NEWS EAST AFRICA
A weekly roundup from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands of breaking news, reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
You can get your daily news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthomeor join me on www.facebook.com/WolfgangHThome where the articles also ‘cross load’.
Read the daily postings on my blog via www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com which you can also ‘follow’ to get immediate notification when a new article is posted. Reproduction of any material will require prior written consent and when consent is granted proper author’s credit.
Much of my material is published on www.eturbonews.com/africa – the global industry leader for e-communications to the tourism and travel trade.
This blog is powered by Smile Communications, Uganda’s first 4G LTE wireless broadband system
Second edition December 2013
East Africa News
QATAR AIRWAYS ANNOUNCES DALLAS FLIGHTS
(Posted 05th December 2013)
Travellers from Eastern Africa, where Qatar Airways presently serves Entebbe, Kigali, Nairobi, Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam with daily and even double daily flights, will be happy to hear that come July 01st next year will the Skytrax 5 star airline add another US destination, Dallas – Fort Worth or in short DFW.
Qatar Airways will use a B777-200LR for the service, offering their award winning two class configuration to passengers, including a flat bed 2x2x2 seat configuration in business class and a 3x3x3 configuration in economy class, offering 42 seats in the premium cabin and 217 in economy.
(‘The World’s Best Business Class’ cabin and an equally award winning economy class cabin on the B777-200LR)
With East Africa’s recent finds of oil and gas will Dallas be Qatar Airways’ second destination in Texas, a state rich in oil resources itself, adding to the daily flights to Texas’ oil capital of Houston.
(Picture courtesy of Foxnews.com showing the late Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing)
While ‘J.R. Ewing’ sadly is no more, the Southfork Ranch outside Dallas remains open for the public to visit as season three of ‘Dallas Reloaded 2.0’ goes on screen in early 2014. Also available for visitors are a range of other landmarks and landscapes viewers of the TV series ‘Dallas’ are used to only seeing on their screens, with plenty of more to see across the state which has retained much of its flair and appeal from the good ol’ wild west days.
QR presently already serves New York, Chicago, Washington and Houston and in 2014 will Philadelphia on 02nd of April, Miami on the 10th of June and as just announced Dallas on the 01st of July join the growing number of the airline’s global destinations. Qatar Airways now operates 128 aircraft to 133 destinations across the globe.
Qatar Airways is since 30th of October a member of the oneworld alliance.
SERENA HOTELS LET THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS SHINE WHERE THE ARE NEEDED MOST
(Posted 05th December 2013)
Guests staying at any of the Serena properties across Eastern Africa will have noticed that the regular Christmas tree decorations have this year remained in the stores and may wonder why that is so.
Serena Hotels, as part of their corporate social responsibility programme, have this year opted to light up faces instead of trees across their 24 properties in Eastern Africa, dedicating their decoration funds set aside for 2013 to bring the Christmas spirit to those in need. From Kigali to Mombasa and from Kampala to Maputo will therefore Serena work hand in hand with children’s charities, children’s homes and special schools, to bring Christmas to them who otherwise might not have much reasons to celebrate, were it not for such generosity.
Serena’s guests can participate in this splendid idea for the forthcoming holiday season by making donations at the hotel, resort, safari camp or safari lodge they are staying at or by visiting the hotel group’s website at www.serenahotels.com and clicking on the link to the ‘Wish Tag’ where donations can be made to widen the reach of Serena’s Christmas 2013 initiative. Merry Christmas to you all and especially those in dire need who can only enjoy the Christmas spirit with a little help from the Serena Santa Claus.
EMIRATES BRINGS THE A380 TO LOS ANGELES
(Posted 04th December 2013)
Travellers from across Eastern Africa, using Emirates as their airline of choice, will no doubt be delighted about the news from Dubai, that the airline has with immediate effect started to use an Airbus A380 on their route to Los Angeles, the longest commercial route known to be flown now by this aircraft type.
Emirates, Dubai’s award winning airline, now operates already 58 of the giant ‘birds’ and has during the recent Dubai Air Show signed orders for another 50, making it the largest customer for this type of Airbus aircraft.
Passengers from Entebbe, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, connecting in Dubai to Los Angeles, can now enjoy the world’s largest and arguably best configured aircraft in the skies, with First Class suites, a business class section second to none, shower and massage services for premium passengers and a cocktail lounge for those flying in business class, while in economy class guests on board can enjoy the probably most complete entertainment programme on large individual screens any airline today offers.
Seat capacity on the route has nearly doubled, compared to the previously used B777-200LR, which offered just 266 seats in a three class configuration while the A380 offers a whopping 489 seats.
Aviation observers have suggested that it is only a matter of time before Emirates may launch a second daily frequency to the American West Coast’s undeclared capital, all subject of course to regulatory approvals which according to a regular source in the Gulf are more and more difficult to come by as legacy carriers, often deep in debt, have piled pressure on their home governments to restrict market access by airlines from the Gulf like Emirates. That notwithstanding, travellers to and from East Africa will see this latest launch of an A380 route only as affirmation that their choice to fly with Emirates gives them the best there is. For more information on the airline visit www.emirates.com
AMADEUS EAST AFRICA CELEBRATES A DECADE OF SERVICE TO THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY
(Posted 03rd December 2013)
This coming Friday will Amadeus East Africa celebrate their 10th anniversary of entering the East African market in earnest with the establishment of offices across the region. Amadeus provides technology solutions to airlines, hotels, airports, travel agencies and corporations, among many others.
Ahead of this significant date has Amadeus commissioned a study to shed light on the latest trends across Eastern Africa and the key findings were made available by Amadeus and published here below for the benefit of the readers:
Business Travel sector in East Africa shows strong online potential
Amadeus-commissioned study, authored by World Wide Worx’s Arthur Goldstuck reveals East Africa’s
strong business travel sector is seen as a barometer for online travel and e-commerce trends across the
region. A major independent, continent-wide study that explores business travel in Africa has shown an
increasing appetite for online booking and payments that holds the potential to launch a new chapter in
the travel industry.
The study was commissioned by Amadeus, the leading provider of technology solutions for the travel
industry, and conducted by South African research firm World Wide Worx led by Arthur Goldstuck who is a leading expert on Internet and mobile technology trends. “The research reveals a strong interest in online travel booking, with the roughly 50% of companies already doing so expected to grow to 70% in the short term,” comments Goldstuck. The study represents the first in-depth look at African trends and
opportunities in the e-commerce space, particularly within the travel industry, and gathered the views of more than 1000 businesses across the continent.
“We are committed to facilitating discussion on key industry trends around how the future of travel in
Africa will be shaped,” says Santiago Jimenez, Director of Amadeus Sub-Saharan Africa. “This inaugural
study shows that despite the disparate preferences, environments and available infrastructure across the different countries the overall potential for e-commerce is strong.”
The white paper identifies five key trends shaping decision making and consumer behaviour as they relate to online shopping preferences and travel booking. These are:
· Satisfying a special appetite: Electronic commerce is growing in Africa, but not in exactly the same mould as developed economies
· Africa is not a country: the differences in preferences, cultural tendencies and priorities are a hallmark of the e-commerce landscape
· Ring it up: lacking conventional online access, millions of Africans have turned to their phones to take advantage of increasingly sophisticated mobile services
· Have passport, will travel: African business travel is strong and growing, with a preference for online booking
· Strong corporate policies: Companies indicate a focus on centralised travel booking and corporate policies that drive their buying behaviour.
East Africa’s strong business travel sector is seen as an accurate barometer of online travel and ecommerce trends , even though significant differences are visible between neighbours Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, there is huge digital potential says Juan Torres, General Manager, Amadeus East Africa.
The findings from businesses in the East Africa indicate that:
· Companies indicate a focus on centralised travel booking and corporate policies that drive their buying
behavior. Of all African nations, Kenya has the second highest percentage of business policies that guide
corporate travel bookings at 76%, only Uganda (85%) has a higher percentage.
· Technology will drive travel in the future: East Africa’s widespread adoption of digital and mobile
technologies has spurred growth of e-commerce for online travel in Africa. Travel apps, money transfer
and payment innovations like M-PESA have laid the groundwork that allows businesses to change how
they book and pay for travel.
· Travel tools and applications come first: Staff in Uganda have shown the highest usage (73%) in the
region of travel tools and applications when booking online travel. Kenya (70%) and Tanzania (68%)
follow closely behind. This means that companies should heed the fact that consumers and clients prefer the ease of use and cost efficiency of applications and should therefore consider such tools in their digital strategy.
Goldstuck concludes that the common theme of ‘Africa is not a country’ is advice well heeded as clearly no one solution suits all countries, consumers or companies
The full report is available for download from http://amadeusblog.co.za/africa-shows-strong-e-commercepotential/
(10 years of Amadeus in East Africa)
COMMON CURRENCY PROTOCOL SIGNED BY EAC HEADS OF STATE
(Posted 01st December 2013)
The just ended 15th ordinary Summit of the Heads of State of the East African Community, which took place at the Commonwealth Resort in Munyonyo / Kampala, has finally signed the protocol for the establishment of a common currency for the member states after more than four years of often acrimonious negotiations. The process is expected to take up to 10 years, to allow member countries to harmonize a number of crucial elements, such as inflation rates, the tax to GDP ratio, debt to GDP ratio and fiscal deficits.
In addition will the Protocol, which is to be implemented over a 10 year period, as the region undertakes the requisite institutional and economic reforms to support it, provide for the establishment of an EAC Central Bank.
It is anticipated that the powers of the national banking systems in charting monetary and fiscal policy, most of the economic decisions are currently made at the national level by central banks will be progressively reduced and eventually fully vested in the regional central bank.
Under Article 5 of the Protocol, member states will first have to fully implement the Customs Union and the Common Market Protocol before they can implement the Monetary Union.
They will also have to first harmonize and coordinate their fiscal, monetary and exchange policies, as well as phase out any outstanding central bank lending to their governments and public entities.
The member states must also first attain the set macroeconomic criteria and maintain them for at least three consecutive years before embarking on the monetary union. This entails: Capping core inflation at five per cent; fiscal deficits, excluding grants, of no more than six per cent of GDP and a minimum tax-to-GDP ratio of 25 per cent.
Notably was the minimum threshold for the launch of a common currency set at three member states, immediately raising the spectrum of the present ‘Coalition of the Willing’ between Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, which in fact make up the CoW and which are already moving towards a fast tracked integration of their revenue collection, transport infrastructure, security cooperation and a common tourist Visa. Thus is the way paved for yet more speed differentials in the future should one or two of the EAC member states again feel that they are not ready, having to let the other member states move ahead at a faster pace and of course then having to play costly catch up without much ability to then change de facto developments already embraced by the others.
While the official pictures showed all smiles from the now concluded EAC Summit, during which Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta took over the chairmanship of the regional group from Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni – Rwanda’s President Kagame reportedly stood down from his entitlement to chair the EAC after Museveni’s term of office expired – it was reported that behind the scenes some serious horse trading went on as well as some apparently candid exchanges of views vis a vis Tanzania’s position towards the Coalition of the Willing. Kenya has already moved to assure Tanzania that the railway line from Voi to the border at Taveta will also be upgraded as the new standard gauge Mombasa – Nairobi – Uganda border – Kampala – Rwanda border – Kigali railway has now reached construction stage but it cannot at this stage be fully assessed just what, if any concessions, the three made towards Tanzania or if they simply, as some suggested, left it to East Africa’s largest country to play catch up. What is known that Burundi was courted by the three to come on board, and that in the process major incentives were offered, including to once again look at the introduction of French as another EAC language, something which has in the past failed to get a majority vote, leaving Burundi language wise out in the cold, unlike Rwanda which has over the past decade rapidly embraced English as their primary language.
As always, time will tell and it is expected that more leaks will give greater clarity what transpired behind the closed doors, as the Three met the Two for the first time since the Three started their rapid engagement policy back in June.
Watch this space.
INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS EMERGES AS GLOBAL SUPERBRAND AT WTA 2013 CEREMONY
(Posted 05th December 2013)
The InterContinental Hotels Group’s InterContinental Hotels & Resorts brand was recognized last weekend at the global World Travel Award Ceremony in Doha as ‘The World’s Leading Hotel Brand 2013’, and notably for the 5th time in a row and the 7th time overall in the 20 year history of the WTA’s.
While most of the individual hotel awards this year, 41 overall in the various regions of the world, have been handed to hotels and resorts outside Africa, one of the IHG properties in Africa stood out once again, the InterContinental Hotel Johannesburg at the O.R. Tambo International Airport, which for the second consecutive year won ‘Best Luxury Airport Hotel in Africa’ in the recent World Luxury Hotel Awards.
In addition, the InterContinental Hotels & Resorts brand was voted Asia’s Leading Business Hotel Brand and Europe’s Leading Hotel Brand 2013, among other awards that also recognized individual InterContinental Hotels & Resorts properties around the globe this year.
In East Africa is InterContinental Hotels present in Nairobi with their East African flagship hotel, but other brands like Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn are also present in Kenya through franchise operations.
According to information just confirmed will a new Holiday Inn open at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport before the end of the year, adding extra capacity of quality hotel rooms near the airport in Mauritius. For 2014 a number of additional hotel projects across Africa are in the pipeline, so watch this space for announcements where the next InterContinental, or any of the sister brands, will join the local hospitality industry.
AFRICA TRAVEL WEEK NOW GETS BACKING FROM WESTERN CAPE PROVINCE
(Posted 05th December 2013)
The World Travel Market Africa event in Cape Town’s International Convention Centre next year from 28th April till 03nd May has now received the backing of not just the city of Cape Town but also of South Africa’s Western Cape Province, adding much needed clout to the event and bringing together the additional resources for the benefit of all the partners working towards making this inaugural event a success from day one.
The event will be managed by a newly formed company, Thebe Reed Exhibitions and Reed’s CEO Richard Mortimore captured the essence of partnering with Cape Town when he said: ‘The host city for a Reed Travel Exhibitions’ event is a valuable and strategic partnership to the development and success of our shows. We are therefore delighted to be working alongside the City of Cape Town and also welcome the support we have from Cape Town Tourism. We expect Africa Travel Week to provide a real economic impact for the City through the number of participants we expect across all of our events who will no doubt experience Cape Town as both a business and leisure destination’ to which Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy added: ‘ WTM is a leader in travel conferencing and exhibitions and it is an honour for Cape Town to host the first WTM Africa. We are looking forward to interacting with trade, exhibitors and buyers from the continent and across the globe. This is also a chance for us to put Cape Town in the spotlight during our fascinating year as World Design Capital 2014 and on the occasion of our marking twenty years of democracy’.
The organizers expect for this inaugural event an attendance of some 700 exhibitors from across Africa, at least 500 of the most important ‘buyers’ of travel and hospitality services from Africa and around the world and have projected some 4.500 trade visitors to flock to Africa’s southernmost city, besides a large number travel and tourism journalists covering this event.
The city of Cape Town, named ‘World Design City 2014’, has only recently announced plans to double the capacity of the International Convention Centre by the year 2017 in order to cement the city’s position as one of Africa’s great MICE locations. Visit www.africatravelweek.com for more details.
LAM CRASH CASTS FRESH DOUBTS ON AFRICA’S AVIATION SAFETY RECORD
(Posted 01st December 2013)
The crash two days ago of a LAM – Mozambique Airlines Embraer E190, which has cost the lives of 27 passengers and 6 crew, has cast fresh doubts over Africa’s aviation safety record, which remains at the bottom of the scale in global comparison with the worst air accident ratio of any continent. The aircraft, production number 581 and delivered by Embraer to LAM in November 2012, was registered as C9-EMC by the Mozambique Civil Aviation Authority. According to information sourced, the aircraft had during the past 12 months flown just over 2.900 hours with just under 1.900 flight cycles. The jet was powered by two General Electric CF34-10E engines which are widely used on this regional aircraft type.
(Picture of a LAM Embraer E 190)
The aircraft was performing flight number 470 from Maputo /Mozambique to Luanda / Angola and the last reported contact took place at 11.30 hrs GMT when the crew reported heavy rain in the area they were located at the time. There was according to information received no further indication of anything wrong with the aircraft until contact with the jet was eventually lost soon afterwards in the border area between Botswana and Namibia.
Most accidents in Africa were in the past blamed on the use of aged, often Soviet era turboprop or jet aircraft, attributed to poor pilot training and poor maintenance. Newer, state of the art aircraft have only recently made a wider entry into the continents aircraft registers, mainly driven by Africa’s leading carrier which have renewed and expanded their fleets in recent years and in the tow of which other airlines too started to phase out older aircraft. IATA’s IOSA audits, short for IATA Operational Safety Audit, have been adopted by the leading airlines in Africa but many carriers are still in the process of being audited, in other words still in the stage of adopting the standards and moving towards full compliance. LAM, according to the IATA listings for African airlines, however does hold IOSA certification.
The crash of a relatively new aircraft will therefore be investigated, though under the lead of the Namibian aviation authorities – in charge because the crash happened in their territory – with close assistance from Embraer, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, which so far has an excellent safety record for their range of different turboprop and jet aircraft. Embraer reportedly have offered their full cooperation and technical support to the air accident investigation team which has been put into place by the Namibian Ministry of Work, Transport and Communications.
While the weather was described as poor, it is only the now unfolding air crash investigation which can shed light on the cause of the accident and the search is underway for the aircraft’s voice and data recorder, which can provide clues as to any potential causes of the crash.
Condolences are extended to all the families and friends of the passengers and crews on board of LAM flight 470.
PARLIAMENT APPROVES FOREIGN LOANS WORTH 450 MILLION US DOLLARS FOR CAA
(Posted 06th December 2013)
Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority, presently still regulator as well as airport manager, a dual function which will in due course be split it is understood from usually reliable sources, has made a major advance towards commencing the long awaited expansion work at Entebbe International Airport.
Members of Parliament serving on the committee overseeing infrastructure developments, have sanctioned a trillion Uganda Shilling loan package, some 176 million US Dollars will go to the modernization and upgrading of upcountry airfields like Gulu, Arua and in particular Kasese.
The balance of the fund though will be spent to improve logistics and working conditions for airline personnel and to create an improved passenger experience, which has in recent years suffered greatly as a result of plainly gone bonkers security measures, which irk airlines and passengers to no end. At present there are only 4 departure lounges but two each have to share a final security check point often leading to unacceptably long queues. At peak departure times does the check in area too resemble a free for all, as passengers are crowding the hall, and the queues outside to get into the terminal building are long as often only one scanner is staffed and working. With check in counters and gates, as well as outside parking, reaching saturation point it is now of growing importance, considering that the entire region is upgrading and modernizing their aviation facilities and main airports, that Uganda plays catch up before the country’s main aviation entry and exit gateway soils the reputation of the entire destination beyond repair.
‘We have developed expansion plans as you know for some years. For the Commonwealth Summit in 2007 we were able to spend a considerably amount of money to increase gate capacity, install two air bridges and expand the arrivals hall. But you are right, we should not have waited another 6 years to go into the next phase.
The cargo section will very likely move but only when the new cargo village has taken shape and that will be a PPP undertaking [Private Public
Partnership]. For the passenger terminal we probably need to triple capacity to have space for future expansion and one area which can be used is the present cargo shed. Even on the opposite side of the terminal there is room for expansion. Airlines need more offices, we may even get another handling company to enhance competition and keep the rates for services down and most important, it should again be a good experience for passengers, arriving and departing, to feel comfortable and welcome. As you point out every so often, right now it is far from desirable and when it rains it is a recipe for some very angry travelers who get wet before they reach the terminal. We are listening but there is a lot of process involved and those security guys need to understand better what aviation is all about and not just shut down every suggestion made to improve things. Everyone wants security but again, as you often write, there are ways and then there are ways and we are not doing very well in passenger ratings’ said a regular source close to the CAA administration in Entebbe when asked to comment on parliament’s decision.
Members of parliament were also told by the CAA’s Chief Executive Dr. Rama Makuza, that the UN operations in and out of the airport – Entebbe is THE African aviation base for the UN operations in Congo, South Sudan and beyond – have accumulated to the tune of 38 billion Uganda Shillings, a sad indictment for the United Nations who apparently take the Ugandan CAA, and the taxpayers, for granted. Watch this space.
UGANDA’S TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS ‘SATISFIED WITH VAT REMOVAL’
(Posted 02nd December 2013)
A letter from the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury made it official that the hugely controversial introduction of an 18 percent VAT charge on upcountry safari accommodation had been scrapped at last: ‘I wish to inform you that during the passing of the VAT Amendment Bill 2013/14, exemption on the supply of hotel accommodation in tourist lodges and hotels outside Kampala District was reinstated’. Tourism stakeholders expressed their satisfaction and applauded the efforts of their respective associations, which in conjunction with the Uganda Tourism Board made repeated representations to parliament and to government to have this tax measure rescinded, as it made accommodation packages of safaris across Uganda more expensive by 18 percent, and foreign tour companies were refusing to pay up as the tax was not included in any existing quotations for safari services. Initially in particular members of parliament showed total disregard and in the words of one key stakeholder almost contempt for their lobbying efforts, before a final push through the Ministry of Tourism, the Uganda Tourism Board and the parliamentary committee on tourism paved the way for a change of heart by parliament when they voted on the amendments proposed by government to the Finance Bill 2013/14 and the various VAT elements therein.
At the time, when the VAT was initially announced by the Minister of Finance in her budget speech, did the tourism industry predict a downturn in arrival numbers, and a series of cancellation of prebooked tours was in fact seen, not over any other issues such as destination appeal or service delivery quality by hotels and safari operators, but the raised cost of visits to Uganda.
Across the border in Kenya though stakeholders continue to struggle with a number of tourism products and services also subjected to VAT, in Kenya’s case 16 percent, and they will no doubt use the example of Uganda throwing the idea out of the window to lobby their own government once again to restore a level playing fields vis a vis pricing of tourism services and equally abolish the introduction of VAT on tourism services. Watch this space.
UGANDA TOURISM TAKES A FRESH LOOK AT THE FUTURE
(Posted 02nd December 2013)
The Uganda Tourism Board, aka Tourism Uganda, is ending the year with a flurry of consultative workshops to take on board input from the private sector.
One of the initiatives is the UNDP supported cooperation with the United Nations World Tourism Organization, which aims to implement the ‘Support for the Development of Inclusive Markets in Tourism’.
According to information received from UTB this project is focusing on raising participation of the poor and local communities in the industry such as enterprises, employees and consumers. It aims to empower poor and disadvantaged people through access to labor and markets for their produce and increased opportunities for salaried work and incomes. In a national workshop later this week will UTB engage with key stakeholders to create a broader understanding of the project and towards taking stakeholder input on board how best to achieve the three main outputs the project envisages, namely: Develop and operationalize market linkages, develop pro-poor tourism products and services and finally to promote and build capacity of business enterprises and selected tourism support / development institutions like the Uganda Community Tourism Association.
According to added information received has UTB conducted surveys conducted in October 2013 in the Western, South Western and Eastern TDA’s, aka tourism development areas. Now, in preparation of the implementation phase has the project organized an awareness-raising seminar and inclusive tourism linkages workshop. The main aim of this national workshop is according to UTB to impart knowledge and skills; the key concepts and principles for pro-poor tourism; mechanisms to address poverty through tourism; importance of private sector participation in tourism development and approaches in working with communities and to facilitate the formation of business linkages. The workshops later this week will be on invitation only basis for key members of the Ugandan tourism stakeholder fraternity. Watch this space.
MOMBASA COUNTY ACCUSED OF KILLING TOURISM WITH NEW TAXES
(Posted 06th December 2013)
Only a week after the Mombasa county government demanded a 500 Kenya Shilling bed tax from all hotels and resorts, per month, not per year, have the same officials now also demanded a tax on each tourist vehicle of 3.500 Kenya Shillings a month, or equivalent of about 40 US Dollars per month or nearly 500 US Dollars per year. While county official claim this money would go towards projects supporting tourism, industry stakeholders flatly denied such plans and accused the county officials of misleading the public, as in the words of one regular contributor ‘whatever money they hope to raise it is purely to pay themselves hefty allowances and perks and benefits. Whatever money they try to extract from us, will not benefit tourism at all but kill it. The level of taxes and fees is already overwhelming. We pay tax to the central government, for our licenses and all and not those chaps also want money from us. Have they not worked it out yet that tourism at the coast is in dire straits and on the downturn?’ while another said tongue in cheek ‘you might say this is not the time to say I TOLD YOU SO but in fact this is exactly the time. Those two thirds who voted to adopt the new constitution are to blame for this mess. Not one of them bothered about listening to reason at the time if we could even afford that develoved system of governance. Not one of them looked at the cost of it all and now that they are all squeezed dry by KRA and all sorts of council charges, now they wake up and wonder what hit them. Tourism is not a sector to play around with. The country is not doing well and our governments, central and local, fail to see how their taxes are making things worse. VAT was a terrible mistake because we are now expensive. Uganda lifted that provision and we should do the same thing. You cannot raise prices when your arrivals are plummeting. The perception about Kenya out there is not the best right now and raising prices at the same time is an overkill’.
Tour operator sources close to KATO, the Kenya Association of Tour Operators, have also denounced the planned added taxes in the strongest possible terms and called on the Mombasa County Government to immediately withdraw their attempt to ‘tax us to death’ as another source put it.
Watch this space for breaking and regular news from the tourism sectors across Eastern Africa.
NAIROBI GOVERNOR’S ATTEMPT TO STOP JKIA CONSTRUCTION EARNS HIM ‘NAMES’
(Posted 06th December 2013)
‘But not a better airport’ is clearly missing from Kidero’s election manifesto, as the Nairobi Governor yesterday set the course for a head on collision with the central government and President Uhuru Kenyatta, who earlier this week presided over the ground breaking ceremony for the expansion of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Governor Kidero, aka ‘Kidero the Slapper’ as the social media branded him after an altercation with a female member of parliament a few weeks ago, during which he allegedly slapped her – YouTube footage seems to confirm those allegations – in a sudden change of mind demanded that the Kenya Airport Authority stop any and all construction of the new airport ‘Project Greenfield’ but also of the nearly ready Terminal 4, citing a lack of permit from the Nairobi County Government.
Details of a letter emerged yesterday afternoon and were sent to this correspondent by a regular aviation source, whose invectives towards the Governor, whom he called a ‘glorified mayor’ among other unprintable phrases, which made even this hardened scribe blush under his sun tan.
‘TheNairobiCity County has established that your organization (KAA) has not sought for approval of various developments going on within the airports vicinity pursuant to the requirements of the Physical Planning Act Cap286 and other related statutes. Developments within the jurisdiction of Nairobi City County by all investors have to seek prior development permission before they are commenced. Accordingly, this is to advise you to request your consultants to immediately submit the Master Layout Plan, architectural and structural plans of the airport facility on Terminal 4 and the proposed Greenfield Terminal expansion of the airport retrospect determination and approval’. The letter then raised the stakes even higher when reference was made to a planned dumping site for Nairobi near the airport, which the former Nairobi City Council had halted when KAA informed them of the clear and present danger to aircraft landing and taking off from JKIA due to increased bird hazards, should this particular site be turned into a rubbish dump: ‘The KCAA has also on several occasions urged City Hall not to build the new Integrated Solid Waste Management dumping site in Ruai, which we need urgently as Dandora is full, as this will breed birds, which is a serious security threat to aircraft’, clearly implying between the lines that as an act of retaliation, should KAA not comply with his ‘order’, the dump may after all be opened.
KAA in turn insists, and a regular source confirmed as much yesterday evening, that they are within their rights to construct any additions, alterations and expansions within their land, as stipulated under the KAA Act, which allows for such activities without further approvals needed by any other authority.
This very likely now sets the stage for a protracted legal tussle in court and it remains to be seen if KAA will follow the Presidential Directive to fast track construction and ensure that the new terminal and second runway are ready by 2017 or else stop the project.
Aviation sources were swift to denounce the governor’s action as purely politically motivated, him being a member of the mainstream opposition, and trying to promote a hidden agenda by sabotaging such a key infrastructure project and are expecting KAA to ignore the letter. Kenya’s Ministry of Transport through the Principal Secretary Nduva Muli has already responded by claiming the county government has no jurisdiction over KAA gazetted areas like the airport and more reactions are expected within hours from other central government sources reportedly sharing the same view and spoiling for a fight to, as one source put it, ‘put that fellow in his place’.
Let’s hope that aviation and infrastructural development are not going to be the losers in this senseless fight started by Kidero, so watch this space for more emerging news on this latest saga.
(An artist’s impression of the new Greenfield mega terminal)
HOT AIR BALLOON FESTIVAL GOES UNDERWAY TODAY OVER THE MASAI MARA
(Posted 06th December 2013)
The sky over the Masai Mara Game Reserve, which is once again – and quite unseasonally – filled with the wildebeest migration, returning for a second time this year due to drought conditions in the Serengeti, will be the playground for dozens of hot air balloons this weekend. The balloon festival will no doubt bring focus on not just the Masai Mara but Kenya tourism overall, as the spectacle of dozens of multicoloured balloon envelopes floating overhead is rare if not unprecedented in terms of numbers in Kenya.
Between the 06th and 08th of December will every morning at dawn a small armada of balloons take to the air, not just to celebrate ballooning – now an integral part of Kenya’s tourism attractions since Allan Root first took to the skies in a series of trials before ballooning was given a commercial launch at Keekorok Lodge – but to also raise extra awareness to the problems of poaching. Part of the festival proceeds will be donated to anti poaching operations in Kenya. This unprecedented festival of hot air ballooning was made possible through swift approvals by Kenya’s Civil Aviation Authority and the support of key corporate sponsors like East Africa’s leading mega market chain Nakumatt, Brussels Airlines, Safarilink and Mada Hotels’ Fig Tree Camp, among others.
Several special packages were launched for visitors from across Kenya and the wider region to be able to see the balloon launches every morning close up and personal and when the first sunrays this morning creep across the horizon in the Masai Mara, those privileged to take a ride will be able to wave to the crowd below before the roar of the burners will swiftly see the balloons rise into the sky, leaving those on the ground turned into little specks on the ground. Happy Landings to the crews and passengers while celebrating Kenya Tourism from the air and on the ground.
SAFARILINK’S NEW CESSNA GRAND CARAVAN TO MAKE GRAND ENTRY ON INDEPENDENCE DAY
(Posted 06th December 2013)
Safarilink’s 8th brand new Cessna Caravan EX was handed over to Kenya’s premier safari airline yesterday at the Cessna factory in the United States. The state of the art aircraft is presently being fitted with ferry fuel tanks to allow for the marathon journey home to Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, where the bird is expected to land on Independence Day and in time for the Tusker Air Show which is taking off, literally by the way, that weekend too.
The single engine aircraft features the latest Garmin G1000 ‘glass cockpit’ which is quite similar to what is today used in jet aircraft and powered by an 825 shp Pratt & Whitney PTA6-140 turboprop engine, which adds an extra 150 shp of raw power to the new bird. Safarilink in their communication to this correspondent highlighted that the new engine type will significantly improve performance out of small fields, into which most of the airline’s flight operate across Kenya’s national parks. Not only will this latest Cessna Caravan fly faster, shaving off up to 15 minutes of flying time to Safarilink’s coastal destinations like Lamu and Ukunda, but also increase take off safety margins when flying out of short dirt strips.
(One of Safarilink’s Cessna 208B Grand Caravans as seen here recently at the Nanyuki airfield)
The flight home to Kenya will start on the 09th of December in Florida and then route via Bermuda, the Azores, Malta, Egypt’s Luxor and finally reach Safarilinks home hub at Wilson Airport. Flight updates will be available on Safarilink’s website www.flysafarilink.com where regular updates will be posted.
Safarilink has also announced the recruitment of additional pilots who will be deployed as first officers on the Caravan fleet, and applications of suitably qualified Kenyan pilots (Hold Kenyan CPL + IR + ME – Hold a Caravan C208B rating – Be 30 yrs of age or younger) can be sent to chiefpilot
Happy Landings to the new bird and the ferry crew on the way home and see you soon at Wilson Airport.
NAIROBI PLUNGED INTO DARKNESS BY KENYA POWER’S INCOMPETENCE
(Posted 05th December 2013)
Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi was plunged into darkness last night and has, as this report is uploaded, been off the power grid for over 5 hours already, causing untold misery to Nairobi’s residents without access to an inverter home system or a backup generator. Hotels across the city have been operating on their backup generators but already lamented about the extra cost burden, at a time when inflation is inching up again in Kenya as a result of sharp increased in taxes, fees and dues.
Kenya Power, with a few frugal words on Twitter, tried to explain the outage, one of the worst in recent history, as a result of a ‘loss of a line’ without going into further explanations what cause the outage and what level of technical problems they are facing as reports from other parts of Kenya too confirm that they are without electricity.
Only days ahead of Kenya’s 50th Independence Golden Jubilee celebrations on the 12th of December is this a damning indictment of Kenya Power, and the timelines of the social media in Kenya have gone viral with acid comments about what constant sufferers of outages had let fly.
One source close to a top level government office has already, on condition of strict anonymity, confirmed that Kenya Power will be subjected to stringent supervision in the build up to the Golden Jubilee bash, for which some 20 Heads of State are expected to congregate in Nairobi to help Kenya celebrate. In a twist of fate or as others said a stroke of good fortunes will President Uhuru Kenyatta lead the celebrations, as his father 50 years ago led Kenya into Independence from Britain, a scenario not lost on millions of Kenyans who take stock of the first half century of independence while looking ahead to the second half to unfold and bring better times and fortunes for the country.
Meanwhile though has Kenya Power once again become the bogey man of corporate Kenya with an enraged public demanding that heads must roll of those responsible for today’s outage. Watch this space.
THOMSON HOLIDAYS BRINGS B787 DREAMLINER TO MOMBASA
(Posted 04th December 2013)
A regular source from Mombasa has confirmed that Thomson Holidays has now started using their B787-8 Dreamliner on the route from London Gatwick to Mombasa, offering more seats and greater inflight comfort for passengers opting to spend their holiday at the sundrenched beaches of Mombasa, Watamu or Malindi.
This makes Thompson the first airline to bring the B787 into Mombasa on a regular basis, with the flight offering a total of 288 seats, 47 in premium and 241 in economy class.
Thomson uses such award winning resorts as the Leopard Beach Resort & Spa and the Swahili Beach Hotel located at Diani Beach, besides TUI’s own Baobab Beach Resort.
The switch from the smaller B767’s to the B787 was broadly welcomed by the coast tourism fraternity but at the same time were also demands made on the government to extend broader support to marketing the Kenya coast, which has been enjoying lower occupancies compared to past years.
‘I hear you managed to get VAT scrapped on your safari accommodation in Uganda? Perhaps our own government can now follow suit because safari packages from the coast to Tsavo and Amboseli have increased in cost as a result of the VAT charges. Tourism in Kenya needs tax relief, not additional taxes and the county governments should think twice before they also start taxing us more. Our occupancies right now are a lot lower than last year and the forecasts for January to Easter are less than we hoped for. We keep saying that Mombasa needs more flights, charters and scheduled flights. It is good to read that Kenya Airways has added more flights between Nairobi and Mombasa but we fear that might just be for the peak season over the holidays and then they reduce them again’ commented a regular contributor from Mombasa yesterday when asked for a reaction on the launch of B787 flights to the Kenyan coast. Another source though was dwelling on the diplomatic spat between Britain and Kenya when saying: ‘Our government should think twice of how they treat Britain and so should our media. The issues of the ICC court cases are the issues of those individuals and our trade and tourism relations with Britain need to be maintained, not endangered by reckless talk and reckless actions. Right now we only have one charter from Britain but in the past we had several from different places including Manchester. We in tourism cannot go to WTM and promote the country in the UK and then knee jerk reactions by our government over issues which are not national issues but individual issues wipe out the gains we made. At least I know you will print this but those are the sentiments of many people in tourism right now. We hope that when we celebrate our 50th anniversary of Independence next week these issues can be put to rest and we can focus again on the positive side of relations with Britain and get more Brits to visit Kenya’.
On the upside, the use of a larger aircraft on the route to Mombasa should go a long way to show that not all is lost and that the appeal of the destination and of the coast’s top resorts will continue to bring in visitors, not just for the upcoming holiday season but across the entire year. Well, a bit of good news is better than no good news at all. Watch this space.
LAMU CHOSEN TO HOST YOGA FESTIVAL
(Posted 03rd December 2013)
What has been called ‘East Africa’s first Yoga Summit’ will take place between March 13 – 16 in Kenya’s ancient township of Lamu, which according to the festival organizers provides exactly the picture perfect and yet tranquil setting to stage such a gathering for the first time and provide the right atmosphere for Yoga enthusiasts and practitioners.
Information about the festival has only just been released and become available and the additional East African dimension almost dictates that the news are spread wide and far. Events during the festival will take place in various locations across the Lamu archipelago, among them the town of Lamu itself, on Manda island and in Shela. A full festival programme is not as yet available but will be published in due course on their website.
Volunteers are invited to help organize and run the event and will according to information availed get to attend all sessions for free in return for their time and effort.
Lamu, which only two weeks ago hosted their annual Lamu Cultural Festival, is one of Kenya’s hidden secret places, rather well known by name but visited by far too few to appreciate the ancient architecture, the laid back lifestyle and the chance to see a traditional dhow being built by hand, using only wood and natural materials.
Lamu is connected by air with daily flights to Malindi and also from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, where among others Safarilink (www.flysafarilink.com) offers daily departures. There are also bus services from Mombasa and from Malindi available for those travelling on a budget.
KENYA NAMED ‘THE WORLD’S LEADING SAFARI DESTINATION’ BY WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS
(Posted 02nd December 2013)
When Kenya in 10 days time celebrates the 50th year of Independence with a grand Golden Jubilee bash, the country’s tourism marketers at KTB will be able to enjoy two moments of glory they have seen lift many spirits for an industry this year otherwise plagued with often not so good news.
During the Africa World Travel Award Ceremony in October, at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, did the Kenya Tourism Board bag Africa’s most coveted prize as ‘Africa’s Leading Tourist Board’ and during the just concluded Global World Travel Award ceremony in Doha, KTB brought home the equally coveted ‘World’s Leading Safari Destination’ trophy. This puts the country ahead over their closest rivals on the continent as KTB vies to bring more visitors to appreciate the famous national parks, game reserves and of course the sundrenched beaches from Kiwayu over Lamu, Malindi, Watamu and Mombasa all the way across Diani to Shimoni.
Congratulations go to Muriithi Ndegwa and his entire team in Nairobi for this resounding vote of confidence, in Kenya as the world’s leading safari destination and in the work done by KTB throughout the year.
(KTB’s Muriithi Ndegwa seen here receiving the trophy from WTA’s Graham Cooke with the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Dr. Ibrahim Mohamed looking on)
And as if nature too wanted to celebrate this final tourism prize of 2013, has the annual migration of the wildebeest returned unexpectedly for a second time in search of pastures as the Serengeti, where the great herds are supposed to be enroute to the low grass plains between the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, has been plagued by a major drought with not enough fodder. This has led to a rare spectacle that visitors to the Masai Mara can this year enjoy a second opportunity to see the herds crossing the Mara river as they stream back into the game reserve and populate the undulating hills of the Masai Mara once again. Watch this space because it is here where you read it first.
PROJECT GREENFIELD SET FOR TUESDAY LAUNCH
(Posted 01st December 2013)
Years late, but better late than never will on Tuesday next week the long awaited ground breaking ceremony take place at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, by none other than President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose father in fact formally commissioned the airport back in 1978 and after whom the airport was then named.
Project Greenfield, according to plans seen by this correspondent, will involve the construction of a second runway as well as peripheral facilities like another taxiway, aircraft parking spaces and aprons. Key of the project though it a new mega terminal, which when complete will become the home of national airline Kenya Airways and the SkyTeam partner airlines KQ works hand in hand with.
The new terminal will add a further 20 million passenger capacity boost to Nairobi, besides the anticipated completion of the new Terminal 4 which will adjoin the present concourse with international departure units 1 and 2. Groundbreaking at JKIA will take place only days after President Kenyatta also launched the new standard gauge railway at a similar ceremony in Mombasa, and both projects should be ready by around 2017, within his first term of office.
The JKIA capacity boost is much expected by airlines flying to Nairobi and many more waiting for the added capacity to commence flights, as currently the airport’s capacity has nearly reached its limit vis a vis flight movements and more crucially the availability of aircraft parking positions, check in counters, gates for departures and passengers facilities. In fact, national airline Kenya Airways, with plans to increase their fleet from the present 45 aircraft to 119 aircraft by the year 2022/23, which includes as many as 12 cargo aircraft, and their intention to widen their network from 65 destinations as of now to 115 destinations also by 2022/23, depend entirely on the capacity boost of JKIA. CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni has repeatedly gone on record that the new infrastructure will be crucial to Kenya Airways’ own success and growth plans and that unless JKIA expands, Kenya Airways own future will be in doubt. The airline will next year alone get at least an additional 11 aircraft, among them the up to 6 B787 Dreamliners, more B777-300ER’s and several more B737-800NG’s.
(The ‘new look’ JKIA after Project Greenfield has been fully implemented)
The overall cost, as present prices, is estimated to be in the 65+ billion Kenya Shillings region, covering both the second runway and the new terminal building and peripheral infrastructure like roads, car parks and related facilities. Kenya has in recent years made great strides in adding road and highway infrastructure, mainly around the capital city of Nairobi, and the additions to the airport, as well as the new railway, will strengthen Kenya’s position as the main gateway from the sea and from the air to Eastern Africa.
Watch this space for breaking and regular news from Eastern Africa’s aviation sector.
KENYA AIRWAYS EAST AFRICAN CLASSIC SAFARI RALLY ENDS WITH KENYAN WIN
(Posted 30th November 2013)
(Kenya’s winning team of Ian Duncan and Amaar Slatch on the ramp popping the champagne corks)
The 2013 Kenya Airways Safari Classic Rally ended yesterday at the Sarova Whitesands Resort & Spa and it was once again a Kenyan win as Ian Duncan, also winner of the 2009 edition of the rally, pipped Stig Blomquist by just over 3 minutes to the finishing line after the lead had changed twice over the past days.
Ian drove a Ford Capri, leaving the fancied Porsche 911’s of Stig Blomquist and third placed team Gerald Marcy and Stephan Prevot from Belgian ‘easting dust’.
54 of the 60 starters made it to the finish, bringing home their Porsches, Datsuns and Fords of various makes and one sole Corvette, though with a large gap between the leader and the final finisher.
The event is run every two years and continues to excite large crowds along the route which this year again covered both Kenya and Tanzania to the delight of motor sport fans who turned out in their tens of thousands along the course to see the classic cars of yesteryear one more time. Kenya Airways has already indicated continued sponsorship of the event, which showcases Kenya as a key rallying destination and has this year helped to promote the Kenya coast where the event started and ended at the Sarova Whitesands Resort & Spa.
The next edition is set for November 2015 and details can be obtained nearer to the time once again via the Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/EastAfricanSafari or the organization’s direct webpage via www.eastafricansafarirally.com.
Full results are now available via http://www.eastafricansafarirally.com/images/bulletins/2013-day9-overall-final.pdf
KENYA AIRWAYS INCREASES FLIGHTS TO KEY DESTINATIONS ACROSS AFRICA
(Posted 30th November 2013)
Kenya Airways has confirmed the addition of 11 more flights on the route between Nairobi and Mombasa in response to requests by the coast hospitality industry which had asked for more seats and more flights into Kenya’s second city, in order to boost occupancies in their resorts.
The airline also added on more weekly flight to Malindi, making it a total of 8 per week, in this case responding to risen demand by the market.
Flights to Kilimanjaro, in code share with partner airline Precision Air, were increased from the current 5 to daily flights, again boosting capacity on this important route for regional tourism and trade.
Juba, South Sudan’s capital, has seen flights go from double daily to now 19 per week, here in particular reflecting increased demand for seats from Juba to Nairobi and then on to Mombasa, presently the key entry and exit point for imports and exports of Africa’s youngest nation.
The Seychelles will be happy to hear that the fourth flight has now been made permanent, having initially been added to cater for additional traffic in August, September and October, and the use of the Embraer E190 on the route has certainly added greater flexibility for Kenya Airways to operate the route with good load factors and positive financial returns.
The island of Madagascar, soon to hold its presidential runoff elections after which the African Union is expected to lift all remaining sanctions, has seen an increase from three to five flights per week while flights to Accra will now be operated by Boeing B767 wide body equipment, upped from the current use of a Boeing B737NG. The flights to Accra will, subject to regulatory approvals, be routed either via Freetown / Sierra Leone or Monrovia / Liberia as a stopping point enroute.
The decision by Kenya Airways suggests that demand has grown steadily for seats on routes from Nairobi into the airline’s Africa network, where Kenya Airways serves as key link for their SkyTeam alliance members, which are feeding their traffic into Nairobi where KQ then takes over. Visit www.kenya-airways.com for more details on the latest schedule changes, for information on fares and for on line bookings.
GOVERNMENT INITIATED STUDY SAYS ‘HANDS OFF LAKE NATRON’
(Posted 02nd December 2013)
When details emerged last week of a detailed scientific study, conducted on behalf of Tanzania’s National Development Corporation, in other words the government itself, that the implementation of President Kikwete’s directive to move ahead with the controversial soda ash extraction plant at Lake Natron would ‘almost certainly wipe out East Africa’s Lesser Flamingo population’ the many opponents around the world felt totally vindicated.
Bedeviled by Tanzanian government mouthpieces in the past as ‘enemies of progress’ and with often racial undertones ‘muzungus [Kiswahili word for white people] and foreigners are trying to deny us development’ the opposition nevertheless forced India’s TATA Corporation out of the game in 2008 already, as the PR strategists at TATA soon figured into what global firestorm they would walk should they go ahead with their plans at the time to build a soda ash extraction plant at Lake Natron.
The 8 months study showed conclusively that 90 percent of the lake are a key habitat for East Africa’s lesser flamingos, and that the mud flats are the only place in East Africa where the flamingos breed due to their unique nesting habits. These birds come in their millions but only when breeding conditions are right – a hard to define pattern admittedly – and then make their nests with mud, laying their eggs which are during the day incubated by the extreme heat and only at night are the parents then sitting on the eggs to keep them warm. Marc Baker of the Arusha based ‘Ecological Initiatives’, the main author of the study, elaborates in great detail what pattern the birds follow when the young ones are born, including their constant movement and search for fresh water springs to allow the chicks to wash off the soda on their feathers, which otherwise would kill them if not removed.
The study shows that the proposed plant site has been squarely ‘planted’ right in the middle of the most crucial habitat, and there is no wonder that the author and his colleagues had to conclude that if the facility is in fact constructed, that the destruction of the crucial habitat and the disturbance of the bird’s pattern of feeding and seeking fresh water would be so disruptive that the lesser flamingos would soon be no more. Currently numbers of the flamingos vary from between 1 to 2.5 million birds, depending on food availability, mostly in Kenya’s alkaline Rift Valley lakes like Elementaita, Nakuru and Bogoria, among others, and depending on, as has been mentioned, a rather unpredictable breeding patterns which is not exactly annual or by the calendar.
Birdlife International, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Lake Natron Consultative Group had in the past taken the lead to oppose the Tanzanian government’s plans for the construction of a soda ash plant, in the trail of which there was added talk of connecting Lake Natron to a railway link and have the equally controversial Serengeti highway route along the edges of the lake ecosystem to provide easy access by trucks.
‘Evidence has now converged. Economic studies have shown soda ash mining is not a viable option. Ecology, hydrology and technical considerations now confirm the same’ said according to the information passed on over the weekend Mr. Ken Mwathe, Policy and Advocacy Programme Coordinator at BirdLife International. ‘The
Government of Tanzania should respect this evidence and drop soda ash mining’ he was quoted to have added.
Earlier in 2013 did the Tanzanian media report that six foreign firms placed bids to set up the controversial soda ash plant on the shores of Tanzania’s Lake Natron on invitation of NDC and the Tanzanian government, the latter of which had publicly stated that they would go ahead no matter what opposition was put in their way.
Time as always will tell if the ‘Corridor of Destruction’ the Tanzanian government has schemed up, from Musoma on Lake Victoria across the Serengeti, Lake Natron, the Eastern Arc Mountains to the Coelacanth Marine National Park in Mwambani near Tanga – besides equally disruptive assaults on the Selous with uranium mining and plans to build a hydro electric plant in the core of the reserve’s tourism area around Stieglers’ Gorge – will ultimately be rolled out in the face of now concrete evidence, that Lake Natron should be left alone and turned into a major tourism resource. Watch this space. (Links to the article series ‘The corridor of destruction’: http://atcnews.org/2011/05/01/tanzania-conservation-breaking-news-the-corridor-of-destruction-from-the-coast-to-the-lake/ … http://atcnews.org/2012/01/18/tanzania-conservation-news-corridor-of-destruction-reloaded/ … http://atcnews.org/2012/07/10/is-tanzanias-coelacanth-marine-national-park-at-mwambani-damned-for-destruction/ … http://atcnews.org/2013/05/06/mwambani-evictions-denounced-by-residents-and-human-rights-groups/
RDB OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES THE MUSANZE CAVE EXPERIENCE
(Posted 05th December 2013)
The Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Department will later today formally launch the ‘Musanze Cave Experience’ following several months of trials and a more recent soft opening phase.
The Musanze caves development works were undertaken by RDB in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence-Reserve Force from January 2013 onwards to open up two of several caves for tourism purpose. The work carried out included the establishment of tourist walkways and trails, stairs and other measures to make visits to the caves by safe for tourists.
The Head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB noted ahead of the formal launch that the local community will benefit from this new product as business will undoubtedly flourish near the cave entrance and exit. Wrote Ms. Rica Rwigamba: ‘Local investors have already shown interest to build hotels at the cave entrance. We will also ensure that local communities benefit from this new product’.
More than 600 local people have according to information received from Kigali participated in the development works of caves, percolating benefits from Rwanda’s growing tourism industry down to community grass root level.
The Musanze caves offer an insight and better understanding of the geological history and development of the earth and in particular in this part of Rwanda with its prehistoric volcanic past.
(Yours truly all geared up to explore the Musanze Caves – and a look from the bottom up at the exit of the trail)
This correspondent was earlier this year able to visit the caves while some sections were still undergoing development and work along the trail, and the impressions reported at the time can be accessed via http://atcnews.org/2013/06/22/rdb-reveals-new-tourism-attractions-ahead-of-kwita-izina/
RWANDAIR HELPS TO BRING THE ‘ENCHANTED FOREST AKA NYUNGWE’ NEARER TO YOU
(Posted 04th December 2013)
Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest National Park remains one of the country’s hidden gems and still much underutilized natural resources, even though visitors’ numbers continue to increase in double digits year after year.
The launch three years ago of East Africa’s only tropical rainforest canopy walk brought the spotlight on to Nyungwe and since then have as many as 8 short and long hiking trails been established by the Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Department.
Still, according to sources close to RDB and from across the tourism fraternity there is consensus that Nyungwe, a nearly 1.000 square kilometre large montane rain forest, can and should receive more tourists. The hikes into and across the park bring visitors, who are seeking an active adventure trip, close to as many as 13 primate species, 275 species of birds including a number of endemic species, almost 1.100 species of trees, shrubs and plants, over 80 mammal species and about 70 amphibian and reptile species, making this park a biodiversity hotspot of the highest order.
(A map of Nyungwe Forest National Park, Eastern and Central Africa’s largest montane rainforest)
The park headquarter at the Uwinka viewing point, where the hike into the forest to the canopy walk starts, offers a range of information for visitors as well as permits for a spectacular vista across the park’s interior and of Mt. Bigugu which rises to nearly 3.000 meters elevation, in itself also a hiking destination with a trail described by those who managed it as ‘very challenging’. Hikes range from ‘easy’ for the uninitiated, lasting just a few hours to see the Colobus monkey colonies near the Nyungwe Forest Lodge, to the more difficult half day and full day long hikes for more regular outdoor fans to the top end of multi day hikes across the park or up Mt. Bigugu.
RwandAir has now once again, as done before, launched a special package for visitors, available to East African residents as well as foreign nonresident visitors, to fly from Kigali on their domestic service to the airport of Kamembe / Cyangugu as part of a 2 night / 3 day package, including transport, meals, accommodation at the award winning 5 star Nyungwe Forest Lodge and of course a hike to the canopy walk, where visitors literally can look into and across the forest’s ‘rooftop’.
RWANDA’S SENATE DEMANDS ACTION ON KEY ROAD ALONG THE ‘CONGO NILE TRAIL’
(Posted 02nd December 2013)
Rwanda’s upper house of parliament, the Senate, last week met with the Minister of State in the Ministry of Infrastructure to discuss, among other topics, the state of progress of the crucial Ruzizi – Rubavu road, construction of which has started already 3 years ago.
The road covers the entire length of a tourism trail now known as the Congo Nile Trail, which runs from Cyangugu, the border town with the Congo DR served by the Kamembe airport – RwandAir now operates daily flights from Kigali – to the town of Gisenyi. The trail has attracted much attention among global adventure travelers and seekers of active vacations, which include hikes or bike trails, but the state of the road has raised concerns among tourism stakeholders who would want to take clients the ‘traditional way’, i.e. by safari 4×4 vehicle over better roads than is presently the case.
While the senators made it clear that they want the road finished, so do tourism stakeholders and one regular commenter wrote recently when discussing the impact of the Congo Nile Trail until now on Rwanda’s tourism offerings: ‘The trail is a great idea. It has opened up a part of Rwanda few people in the past thought about. You helped a lot to popularize it and we now have more and more visitors coming to hike or bike sections of the trail. However, most of our clients still want to go and track the gorillas or the golden monkeys and when they have stayed for that in Musanze [formerly Ruhengeri] we need good roads to take them along the trail. There is no problem to Gisenyi of course but a tarmac road from there to Kibuye along the lake, which is the scenic route tourists expect to see, will help us a lot. Visitors could do a complete loop during a safari, from Kigali to see the gorillas, then to Gisenyi, on to Kibuye and then all the way to Nyungwe Forest park before returning back to Kigali via Huye. A good tarmac road will open that part of the country a lot, not just for tourists but also for us local people and trade will grow even to and from the Bukavu side of Congo’.
True enough that Rwanda, where tourism has become a main pillar of the local economy and has seen double digit growth in recent years, needs to add more attractions or make those attractions more easily accessible by road, so the demand by the senators can only be supported to open up Rwanda for visitors who come to see more then ‘just gorillas’. Welcome to the land of a thousand hills, and as a friend recently put it, also the land of a hundred thousand opportunities.
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES EXPANDS CODES SHARE PARTNERSHIP WITH SINGAPORE AIRLINES
(Posted 30th November 2013)
Shortly after commencing their flights from Addis Ababa to Singapore has Ethiopian Airlines now announced a closer cooperation with Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines for the benefit of the passengers of both airlines.
Ethiopian, from 03rd December onwards, will put their ET flight code on SIA flights to Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane while in turn, always subject to regulatory approvals, SIA will add their code to Ethiopian operated flights from Addis Ababa to Entebbe, Kigali, Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro in East Africa and Point Noire (Congo Brazzaville) and Accra / Ghana in West Africa. It is expected that subject to the commercial success of this close cooperation more code share destinations will be announced in 2014.
This latest development has again underscored the growing importance of airline alliances, where Star is clearly leading in Africa with three members, Ethiopian, South African and Egypt Air, while SkyTeam, through their partnership with Kenya Airways, is a very respectable second. Beaten into a distant third place in Africa is oneworld which has no African partner and therefore now largely depends on British Airways flights into the continent – with two key destinations dumped from the network, namely Dar es Salaam and Lusaka – and the flights by Qatar Airways from Doha, after the Gulf carrier joined the alliance on 31st October.
KHARTOUM AIRPORT WORST IN THE WORLD RANTS BRITISH ENVOY TO JORDAN
(Posted 01st December 2013)
The British Ambassador to Jordan, one Peter Willet, has reportedly dropped any resemblance of diplomatic language when he laid into Khartoum’s international airport, which he described as ‘The Worst In The World’.
He apparently uttered his rant via Twitter from his station in Amman and the details received here do not explain his presence in The Sudan or any other details except complaints about the heat – yes Mr. Ambassador, it is hot in The Sudan – the dirt and the lack of welcoming information. Considering though how these ‘Your Excellency’ individuals travel, briefed in advance, flying in the front cabin and being met by greeters who then ‘facilitate’ those hurdles other travelers have to jump over and the hoops they have to jump through, like immigration and customs, it is really beyond anyone to understand why he did travel to Khartoum when surely he must have been told about the temperatures, the fact that the place may be dusty, caused by the surrounding desert environment, and largely used Arabic language signs. If it was a private trip he could and should have stayed away and if it was an official trip, there sure is now a hardship allowance to be claimed to generously compensate for the dirt, the heat and the lack of Heathrow signage and having to go to a place he clearly considered as way below his station.
Comments made on Twitter indicate that ‘Your Excellency’ may have well shot himself into the proverbial foot with his rant, as twitter users in turn laid into him over the use of his blunt language, obviously not befitting a UK diplomat, and his perceived disdain if not outright disrespect for The Sudan.
A new airport is being planned for Khartoum, financed by China and built by Chinese companies, with little if any UK components or input on that project, as generally has the UK influence waned inspite of or perhaps because of the colonial mastership in former days.
And tongue in cheek I wish this ‘Your Excellency’ a lot more such travel experiences to bring him down to the level of how ordinary mortals travel and experience airports so that he can appreciate what it is like for say a UK national he is privileged to represent to travel around the world and to places like Khartoum. Not sure though that those British nationals are equally privileged to have such an individual represent them.
Vanilla Islands News
REUNION TOURISM HITS THE MARKETING TRAIL
(Posted 06th December 2013)
Vanilla Island Organization founder member Reunion is pulling out all stops these days to widen their reach and open up new markets for tourist visitors to the French Indian Ocean island.
The latest initiative focused on the Swiss market, from where 7 travel agents were brought to the island by Indalo Tours of Switzerland in conjunction with their local DMC Papangue Tours and Reunion Tourism for an educational tour of the island, allowing the travel agents to sample Reunion’s wide range of cultural and natural attractions.
IRT, short for Ile de La Reunion Tourisme, or the Reunion Tourism Office, has of late began to roll out a new marketing plan which aims to expand the island’s source markets and to reduce over reliance on the French domestic market which however remains at the centre of promotional activities.
New markets within the European Union have been as much targeted as for instance South Africa, where the island was even able to put a Visa waiver programme into place, notwithstanding that Reunion is part of France and hence the European Union. A similar Visa waiver programme is being prepared for China, another new market the island is courting to add visitor numbers in support of the vital tourism industry.
News were also received well by Reunion when Air Seychelles announced a few days ago that the Seychelles’ national airline will commence flights next year to Reunion’s Roland Garros International Airport in the capital of St. Denis, reciprocating the announcement by Air Austral that they too will launch flights to Mahe in early 2014.
Connectivity among the so called Vanilla Islands is thought to be crucial to improve the flow of visitors wanting to ‘island hop’ and see more than just one island, while cruise tourism, a potential gold mine for the various island’s tourism sectors, has also been targeted. The Vanilla Island Organization is reportedly in talks with major global cruise lines to establish dedicated itineraries for cruise ships to call on several of the islands during the course of an Indian Ocean cruise, a move masterminded by Seychelles Tourism but very closely supported by Reunion Tourism.
(The 7 Swiss travel agents enjoying one of the fab beaches on La Reunion)
For more information about Reunion visit www.reunion.fr where a complete overview of the island’s tourism attractions as well as hotels and resorts are available. Air Austral, Reunion’s home airline, flies 12 times a week between Paris CDG and St. Denis and information on the schedules and additional destinations are available via www.air-austral.com
REUNION TOURISM PROMOTES THE ISLAND IN BELGIUM
(Posted 04th December 2013)
Reunion Tourism joined hands with the island’s home carrier Air Austral, LUX Resorts and the Le Recif Resort to attend a Belgian mini trade show organized by ‘Footprints’, with 10 travel agencies from across the country learning about the French Indian Ocean ‘Vanilla Island’.
Reunion has of late embarked on an ambitious marketing campaign to widen their scope of tourist visitors and reduce their almost single reliance in the past on the French domestic market. With Air Austral flying 12 times a week between Reunion’s Roland Garros International Airport and Paris, connections are easy as Belgium is connected by fast train services from Brussels directly to Paris CDG airport.
Though one of the 7 Vanilla Island Organization members, Reunion is unique in several ways, for one being part of France even though located between Madagascar and Mauritius and for the other through the unique product offerings the island has for visitors. From the conventional beach holidays to the rugged interior where deep valleys and gorges await adventurers and hikers to the top of one of the Indian Ocean’s most active volcanoes, from dolphin and whale watching to diving and deep sea fishing, from paragliding to heli safaris over the island to white water rafting, Reunion has much to offer and yet is little known in comparison to some of the other Vanilla Islands.
Reunion Tourism CEO Pascal Viroleau and his team, fully supported by the President of the Regional Council of La Reunion Didier Robert, are committed to changing this lack of knowledge about Reunion and have embarked on an ambitious programme of attending trade fairs and arranging for tour operators, travel agents and the travel media to come to the island and become ambassadors and marketers after being able to sample the unique blend this island offers between culture, heritage, sea and sand and adventure activities.
For more information about the island visit www.reunion.fr
REUNION PROVIDES THE STAGE FOR A NEW DIVING WORLD RECORD
(Posted 03rd December 2013)
A Guinness Book of Records dive took place in Reunion last Sunday when 110 divers undertook their world record dive off the coastal town of Saint – Leu, where underwater they linked up to form the largest ‘chain’ of humans underwater.
This joint initiative between Reunion Tourism and the GPP brought together 110 divers of the ages between 18 and 82. The world record breaking feat of holding hands underwater, which lasted 5 minutes and 12 seconds, was witnessed by 2 Guinness Book of Records appointed witnesses, 6 photographers who filmed the entire exercise, 10 rescue divers and a further 10 monitors, making sure all went well. The divers went out to sea in a flotilla of 13 boats with the local media in tow to document the historic dive.
Reunion is known for some spectacular underwater scenery and diving is the second most important tourist activity on the island.
All participants are now awaiting the formal recognition by the Guinness Book of Records as the monitors and GBR appointed witnesses of the dive have filed their confirmation reports, but there is no doubt that Reunion Tourism now has a new feather in their cap of things to tell prospective visitors.
Reunion is one of the 7 Vanilla Islands which have joined hands to promote tourism to these Indian Ocean islands. Part of France does Reunion offer European infrastructure and service levels blended with the rich Creole history and background of the island’s population, making it a unique destination among its Vanilla Island peers like Madagascar, Mayotte, Comoros, Mauritius, Seychelles and Maldives. The island’s own home airline, Air Austral, connects Reunion to a number of regional and international destinations including 12 flights a week to Paris. Visit www.reunion.fr for more information on the tourism attractions, how to get there and where to stay.
(Pictures courtesy of Reunion Tourism, showing the successful world record dive and the participants in jubilant mood afterwards)
AIR SEYCHELLES ANNOUNCES RETURN TO PARIS AND ACQUISITION OF AN A319
(Posted 03rd December 2013)
In a breaking news development has Air Seychelles just announced their return to France with two flights to Paris-Orly starting in February 2014. The two weekly flights, using Air Seychelles’ Airbus A330-200, will route via Abu Dhabi and subject to regulatory approvals be operated under a code share with partner airline Etihad. These extra two flights will add to the double daily Etihad services from Abu Dhabi to Paris Charles de Gaulle.
The direct flights to Paris meet a key request of the Seychelles’ hospitality and tourism private sector as France is one of the archipelago’s most important market places from within the European Union.
The announcement came as part of a package of additional flights Air Seychelles intends to launch in 2014, supported by the acquisition of a new Airbus A319 due for delivery in October next year. The new aircraft will be deployed on the airline’s regional routes to the Indian Ocean islands and substitute the wet-leased A320 from Etihad Air Seychelles presently uses for their three weekly flights to Mauritius. New will be two direct weekly flights from Mahe to Antananarivo in Madagascar using the single aisle aircraft, combined with Reunion’s Roland Garros International Airport in the capital St. Denis. These additional destinations will connect two more of the Vanilla Island Organization members, establishing greater connectivity between the Indian Ocean islands to promote multi island holidays but also to support the growing trade links in particular with Reunion.
Air Seychelles will maintain their present flight schedule of three flights per week between Mahe and Johannesburg, using their Airbus A330-200 on the route to South Africa.
The launch of Mumbai flights, three times a week nonstop from Mahe, also using the Airbus A319, will connect another increasingly important market as more and more travelers from India are now visiting the Seychelles, underscored by the launch of the Seychelles – India Day celebrations three months ago.
Cramer Ball, Air Seychelles’ CEO, made the announcement and said on the occasion: ‘The new schedule will see Air Seychelles spread its regional footprint and build a solid position that will establish us as the carrier of choice in the Indian Ocean. It also greatly increases options for travel to and from the Indian Ocean, and with our new flights to Paris-Orly, we will also enjoy network feed provided by our convenient schedule times over Abu Dhabi, contributing to the bottom line’.
The new flight schedule announced yesterday afternoon will see the total number of Air Seychelles flights between Mahe and Abu Dhabi rise to 11, all using Airbus A330-200 equipment, with 6 flights terminating in Abu Dhabi, 3 continuing to Hong Kong and two continuing to Paris-Orly.
Together with the signing of a purchase agreement for three brand new Twin Otter DHC 6-400, reported here in Ocober, which will replace three of the ageing DHC 6-300 types on domestic routes, this latest development confirms that the ‘new’ Air Seychelles has concluded the restructuring process and has switched firmly to growth mode for 2014 and beyond, playing a center piece role in promoting the archipelago as the Indian Ocean’s most talked about tourism destination.
For more information on the airline’s schedule, fares, special offers and for bookings visit www.airseychelles.com
AND in closing the usual dose of worthwhile reads from The Livingstone Weekly courtesy of Gill Staden. Enjoy the read, as in the very last paragraph Gill is mentioning she might stop the publication for a while, which, if true, would be a tremendous loss of news, facts and figures from what I call ‘further down South’ – though I suspect I know the reasons and cannot say I do not deeply sympathize with Gill. If you do come back with more, it will be greatly appreciated by myself and my readers and if you do take a break, tank up some quality time in your garden, with your friends and enjoy life a little, or a lot. And if you decide to hang up the hat for good, put the pen away and mothball your keyboard, thank you Gill for years of extraordinary, totally dedicated service to your community and for keeping us folks in East Africa, and your own readers, in Southern Africa, well informed and entertained.
From Ngami Times
Monday could be a very interesting day in the 98-year history of Maun, long known as the tourism and safari capital of Botswana and indeed world famous as we have noticed with the TV programme “Bush Pilots” which highlights the activities of young men and women from all over the world keen to learn their craft over the dense foliage and desert of the Okavango delta and elsewhere.
On that day, at Matlapeneng kgotla, details of a planned six-storey hotel will be divulged – and if acceptable to the public (or rather big business with political connections) an eyesore for the future on the Maun landscape will be signed and sealed.
To erect such a building on a relatively small plot and in a town with acute water, sewerage and power problems is a joke, as many have pointed out on social media. They have also said it would ruin the image of Maun and our unique wildlife in the eyes of foreign tourists who do not need such luxury accommodation for an African safari. They don’t mind two-storey buildings but are dead against anything higher than that.
Aviation buffs also point out that the proposed hotel could turn out to be a danger to aircraft approaching and taking off on the new runway 08 at Maun airport.
The same argument can also be said for the old Maun Educational Park from where the animals have been relocated in order to construct another five star hotel, a golf course, a casino and a conference centre.
It will be a sad day for Maun if these plans go through – but needless to say big business and greedy politicians will have the final say, over-riding the objections of a community.
Kötting is conservation queen
From New Era
Birgit Kötting, the chief control warden of the Rhino Custodian Programme of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, was announced conservationist of the year by the Namibia Professional Hunters Association (Napha).
Kötting received the award yesterday at the 40th annual general meeting of Napha at the Sun-Karros Lodge in the Daan Viljoen National Park, from Napha president, Kai-Uwe Denker.
Denker paid tribute to the woman who has worked for more than 15 years in the bush with her base at the world-renowned Etosha National Park, focusing on saving the endangered black rhino from extinction.
Her work in Namibia’s famous national park began in 1997, when she did park management at the three rest camps.
In 2000 she began working as technician in the science section of the Etosha Ecological Institute at Okaukuejo and this is where her work with rhinos began.
Being involved in the Rhino Custodian Programme established by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Kötting is one of a tiny minority of women who immersed herself in the tough job of assisting with the capture of rhinos designated for translocation under the custodianship programme.
In 2006 she took over the position as manager of this farsighted attempt to safeguard the future of one of the world’s most charismatic and endangered species and nowadays she is the liaison officer between the custodians and the chief control wardens.
“As such she, in the light of the enormous potential threat of rhino poaching, has a job where she has to be on standby 24 hours a day.
She does all of this, living in the bush, capturing and translocating rhinos and co-ordinating conservation. I think hunters can appreciate more than others what it means in reality for a woman to live in the bush without amenities, at times without shower and toilet, to day in and day out be exposed to heat, dust, thorns and wild animals while at the same time having to raise children and attend to a family,” Denker said.
World Travel Awards
Botswana’s Leading Hotel Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel Resort
Botswana’s Leading Inbound Tour Operator Travel Wild Africa
Botswana’s Leading Safari Lodge &Beyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge
Botswana’s Leading Tented Safari Camp &Beyond Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp
Namibia’s Leading Hotel Hilton Windhoek
Namibia’s Leading Spa Resort Eagle Tented Lodge and Spa
Zambia’s Leading Hotel The Royal Livingstone
Zambia’s Leading Safari Lodge Royal Chundu Luxury Zambezi Lodges
Zimbabwe’s Leading Hotel The Victoria Falls Hotel
Zimbabwe’s Leading Private Game Reserve Stanley and Livingstone Private Game Reserve
Zimbabwe’s Leading Resort Leopard Rock Hotel, Casino & Golf Resort
Zimbabwe’s Leading Safari Lodge Singita Pamushana Lodge.
This is the last Livingstone Weekly, at least for some time. I need a break, probably a permanent one. I am going to spend my Sundays in the garden and doing normal things.
So, for the time being, have a good time.