markets such as South Africa, Botswana, Malaysia, China, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Indonesia, Italy and many others. The editions have seen the whole world converging in Zimbabwe in the form of high calibre international buyers as well as exhibitors, hence achieving its main purpose of bringing the world to Africa, “Where the world meets Africa”. The 2012 edition will be held in the Capital city, Harare under the the theme, Celebrating Africa’s Tourism Diversity and is expected to ride on the successes gained by the previous editions and is therefore an opportunity not to be missed.

SANGANAI/HLANGANANI – WORLD TRAVEL AND TOURISM AFRICA FAIR 2013

VENUE
Harare International Conference Centre

DATES AND TIMES:
Sanganai/Hlanganani – World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair will run for four days starting on Thursday 10 October and ending on Saturday 12 October 2013.
• 10 & 11 October are trade days
• 12 October is a public day

Opening times are:
• 0900 – 1700 hrs
SCOPE
The fair will be filled with a lot of business and networking opportunities during exhibition hours and a lively social and cultural programme parallel to the exhibition and after hours, providing more opportunities to network.

The Fair will target among other exhibitors the following:
• National Tourism Boards
• Embassies
• International Airlines
• Tourism destinations
• Leading Tour Wholesalers, Tour Operators and Travel Agents
• Leading Hotel Chains of the world
• Car Hire and Transport Operators
• Suppliers of goods and services to the tourism industry
• Investors
• Government Ministries
• Parastatals

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority looks forward to seeing you at the 2013th edition of Sanganai / Hlanganani- World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair. Come and meet with Africa in Zimbabwe.

For more details click on www.sanganaiafrica.co.zwor visit www.zimbabwetourism.net

East Africa News

OF HALF AND TOTAL NITWITS

(Posted 21st September 2013)

This rant, as some will see it, had time to settle down but in the cold light of day, anger and frustration remains in place and yes, it is about accessibility and airport security once again.

In Entebbe, be it in pouring rain or in scorching heat, one has to go by foot up the ramp to the departure level, unassisted that is pushing the weight of the suitcases at a steep gradient and those elderly couples travelling together, I pity the wife should ever her husband’s heart give way while being subjected to such nitwitty procedures.

In Entebbe one has to run a gauntlet of not one, not two but three check points, each one clearly not trusting the previous one where their own colleagues ought to do the job. Entebbe remains the only airport where paranoid security officials prohibit vehicular traffic to the terminal, VIP’s and diplomats of course exempted, while in airports with exactly the same threat levels, like Nairobi for instance, vehicles continue to drop off, as they do in Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Kigali as well as in other major airports where security probably has graduated on top of their class, as opposed to …

When driving to the airport, at random intervals, traffic is flagged down already before the CAA headquarters, passengers at times politely and at times with barked orders told to proceed to for the body scan while, often very superficially, the car is searched. Again, rain or shine don’t matter, for after all who gives a hoot if our visitors end up at the terminal soaked to the skin – good riddance, you have spent your money and begone?

The second check point is at the entrance of the terminal before reaching the check in counters. While I agree that the guys at the perimeter cannot be trusted, casual as they often are, asking ‘are you armed’ and then taking the answer ‘No Sir’ for granted, it is at the terminal entrance that a single entry check point should clear everyone.

Not so … belt off, shoes off and in a state of often half undress, and I am referring to such people whose trousers already hang half way down in a weird sort of fashion statement, holding on to their pants with one hand while tiptoeing on – and yes that is a regular sight too – socks full of holes through the body scanner.

All dressed up again, if that state can be called dressed, one then goes into the check in area, gets a boarding pass, present oneself at immigration and then, duty free shopping, a quick bite or into the Premium Lounge until the flight is called. And then the third gauntlet strikes. Another check point. Not as many as a trip to Nigeria put me through when I counted a total of 7 different check points for different sorts of formalities, but nevertheless a third one.

And it is often there that the nitwittery strikes with force. Where they pick some of the personnel will forever be a puzzle ultimately harder to solve than the crossword in the Times.

At my age, and I make no apologies for that, my skin on aircraft turns dry fast and I always carry enough lotion with me to be certain it lasts me through flights of up to 9 hours at a go. So on my last experience one of those picked from wherever and taught whatever in her course, took exception to me carrying a plastic container which read 200 ml. That she claimed was not permitted, only 100 ml per container was allowed. I shook the thing, and clearly, for someone with a brain at least, it was clear that it contained perhaps a third of the initial content – and by the way never challenged before, not by her colleagues, not in Kigali, not in Nairobi, not in Johannesburg and not in Dubai where recent trips took me. No she insisted it was illegal to carry a container reading 200 ml regardless of the content. If looks could kill she would have fallen there and then and I guess she knew that because my eyes threw fire at her and she backed off, consulting with a more senior colleague whom I had encountered many times before. He listened, came over, shock the container, grinned at me as only two conspirators can, told me to stow it and get going, have a good flight and all and ending with a shrug in her direction, cowed behind the scanning machine by then, saying ‘she’s new’ … ok, but when you are new young lady, don’t mess about with things you clearly know nothing or too little about. I do not carry sharps, not matches nor lighters – no problem as a non smoker – and make sure my hand baggage contains nothing prohibited, including NOT exceeding the limit of liquids I carry.

The other day, she was on duty again and shrunk away instantly when seeing me, expecting my wrath to have remained, and while it had blown over, she was wise to let her colleague, again the same I mentioned before, attend to me who waived me through majestically, lording over his check point.

On a different occasion, that experience being in Kigali, I had carried a few apples in my hand baggage, courtesy of a fruit basket a day which I could never finish and so I packed 4 apples I had kept. At the upper level check point an equally young and probably inexperienced fellow took some issue with my apples. Why was I carrying 4 apples? Not that it was any of his business I told him but to eat them, I like apples. He toyed with one for a while, unsure if he should perhaps invent a rule that I could only take three and the one in his hand might have to be forfeit but my own hand was firmly stuck out, demanding my apple back. Somewhat annoyed he then asked to check a carry on back he had already cleared and lo and behold, found a small safety pin, perhaps not even an inch long, on which a flower was still fastened, from a function I had attended. And he had found his casus belli demanding that the offending object was illegal could harm the crew, serve as a tool of whatever he thought me capable of on board, after all I was a man eating apples and not wanting to share even one, and relieved me of that fearsome weapon.

I had written before about Kigali and by and large my comments seem to have born fruits as clearly the level of training is now hugely improved and the grim faces with barking voices made way to a rather more polite format of please and thank you, well done Kigali for that, except for that one … regular night guard at a faraway place with lots of rain and no relief for weekends would be my wish for him.

And about apples, a good journalist friend of mine from Canada, for her obsession to travel with apples – to eat no less and not to throw at annoying officials – was for a while regularly pulled over when entering the United States as clearly there must have been a mark against her name in the data base … Beware of apple addict probably or How can we be sure it is apples and peaches in disguise? Eventually whatever it was either expired or in the end they realized that her tongue could cut as sharp as a knife, even if, or perhaps because of being marched under armed guard at one time to an interrogation room with the poor chap then making it worse by repeatedly calling her Ma’am. We laughed about it of course but also talked about the other side of things, considering the many scandals involving the TSA and tales of incompetence, corruption, criminal activities by TSA staff, it seems that not even the United States are immune against the phenomenon of checking the brain at the front door of the office.

I did enquire in Entebbe what the issue was for not providing a single access security point, like they are in place in the mega airport in Dubai, or the substantially larger than Entebbe airport in Johannesburg, and ‘between you and I, we cannot be sure what enters into the departure lounge, the restaurant and duty free shops so we rather, IN YOUR OWN INTEREST FOR SECURITY, have a third check point before boarding. Oh well, we do need to create jobs, don’t we and passenger comfort and convenience, who the heck cares for them, we got our 40 US Dollars airport tax and have to give them some service for that, don’t we.

Tongue in cheek, I know, but nevertheless, a constant source of annoyance. And then of course comes the issue with the water … in the Seychelles, as long as one is prepared to drink from the bottle, one can take it through security and thanks for that, warm and humid as it is while waiting for the flight to board. In Johannesburg recently I had about a quarter of a litre bottle left and the security lady, taking one look at it, waved me on. In contrast in Entebbe even unopened bottles must be thrown away, and those who dehydrate quickly, brace yourself for a long thirsty wait if you happen to be on a long haul flight and through security early. It can be well over an hour without a drop, risking people’s health but then again, what concern for airport security would that be. Should one collapse he or she would be wheeled away and of course, NO IT WASN’T ME nor my nitwittery over a bottle of water, just purchases across the corridor in the cafeteria for that matter..

In Reunion recently, my experience was crowned though. I had a bit in a bottle left, stuck into the side pocket of my bagpack, and had emptied it just before going through security, where I duly dumped it in the container before unscrewing a second still full and sealed bottle to have a another sip. Well, that was to be the last one I was told, throw the bottle away and move on … with the flight still an hour and twenty minutes away, I asked how one could get on without a sip of water once in a while and without batting an eye lid did one of the security guys, the one who told me to toss my bottle, directed me to the nearby cafeteria saying ‘you can buy water there’ … at several Euros a small bottle, surely there must be a global arrangement in place between vendors of water at airports and those who under the implied threat of force relief passengers of their water at the check point.

On the upside, it was a single entry check point in Reunion as it was in Johannesburg, as it is in Dubai for that matter, all airports larger and busier than Entebbe and yet, our own clearly invent their own game, for whatever purpose. Terminal Four in Nairobi, when opening, will have incorporated all those passenger complaints and offer a single entry security check, after which passengers remain unaccosted and fully dressed, unlike in Entebbe which seem to be immune to complaints and demands by airlines for a more passenger friendly environment.

Oh well, I ranted and now you know why. The trials and tribulations of frequent travelers and thanks a lot for no one being able to read my mind when I am subjected to run those gauntlets or else I’d have been on my last trip ever and sit in a cell in Luzira with the key thrown away for imagining murders most foul.

Happy Landing, well earned after being subjected to all that. And should I not arrive as expected on my next trip, perhaps someone’s vengeance has caught up with me at an airport somewhere near you.

Uganda News

UGANDA’S TOURISM SECTOR MAD WITH MP’S FOR KEEPING VAT ON ACCOMMODATION

(Posted 21st September 2013)

So it was all in vain’ commented a leading Uganda tourism stakeholder in an email yesterday evening when news emerged that parliament had voted to maintain 18 percent VAT on tourism services and in particular on previously exempted hotel, lodge and camp accommodation upcountry and in the national parks.

We lobbied these guys but it seems their mind was made up. Government and parliament did our sector a great disservice and there will be a price to pay for such flawed decision making. We are facing a lot of problems with overseas tour companies over the increase in prices because we had quoted firm rates and who now will absorb this added 18 percent tax on accommodation upcountry. Our officials have no understanding of the consequences of such short term decisions. If at all they could have given a long enough advance warning like making it effective in January next year or for next financial year. It seems governments, not just ours but those across our borders too in Kenya and Tanzania, behave like bulls in a china shop. They fail the minimum standards we in the private sector uphold to give advance notice of price rises like UWA for instance does or KWS. They revise tariffs with enough lead time to permit for adjusting quotations. For me I mince no words that we elected fools who do not understand the inner workings of business. At the same time they kill our tourism marketing by giving us a laughable amount of money to run UTB. What on earth can 200.000 dollars do to market a whole country. What issues do they have with tourism that they only give us words but no money? asked a regular source on – understandably – condition of strict anonymity.

Leading tourism stakeholders, as was reported here at the time, had attempted to engage the respective parliamentary committees on tourism and budget but it is now clear that inspite of assurances by members of these committees to make appropriate recommendations to the plenary the tax burden was ultimately retained.

Faced with the wrath of voters though parliament yesterday removed the 200 Uganda Shillings added excise duty on kerosin, which the moment it was brought to the public’s attention during the finance minister’s budget speech brought wide spread condemnation of government hitting the poorest the hardest, while wastage of massive proportions in government expenditure and rampant corruption were left unchecked.

Other stakeholders were loath to go on record but maintained that the tax measures left them fighting for financial survival as many had to ‘cough up’ the tax burden, as one put it, from their own resources after overseas clients refused to accept the added charges, referring to firm quotations, or else they would cancel their trips. Quo vadis Uganda Tourism – time will tell no doubt so keep watching this space.

IT IS ‘BAYIMBA FESTIVAL TIME’ IN KAMPALA

(Posted 20th September 2013)

One of Uganda’s premier art festivals, the Bayimba International Festival of Arts is set to kick off its 6th edition today spanning the entire weekend. Launched in 2008 this year’s edition was promoted to be larger, more inclusive and with better programming than ever before, to claim a place on the annual calendar of events for the East African region, where Uganda has for long lagged behind the likes of the Sauti Za Busara Festival in terms of publicity and geographical reach.

Supported this year by Nile Breweries’ Club brand – NB is part of SAB Miller – the festival has managed to become yet more visible and the added publicity will no doubt generate more visitor numbers than on any of the previous festivals. The festival is internally boosted by the Bayimba Foundation and the Bayimba Academy, and more about this can be accessed via www.bayimba.org.

Meanwhile though here are the highlights of this year’s festival calendar and performers, which promises to rock Kampala and set the mood for the Kampala City Festival on the 06th of October.

Snapshot of the 6th Bayimba International Festival programme

This year’s festival, taking place from the 20th to 22nd September 2013 at the premises of the National Theatre in the city centre of Kampala, Uganda will feature over 300 artists, over 60 performances, 36 hours of productions and performances during the three days and will be accompanied by delicious cuisines, beverages, art exhibitions, film, fashion and the ever popular Silent Disco. Despite this, the entrance fee is still set at 1,000 UGX only.

Local acts that will be showcasing this year will include: The Uneven Band (Kampala), Idi Masaba (Mbale), Janzi Band (Kampala), Myko Ouma (Kampala), Coco Finger (Kampala), 12 Keys Band (Mbarara), Bila Wa Movement (Gulu), Okello Lawrence (Kampala), Herbert Kinobe (Uganda/US) and Bobi Wine (Kampala).

International acts that will grace the stage this year will include: Mani Martin (Kigali, Rwanda), Shazi Kool (Bujumbura, Burundi), Leo Mkanyia (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) and Ante Neo Soul (Nairobi, Kenya) from East Africa. From other parts of the world, we bring you Kouyate and Neeman (Paris, France), Nehoreka (Harare, Zimbabwe), KayGizm (Johannesburg, South Africa), Maria Bragança (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) and Mr. Poa (DR Congo).

Other acts on the programme include Dan Mugula, Margaret Nakibuka, Salongo Sebuguzi, all from the Kadongo Kamu genre, while Kaya Kagimu and Aloysious Matovu Joy will treat us with their theatre productions. Yuttah Konvicts, Tabu Flo, Spirit of Uganda, Sesolya Dance Company, Kristina Johnstone are this year’s programmed dance productions while Open Mic Uganda and Lantern Meet of Poets will represent poetry. We will furthermore have some interesting art and documentary films with debates and discussions on the role and future for the arts in Uganda on our programme.

Find more about Bayimba on Facebook via www.facebook.com/bayimba follow them on Twitter via www.twitter.com/bayimba and on LinkedIn too via www.linkedin.com/company/bayimba

NO LET UP IN THE CULINARY COMPETITION BETWEEN KAMPALA’S LEADING HOTELS

(Posted 20th September 2013)

The game clearly is on between the Kampala Serena and the Sheraton Kampala, and it is the customers who can enjoy the fruits of such competition in the food and beverages sector, as new ideas and new themes seem to be springing up almost every month.

For the Sheraton this time it is a quick Friday curry lunch, a pint included, which at 35.000 Uganda Shillings offers excellent value for money, considering free and secure parking is thrown in for good measure and parking is, normally anyway, always available.

At the Serena it is the upcoming 51st independence anniversary which at the end of this month will make the culinary highlight, with a sumptuous buffet and stage entertainment thrown in for good measure, and while drinks on this occasion will be extra free parking too is thrown in for guests.

It is for many Kampaleans the quality of food and service which matters the most today, now that plenty of choices in terms of restaurants are available across the city, but looking at the packed Lakes Restaurant at lunch time at the Kampala Serena or the Terrace Grill Restaurant at the Sheraton, quod erat demonstrandum comes to mind as far as the market leaders are concerned. ‘When you look at the main e-Guides for Uganda, first and foremost of course The Eye (www.theeye.co.ug) or Guide2Uganda (www.guide2uganda.com) you see a whole lot of new restaurants which have come up over the past years. Kampala is not quite yet on the level of Nairobi but for sure we have been catching up. Different ethnic cuisine, different settings, a lot of outdoor scenarios with patios and verandahs make use of our good weather. Kampala has arrived though some of the hotels still have to improve on service and presentation of food. But generally we can now hold our own in East Africa and that is a lot of progress since the last 10 years’ said an F&B Manager preferring to remain unnamed for, in his words, ‘applauding the industry instead of just singing our own praise’. Well spoken anyway and the truth it is. Time to visit the Pearl of Africa.

UWA SEIZES AFRICAN PARROTS AT CONGO BORDER

(Posted 18th September 2013)

Vigilant officials have impounded a haul of 25 parrots at the Mpondwe border post between Uganda and Congo DR, as the birds were about to be taken out of the country into the Congo, where the present state of civil war in the Eastern part of the country has provided a conducive environment to ship birds, reptiles and other animals, including blood ivory and skins, to third countries. The suspect is presently at large but as a detailed description has been obtained from witnesses is now being sought by the Uganda Police for arrest and prosecution.

The birds have since been taken to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe where they have been examined by a UWA veterinarian but sadly one of the birds has since arrival already died as a result of the traumatic experience. All the birds are of relatively young age and they will be cared for until a release at a later stage can be organized. Only a few weeks ago has Jane Goodall, during a visit to the Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary, released a batch of such parrots into the wild again, as was reported here at the time.

This is not the first such seizure of the African Grey as they fetch up to 4.000 US Dollars abroad. Even in Uganda have many diplomats and senior business and society figures made it a bad habit to hold the African Grey in cages after buying the illegally off the black market, but few cases have been brought to court or prosecuted, even though in literally all cases the birds were acquired through illegal means. Congratulations to the border security and customs staff who have once again done a good job.

GULU WELCOMES FIRST TRAIN IN NEARLY 20 YEARS

(Posted 17th September 2013)

Recently it was reported here that Rift Valley Railways has been quietly restoring sections of the 500 kilometre long railway line which branches off in Tororo towards Gulu and Pakwach and was expecting to restore cargo services to and from Gulu, to serve both Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan which can now receive and ship cargo via rail from Gulu to the port of Mombasa. Yesterday did the first goods train in fact reach Northern Uganda’s main municipality to a rousing welcome from locals, excited to see – for many the first time in their lives – a train rolling into Gulu Station and bearing a large banner put up on a container, announcing the occasion. The first cargo train carried a consignment of steel destined for South Sudan, which will be transshipped to Juba by road, substantially shortening the distance the trucks will have to cover now and significantly reducing the transport cost element for importers and exporters.

RVR has also at the same time announced that train service to Pakwach will commence shortly too, offering a similar service to the business community in the West Nile region of Uganda and on to Eastern Congo, which has for long been relying entirely on road transport from the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa.

RVR invested over 2 million US Dollars in recent months in the restoration of culverts, rail bridges and sections of the railway which over the years was extensively vandalized as a result of lack of protection by security organs for these vital installations.

The opening of the Tororo – Gulu – Pakwach line further adds to the improved compliance with the terms and conditions of the concession the Kenya and Uganda governments gave RVR, added evidence that the

new’ Rift Valley Railways company has indeed shed the negative images and public perception of the starting days when the original owners from South Africa, who were Jack’s of all trades and masters of none, dominated the bad news in the business sections of the regional media.

RVR management expressed their satisfaction to have completed this crucial link between Mombasa and the North and North West of Uganda and hopes to recapture a significant share of the cargo traffic for bulk goods.

Kenya News

ATTACK ON THE WESTGATE MALL TESTS KENYA’S SPIRIT AND RESOLVE

(Posted 21st September 2013 at 14.15)

(The flags of Kenya and the City of Nairobi flying on half staff in honour of the victims)

Breaking News
NAIROBI’S WESTGATE MALL COMES UNDER ATTACK

Nairobi’s Westgate Mall attack claims at least 39 dead and over 150 injured

News have been emerging from Nairobi that gunfire has been reported from the West Gate Mall, one of Nairobi’s largest and a major police and security operation is now underway and have confirmed that a hostage situation exists with possibly significant numbers of mall visitors trapped inside. All major TV and radio networks are on site but security organs, in fact Kenya’s Inspector General of Police is on site himself, have directed all networks to cease live transmissions which could aid those who perpetrated the attack and reveal details of the police operation now underway. The general public has also been urged to refrain from posting Twitter or Facebook pictures but that appeal seems to have fallen on deaf ears as more and more such information is now available on the net.
Some reports speak of as many as 10 attackers but the motive remains in the dark, uncertain if it was a plain robbery attempt gone wrong or if other motives are behind the attack. There are indications that foreign security specialists are aiding the Kenyan police and special forces and they are now having airborne surveillance underway with at least one helicopter circling overhead.
Emergency services led by the Kenya Red Cross are on site too but in the absence of more detailed information it is impossible to say with any certainty if any casualties have already been brought out to be treated or if the pursuit of the gun men is still underway, as several additional gun shots were heard just moments ago from both inside and outside the mall. Vehicles of the fire brigade and other mobile assets have arrived and are standing by for deployment.
The Mall, one of Nairobi’s most popular with a range of restaurants, major supermarkets, cafes and movie theatres attracts thousands of shoppers especially on weekends.
Police outside have also pushed the crowds of spectators outside back to establish a wider perimeter, to ensure the safety of the general public since shots have periodically emerged from the building.
Embassies in Nairobi have urged their citizens to avoid the wider neighbourhood of the mall and the Red Cross has already made a public appeal for donations of blood to boost medical capabilities when shooting victims eventually reach the hospitals, all of which have been put on high alert to prepare for incoming emergency treatment.
The situation currently has been reported as fluid and Kenya’s main TV stations are now in breaking news mode, reporting from their studios and relying on phone in reports by their field staff.

Update 1 15.20 hrs)
TV pictures from the vicinity of the mall are now showing significant numbers of people from inside the mall coming out and being guided to safety by security personnel. Live interviews with shoppers who had escaped earlier are now starting to circulate on Kenya’s TV stations which continue NOT to show any direct footage from the building or the cordon of security personnel.

Update 2 15.50 hrs)
From reports just coming in up to 19 casualties have so far been raced to the major hospitals where surgeons were recalled on duty to be ready for treatment of the wounded from the West Gate attack. Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo continues to tweet periodically as to other government organs, urging calm.

David Kimaiyo @IGkimaiyo11m

Once again everybody stay away from Westgate. We are rescuing the shoppers. Police have taken control. Exchange of gun shots. Be calm.

Update 3 16.35 hrs)

Information now obtained speaks of the incident starting at 11 am, the height of the morning shopping hours. Nairobi media source says up to now 11 dead confirmed and scores more injured.

Update 4 23.00 hrs)

Figures are beginning to emerge now that at least 39 innocent people have been killed and over 150 injured though that number can still change as more details begin to emerge and casualty figures from all of Nairobi’s leading hospitals are being reconciled.

What is also emerging is that Al Shabab, a Somalia based Islamic terrorist group, has claimed responsibility for the attack, which by the look of it and going by tweets received from official Kenyan government sources, now appears to be of a terrorist nature.

This in fact cannot be a coincidence that Kenyan armed forces, in hot pursuit of terrorists repeatedly violating the borders of Kenya while operating out of their hiding places in Somalia, have entered that country on the 21st September 2012, giving Al Shabab a landmark date to hit back.

In the past known for rhetoric rather than action, apart from some grenade attacks, this will be Al Shabab’s first main successful terror attack on Kenya, though they have also vowed to hit back at other countries with troops in Somalia like Uganda and Burundi, where within hours of the Nairobi attack security precautions across the capital cities were markedly cranked up to maximum security levels.

In a related report was it learned that another major mall in Nairobi, the Village Market, had on receiving the information from Westgate, voluntarily shut down operations.

Across Kenya are prayers now held by ordinary citizens, mourning this cowardly attack on their fellow citizens and the loss of innocent life and the injuries to many, who were targetted by the terrorists for being non Muslim, and going by some reports, for their ethnicity to make a maximum impact through targetted shootings.

My colleagues and I from eTN deeply regret this incident and express our sincere condolences and deepest sympathy to the people of Kenya – our all prayers are with you in this hour of need and sorrow.

InteriorCNG Ministry ‏@InteriorKE14m
Terrorist forceful entered Westgate. They have killed 39 innocent people. President Uhuru Kenyatta.

InteriorCNG Ministry ‏@InteriorKE12m
Kenyatta: I have personally lost family members in the Westgate attack. I commend those who voluntereed by giving first aid.

Larry Madowo ‏@LarryMadowo9m
Kenyatta: We have overcome terrorists before and defeated within & outside our borders. We will defeat them again #WestgateAttack

Larry Madowo ‏@LarryMadowo15m

President Kenyatta says 39 people killed, 150 others injured in #WestgateAttack

Larry Madowo ‏@LarryMadowo15m

President Kenyatta now addresses the nation on the #WestgateAttack. Live now on @ntvkeny

KENYA MOURNS

(Posted 22nd September 2013)

As Kenyans wake up this morning they realize it was not a nightmare they had in their sleep but that the siege at the Westgate Mall is still ongoing, though from the latest reports it is now clear that the gunmen are pinned down and largely contained, yet still holding hostages as human shields.

Last nights’ figures given by President Kenyatta, that 39 had died and over 150 injured had been taken to hospital may this morning already be greater, we do not know yet and will eventually learn the final toll this gruesome terror attack has taken.

It was to the day 2 years ago that Kenya had legitimately gone on hot pursuit to hunt down Al Shabab terrorists, who had repeatedly intruded into Kenya and taken hostages, including foreigners, and killed some of them. No country can and will let that happen with impunity and once the Kenyan offensive, on land, from the sea and in the air was underway, Al Shabab had it coming to them. Today, Somalia is largely at peace and inspite of a time attack yesterday on Mogadishu’s main market, triggered as the gunmen stormed the Westgate mall, mowing down the security check points, that country is on the way to mend and restore law and order, helped by troops under the UN banner from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Kenya. Still Al Shabab, despised by the Somali population for their twisted interpretation of the Koran and their cruel inhuman punishment, and beaten in open battle, continued to wage an asymmetrical response by having grenade thrown at Kenyans though were contained from carrying out any major attack until now.

Experts, the true ones as well as those reshaping the world in their pubs over a few pints, will no doubt analyze what happened at Westgate. I am a regular visitor there myself when in Kenya and can vouch that entry security is taken seriously, BUT there is simply no way anyone can stand in the way of a dozen or more terrorists, driving up to the entrance gate, opening fire with full salvos and then storming inside. No one can claim to be 100 percent safe, no country on earth is courtesy of the twisted minds of Al Qaida and their deadly evil offspring around the world and since 9 / 11 we had multiple major attacks, in Europe, in North Africa, in Indonesia and other countries. Were they sitting on their hands? Surely not but it goes to show that bombing a train, a bus, a discotheque, a supermarket or a church even, simply cannot be prevented, nor could it be in a country like in Russia where Chechen separatists in the face of constant ‘vigilance’ succeeded to do their deadly handiwork.

Until now we have always had reason to say, that tourists and foreigners in Kenya, apart from the two incidents in Lamu in 2011, had not come to any harm but the announcement by various embassies that some of their national had been caught up in the shootings has changed that too. Foreigners were apparently targeted this time. Non muslim Kenyans were targeted this time too and the majority of those dead and injured are Kenyans, I want to make that quite clear, in other words, Kenya once more carried the lion’s share of the victims. I am certain that bureaucrats in London and Washington and Brussels are already working on harshly worded anti travel advisories, which would very likely accelerate an already visible downward trend for Kenya Tourism. That however will rob Kenyans of much needed jobs, foreign exchange earnings and create exactly the socioeconomic environment terrorists with their attacks hope to accomplish, a festering wound they hope to exploit and a strategy well known when it comes to hitting countries depending on tourism.

I will soon go and visit Kenya, standing by my friends in time of need and as little a consolation and gesture this may be, I shall do it anyway. And as always, I will visit the malls, Yaya Centre, Sarit Centre, Village Market and if it is open at that time again, Westgate too, flowers in hand to lay them down as I bow my head in remembrance.

Today much will be written about the attack and how it will end, the why and where and how and all.

I want to focus on the fallout for tourism. Some may think it is sheer lunacy to now plead with overseas operators NOT to drop Kenya from their programmes but it is exactly what I do now.

Do not abandon Kenya in her hour of need I say, do not cancel trips and yes, while giving the facts also state that a repeat of this is most unlikely. If cancellations now come in en masse, the terrorists will win that side battle, and handsomely too, so do not let yourself be led by fear. Kenya’s resorts and safari lodges are safe, and while the Octoberfest celebrations I wrote about only days ago will be largely subdued, who can after all celebrate with the drama in Nairobi still ongoing, life will be going on.

Air safaris have taken off this morning from Mombasa, scheduled flights from Wilson into the parks are leaving on time, road safaris have set out to the lodges and excursions are underway along the Kenya coast. There will be added security measures, yes, but it will not stop life from continuing. We all in the industry, at the sharp end of operations and the likes of myself, now withdrawn to consulting, speaking at events and conferences and of course writing, now need to stand together and go out to tell the world, that this was an act of lunatics which should not be used to dump on Kenya as a whole.

That said, perhaps this is also the time for the Kenyan tourism industry to finally hold their national consultation to map out their way forward and for the Kenyan government to write a cheque big enough for KTB to be able to go out and attend every major trade show and organize missions to Kenya’s key core markets, to the new and emerging markets, and rebuild confidence. The time is now and I hope, in fact I know that the powers that be will get this message, perhaps not directly but through established channels which in recent weeks have already sat up and taken notice how one individual so constantly and persistently chips away on their stone walls to get the sector heard and its needs re-assessed and addressed.

With what happened yesterday, there is no more time to ponder or waver. It is time for President Kenyatta to put his foot down and put his money where his mouth was on inauguration day. Helping KTB to do their job now is helping Kenya to overcome the tragedy, regroup and emerge stronger and united.

My prayers go to the families of the victims and to their friends as I myself have lost contact I had on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. Stand up and be counted is my advice, and the more that follow my example the better. Kenya, I am with you, and I know my readers will be with you too. Take courage, take hope and stand firm and tall.

MOMBASA TOO CELEBRATES OCTOBERFEST AT THE CHUI

(Posted 21st September 2013)

No sooner was the news about the Nairobi Oktoberfest uploaded in the morning, did emails arrive from none other than Chris Modigell and his team at the Leopard Beach Resort and Spa informing that they too will on Sunday the 22nd celebrate this greatest of all Bavarian inventions.

With the setting overlooking the spectacular Diani Beach, regularly voted one of the world’s greatest beaches, the chefs at the Chui will present a spread of authentic German foods and drinks at the cost of just Kenya Shillings 1.500 for adults or 750 for kids up to the age of 14, a bargain considering the menu on offer.

• Thueringer Bratwurst

• Nuernberger Sausages

• German Potato Salad

• Spaetzle

• Cheese Krainer

• Sauerkraut

• Gammon Ham

• Meat Loaf

• Suckling Pig

• Chicken Schnitzel

• Kassler

• Brat Haendl

• And much more…

Knowing the quality of food from personal experience, this is something not only the guests at the resort but also patrons from Diani, Ukunda and even Mombasa will be looking forward to, enjoying an Octoberfest Beach BBQ in shorts and t-shirts, and perhaps wearing a Tirolerhut for added authenticity while snacking away on grilled German style sausages and sipping pint after pint and no doubt grinning ear to ear at their designated driver.

Around the world will this weekend beer festivals commemorate the real thing, kicking off in Munich, celebrating a great German tradition of good food, good beer, Umptatah music and a fellowship of likeminded people coming together no matter the location. ‘ohhzapft ischt’. Prosit!

NAIROBI LAUNCHES THEIR ANNUAL OCTOBERFEST TODAY

(Posted 20th September)

Twelve different types of beer should be enough to still anyone’s thirst one would hope and those doing pilgrimage to this year’s Octoberfest venue in Nairobi are sure to find out which one tastes the best.

The three day drink, food and music festival, inspired by the German Octoberfest soon kicking off in Munich, has become a tradition in Kenya where a large German expatriate community takes every opportunity to bring the ‘Heimat’ to their country of residence, first and foremost of course the beer festivals.

Organized by ‘Brew Bistro and Lounge’ the Nairobi event is without doubt the biggest in East Africa though across the region will hotels and restaurants traditionally host similar events.

The festival will take place at the KRFUA Impala Ground in Nairobi and an impressive artist lineup has been confirmed to this correspondent by a regular society gossip source in Nairobi.

★ Friday 20th September: ‘Battle of the Rock Bands’ Featuring over twelve rock bands!!

★ Saturday 21st September: WYRE, Victoria Kimani, Sautisol, ‘Cindy’ representing UG, Peter Miles from UG, Deejay Creme and of course DjProtegeKenya!!

★ Sunday 22nd September: Denise Gordon, Kidum, Different Faces Jazz Club, Eric Wainaina and the hot team of The Electrique DJs &The Beat Parade Band

Apparently though is the good ol’ German ‘Umptatah’ music played by the traditional bands absent, the organizers preferring the more contemporary music enjoyed by Nairobeans – going with the times it seems.

For those keen to go, tickets are available on line and more particulars can be accessed via the organizers’ Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/160191774172683/

For visitors, do enjoy the beer, food and music and for those there on opening, do let us know if anyone shouts out ‘ohhzapft ischt’. Prosit!


KENYA TO HOST FIRST EVER INTERNATIONAL 10 – 14 GOAL POLO TOURNAMENT

(Posted 19th September 2013)

The Nairobi Polo Club, founded in 1907, will this weekend host the CfC Stanbic Bank Kenya International Polo Tournament. The 10 – 14 goal tournament has attracted a range of teams from South Africa, Europe and America who came to Nairobi to seek the honours, while at the same time putting the country on the map as one of Africa’s greatest sporting nations. This weekend’s tournament has been described as the most important one of the year, clearly demonstrating the quality of play spectators can expect.

Better known for the exploits of the athletes running in the middle distance events from 800 metres to the full marathon and on to the cross country races, Kenyans have for long swept the leader boards of IAAF events, World Championships and Olympics. However, Kenya is not all about athletics but also home to world class rugby players and of course, as described here, a Polo Club which finds few rivals in Africa. Originally a sport for the white settlers in the early decades after the Nairobi Polo Club was founded, this has over the years changed significantly and most new members today are Kenyans from all walks of life, keen to learn the skills and horsemanship needed to play at the highest level, locally and internationally.

At a time when tourism faces many challenges, it is the niches which keep us going. Sports tourism is a growing segment of our industry. Many foreign athletes now come with their coaches to train at places like Iten, where our own top runners train when they are at home. We have fishing championships, sailing championships, we organize marathons now as a high profile event and Polo too is a sport which attracts a lot of attention. Such events bring in players who come with their teams and supporters and many may come back for a safari holiday later on. Tourism without the sport element is like a soup without salt. We welcome the players to Nairobi as we welcome any visitors who come to Kenya’ added the source who sent the information from Kenya’s capital city overnight. For more information about the Nairobi Polo Club and the tournaments hosted, visit www.polokenya.com

MAGICAL KENYA TRAVEL EXPO JUST A MONTH AWAY

(Posted 19th September 2013)

Kenya’s premier tourism exhibition will return to the Kenyatta International Conference Centre next month from 18th to 20th of October, showcasing once again the wide range of services, locations and attractions the country has on offer. This year over 150 companies are expected to participate in the event and buyers from the region, the wider African continent and overseas will be exchanging views and news among each other.

New this year will be a series of travel trade seminars and podium discussions with eminent speakers and panelists debating a range of topics relevant to Kenya’s standing as a destination and marketing the country around the world.

The inclusion of the seminars is aimed to give the expo an international appeal thus raising the profile of the Magical Kenya Travel Expo and adding value for participants. The content of the seminars will provide a platform to cover the following to key objectives:

· To update on trends in the development of the sector in terms of sustainability, product development and channel distribution

· To enrich participant expo experience by creating a platform to educate audiences

The seminars will take place on the 18th and 19th of October in the morning, allowing exhibitors and visitors alike to sit in and engage with the speakers and panelists with the various presentations covering anything from the Social Media’s impact on the sector to the challenge to attract more international conferences to Kenya, trends in tourism, the role of conservancies to online platforms like TripAdvisor.

This is one event not to be missed and live updates will be provided from on site. For more details and added information visit www.magicalkenyatravelexpo.com/index.php

IMMINENT LAY OFFS IN TOURISM INDUSTRY BLAMED ON GOVERNMENT

(Posted 18th September 2013)

The mood among the tourism sector stakeholders is turning grim and sour as the ill considered introduction of VAT on park and conservancy entrance fees and a range of other services is shattering the industry’s dreams to stem the downturn of the first half of 2013 and reverse the trend. To the contrary are now the first murmurs emerging from Nairobi and Mombasa that layoffs of staff have already commenced as companies are trying to adjust to lower arrival numbers and cut cost to stay in business. While individuals have been quoted in the local daily newspapers in Kenya, none of the more outspoken contributors here cares to see their names published, and the following comments will probably reveal why: ‘This VAT issue is like government shooting themselves in their own foot. That will become a festering wound for us all and the targets they hoped to achieve will by the look of it all but collapse. If Kenya is to achieve double digit growth and tourism is to be the engine of that growth, this government has already suffered one spectacular failure. Kandie [Kenya’s
Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Mrs. Phyllis
Kandie] gave the figures for the last financial year last week and those look grim. How she thinks she can turn this ship around we have no idea. Charters to Mombasa are too few, foreign airlines are not given incentives to fly to the coast on scheduled flights because they need traffic rights for other waypoints. How can Emirates fly twice a day to Mauritius and start using the Airbus A380, how can they fly twice a day to Seychelles and yet they do not fly to Mombasa and for the entire Kenya, much bigger than those islands, they only come twice a day. Something does not fit here between what they say and what reality looks like. First parliament takes nearly 2 billion from our marketing budget to plug holes somewhere else, then Uhuru [Uhuru Kenyatta,
Kenya’s President] goes to the Mara and makes a big announcement that the sector will get 3 billion for marketing but where is that money. If KTB does not have that money they cannot perform to the fullest of their ability. But in any case, they have limitations too. If there are not enough seats to Mombasa, coast tourism will continue to shrink and many jobs will be lost again. I am sure the next thing we hear is that the sector is being blamed but for what. We supported this government and they are letting us down big time. Uhuru was at the tourist board and should know better but it seems they are now both preoccupied with their trials and we are left to hang. They must get their act together fast because even our backbone, domestic tourism, is now declining fast because people have no more disposable income. Inflation because of VAT is running away again, the cost of essentials have sky rocketed and how then can people afford to come to Mombasa or visit the lodges when the entrance fee has also jumped up by 16 percent because of taxes. This government has many good plans but has become their own worst enemy. And let me be clear on something else too, the bloody new constitution is draining us of available resources faster than the taxman can extract their blood money from us. It was a big mistake not to pay attention to what it is going to cost us and if we go broke we have only ourselves to blame; ranted a regular source from Nairobi while a source from Mombasa said: ‘Some hotels in Mombasa already struggle now to pay their staff. Some have piled up utility bills for water and electricity and find it hard to pay suppliers. Those badly affected will either lay off staff or close temporarily. Safari sales are down because of the VAT. It is like the rug is pulled from underneath us now. Less flights, less tourists as it is and those who come find that things have gotten too expensive. So instead of an airsafari they do a road trip and those who can only afford a road safari instead of 3 nights in the parks they do only two or one. Does our minister not realize what is coming our way? It is Mwazo [former highly
controversial tourism minister] all over again who last year lived in cuckoo land with his promises and projections and of course we now know that was all rubbish. We need a national tourism dialogue where from Kenya Airways to the safari airlines, the hotels and lodges and the tour operators and travel agents all come together and map out the way forward as we see it and need it and then tell government, not ask them but tell them, what they have to do to rescue the sector or else be responsible for the damage we now take’.

In a related development it was also reliably learned that several hotels with plans to expand and modernize their facilities have deferred such heavy capital expenditure until such time that the trend in tourism arrivals shows upwards again. ‘The absence of boards of parastatals, and I am specifically talking of the new outfit which succeeded the Kenya Tourism Development Corporation, does not permit them to disburse funds to the sector for upgrading for instance of a resort. Borrowing money from the commercial market is simply getting too expensive again and KTDC always had preferential interest rates for the sector. It will be along wait for such money to be given out, they have it but need a board to sanction loans. And the law is apparently being sent back to parliament by Kandie to review difficult sections in it. All I can say, it never rains but pours’ added a third coast based source to the discussion over the past few days.

Kenya as a destination has enormous strengths and unique selling points, combining facilities meeting all budgets of visitors on the safari circuit with equally diverse resorts along Kenya’s famous beaches. The upcoming Magical Kenya Tourism Trade Show in October will no doubt give a clearer picture just how much local inflation and risen prices will affect Kenya’s own desire and ability to travel across the country but for sure have tourism stakeholders from the public and private sector their work cut out for them. Watch this space.

KENYA EXPECTS TO TRIPLE CHINESE ARRIVALS OVER THE NEXT THREE YEARS

(Posted 17th September 2013)

Kenyan tourism marketers expect arrivals from China, presently already standing at around 38.000 per annum (2012/13 FY figures) to rise significantly over the coming years. A recent trip by President Kenyatta to China, which strengthened bilateral relations and trade, also put added focus on Kenya as a tourism destination.

A few years ago hardly a few thousand Chinese arrived in Kenya before the trend gathered momentum, and increased air connections, via the Gulf, via Addis Ababa and of course as a result of Kenya Airways adding more destinations and flights to China, have been cited as a key factor for the sharp rise in Chinese tourists.

The newfound partnership with China and rise in visitor numbers contrasts sharply with the rocky relations Western countries have had with Kenya of late, where the US and UK in particular have meddled openly in Kenyan political affairs, especially before the March elections, where they almost openly threw their support behind the eventually badly beaten losing candidates. While attempts were made to gloss over these unacceptably diplomatic practices, the constant flood of anti travel advisories ultimately showed some effect as visitor numbers from the US and UK have since dropped lower in line with lower diplomatic temperatures.

Of course we want the US and UK visitors to return to their previous highs. They are important for our safari business and as far as the UK is concerned for our coast resorts too. It is unfortunate that their governments chose to attack Kenya’s elected leadership in the run up to the elections and threaten consequences should we Kenyans dare to elect leaders of our choice. But these two governments do not travel, it is the American and British people and I think we can get them to come back. Kenya is stable, our parks are world class and our beach resorts have been hosting them for many many years. But fact is also that China’s numbers are growing and of course we welcome them as we welcome visitors from any country around the world. KTB sources talk of about 100.000 Chinese visitors by 2016, that is in 3 years time, but I can see, if well marketed, that we get even more than that. There must be ground rules about the increased number of Chinese caught at the airport with illegal ivory but that is another campaign we can start and much progress is already there to see. If we can grow Chinese arrivals by three fold over the next three years we should also be able to initiate growth once again for our European and the American market. But let us wait and see how the new taxes will impact on all that because every market has only so much tolerance for price increases and ours have been bad with the 16 percent VAT now in effect’ contributed a regular source from Nairobi, when passing the information on KTB’s projections for new and emerging markets.

Other growth markets for Kenya were Russian and India, both members of the BRICS group and even the Middle East and there in particular the Gulf market too showed significant growth over the past financial year. However, tourism stakeholders have painted a picture full of challenges in recent days as they put out an avalanche of data and details to members of parliament now returning after a recess and to government in an effort to have the VAT Bill 2013 revisited. Towards that end, watch this space for future updates.

KENYA COAST TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS DEMAND DECISIVE ACTION TO HIT THE MARKET

(Posted 16th September 2013)

The news last week that Swiss charter airline EDELWEISS has confirmed their withdrawal from the Mombasa route next summer, and added information sourced since then indicating that returning for the 2014/15 winter high season presently stands a knife’s edge – airline officials are understandably cautious to commit themselves when there is a likelihood that they may indeed leave Mombasa out for the foreseeable future – has gotten coast hoteliers all wound up. ‘At at time when we lose one charter after the other, it is time for our government to re-assess their aviation access policy to the Kenya coast. My colleagues and I understand that tour operators in Europe are reluctant to give seat guarantees under the present demand situation for holidays at our beaches. And we understand that the airlines will not take the risk themselves and in the absence of guarantees rather stop a flight. Now is the time to get talking to scheduled airlines. Brussels Airlines last year also announced they would not after all come to Mombasa after first raising the prospects of a once a week flight. You wrote that often enough that Qatar Airways was planning to fly from Doha via Dar es Salaam to Mombasa. They were completely frustrated when their planned route for an extra flight via Nairobi to Kilimanjaro did at the last moment not get fifth freedom traffic rights for the sector between NBO and JRO. It is time to eat humble pie and invite Qatar Airways back and give them such incentives. Perhaps they can combine Mombasa with Zanzibar? Zanzibar just got a second flight announced by Mango from Johannesburg. Zanzibar as I read from your articles got issues, we in Mombasa got issues too but why is the Kenya coast with so many choices of top resorts and in fact for all budgets less attractive for the South African market? Cannot our own Kenya Airways route a few of their more than two dozen weekly flights to Johannesburg via Mombasa?

But we all know this is only one of the issues, getting airlines to commit flights to Kenya and in particular to Mombasa. We also need to take a hard look at our own image. There are perhaps a dozen, maybe less resorts along the coast which regularly upgrade and modernize and I mean REGULARLY. For me it is no surprise that those are doing a lot better than others. Innovation, new services, new look, well trained staff, that is the key and not hanging on for the food and entertainment programmes which were there when you lived in Mombasa. Our beaches still are the best, we managed to curtail the beach boy and vendor activities and KWS patrols our marine parks to avoid pollution and visitors destroying them by picking up things or walk on fragile corals. I hope we can have a national tourism dialogue soon so that every stakeholder can give proposals and make recommendations who we, the private sector, want things shook up and given a new shape. And finally let us have clarity on what budget government will give KTB. The proposed expenditure is on the table, the regions of the world laid out and now, can we please have the cash to do that after those reckless tax increases? Bring some of that money back what you take out of tourisms pocket; that is my message to our government’.

On the upside has Kenya in the past shown remarkable strength to adjust and emerge stronger but it is acknowledged that these are difficult times and that the recent tax increases on tourism services may yet cause more woes for the tourism sector, as in being that last proverbial straw which could break a back. The spirit of working hand in hand with government is visible and vibrant but many pieces of this puzzle must fall into place to make a bright picture emerge. Watch this space.

MWAZO IS AT IT AGAIN

(Posted 16th September 2013)

If one thought there is safety in numbers to hide between when talking utter rubbish, Dan Mwazo, former and failed tourism minister and now senator for his county once again erred in a major way.

Mwazo together with county governor Mruttu and area MP’s Mwadime and Mlolwa demanded during a visit by President Kenyatta to this part of the country that locals be allowed to mine inside the sprawling Tsavo National Park. In the same breath though they decried that the park was being destroyed by mining companies owned by Kenyans from other parts of the country, which in their interpretation led to a migration of elephant out of the park where they were destroying crops, causing increased human – wildlife conflict. ‘If a former tourism minister can stand up on the podium and be part of such nonsense utterances, I think it proves beyond doubt what issues we had with him when he was tourism minister. It was only a matter of time before his true self was to return to the public stage and he becomes part of yet more controversies. There were some legacy mines for gems inside the park for decades and those were controversial. They could only get away with it because that part of Tsavo was traditionally less populated by game because of the dry and infertile soil but conservationists have always had sentiments about it. It is not on the same scale as mining uranium in the Selous or mining soda ash at Lake Natron but the principle is the same. Increased human presence, increased disturbance of the habitat and increased settlements outside the park to house staff which in an ecologically challenged area only adds more destructive pressure on the environment. In the past such areas were hardly inhabited because no one could sustain farming for very long. However the area is ideal for tourism. There are two lakes, Jipe and Chala, and there will be enough room for the game which draws tourists in if the locals stop their poaching activities. They often use the reason of losing crops and property but KWS has a compensation mechanism now. More tourists means more lodges and that means more jobs. There are also remnants of the World War I battles between the Germans and the British and their allies, more reasons to perhaps declare some national monuments in the Taita Taveta area and bring visitors there like they flock to Verdun and Somne in Europe? But some people just don’t get it, they are cheap populists only looking at the next election with no concept of the bigger picture’ did one regular source let fly who in the past already showed his professional but also personal dislike of Mwazo.

Poaching in the Tsavo area and adjoining ranches has become a mounting challenge and while Kenya Wildlife Service and a recently established task force have been able to prevent a further spread and increase of poaching, there are still too many sporadic and opportunistic poaching incidents. ‘It is often locals who take their politicians by their words and then claim to defend themselves against marauding elephant groups and other game straying outside parks. And I must lay much of the responsibility on the politicians who by keeping quiet on this menace talk very loudly on other topics which their voters then see as an encouragement. With those utterances from last week the dots have been connected’ he then added. Travel commitments last week made it impossible to bring these issues to the attention of a wider public in a timelier manner.

A few responses from tourism stakeholders in Kenya also revealed overnight that not one was in favour of allowing more mining inside a gazetted national park as it would set a precedent for other equally destructive commercial activities, eventually reducing the habitat of the game even further, while at the same time demanding that yet more needs to be done to fight poaching in the field but also through close surveillance on suspects thought to finance the poachers and facilitate the smuggling of blood ivory out of the country. Watch this space.

KENYA AIRPORT AUTHORITY MOVES INTERNATIONAL ARRIVALS TO NEW VENUE

(Posted 15th September 2013)

‘The tents are going’ announced a regular Nairobi based aviation source yesterday afternoon by email, when delivering the news that KAA has now shifted all international arrivals to the converted Kenya Airways parking garage, which was in record time turned into a secure aviation facility.

Following the fire 6 weeks ago did airport managers and airline managers become creative to find ways and means to process arriving and departing passengers in some level of comfort and while President Kenyatta gave permission to use ‘his’ VIP terminal, next to it did a small tent city rise from the ground to help keep the elements out and travelers reasonably happy.

KAA will also shortly import a pre-fabricated new terminal building which will help in the longer term, over and above Terminal 4, which itself is being pushed towards completion through extra work hours and an additional shift.

Ms. Lucy Mbugua, Acting CEO following her former boss’ unceremonial departure after the fire, had this to say about the new terminal and other plans: ‘We are making arrangements to bring in a new prefabricated airport terminal because we are only using the JKIA garage as a temporary measure for the next four months. We are also accelerating work on Terminal 4 so that it is ready for use by end of the year’. She also at the same time expressed her hope that Terminal 3 will be returned for domestic flights before the end of September, bringing to an end the temporary but cumbersome solution of the cargo terminal, which necessitated extensive transfers for passengers connecting to and from international flights.

(The converted parking garage now in use at JKIA)

In related news it was also learned that when Terminal 4 is opened that the present terminal buildings 1, 2 and 3 will be extensively modernized and refurbished while the burned down arrival section will be demolished and completely re-build to incorporate state of the art fire detection equipment while providing passengers landing in Kenya with an experience second to none in the wider Eastern African region.

Meanwhile has President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the airport again to get first hand information on the progress of restoring full services and adding extra facilities, an opportunity he used to reassure the aviation sector that Terminal 4 would be ready by the end of the year and after groundbreaking for the Greenfield Project it will be completed within 3 years. The Greenfield Project includes a second runway, long overdue, and a new mega terminal which will catapult JKIA, named after his late father who commissioned it in 1978, into the 21st century. Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from East Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.

Tanzania News

PRECISION AIR NAMED ‘BEST DOMESTIC AIRLINE’ BY TASOTA

(Posted 20th September 2013)

Precision Air was voted by the Tanzania Society of Travel Agents as Tanzania’s ‘Best Domestic Scheduled Airline’, recognizing the carrier’s ongoing efforts to widen their domestic network and connecting Tanzanians from remote parts of the country with Dar es Salaam and other urban centres, as long as there is a suitable airfield available where ATR aircraft can land.

This is the fourth time Precision Air scoops this prestigious award after 2004, 2008 and 2011 and the airline’s commercial director Patrick Ndekana, according to a media release received from TASOTA, said: ‘We are proud and honored to continuously be named Best Domestic Scheduled Airline in the country as a testimony to Precision Air being The Airline of Choice in the country and it’s great to know Tanzanians agree’.

The TASOTA chairperson Moustafa Khataw was quoted to have said in his response: ‘We have witnessed an increase in flight frequency, new airlines, more hotels opening up in many parts of the country which is a good indicator of economic growth and to see Precision Air continue to maintain its winning position year after year truly puts the Airline in a class by itself’.

With a renewed focus by Precision Air on their domestic operations, after dropping unprofitable international routes, where they can use their strength as a turboprop operator able to fly into the more remote locations across Tanzania – the TCAA and TAA have both in recent years embarked on an aggressive investment programme to refurbish and upgrade secondary and tertiary airports, aerodromes and airfields with the aim to easing transportation problems caused by long and often arduous road journeys, at times made worse by adverse weather conditions. Watch this space for breaking and regular news from East Africa’s vibrant aviation scene.

TCAA SPONSORS 5 FOR PILOT TRAINING

(Posted 19th September 2013)

The Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority has selected 5 applicants, out of over 270 who had applied, to go to South Africa for training as pilots. TCAA will be spending about 500 million Tanzania Shillings on the training programme, or an equivalent of over 300.000 US Dollars. Aviation industry stakeholders have reportedly contributed to the TCAA training fund to the tune of 200.000 US Dollars, showing a widening commitment to develop local talent and form a resource pool of qualified Tanzanian pilots.

The five will undergo a two year training at the end of which they will, after successful exams, obtain their ATPL (Air Transport Pilot’s Licence) and will be qualified to enter a career as pilot cadets of First Officers with locally registered airlines. This it is understood is a prerequisite to have the country benefit overall. Among the five is reportedly one young lady, already holding a degree in industrial engineering from the University of Dar es Salaam, who will no doubt be an inspiration for many others wanting to start a career as pilots or in aviation in general. Way to go to promote local talent and congratulations to the ‘winning five’ who have just earned the chance of a lifetime.

PROFLIGHT PLANNING LUSAKA – DAR ES SALAAM FLIGHTS

(Posted 18th September 2013)

Sources in Zambia have confirmed that Proflight Zambia has set the 23rd of October as the launch date for their second international route from Lusaka to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This will follow the earlier launch of flights from Lusaka to Lilongwe in Malawi where according to information provided Proflight will this month increase their flights from three to four per week.

This will be the only direct flight between Zambia and Tanzania after Precision Air withdrew from this route which operated via Lubumbashi in Congo DR but failed to get viable numbers due to the use of a much larger B737-300 at the time.

Initially Proflight will operate every Monday and Friday, leaving Lusaka at 08.00 hrs in the morning, arriving in Tanzania’s commercial capital at 12.20 hrs. The return flight should then take off at 13.00 hrs, landing back in Lusaka at 15.20 hrs, all times local, taking a one hour time difference into account.

Zambia and Tanzania have long standing relations and are also connected through the Chinese built TAZARA Railway, which was constructed in the 1970’s to give Zambia, a landlocked country, easier access for their copper and other bulk exports to the port of Dar es Salaam.

Proflight, which now operate 9 aircraft including a recently acquired B737, has said the route, their 11th overall with 9 of them on domestic routes, will be operated with their 29 seater Jetstream 41 turboprop aircraft. The Dar es Salaam service offers easy connections to other Proflight destinations like Livingstone and Ndola, among others. Additional international services are according to the source planned for Johannesburg and Harare, once traffic rights have been secured. Happy Landing to the new service at both ends, always.

PRECISION AIR LAUNCHES SPECIAL FARES TO MBEYA

(Posted 17th September 2013)

Precision Air has confirmed the introduction of a special fare, available on all their flights from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya, of 147.000 Tanzania Shillings one way or 249.000 Tanzania Shillings return, all taxes and charges included, besides having some catering available on the flight free of cost to the passengers.

The launch of the new Songwe Airport earlier this year and the launch of scheduled flights between Tanzania’s commercial capital and the distant town of Mbeya, has allowed for a significant increase in visits both ways, as the arduous and lengthy journey by road was reduced to under two hours of flight with Precision Air’s ATR turboprop aircraft. Tourism to the wider area too expects to prosper and grow as the affordable fares make visits by tourists much easier, now able to explore the western region with greater ease, previously only accessible by charters or taking the time consuming long drives. Precision Air serves an extensive network of destinations across Tanzania, all connecting Dar es Salaam with the rest of the country on scheduled flights. Visit www.precisionairtz.com for details on destinations, schedules and fares as well as for bookings.

SERENA TAKES THE HONOURS IN 2013 TASOTA AWARDS

(Posted 17th September 2013)

The Tanzania Society of Travel Agents (TASOTA) has this year once again rewarded Serena Hotels for its continued exemplary service delivery and their range of locations on the Tanzanian safari circuit, in Dar es Salaam and on the spice island of Zanzibar. Out of the 21 Awards, three were listed in the hospitality category and Serena Hotels won two of those, gaining recognition as The Best Corporate Hotel in Tanzania as well as The Best Tourist Hotel or Hotel Chain on the Safari Circuit. The event was attended by Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism in Tanzania, Honorable Lazaro Nyalandu who handed over the awards to the respective winners.

A similar recognition was given to Serena Hotels in 2011 by TASOTA as the Best Tourist Hotel/ Hotel Chain on the Safari Circuit.

In February this year, Serena Hotels received a compliance recognition award from the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) in Tanzania for its continued compliance record with the fund with another recognition last year for ‘The Best Hospitality, Travel and Tourism in Africa’ by the African Business Awards as one of Africa’s leading companies who have excelled in best practices and driven Africa’s rapidly transforming economy.

Salim Janmohamed, the Serena Hotels Country Manager for Tanzania was reported to have said when receiving the awards on behalf of the company: ‘Serena Hotels is one of very few exemplary employers in Tanzania who have excelled in various sectors including financial, mining, transport and communication and received recognition in the Tourism Sector Category. The brand portfolio in Tanzania alone continues to focus on unrivaled client service delivery as a key focus, and this recognition will only challenge us further to continue giving our very best of service’.

Serena’s collection of now 24 hotels, resorts, safari lodges and safari camps across Eastern Africa, including Mozambique, have regularly won prestigious awards, many as a result of client’s feedback and some as a result of audits carried out by organizations giving such awards. Visit www.serenahotels.com for added information on some of the stunning locations in the national parks, the finest beaches and of course the primiest settings for their city hotels. Watch this space.

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR ADDS JUBA AS EXPANSION DRIVE CONTINUES

(Posted 21st September 2013)

It is D-Day today for RwandAir’s 15th destination to be formally launched, when the maiden flight from Kigali will for the first time ever connect Rwanda’s capital Kigali with South Sudan’s capital city of Juba.

The new city pair will initially operate every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and launch fares have been set at an incredible 199 US Dollars, all taxes included. Flying a two class, 75 seat Bombardier CRJ900NextGen on the route will give travelers to and from the new destination the opportunity to enjoy the comfort of a state of the art aircraft, two of which are already in service and holding a further two options likely to be exercised at some time in the future. The flight was initially to be combined with RwandAir’s services to Entebbe but when the Ugandan Civil Aviation declined to permit 5th freedom traffic rights – South Sudan is NOT a member of the East Africa Community yet and hence do relevant aviation protocols governing access to routes within the EAC not apply – RwandAir decided to go it alone and commence nonstop operations between Kigali and Juba.

Travellers from Juba to RwandAir’s West African destinations Brazzaville, Libreville, Lagos and Accra, but also flying to Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam, will be able to enjoy as an added bonus for flying with RwandAir a ‘night on the house’ in Kigali as will those connecting from Juba to the airline’s domestic service to Kamembe. Packages are in the works for passengers wishing to use that stopover in Kigali to explore The Land of a Thousand Hills some more, something in fact highly recommended to be able to experiences the new Rwanda and see the transformation this country has undergone in recent years.

RwandAir’s CEO John Mirenge on the occasion of the maiden flight, said in a communication to this correspondent received overnight: ‘ The Republic of South Sudan is a new born democratic state in Africa, a lot of development is buzzing there and business is attractive to investors or other well-wishers who want to join the booming atmosphere. In West Africa, southern Africa, or the East African Community, there is a lot of demand to provide access to Juba. RwandAir and our hub in Kigali offer the convenience in connectivity and affordability. We are excited to work with travel agencies and other partners to satisfy this ever growing demand. Our network provides the necessary routes to reach out to a vast community and for Juba travelers to fulfill their travel needs within Africa and in Dubai’. Happy Landing always to passengers and crews.

IT IS ELECTION DAY IN RWANDA

(Posted 16th September 2013)

Amid a crisis of sorts, having to deal with thousands of people driven across Rwanda’s borders by increasingly brutal methods of the Tanzanian government, reminiscent of the ethnic cleansing of non Serbs and Muslims in the Balkan War in the early 90 and by the regime in Khartoum in Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei, both of which stripped women, children, elderly and adults of their dignity AND their possessions, is Rwanda today holding elections for parliament across the country.

Now of course a multi party state, the ruling RPF is expected to sweep the board and attain a solid majority in parliament, allowing a range of programmes to be put into place for the continued betterment of the country and her people.

Voting has started at 7 this morning even in areas where there are many people now displaced by the expulsion from Tanzania and also in areas along the Congo border. Our security has been stepped up to allow people to cast their vote in peace and without fear of any interruption by hostile elements harboured and protected by their god fathers across international borders or overtaken by the need to provide social services for those driven from their homes and chased into Rwanda. By 3 pm today when the polling station close, we will have completed another exercise in broad based democracy which treats every citizen of Rwanda the same and not like in the past when a whole community was disenfranchised’ wrote a regular source from Kigali.

She then continued: ‘Unlike what we are used to in the region our flow of tourist and visitor arrivals has not stopped and it is a busy season for us. Elections in Rwanda give no one a cause for concern so why bother even sending a travel advice to people who want to come here. We have quite a few observers here from overseas and from Africa but all they will see is a peaceful and orderly conduct. I laughed one day when you reported from Seychelles election for president where you really had nothing else to say that all was in order and contrary to allegations there were no supporters of one candidate canvassing within sight of polling stations. It is the same here. This country is at peace with itself. Let the best man or woman win today and then represent their constituents in parliament’.

Meanwhile in Kigali last week on Friday have the respective delegations of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda finalized their recommendations for the next head of state summit in October of the coalition of the willing, to launch the single tourist Visa as planned in January 2014 and also permit citizens to travel with their national ID cards (Rwanda and Kenya) and their voter registration cards (Uganda). No details could be obtained though as yet what status locally registered expatriates will have under this arrangement, but it is hoped that a valid work or residence permit will finally do away with the need to obtain Visa on arrival when travelling for instance from Uganda to Kenya or from Kenya to Rwanda.

All the best to the citizens of the Land of a Thousand Hills as they choose their new members of parliament today.

South Sudan News

RWANDAIR ROCKS JUBA MARKET WITH SPECIAL LAUNCH FARES

(Posted 21st September 2013)

When RwandAir launched their three times a week flights from Kigali to Juba, many South Sudanese, according to a source in Juba, felt it was a welcome addition to their airline scene but nothing really special as few thought that flying to Kigali was too high on their list of places to go to for trading, leave alone for personal visits.

When however the launch fares were announced, the Juba based travel agencies and corporate frequent flyers sat up and took notice as few had anticipated just how hard RwandAir would hit the market with special fares in order to generate traffic from and to Juba.

RwandAir’s Head of Corporate Communications Robert Nsinga availed this correspondent the details of the special offers, which allow travelers from Juba, while connecting via Kigali, to fly to South and West Africa for 399 US Dollars, return airfare and all taxes included, while a range of East African destinations is on sale for just 199 US Dollars, again return and all taxes included.

A leading travel agent, understandably not wishing to be named in view of the impact the comments might have vis a vis her relationship with other airlines, said: ‘If my clients can fly to Nairobi via Kigali for 199 Bucks, of course they are keen to get such fares and save a lot of money which they can spend otherwise. If my passengers can fly to Johannesburg or Lagos for 399 Bucks, I can sell those fares like hot cakes. If a traveler is ready to fly to Entebbe via Kigali and accept the added sector and connection time and pay a fraction of the normal ticket they are charged by another airline, they might just do that and for 199 Dollars return they save huge. That is money in their pockets. I know Kigali, it is a convenient connection of short ways and when their new additions they are building are finished why not use that airport for transit. Nairobi is still a bit of a mess and the choices via Entebbe are just too limited to where they are flying. The RwandAir networ is growing. I miss the Dubai specials though. Our people here would surely love to fly on such special fares to Dubai but we will be asking RwandAir for their fares tomorrow. I hear even when the connection is not immediate they are offering a night in Kigali for those flying to West Africa? Now if that is really part of the deal, RwandAir should be able to soon fly not just three times a week but quickly go daily’.

What a blitz and thunder entrance this will be for RwandAir when their maiden flight launches later today to bring Africa to South Sudan and take South Sudan to Africa. Watch this space for breaking and regular news updates from East Africa’s vibrant aviation sector.

Seychelles News

SEYCHELLES TOURISM ACADEMY CEMENT PARTNERSHIP WITH CONSTANCE HOTELS

(Posted 19th September 2013)

The Principal of the Seychelles Tourism Academy, Mr. Flavien Joubert, has welcomed the decision taken last week by the Constance Hotels Group to work with the Seychelles Tourism Academy to encourage more young Seychellois to enter the world of tourism and start a career in the hospitality industry. Constance Hotels and Resorts operates the two largest resorts respectively on the island of Mahe, the Constance Ephelia and on the island of Praslin, the Constance Lemuria.

During the Constance Group’s annual Board of Directors meeting in the Seychelles this week, Mr. Joubert had met on two different occasions with Mr. Valette, the CEO of Constance Hotels and Resorts as well as with Mr. Andrew Milton, COO, Mr. George Lee, the Financial Controller, Mr. Guy Adam, Managing Director of Le Refuge du Pecheur, the owners of the Constance Lemuria and Ephelia Resorts in Seychelles, Mr. Claude Narrain and Mr. Mark Marivel, Constance’s Group Human Resources Directors.

Among other points discussed between the two partners was an allowance for Tourism Academy students placed on full-time attachments, and the Constance Hotels Group have agreed that effective from 1st October 2013, all STA full time students on attachment with Constance Hotels will get a monthly allowance of SR1,000/-.

The Seychelles Tourism Academy is operated as part of the island’s Tourism Board with Mrs. Sherin Naiken as CEO and Mr. Flavien Jobert as the Principal of the Academy. STA is undergoing a major transformation with a complete rebuilding over three phases, which when completed will without doubt be the Indian Ocean’s finest hospitality and tourism training institution, located at La Misere with the arguably best view of any such school in sub Saharan Africa. ‘The decision taken by the Constance Hotels Group shows that they want to assist the Tourism Academy to get more young Seychellois into the industry. Their support is really appreciated’ said Flavien Joubert when the added components of their partnership was announced earlier this week.

Minister Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture congratulated the Constance Hotels Group for their support and said that other hotels and tourism companies needed to be encouraged to do the same. Said the Minister: ‘We are all aware of the difficulties in having the best employees for all the existing vacancies in hotels today. This is why we need to train and keep training. Tourism is the pillar of our economy and we must all believe in the importance of having a trained tourism frontline workforce to move our industry forward. The Constance Hotels Group is setting an example that is worth following’.

Well done indeed to the STA and a well deserved bouquet to Constance Hotels and Resorts for their far reaching agreement which will undoubtedly see them get the best of the best students from the academy.

SEYCHELLES CELEBRATE WORLD TOURISM DAY WITH ‘THE SEYCHELLES BALL

(Posted 19th September 2013)

World Tourism Day, celebrated across the world on the 27th September, will see the Seychelles’ who is who come together at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Beach Resort and Casino for their annual gala night. Tourism, one of the archipelago’s mainstream economic activities, has taken off in recent years and the Seychelles Ball has made it on to the islands annual calendar of events as one of the most sought after society nights of the year.

The global tourism day celebration will this year be held in the Maldives, where UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai will be joined by none other than the Seychelles’ Minister for Tourism and Culture Alain St. Ange, now that the Maldives have been admitted to the Vanilla Island Organization which was formed two weeks ago on the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion. It was on the 09th of September that the 7 member countries La Reunion, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mayotte, Comoros, Seychelles and Maldives agreed on a nine point La Reunion Declaration which will now be the guiding ‘bible’ of future cooperation and areas of common interest.

The UNWTO then over the next two days held a special conference on sustainable tourism developments in small island countries, attended by over 150 foreign participants from as far as Fiji in the South Pacific over the Indian Ocean islands to the Caribbean. The announcement in Reunion that UNWTO’s choice of celebrating World Tourism Day was given to the Maldives can therefore be seen in this new light.

Meanwhile though are final preparations for the Seychelles’ tourism industry’s biggest social event of every year in full swing and full house is expected as reportedly not a single ticket is available for late comers. A toast and three cheers on a night surely to remember.

AIR SEYCHELLES PROMOTE ‘LOCAL TALENT

(Posted 17th September 2013)

Air Seychelles’ CEO Cramer Ball yesterday presented commander’s bars to First Officers Archille Young and Shiv Padayachy at the national airline’s head office which is located at the Seychelles International Airport. Captain Pete Mitchell, General Manager Operations, Captain Granger Narara, Head of Flight Operations, and training instructors Captain Sandy Benoiton, Chief Domestic Pilot, and Captain Eddie Cesar also attended the ceremony.

The new Twin Otter Commanders successfully completed the rigorous Company Command Upgrade Programme, which includes refresher training on aircraft technical elements, Crew Resource Management (CRM), leadership, decision-making and emergency procedures.

Chief Pilot, Captain Sandy Benoiton and Captain Eddie Cesar were trained and certified as flight instructors to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) standard and are the first two Seychellois Captains to conduct Company Command Upgrade training in ten years.

Hailing from Anse Boileau, 24-year old Captain Archille Young, completed his A levels at the Seychelles Polytechnic at Anse Royale. He joined Air Seychelles in June 2010 and worked for 14 months at the Operations Control Centre before becoming a full time pilot on the Twin Otter as a First Officer. Captain Young is a Flight Safety Officer and a member of the Safety Action Group. He has also been trained in Flight Data Monitoring and Audits.

Captain Shiv Padayachy, who is 28 years old and hails from Anse Royale, completed his A Levels at the Seychelles Institute of Technology (SIT) at Mont Fleuri. He joined Air Seychelles in June 2011 and worked for six months at the Operations Control Centre before flying full time as a Twin Otter First Officer.

Both Captain Young and Captain Padayachy completed an18 month training as commercial pilots at the 43rd Air School in South Africa under scholarships from the Government of Seychelles, after having completed compulsory basic military training in Seychelles prior to joining the national airline.

Cramer Ball was quoted to have said on the occasion of handing the pilots their captain’s strips: ‘Achieving the rank of captain is a major milestone in any pilot’s career, and I am delighted to present Archille Young and Shiv Padayachy with their epaulettes to mark their passage to the rank of Commander. This is a major accomplishment at such a young age. Our Seychellois workforce is the future of the airline, and we are committed to its development, and to nurture that talent. I am particularly thrilled that the command training programme was conducted by our very own Seychellois pilots, Sandy Benoiton and Eddie Cesar’.

Air Seychelles presently employs 53 Seychellois pilots, 10 Airbus captains; 20 first officers; 14 Twin Otter captains, and nine Twin Otter first officers, a sign that developing local talent has taken deep roots in the airline.

Congrats to captains Archille and Shiv and happy landings, always.

(Air Seychelles CEO Cramer Ball with the two newly promoted Twin Otter captains)

MAHE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT COMMISSIONS EXPANDED CARGO SECTION

(Posted 15th September 2013)

The Minister for Home Affairs and Transport Joel Morgan yesterday formally cut the tape for a new cargo facility, which is part of the ongoing airport modernization and expansion to bring 21st century operating standards to the Seychelles’ only international airport.

A new warehouse facility with over 850 square metres of space was part of the newly commissioned buildings and it is understood that new customs facilities are already under construction.

Also part of the new extension are additional offices for Air Seychelles, the National Drug Enforcement Agency and aviation security, and the move will according to the source in Victoria be completed over the weekend, with the new facilities fully operational on Monday morning.

Meanwhile is speculation continuing over Air Seychelles’ plans to introduce a third aircraft to the fleet and whether it will be another Airbus A 330 long haul plane, and on what routes it may be deployed or else an Airbus A320 to be used on the current routes to Mauritius, perhaps one day – now that the Vanilla Island Organization has been launched – to Reunion or to launch additional routes to the African mainland. Watch this space.

AND in closing today more news from further down south, courtesy of Gill Staden’s The Livingstone Weekly

Jewish Museum

There are some new exhibits at the Railway Museum given to them by the Jewish community. They tell the story of the Jews who came to Zambia (then North Western Rhodesia) and set up business. Livingstone was largely built by the Jewish people and the economy of the town depended upon them. Notable businesses were cattle and timber. The cattle were walked from Western Province to Livingstone via the Machile River route. The timber business was the logging of teak around Livingstone and then around Mulobezi – hence the railway line.

Many of our buildings, including the Capitol Theatre, were built by the Jewish people.

You can read all about it and see some photographs at the museum.

Events on the Way

20-21 September: Golf Competition. Victoria Falls Town

28 September: World Rhino Day

2-4 October: Fishing Competition. Kariba Town

26 October: Zambezi Kayak Festival. Livingstone

26-31 October: World Adventure Travel Summit. Windhoek

9 November: Fireworks at Acacia School

7 December: Car Boot Sale. Protea Hotel

Kafue National Park

I had decided that I really had ‘to do’ Kafue National Park. I had been to the southern section of the park many times over the years, but not to the north for more years than I can remember. I knew, though, that it was a 2-day drive to get to the north so I made a plan to visit other places on the way there and on the way back. Hence the reason for being away for 12 days – I really ‘pigged out’ on the wilderness of Kafue National Park … and loved every minute of it.

We set out from Livingstone at 8.30am heading towards Nanzhila Plains Safari Lodge … we arrived there at 4.30pm …

There was a bit of a hiccup in Kalomo as the petrol station did not have fuel so we had to buy from the street vendors and then I had a flat tyre which had to be fixed. It did take time.

What also took time was the Kalomo to Dundumwezi Road – it has deteriorated and took us 2 hours to cover the 75 km. The road is used by trucks to pick up cotton and maize from the farm depots and it had not been graded for ages. I really do not know why we can’t get more graders in Zambia to maintain our dirt roads because they should all be done at least once a year. On our trip to Namibia earlier this year we passed so many graders working on the dirt roads – it seemed as if each area had its own grader which just kept on going throughout the year.

Getting back to Kafue National Park we arrived at the Dudumwezi Gate and chatted with the Wildlife Officers for a while and then headed north to Nanzhila. The road is a seasonal road because it floods during the rains. The bush was burned in many places and that was where we found a sizzled tortoise. So sad. We pottered along the road for about an hour, finally arriving at Nanzhila. Actually we didn’t see a lot on the way in but bush is bush … and is beautiful apart from all the burning.

What I did notice was that the wildlife was much calmer than previously. We saw waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra, warthog, puku, impala, hartebeest, kudu, … and other mammals which I have forgotten … The waterbuck refused to get off the road when we came along – just gave us one of those looks … If you don’t know how exciting this was to see, you have to remember that the wildlife was almost shot out about 10 years ago and, since then has been very skittish. To see them now relaxed and content was a testament to the hard work of Steve Smith and ZAWA during the 8 years of Nanzhila Plains Lodge.

The lodge was full-ish but we were squeezed in a spare room and relaxed in the company of the other guests.

We headed off north early the following morning but did return on the way back from our marathon in Kafue National Park.

Nanzhila has 6 double chalets and a campsite. If you are staying at the campsite you can order meals at the lodge if you don’t feel like cooking. Around Nanzhila there are several loop roads taking you to waterholes. The seasonal rivers dry up but leave many pools for the birds and animals to drink.

The pool in front of the lodge is a great place to sit and watch with waterbuck, puku, impala; they are always around. The birdlife too is good with storks and cranes common visitors. North of Nanzhila, towards Kalenje is Chilenje Pools – this is where to find the black-cheeked lovebirds. The lovebirds tweet incessantly but fly off at the slightest disturbance …

We didn’t see any predators, but heard hyena. Wild dogs, leopard and lions are in the area but we weren’t lucky enough to see them.

For Livingstonians, Nanzhila is a perfect getaway for 3-4 days. There are many loop roads to explore and Camp Phoenix, the Elephant Orphanage, is not far away. We didn’t go to Camp Phoenix this time as I had been before about 2 years ago and told you all about it.

North of Nanzhila is Itezhi-Tezhi, the town next to the lake. We were stopping there for our next night, so I will tell you about it next week.

From the Zambia Weekly

First fully solar-powered school in Zambia

Sioma High School in Western Province has become the first fully solar-powered school in Zambia, complete with its own 24 KW photovoltaic array (picture) with battery storage. The ground-mounted microgrid will produce about 43,800 kWh annually, covering all of the campus’s energy needsThe system involved an impressive number of organisations: It was organised by Empowered by Light, which has been distributing more than 1,500 solar-powered LED lights to schools in Western Province in the past two years – in partnership with the Zambezi Environmental Education Centre. It was designed and constructed by Standard Microgrid. Empowered by Light raised close to $200,000 to complete the project, which included several donations such as solar panels from Suntech, batteries and inverters at reduced prices from SMA and Rolls Surrette and LED lights from Lighting Science Group Money was donated by several individual and corporate donors, including Zanaco Bank.

“We hoped to show the Zambian government, and the world, that energy poverty can be eradicated by replacing generator-based power systems with clean, renewable energy, and that there is a short payback,” said Marco Krapels, co-founder of Empowered by Light.

Sioma High School serves a large area of Western Province. Its more than 600 pupils used to work in an environment filled with noise and air pollution generated by the school’s three diesel generators. In addition, the school spent about $26,000 on diesel every year.