AVIATION, TOURISM AND CONSERVATION NEWS from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.
A weekly roundup of breaking news, reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
You can get your daily breaking news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthome, join me onwww.facebook.com/WolfgangHThome where the articles also ‘cross load’ or read the daily postings on my blog via www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com which you can also ‘follow’ to get immediate notification when a new article is posted.
Third edition October 2012
ETHIOPIAN SHELVES BRAZIL FLIGHTS
Information availed from a source in Addis Ababa reveals a change of heart by Ethiopian Airlines over their planned flights to Brazil’s largest city Sao Paulo which were announced a while ago to commence in December this year. The airline’s official stand is that the postponement was necessitated by the allocation of a landing and departure time which would not permit network traffic feed into the flights from Addis via Lome to Sao Paulo. The Lome / Togo stop was primarily aimed to give ET’s partner airline ASKY the opportunity to also collect traffic from the region and feed into the cross Atlantic flight to Brazil. Attempts to make unsuitable slot times however the main issue at this late stage would suggest that the preparations for the route, including having a suitable landing and departure time for Sao Paulo agreed to in advance, were are from ideally executed or else that other reasons such as weaker than expected demand could have something to do with it. Ethiopian was to fly three times a week from Ethiopia to Brazil and has now named March 2013 as a new possible start date.
Other suggestions over the delay of these flights focuses rather more on the lack of suitable aircraft at this moment in time, attributed to the repeated delays in getting the ordered B787’s on line, coupled with a recent unscheduled engine change on the first Dreamliner delivered to Ethiopian, which reportedly caused some added concern and extra caution in operating the aircraft.
In contrast is the planned start of flights from Addis Ababa to Kuala Lumpur and ready to go next week, ahead of yet more destinations being prepared as the airline continues to add aircraft to the fleet. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from Eastern Africa’s vibrant aviation scene.
AIR SEYCHELLES PRESENTS IMRPOVED RESULTS
Information has been sent from Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, about the significant improvements in national airline Air Seychelles revenues this year. Owned 40 percent now by Abu Dhabi’s national carrier Etihad and managed by a team attached to Air Seychelles from there under a 5 year management agreement, key indicators are vastly improved, with revenues in quarter three of 2012 risen over quarter two figures by 23 percent or by 13.8 million US Dollars, according to the details given by the source.
Passenger load factors have climbed to in average 60 percent, up by 17 percent while passenger numbers carried are reportedly up by just over 50 percent. Air Seychelles presently operates an Airbus A330-200 flying under HM colours and a wetleased A320 from Etihad, besides a fleet of De Havilland Twinotters and a Short for domestic scheduled flights to Praslin and charter flights to other islands. Another Airbus A330 is due to join he fleet in early 2013, supposed to then commence flights to China, though the latest information here too is that the routing will go via Abu Dhabi bearing a code shared flight number with dominant partner Etihad which presently does not operate to Hong Kong.
The airline, as part of cost cutting measures, had radically halted all direct flights from Europe in early January this year, under then CEO Bram Stellar who had joined from Kenya Airways in October 2011 where he was COO. His decision to close down the European gateways of London, Paris, Milan and Rome left crucial tourist markets like France reeling from the blow of losing the 6 weekly flights codeshared with Air France. Up to date many key tourism stakeholders insist that the drop in market share from France can only be recovered by restoring direct flight links between Paris and Mahe, instead of having all travelers now compelled to use an intermediate hub along the way to change flights. The new Etihad seconded management team led by Cramer Ball took over in February this year and Bram Stellar, initially retained in a consulting capacity, has since left the Seychelles for a new position in the Gulf.
Watch this space for regular and breaking news from East Africa’s and the Indian Ocean’s vibrant aviation scene.
OKTOBERFEST AT SHERATON, KAMPALA STYLE
The Sheraton Kampala Hotel is the place to once again celebrate this year’s Oktoberfest, at least for those who were unable to fly to Munich for the real thing but even for those who went there and have a taste for more still.
From the 24th to the 27th will the traditional ‘Umptata’ music be played at the hotel in the evenings as classic German dishes and in particular the ‘Weisswurst’ will be served at the hotels’ restaurants, while German beer from Bavarian breweries will be available to make for authentic drinks.
The Sheraton has for years kept the tradition of celebrating one of Germany’s great festivals and fun fairs here in Kampala, regularly graced by the German Ambassador on opening night and with the hundreds of members of not just the German community in Uganda but also Ugandan members of the Uganda German Cultural Society meeting up over meals, music and fun time.
From past experience table reservations are highly recommended as sell out crowds crammed the Sheraton during previous year’s celebrations, so this is once more something to look forward to. Sauerkraut anyone or perhaps a Loewenbrau, a Paulaner or a Hofbraeu? Prosit!
OL PEJETA GETS 5 OUT OF 5 BY TRIPADVISOR
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy, regularly described by this correspondent as one of the most complete safari experiences available in Kenya today – all of the big five are found on the sprawling estate – just received a perfect 5 out of 5 by TripAdvisor for the year 2012. Extending over 350 square kilometers and home to the largest population of the Eastern Black rhino in Eastern Africa, Ol Pejeta is also the refuge for the last breeding population of 4 Northern White rhinos. The conservancy is also an active cattle ranch, proving that wildlife including predators can coexist side by side with minimal losses to livestock, a model now studied intensely by ranching communities across Kenya in need of lessons how to live and let live.
Richard Vigne, the CEO of Ol Pejeta expressed his delight over the award and said: ‘Ol Pejeta strives to offer visitors memorable safari experiences and we are honoured that TripAdvisor chose to recognize our contribution to the Kenyan Tourism industry by giving us a Certificate of Excellence Award’.
Notably did all three safari camps located on the conservancy, the Porini Rhino Camp, the Kicheche Laikipia Camp and Serena Hotels’ Sweetwater Safari Camp also receive their own Certificates of Excellence 2012 from the TripAdvisor team, a resounding endorsement of the quality which exists on Kenya’s safari circuit, just 3 ½ hours drive from the capital Nairobi.
Ol Pejeta can be reached by air from Wilson Airport with daily scheduled flights by amongst others SafariLink to the Nanyuki airfield though two airstrips are found on the conservancy itself for direct charters with light aircraft. Visit www.olpejetaconservancy.org for more information on the work done there, in particular the successful experience of re-introducing cattle some years back which is now the backbone of financial sustainability, the chimpanzee sanctuary, research work and ecological monitoring programmes and their close ties with neighbouring communities.
Congratulations to Ol Pejeta’ management and staff and to Serena’s Sweetwaters, Kicheche’s Laikipia and Porini’s Rhino camps for this outstanding achievement.
BERJAYA BEACH RESORT AND CASINO SUFFERS SECOND FIRE IN A YEAR
Swift action by well trained staff was reportedly the main reason for a second fire in the year being brought under swift control without spreading further into the resort’s facilities. The speciality pizzeria restaurant caught fire in the deep of yesterday night, according to a regular source on Mahe around 3.30 am, but the firebrigade, once alerted, arrived at the scene within the space of less than 10 minutes with a dozen fire fighters assisting the hotel team already on site and as a result the fire was put out within half an hour.
A fire on 22nd of January, as reported here, had caused substantially greater damage at the time, since fully repaired of course, but also led to additional efforts to train the staff on fire prevention and fire fighting skills, well worth the expense as last night’s fire proved.
The Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Beach Resort and Casino is one of the Seychelles largest resort hotels and has been a feature for the past nearly 4 decades but kept up with modern day standards by regular renovations and upgrading of rooms and public areas. 232 rooms and suites, 3 restaurants and bars offer guests a choice of accommodation and different menus and the attached Casino is a magnet for many who are trying lady luck at night.
MV SKAGGIT ENQUIRY FINDS MASSIVE OVERLOADING
The report now published on the maritime disaster of 18th July this year, when MV Skaggit went down in the Indian Ocean while leaving Zanzibar, concluded that there were 447 passengers on board and not 290 as mentioned at the time by officials, with cargo also way over the limit of approved carrying capacity.
The ship went down claiming 81 confirmed lives while another 212 went missing and were never recovered from the sea. 154 passengers survived the sinking as a result of a swift rescue action by mostly private boats rushing to the scene.
This accident is one in a long line of lake and ocean disasters suffered by Tanzania, largely attributed to corrupt practices when inspecting vessels and issuing certificates of sea worthiness and by lax enforcement of loading limits for passengers and cargo.
The commission of enquiry spent the last almost three months to fully investigate the accident by interviewing not just survivors but also maritime officials while combing through maintenance and operational records of the company owning and managing the ship. Prosecutions are both ongoing and expected now as a result of the commission’s report, though of little comfort to those who lost friends and family members in the disaster.
KENYA AIRWAYS SET TO WELCOME ANOTHER E190
Top officials of Kenya Airways, led by CEO and Group Managing Director Dr. Titus Naikuni, were yesterday at hand at the Embraer assembly plant in Sao Jose dos Campos, some 90 kilometres outside Sao Paulo, to take delivery of the airline’s latest E190 jet, due to arrive later today in Nairobi.
This is the first of a new batch of orders, which are all due to be delivered now at monthly intervals at The Pride of Africa’s home base in Embakasi, before entering service on domestic, regional and African routes.
Plans to expand the Africa network to cover by the end of next year all commercial and political capitals depend on the delivery of more of these jets, as they will be used in many cases as the ‘start up’ aircraft to commence flights, when initially demand for a new routes will still develop.
Unlike main competitor in the wider region Ethiopian Airlines, which opted to cover the less density and off peak flights with the Bombardier Q400 turboprop, Kenya Airways opted to remain an all jet airline, and the complaints received over the use of the Q400 by passengers flying on ET proved that to be the right choice. There issues ranged from baggage left behind due to load restrictions to the absence of a proper business class layout, the lack of a ‘hot galley’ to lack of space in overhead lockers. This compelled Ethiopian to go back to the drawing board and have Bombardier create an ‘improved cabin’ – reported here last week – to reduce complaints.
The Kenya Airways E 190’s are configured with a two class cabin, 12 in business in a 2×1 layout and 84 in economy in a 2×2 layout for improved comfort. The E190’s are able to fly over 2.900 kilometres at an elevation of 35.000 feet and the cruising speed of Mach 0.82 is only beaten by the airline’s B777 aircraft, but otherwise faster than the B737’s used by KQ. Welcome it is later this Friday to KQ’s latest bird and happy landings to crews and passengers for many years to come.
FLY 540 TANZANIA HALTS MWANZA, KILIMANJARO AND ZANZIBAR FLIGHTS
A regular aviation source from Dar es Salaam has passed on information, that Fly 540 Tanzania will halt their operations from Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro and Mwanza but also Zanzibar, effective tomorrow, 13th of October until further notice. The short notice is bound to further unsettle travelers by air, burned in the past by no notice withdrawals of service by Air Tanzania and the generally less than optimal reputation of 540 will take another PR hit by the sudden cancellation of flights with but 9 days notice, going by the date attached to their announcement even if it only reached widely two days ago.
Said the source: ‘540 is trying to explain that they are making room for the new FastJet to begin operations. That is pure rubbish. You fly your services to the last moment and then the new boys step in and take over. Halting their flights therefore must have other reasons, and you can guess what those are. Load factors will range high on my own list for sure. From me it is good riddance to 540, they have not made any real impact and their low cost pretence never translated into low cost tickets. Lets wait and see now when FastJet will actually start to fly an A319 between Dar to Kilimanjaro and then Mwanza considering the capacity already on the route by Precision and now ATCL returning to these destinations also. They will find out soon what flying in this part of the world is all about’.
Interesting days and weeks ahead for Tanzanian aviation for sure so watch this space for breaking and regular news.
FASTJET SET TO START TANZANIA OPERATIONS AS ATCL SCRAMBLES TO FLY AGAIN
At the recently concluded ‘World Routes’ meeting in Abu Dhabi did senior staff of new kid on the block ‘FastJet’ tell the media that their first route will be from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi, supposed to be with three daily frequencies using an Airbus A319 with about 150 seats in an all economy configuration.
Flights on domestic routes between Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro and Mwanza are expected to follow, before adding more destinations where an A319 can land and where the expected traffic loads would allow financially viable operations.
Aviation analysts are however doubtful how the model of a European LCC can be transferred to Eastern Africa, where NO secondary airports with substantially lower charges and handling fees are available to bring cost down and where regulatory fees and taxes could be 10 times as much as a once floated fare of just 20 US Dollars per sector, preventing a sharp rise in demand for airtravel which would be required to fill the seats.
In addition seems the Tanzanian authorities hell bent to get Air Tanzania back into the air before FastJet commences operations, cognizant of the fact that should yet another competitor enter the market before ATCL flies once more, the start for the national airline could be short lived and expensive.
‘Our government speaks in two tongues’ said a regular source from Dar es Salaam before adding ‘They invite investors with big promises and like you will see here, they will heavily subsidize Air Tanzania to tile the market in their favour. Meanwhile they will tax the new airline and make them spend money but at the same time compete through a different arm of government. That is NOT what a free market economy is supposed to be. These antiquated policies have harmed Precision Air and others before because it is difficult to compete with a company which does not apparently need to make profits. OK, Precision is now too big to outcompete and is reliable and offers good service, but with FastJet, they have not started and will find not just Precision and Kenya Airways to contend with but also now ATCL again’.
Too late now for sure for the new airline to re-consider as the aircraft has reportedly been procured and flight operations are due to start by November or latest early December, at which time ATCL might well be back on the Nairobi route themselves, making a market entry then a financially bloody battle for the newcomers. Watch this space.
TANZANIA’S NEW ATTEMPT TO SELL BLOOD IVORY DRAWS INSTANT OBJECTIONS
‘This time we want to get absolute support from neighbouring Kenya, unlike in the past’ was part of Tanzania’s deputy minister for natural resources and tourism Lazaro Nyalandu opening salvo when he announced that they would once again apply to CITES for a one off permission to sell stocks of ivory presently held to the tune of nearly 140 tons, 100 of which Tanzania intends to sell on the open market.
Expected to raise some 55 million US Dollars, the Dar government will like two years ago be hard pressed to make a case to CITES, which upon receiving the previous application, then voted down at the Doha meeting, carried out a series of investigations and found Tanzania wanting in terms of anti poaching, monitoring of illegal shipments and enforcement.
The reports, when published, caused some acute embarrassment to Tanzania’s wildlife and tourism officials, when it became known that an estimated half of the global blood ivory actually originates from the country and a parliamentary report published a few weeks ago officially pegged the daily poaching of elephant in Tanzania to nearly 30, making an annual total of about 10.000 animals killed for ivory.
Added controversy arose over Tanzania’s general conservation policies and activities diagonally opposed to protecting the environment and biodiversity the country has been proud of for so long.
The controversial Serengeti Highway, the still unclear routing of a railway line to the lake side town of Musoma, plans for a soda ash plant inside the sole breeding grounds for the East African flamingos, plans for a new sea port in the middle of the Coelacanth marine national park near Tanga, plans for Uranium mining in the Selous combined with a massive dam at Stiegler’s Gorge and the withdrawal of an application for UNESCO recognition as a World Heritage Site for the Eastern Arc Mountains, to open them for logging and mining, are just a few examples of how the values of the founding father Mwalimu Julius Nyerere are now being trampled upon, with a potentially very negative impact on the country’s tourism industry. That sector depends on wildlife and nature being kept intact and all these plans, combined with yet another attempt to sell ivory, will only raise more concerns and opposition.
Ahead of the last round of the CITES meeting Tanzania also singularly failed to commit that should they be given permission to sell ivory stocks, ALL funds raised would be dedicated to anti poaching operations and poured into the wildlife management sector, as feeble explanations of the then minister opened the door wide to speculation that in fact only a tiny fraction of such funds would go towards such ends and the majority be used for other general funding gaps, or as a source overnight put it ‘wasted on corruption and useless state companies like Air Tanzania which can swallow that amount in one go and still has nothing to show for’ – in reference to other hot topics from Tanzania.
The coalition against selling ivory is already forming up again and unless Tanzania can this time make a compelling case and in particular show results against the commercial poaching in the country, they are likely once again to find stiff opposition at the next CITES meeting, risking to be decampaigned again as a tourism destination and loosing goodwill around the world.
The UK based environmental investigation agency has already taken Tanzania’s request into the cross hairs and instantly reacted by demanding the country first get their act together against poaching while also layig into CITES itself for what was called ‘profoundly flawed and, we believe, a major driver of poaching and the illegal international trade in ivory’ a damning indictment of CITES past permissions to grant one off trading to mainly Southern African countries, as a result of which poaching instantly accelerated across Africa. In a statement the EIA reportedly said: ‘Parties to CITES need to regain control of the destructive world ivory markets and end the damage done to undermine the 1989 ivory trade ban by firmly vetoing all proposals for ivory sales. They can start by emphatically rejecting Tanzania’s proposal in March, sending out an unequivocal message that all ivory is blood ivory’ before adding that Tanzania ‘appeared unwilling, or unable, to exercise control of poaching and ivory trafficking’.
Harsh words ringing in the upcoming battle on principle and standing up for wildlife conservation, not impeding it. Will it in the end be Burn Ivory Burn as done in Kenya repeatedly in the past or selling for greed until the last elephant has been killed, driven by demand from countries like China which have failed to regulate and enforce on their domestic market while Africa’ wildlife resources are being decimated? Watch this space as this saga unfolds in coming months ahead of the March 2013 CITES CoP in Bangkok.
FALLING NUMBERS EXPOSE KENYA GOVERNMENT’S FAILURE TO SUPPORT TOURISM
Kenya’s tourism stakeholders, knowing what is going on better than anyone of course, have for a while been shaking their heads in frustration when hearing their tourism minister Danson Mwazo talk about new records being set for arrivals and revenues this year. Either misinformed, or outright misleading, Mwazo’s projections were either way brought crashing down when the latest figures released this week in Nairobi showed the real trend which was as expected down.
Overall, from January to August inclusive, arrivals to Kenya have declined by 2.6 percent year by year, reading 807.737 compared with last year’s 829.479. While Nairobi’s arrivals during this period actually increased by 2.1 percent from 672.372 to 686.265 the big blow was felt in Mombasa, where numbers declined by 22.4 percent year on year from 156.521 to 121.472. According to sources in Mombasa, many of whom have privately expressed their opinions that their current minister is not fit for the job, and for sure a faint shadow of former tourism supreme Najib Balala, who was sacked from cabinet for daring to tell his party leader a few choice truths about his style of democracy, this trend is set to worsen. July’s drop compared with last year was a staggering 29.9 percent while August’s drop stood at 24.9 percent, and that was before 1Time withdrew their flights from Johannesburg over complaints of sharply risen cost for flying into Kenya and a drop in demand following the negative publicity spread in the international media about the security at the Kenyan coast, often telling stories far from the truth and divorced from reality on the ground along Kenya’s Indian Ocean beaches.
‘Why are you asking when you know the answers’ said a regular source yesterday afternoon in a phone conversation before continuing on condition of anonymity: ‘1Time withdrew, Air Berlin said they will not schedule Mombasa after the high season, the flight by that Czech airline is going. Qatar Airways did not bother to start their daily flights in August on which we banked because our government messed with them over traffic rights. First verbally granted and then willfully withheld were the rights to fly between Nairobi to Kilimanjaro, forcing them to route that added flight via Dar. Then the Dar to Mombasa route which Qatar wanted rights for to combine the two destinations. You yourself wrote that Mwazo had to eat humble pie when the Qatar Airways Vice President came to Kenya to get to the bottom of this but to no avail. Was it worth to object to this and as a result the country lost flights? It took only two weeks after that truth was out to have Brussels Airlines change their mind and also announce they would not start their planned flight to Mombasa. Those were blows to us at the coast. We hope Turkish can make up to some extend when as you reported they will fly via Kilimanjaro to Mombasa, which seems to bring leisure travelers to our region. But for now everyone is scrambling for business looking at Air Uganda from Entebbe or RwandAir from Kigali and Ethiopian coming directly to Mombasa. They are now offering better network connections if I get you right and could have the potential to bring more visitors to the coast, which will be good and slow down the decline, I don’t think we can look at a reversal until way after our elections next year. That is the next big issue for us, elections next March before the high season ends at Easter. And before you ask, of course we are concerned considering what happened in early 2008’.
Other stakeholders had in the past repeatedly complained about their ministry not living in the same world or seeing reality through pink shades as one of the more vocal contributors had put it at the time, but the fact remains that the ministerial proclamations are far from reflecting reality. ‘We said time and again we need more funding for tourism marketing. When you see a trend like this you give your tourist board funds to react, go to new and emerging markets like Russia, the Middle East, India and of course China. Mwazo failed to make any impact in cabinet for our funding. He failed to stem the tax man from wanting to add VAT to our services for foreign tourists. Our tourist board has probably the most competent board members in ages and has motivated staff, good plans but lacks money. The allocation in real terms, considering the inflation we had since last year, amounts to a net loss of purchasing power of over 20 percent. What we need is an increase in marketing funding by 20 percent in real terms.
But the formation of all these new parastatal bodies is eating up money we should use for marketing, selling Kenya abroad. There newbureaucratic jobs are created, new fiefdoms for political patronage established instead of centralizing tourism functions under one tourism authority. THAT would be a significant step in the right direction, centralize it not fragment it further. Things at ministry level have just gone haywire and the rushed appointments of boards for these bodies by Mwazo was also another bad decision because the law had not been gazetted at the time. Mistake after mistake and speeches which give wrong facts. It is time our tourism leaders and the associations stand up now and be counted. We elect them to speak up for us. There should be more like Hersi [Mohammed Hersi is the outspoken chairman of the Mombasa and Coast Tourist
Association] but the hotel association and others maybe are too keen to be politically correct these days. Time as we say to let fly, stand up, shout out what is wrong and get remedies for it. Tourism should be Kenya’s engine out of poverty but without putting fuel in it that engine cannot run’. Strong words indeed but when looking at the figures almost entirely understandable and justified. Will things change, will Danson Mwazo listen and understand as his predecessor Najib Balala did? Time will tell so watch this space as all eyes and ears will be trained on Utalii House in Nairobi and the reaction of the minister to the latest data now available in black and white.
TOURISTS DIE ON MOMBASA – NAIROBI HIGHWAY
Sad news just in from Mombasa confirm that two foreign tourists of yet unknown nationality and names have died alongside with their driver and another passenger, when a truck rammed into their vehicle as they were leaving the coastal city for a tour, presumably to one of the national parks.
Identification of the victims was made impossible for the police according to a regular source in Mombasa, as spectator immediately looted the belongings including handbags and ID documents from the car and the victims, before police and ambulance services arrived at the scene.
One person was also reported dead from the truck, which driver fled the scene abandoning his vehicle. Police is hunting for the suspect and reportedly closing in on his whereabouts.
The accident happened around 9 a.m. some 40 kilometres outside Mombasa on the highway to Nairobi.
A search is now underway with coastal resorts to find out the identity of the victims so that next of kin can be informed.
COAST TOURISM BRACES FOR FULLY FLEDGED FERRY STRIKE
The ongoing negotiations between Kenya Ferry Services’ management and the union representing the staff of the sole transport link between the island of Mombasa and the south coast, including the fancied resorts along the Diani Beach, appear to be going badly, according to a usually well informed source from Mombasa.
There has been no narrowing of the gap since talks started between demands and the management’s offer, raising the prospect of a fully fledged strike as of tomorrow, Friday, 12th October.
Should it come to this, traffic from and to the airport would be cut off, stranding tourists going from the airport to the south coast resorts and vice versa, while residents from both Mombasa as well as the Likoni side of the channel dividing the island from the mainland would be marooned on either side.
Notably has not a word been heard from the Ministry of Tourism, and the Assistant Minister for Transport, Hassan Ali Joho, from the coast himself, appears not to be answering his phone as more and more desperate individuals are trying to have him get involved and mediate.
Tourism stakeholders are now keenly anticipating their leadership to stand up and be counted and even make an appearance at the Reef Hotel where the talks are ongoing, to plead with the union not to throw yet another spanner into the works of tourism. Any prolonged strike could seriously damage the reputation of
Kenya’s tourism industry and in a worst case scenario lead to lay offs of staff at the south coast.
Considering that these scenarios were clearly written on the walls for those with eyes to see, it is all the more bewildering that no stronger representations have been made by government to the two parties, suggesting they are not bothered to avoid a strike but afterwards come rushing to the scene when the damage has already been done. Watch this space as the negotiations are on knife’s edge and learn later if a strike will happen or can be avoided at the last moment.
UNWTO CONFERENCE IN ARUSHA TO BE OPENED BY VICE PRESIDENT
The tourism conference organized by the UN’s World Tourism Organization on sustainable tourism management in African national parks and protected areas in Arusha from October 15 – 18 will be formally opened by Tanzania’s Vice President Dr. Mohammed Bilal next Monday. Over 400 delegates from 40 African countries, and participants from other continents too, have confirmed their presence in Arusha to map out a way forward for protected areas under increasing threat by growing populations, attempts to mine and log and land grabbing. UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai will be on site himself for the event, together with other senior UNWTO officials, underscoring the importance of the topic vis a vis sustainability of the resources needed for nature and wildlife based tourism in Africa.
Here in Eastern Africa tourism is a key economic factor, ranked in the top 5 across the East African Community member states and crucial for job creation, foreign exchange earnings but also to attract sector based investments as well as promoting goodwill abroad.
Almost over the same dates will the 13th Pan African Ornithological Congress take place in Arusha too, which was moved by the organizers there after the original hosts Nigeria proved unable to meet expectations and Arusha conference organizers going out of their way to make way and accommodate this similarly important meeting. Watch this space for updates and details of what is being discussed in Arusha next week and what resolutions will be formulated to serve as guidelines for future policy and regulations.
THE LETTER THAT NEVER WAS, OR WAS IT
The Kenyan government is at pains to explain away an alleged letter written to Kenya Airway’s second largest shareholder KLM by someone within the government framework, claiming intent to exercise greater control over the airline since the shareholding rose, after the share rights issue of April this year, to just under 30 percent. Reports from Nairobi speak of Investment Secretary Esther Koimett only refuting that the Treasury was the one which had written to KLM, but not categorically denying that someone else in government actually did.
Speculation is now flying that indeed a group of sycophants and loyalists surrounding the country’s Prime Minister may have prompted such an approach, attempting to wash off the proverbial egg over their principal’s face, when he came out in the service of trade unions some weeks ago, attempting to ‘direct’ the airline to halt a staff restructuring exercise. That directive, as pointed out at the time, lacked any foundation in law and was subsequently ignored, reportedly causing the director and his bunch of merry men to seethe with anger, looking for other ways and means to get back at the airline’s management. Only last week was it reported here that the wave of go-slows and the temporary withdrawal of goodwill by KALPA, the airline pilots union under which Kenya Airways pilots are organized, were possibly prompted by such hurt egos seeking alternate routes to vent their anger and ‘revenge’ as it has been put to this correspondent at the time.
KLM was earlier in the year, for reasons never fully explained, unable to take up their full share of allotted right issues and their shareholding subsequently remained at 26.3 percent, unlike the Kenya government’s share which rose from 23 percent to 29.8 percent after absorbing the rights in full and then some more.
This shifted the position of largest shareholder from KLM to the Kenya government. Both shareholders are represented on the Board of Director with two nominees and going by conventional wisdom that equation is not going to change. It is the Board of Directors which in fact approved, with the votes of the Kenya government representatives, the Permanent Secretaries of Transport and Finance, the staff restructuring exercise, further pointing to deep divisions within sections of government over how to behave in such circumstances, either by fully respecting existing laws and regulations or for political expediency bending those and radicalizing the approach.
At present there is speculation that the airline’s CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni may seek elective office come the next general election in March 2013, and in a series of behind the scene moves have the divided parties already attempted to influence the process of selection of a new CEO, should this indeed become necessary. Dr. Naikuni has been CEO of Kenya Airways since 2003 but was previously serving on the Board of Directors when working as one of the Permanent Secretary’s of the so called ‘Dream Team’ led at the time by Dr. Richard Leakey as Head of Civil Service at the time. Watch this space to see how this saga is playing out in coming months.
SEYCHELLES PRESIDENT INAUGURATE MEMORIAL SITE
President James Michel has earlier this week inaugurated a monument, dedicated to an event 150 years ago, when a landslide killed scores of people, amounting to a over one percent of the 7.000 strong population living on the archipelago at the time. The president unveiled the mural wall, located according to a regular source from Victoria near the bridge over the Victoria river, close to Liberty House, easily accessible for Seychellois but also for visitors to the island of Mahe, all of whom are now reminded of a tragic event a century and a half ago, which claimed 80 lives.
Besides a mural, depicting the sight of back then, a poem is also on display, written according to the source by the then bishop in charge of the islands, one Vincent Ryan. A commemorative plaque of the formal inauguration of the monument by President Michel too is on display.
DMC’s are said to be including a stop at the monument during the regular tours offered for tourists when they have a day out in the capital city of Victoria as a new significant point of interest highlighting the history of the country.
Meanwhile did news also emerge that Ethiopian Airlines has targeted the French market with a remarkable offer of 50 percent rebate on a second ticket, valid between the 10th to the 31st of October, and applicable to any fare booked for the first ticket purchased. This will undoubtedly make travel to the archipelago, which is due to host the Festival Kreol , taking place this year on Mahe between October 25 to 31, even more attractive and more affordable. Seychelles, truly Another World.
SERENAHOTELS EXTENDS FREE WIFI TO RESORTS AND LODGES
Changing times and trends are often lost on corporate entities, some of which still consider social networks the domain of their staff wasting company resources while at the same time hugely underestimating the power and influence of what a well planned presence on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other leading networks can do for their standing in the market. In particular in the hospitality industry has it become an almost ‘free’ promotional tool, to have guests not just tweet and post comments on their own pages, but to upload pictures of where they are – a picture considered to be worth more than a thousand words but for sure making a higher impact than 140 characters on Twitter.
At Serena Hotels this trend was recognized in time, competent staff employed to manage the company’s Facebook page and Twitter account and drawing in guests to interact and share their experiences in what is arguably East Africa’s finest ‘big chain’ hospitality group.
Network access in the group’s city hotels, like the Kampala Serena, the Kigali Serena, The Polana in Maputo and of course the Nairobi Serena, was free for guests for some years already. Now, according to information received overnight from the group’s Director of Sales and Marketing Ms Rosemary Mugambi, this has been extended to the Dar es Salaam Serena as well as ALL the safari lodges and safari camps as well as to the resorts like the Mombasa Serena, the Zanzibar Serena Inn and the Lake Kivu Serena,. The latter is located on a stunning beach looking across Lake Kivu towards the Eastern Congo and jump off point for the forest trails in Gishwati and the Congo Nile Trail, Rwanda has established for visitors to explore the scenic sights of the mountains, hills and shorelines.
Guests visiting any of Serena’s properties in Eastern Africa can now tweet their hearts out, post pictures on Facebook or Pinterest an become ‘brand ambassadors’ for Serena, enticing interest amongst a target group Serena would not likely have reached with such ease. Smart move Rosemary, one which will undoubtedly pay off big time.
AIR TANZANIA SAYS ‘FLIGHTS WILL RESUME THIS FRIDAY’
Air Tanzania’s Acting Chief Executive, Captain Milton Lazaro, yesterday announced in Dar es Salaam tha the airline would resume operations with their leased B737-500 this Friday, now that the discussions with the Dubai based lessor have apparently been ended. The airline will attempt to recover some level of market share following their unceremonious withdrawal of services some months ago, which left their already soiled reputation in further tatters, as passengers scrambled at the time to get refunds from them to permit buying tickets on Precision Air, which immediately added extra flights to Kilimanjaro, Arusha and Mwanza. In fact, it was learned that it will be the Dar es Salaam – Kilimanjaro – Mwanza route ATCL wants to tackle first, and information from travel agents in Dar speak of throw away fares on offer for the service. Once the airline’s crashed Bombardier Q300 has been repaired and inspected before getting the certificate of airworthiness back, ATCL will then, said to be in early November, also resume flights between Dar and Zanzibar and Arusha Municipal before eyeing other routes on the domestic network again such as Mtwara which could be launched in mid November.
Promises of ‘unmatched services’ caused widespread amusement amongst travel agents and other aviation staff who quipped in texted messages ‘let them fly again first before making yet more promises they cannot keep’ in clear reference to past broken promises and commitments. Subsequently was the announcement of getting ‘two big planes’ by the ATCL CEO also falling on a wave of disbelief with a regular source saying this morning by phone: ‘Let them fly first and learn their steps again. And someone tell me where the money is coming from, the tax payer for sure who will be looted once again. Our government is hopeless if they continue to waste our little resources on trying a dozen times to revive ATCL. Will they ever learn? Time for change if they do not!’ in a thinly concealed reference that the time for waste has from government must end or else pay the price in the next general elections. Watch this space for updates if and when flights will actually have resumed and where to.
MALINDI TAKE OFF MISHAP SPARES PASSENGERS LIVES
The failed take off attempt yesterday, Tuesday 09th October, by a South African registered twin engined aircraft, registered as ZS-SSY, spared the lives of 8 passengers, some of whom however were reportedly injured during the accident.
For no immediately available reasons the aircraft, while on its take off run, failed to leave the ground but eventually slid off the runway of Malindi Airport. Speculation however focuses on either burst tires or the collapse of the main landing gear, perhaps supported by the fact that the aircraft, when it came to a stop in the grass besides the runway, was on its belly while the front gear was still extended.
Fire brigade and ambulance services rushed immediately to the scene when the tower saw the plane veer off the runway and evacuated the passengers to a Malindi hospital for treatment.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has launched an accident investigation and inspectors were flown from Nairobi to Malindi to collect the evidence and check out the aircraft’s and pilot’s documentation while also securing the wreck for evaluation of damages and potential technical faults prior to take off.
The destination of the flight was not made available by a regular aviation source from Mombasa, who said overnight he was ‘stalled by his own contacts in Malindi and the nationality of the passengers too was not known at the time of going to press. Watch this space for breaking and regular news from East Africa’s aviation scene.
KENYA AIRWAYS SIGNS FULL CODESHARE WITH KOREAN AIR
An announcement over the weekend from Nairobi gave details on the code share agreement now signed by The Pride of Africa and SkyTeam alliance partners Korean Air. The flights will leave Nairobi three times a week every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and connect Kenya’s capital to Seoul in South Korea at 10.30 in the morning, arriving at ICN at 04.40 the next morning. The flights from South Korea to Kenya take off every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night at 20.45 hrs, arriving in Nairobi the next morning at 05.05 hours, giving the entire range of domestic, regional and continental African destinations to travelers flying beyond Kenya.
The formal announcement of the codeshare was arguably delayed over the catastrophic PR mistakes made by the Korean Air marketing team, which translated their own language’s version into ‘Full of primitive energy’ when describing Kenya and Africa, a massive faux pas it was later learned which had head roll. A full review of the case at the time established that the correction translation should have been ‘Africa, a Continent full of primeval energy’ – still far fetched but certainly not as offensive as the version chosen by some hapless English speakers.
Ticketing will be done for travelers from Kenya Airways’ African network on KQ documentation, earning full bonus miles under the frequent flyer programme Kenya Airways shares with partners KLM, and the flight number was given as KQ 5108*.
Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from Eastern Africa.
RWANDA’S TOURISM REGISTERS UNABATED GROWTH
Information made public yesterday in Kigali show a continued strong sectoral growth for the tourism sector in Rwanda, which besides exports of tea and coffee continues to form a backbone for the country’s economy. Tourism receipt figures given by the Minister of Trade and Industry Francois Kanimba, presently stand at US Dollars 252 million for tourism related receipts, up from US Dollars 227 million a year ago and ahead of the projected 244 million US Dollars by 8 million.
General exports grew over the same period of time from 305 million US Dollars to 429 million US Dollars this year, a sign of sustained success in promoting both traditional as well as non traditional exports to regional and global markets.
The Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Department is set to establish a formal office to promote MICE business, aimed to bring convention and meeting business to Rwanda, and when the new Marriott Hotel will open in early 2013, additional conference facilities and top of the ranks room capacity will not only need to be filled but offer the long awaited boost to Kigali to more effectively capture this lucrative market.
Watch this space for news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands tourism, hospitality and aviation industry.
TURKISH CONSIDERING SEYCHELLES IN AFRICAN EXPANSION DRIVE
The Seychelles Investment Forum in Turkey, which just concluded last weekend, also saw intense talks with Turkish Airlines being held over the possibility of commencing flights from Istanbul to Mahe.
Turkish, a member of global industry leader Star Alliance, has been aggressively rolling out global destinations and is set to fly to as many as 30 African destinations by the end of this year, with the number projected to rise to 40 by the end of 2013.
With nearly 200 aircraft in operation now and a truly global reach, THY is seen as a potential partner for the Seychelles to widen their global connectivity, bringing tourists and business visitors to the strategically located island archipelago with its unique appeal to tourists from across the world.
Dr. Temel Kotil, Chief Executive Officer of Turkish Airlines, expressed his airline’s keen interest to evaluate the possibility to start flights to Mahe while in talks with the Seychelles Tourist Board Director for European Markets Mrs. Bernadette Willemin, who was present at the investment forum to promote the Seychelles in the Turkish market place. It was agreed by both parties to continue talks through aviation channels, involving the Seychelles and Turkish civil aviation bodies and respective ministries overseeing aviation vis a vis bilateral air services agreements and traffic rights, with STB continuing to play a lead role in facilitating progress and an early successful conclusion of such discussions.
Turkish has just announced the launch of flights to the Maldives due to commence next month and adding the Seychelles could be seen as a logical progression in their route development, which now spans 97 countries and 203 destinations. Watch this space for breaking news, as and when available.
HILTON BRINGS DOUBLE TREE BRAND TO BURUNDI
Information was confirmed over the weekend that following the signing by Serena Hotels with the Burundian government to take over the Hotel Source du Nil, a second major brand will come to the capital Bujumbura. Hilton Hotels have taken on the former Novotel, a 130 suite and room property in Bujumbura, which will now be completely modernized before opening in early 2014 as the DoubleTree Bujumbura.
Burundi, in tourism arrival terms the least fancied East African Community member state, has unbeknown to many a number of national parks and extensive shore lines along Lake Tanganyika but has seen little foreign investment into the sector until now. Sources in Bujumbura said recently, when meeting at the EATP launch in Kampala, that they welcomed the arrival of regional hospitality leader Serena, and undoubtedly now of Hilton too, as it might bring fresh focus on the country and put the spotlight on the attractions like the three national parks of Rusizi, Rurubu and Kibira, where opportunities exist to invest in safari lodges, tented camps or other tourism facities like restaurants. In addition Burundi offers visitors four nature reserves and two national monuments where similar opportunities exist.
As always it will be the early birds finding the fattest worms and though the language penetration with English and Kiswahili is slower than has been the case in neighbouring Rwanda, progress is being made here too to encourage more regional trade and investments, since the four other member states all have English as their official business language.
Kibira National Park in Burundi is the extension of Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park in a transboundary ecosystem while Rurubu in Eastern Burundi reaches to the borders with Tanzania. Rusizi National Park is nearest to the capital city of Bujumbura and therefore the most easily reached and most popular park in the country, along the Rusizi river and extending to the river delta on Lake Tanganyika.
Obtaining information about Burundi though has proven time and again difficult at best, perhaps for reasons of the language, but it is hoped that the formation of regional tourism apex body EATP, short for the East Africa Tourism Platform, will help bridge this gap and put Burundi firmly on the East African tourism circuits. Watch this space.
KLM ANNOUNCES ADDED FLIGHTS TO KILIMANJARO FROM DECEMBER
KLM will add a further two nonstop flights between Amsterdam and Kilimanjaro / Tanzania between December 27th this year to March 10th 2013 as a result of sustained demand for travel to the gateway for the country’s Northern safari circuit. Both flights will according to information received by operated by MD 11 aircraft and both flights till return directly to Amsterdam, unlike the present daily flights which all route back via Dar es Salaam.
The additional flights will give a boost to Tanzania’s safari tourism sector which has become the backbone of the country’s tourism industry, as from Arusha all key national parks, from Mt. Kilimanjaro over the Arusha National Park to Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti are all within easy reach, by air as well as by road. Regular sources in Tanzania welcomed the announcement by KLM. The airline is a founder member of SkyTeam, a global aviation alliance with notably Kenya Airways as the sole member from the African continent. Watch this space for regular and breaking news about East Africa’s vibrant aviation sector.
B787 TROUBLES PROMPT ETHIOPIAN TO POSTPONE DEPLOYMENT TO SOUTH AFRICA
Inspite of having now two B787 ‘Dreamliner’ on their fleet, Ethiopian Airlines has reportedly once again postponed the deployment of the aircraft on the route to Johannesburg. Due to start earlier, then in late October the B787 is now only expected to operate the daily service between Addis Ababa and South Africa from December 01. Until then ET will continue to use a B737-800 on the route.
Last week did reports emerge of an unscheduled engine change on the airline’s first B787, which coincided with General Electric’s directive to carry out an inspection of all 120 engines in use already while at the same time Qatar Airways cited engine issues over the continued delays in accepting delivery of the first of their 60 ordered B787’s.
Ethiopian has ten B787’s on order and intends to deploy the aircraft on routes to the Far East, Europe and America, besides key routes in Africa such as the crucially important South African market, where they fly to in partnership with fellow Star Alliance member South African Airways.
Watch this space.
TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS SEEK ASSURANCES OVER UTB AND TOURISM MINISTRY
Recent meetings of leading tourism stakeholders, coming together to discuss the Ministry of Tourism’s sectoral review and strategize over the future of the sector and how to finally send it soaring, have privately and in some cases publicly expressed their concerns if not outright dissent over PRESTO, the Presidential Initiative on Sustainable Tourism. Calling it ‘a body without legal standing’ and ‘removed from parliamentary oversight’ some of the more outspoken elements amongst tourism stakeholders want the forum scrapped and better funding extended to the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and in particular the Uganda Tourist Board, which has for years almost deliberately been starved of resources, in apparent preparation to liquidate the institution, at least in the view of those spoken to.
‘We have a tourism policy in place which spells out the functions of the various institutions, we have a law in place which governs those institutions and we have regulations in place to administer the sector. We need attention from the top level in government, not an obscure forum which swallows a lot of our meager resources. It is time someone on top stops lipservice and gives our sector recognition. What we have achieved is not because of big support but our own sweat. Government has been half hearted on the sector. Besides some one off actions which also cost a lot of money, we have seen little. The former Vice President had a forum on tourism. Can someone tell us what that cost and what it had achieved in measurable terms. Were any of our recommendation ever implemented? Implement the tourism policy, yes change some of the characters in the tourism ministry who live in the past and when the UTB has enough resources they can then attract the brightest marketers from the open labour market. Right now the packages cannot make someone leave MTN or AIRTEL or COCA COLA to market the country but they are doing a very good job in where they are. We have talent in Uganda but we must be ready to pay for it. They [at UTB] have a marketing plan and strategy but are unable to roll it out for lack of funds. When most of the annual budget barely pays rent and utilities and salaries, what to expect. Why you think did Roni Madhvani quit as Chairman of UTB but for lack of funding and for lack of political support’ ranted a regular source last weekend, when discussing these challenges.
Another source said: ‘We just discussed within the IGAD framework a larger regional cooperation and tourism master plan. UNDP is helping to review and rewrite our national master plan. The last one sat on the shelves for a decade. What of it was implemented I wonder. They have no answers and yet we are supposed to play a part in IGAD and COMESA’s tourism plans’.
Challenges galore for sure for a sector as the country celebrates the Golden Jubilee of Independence, an occasion which together with the ‘Uganda – The BEST destination in 2012’ by Lonely Planet Guides could have spurred some serious progress. Instead is a sector, which could and should be the engine of economic growth for Uganda and spurring added conservation efforts in the process, growing by less than hoped for margins. As so often in the past have personality clashes between former and present staff of the Ministry and turf wars, besides never ending arguments over the implementation of the tourism development levy, its collection and control impacted heavily on the growth of a sector which could for some years sustain 20+ percent growth rates and offer attractive investment opportunities. Anyone listening out there? Quo Vadis Uganda Tourism – full of potential but it is money only the bank accepts, not potential. Watch this space.
RISING SEA LEVELS A THREAT TO SEYCHELLESBEACHES AND SHORE LINES
Information has been received from the Seychelles that the government is spending millions of Rupees on the fortification of beaches and shorelines along the most vulnerable stretches of the main island of Mahe, to keep the rising sea levels caused by climate change eat away roads and ocean front properties.
The Seychelles were the first to raise global alarm over the impact of climate change and the resulting threat of rising sea levels to small island countries and has been at the forefront of forging a global coalition to mitigate carbon emissions by introducing green energy sources as wind and solar power, giving tax and duty incentives for electric vehicles and having declared more than half its territory as protected areas.
Stemming the rising tides however required global action and at both the Rio+20 Summit and at the United Nations the country is leading efforts to find acceptable solutions to limit carbon output before eventually reducing it through use of green technologies.
The present hotspot of ‘fortifying’ the coast line is at the North East Point where work is ongoing to create a rock barrier between the relentless waves at high tide and the road running along the shores, but other parts of the island too are being constantly repaired or rehabilitated, as otherwise several key roads would have already fallen into the ocean. Watch this space for updates from the archipelago as Seychellestruly are Another World.
PRINCE EDWARD DECRIES MURCHISONS DEGRADATION
HRH Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, who is representing Her Majesty the Queen and the British Government on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Uganda’s Independence held tomorrow, 09th of October, has returned to Uganda, where 50 years ago he was the one handing over the instruments of power to the newly independent nation in 1962.
While in country did the Duke of Kent also visit Murchisons Falls National Park, subsequent to which the local media reported his concern over environmental degradation and poaching, following discussions he had with officials.
Murchisons is at the heart of Uganda’s oil exploration and demands to permit the construction of a golf course inside the park has further unsettled the conservation fraternity in Uganda, the region and further abroad, already deeply concerned over the impact of oil production and potential spills. Said a regular conservation source overnight, after discussing the issue: ‘It is good to get some high profile visitor like the Duke to speak up over his concerns. Such individuals, when they say something about conservation, have a bigger impact on public opinion and validate the concerns we in Uganda have expressed for a long time. The oil companies must come clean on what they have put in place to deal with a major spillage, what equipment they have to deploy instantly and not after days or weeks during which the delta could be turned into a wastelands. A spillage, small or large can have irreversible effects on the bird and animal population, and aquatic life too. Fines for polluting the park should be set at multi million dollars to act as a deterrent because small fines will just be absorbed otherwise from the profits. Poaching has to be curbed, there must be no golf course inside the park and reforestation should become a priority’.
Demands made for years and certainly still on the agenda of today and tomorrow. Watch this space.
LIKONI FERRY USERS BRACE FOR STRIKE
Although not formally on strike yet did Sunday’s operations of the Likoni ferry suffer major delays, when at one stage only one of the larger ferries was operated, causing extensive back log and disrupting weekend plans of Mombasa residents wanting to go to the southern mainland or in reverse residents from there coming to the city for shopping and later on returning home.
Businesses, in particular the tourism industry, were warned in advance to make preparations for departing safaris and in particular airport transfers, to avoid travelers missing flights or having their safari itinerary disrupted, while the general population relying on the ferry is probably due for another day of hardship, attempting to reach schools, hospitals, business appointments and their workplace.
Word from the coast has it that the workers have rejected an offer made to them by the management of Kenya Ferry Services, probably cognizant of the fact that the country’s members of parliament, already the highest paid in the world after a series of pay and benefit increases over the past 5 years, has awarded themselves yet another multi billion Kenya Shillings far well gift to be paid from already deplete public coffers. A series of strikes of late by doctors and nurses, teachers and lecturers have disrupted hospitals and led to the unnecessary death of many patients while exams were delayed and classes disrupted. There is growing hostility now amongst Kenya’s social network users over the extent of being robbed blind by their MP’s and calls are growing for ‘pay back at the polls’ on March 04th General Election, when indeed a record number of sitting MP’s may be thrown out on their backs for dividing the country on political issues but uniting the make themselves rich at the expense of their electorate.
Watch this space for updates on the ferry operation when available later today.