TOURISM, AVIATION AND CONSERVATION NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
A weekly roundup of reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Get daily breaking news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthome or read the daily postings on my blog via: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com Many of these articles then also appear on the Africa Travel Association web magazine and of course via global industry leaders eTN on www.eturbonews.com/africa
First edition October 2011
TRIPADVISOR COMMENTS PLEASE SEND THEM FROM HOME, NOT FROM THE HOTEL
A raging controversy has broken out between a previously Number One ranked hotel and TripAdvisor, after the latter had red flagged the property for allegedly writing their own reviews.
The Riverside Hotel and Restaurant in Evesham / Worcestershire in the UK appears to be suffering from the action of at least one, possible more guests, who enthusiastically wrote their reviews while still in the hotel, having the ISP ID of the property pop up and leading to TripAdvisors suspicions.
It does appear that TripAdvisor in its extensive users manual section had made mention that reviews should be written when returning home and the company also contends that they had been in contact with the property in question twice before, but the hotels owners now plan to take legal action as are many others contemplating too around the world after their business literally collapsed when the red flag was posted.
This correspondent has on occasions posted his own reviews as Safariafficionado while still at a property but about to check out and leave, with recollections still fresh, especially when moving along an extensive travel itinerary. This leaves the question to be answered by TripAdvisor to probably strengthen their recognition mechanisms and focus on the writer of the review and less on the location it was posted from. And given the popularity of TripAdvisor does anyone really still travel without checking out their intended resorts and hotels in this globally leading review site they should employ extra care to prevent punishing properties with hasty reactions without first exhausting due process. They do have due process it is hoped and if not, it should become a gold standard beyond reproach.
THE HIDDEN CONSEQUENCES OF THE DREAMLINER FIASCO
The global aviation fraternity took a deep breath last week and then must have muttered a combined worldwide finally as Boeing prepared to hand over the first B787 Dreamliner going into commercial service to Japans ANA. Passengers of ANA will look forward to the improved inflight comfort like larger windows, more acceptable cabin pressure and moisture levels and audibly reduced noise as a result of new engine and construction technology applied in this aircraft and the finance managers will keenly eye the operational savings the aircraft specs promised.
Delayed by well over 3 years, with denials by Boeing chasing confirmation of yet another delay before denials took over again to keep that faithshattering cycle going for far too long, the aviation worlds latest baby in the sky is finally reality, in Japan at least for the time being. Elsewhere, delays will rule the discussions between airline chiefs and Boeing for some more time, as a number of already produced aircraft first need to be fixed up, a costly and time consuming undertaking which takes a lot longer than taking care of the final modifications required as a result of flight testing revelations, than incorporating them in new aircraft going on the production line.
While a number of top managers lost their jobs at Boeing over this longest ever delay in the delivery of a brand new aircraft to the launch customer, the financial fallout will be with the company for years to come and there is intense speculation over the number of B787 which need selling before the programme will reach the profit threshold. Some analysts have openly suggested it might take a decade and up to 1.000 aircraft to achieve this, not a problem per se as well over 800 have already been sold. The promised inflight performance improvements over the currently used B767 and B777 will be monitored by many airlines and aircraft leasing companies before, undoubtedly, Boeing will bag plenty of more orders, for certain pushing the bottom line eventually into the black but until then the company will suffer the consequences of customers extracting from them price concessions and many a bagful of other goodies especially by those customers who were urgently trying to upgrade from the aged B767s to the much more economical B787s.
Airbus had challenges of its own before putting their sky giant A380 Double Decker into service and the aviation fraternity is now turning its full attention to the A350 to see if similar issues will be dogging that brand new aircraft, developed as Airbus answer to Boeings B787. At Airbus as well as at Boeing the domination by the engineers had to give way to the beancounters taking charge when the global economic and financial crisis hit home, for many aviation observers a lamentable situation and a certain recipe to have aviation technology stagnate for as much as a decade if not longer. Why? When the Dreamliner and the A350XWB go into service the two leading aircraft manufacturers will first sit back, take a deep breath and then attempt to generate financial returns to assure investors of improved short term dividends, rather than giving their think tanks card blanche to develop the next generation of long haul and short haul aircraft. Evidence towards that is the half hearted attempt by Airbus and Boeing to improve performance with the A320Neo and the performance enhanced Future Generation B737, rather than seeking groundbreaking new solutions, new materials and newer technology for a totally and really new single aisle aircraft.
Yet the moment is now, considering the time it takes from turning a bright idea into an aircraft that can not only safely fly but also produce the financial savings over a long life span of being operated. This will become especially acute when considering the drying up of conventional fuels over the next decades, making the remaining crude oil reserves almost too precious to burn in automobiles and aircraft for that matter. New engine technology and propulsion systems will be needed, as the current trend towards bio fuels will increasingly clash with the need to feed an exploding world population. When fuels get truly scarce in two or three decades, those state of the art power plants must be tested and ready to take flight under the wings of aircrafts criss crossing the skies above us, and considering the time this takes, it should be now that engineers are let loose to dream up those new technologies and designers equally let loose to create the types of aircraft needed then.
Considering that the life span of todays aircraft delivered from the manufacturers can easily reach 40+ years, as long as they are properly maintained, that will be the timeline the world is looking at to have a revolutionary new design taking flight. For now however, the beancounters, scared by the more than threefold cost overruns for the B787 Dreamliner and the potential problems still ahead for the A350XWB will see that as reason enough to in turn scare their shareholders with doomsday prognosis of lower dividends, very likely delaying new initiatives and tech dreams by engineers and designers for far too long for my comfort. Fodder for thought this is, plenty in fact.
East Africa News
HOUSTON MARKETING TARGETS SCANDINAVIA FOR AFRICAN MARKET WITH SEASHOW
Targeting the growing Scandinavian market to Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, here comes an ideal opportunity to meet with most of the major wholesalers and tour operators in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Collectively the four Nordics countries are considered as probably the 4th largest European source market for East African countries including the Seychelles.
Houston Travel Marketing, always seeking opportunities to promote travel to Africa, have a few tables available on their Post WTM Spotlight on Africa Nordic Seashow from November 14th to 18th where 15 Exhibitors from Africa and Indian Ocean have already confirmed their participation. East Africa is again well represented and the Seychelles Tourism Board and Air Seychelles are also exhibiting at the event.
This is the 4th year that Houston Marketing is organizing the Seashow as it is popularly known as the workshops are held on board ship in the harbours. Each year has been a resounding success with on average 20 exhibitors per year and a total of between 220-260 attendees for the four venues. Attendees are outbound Tour Operators, Incentive Travel companies, Travel agents and importantly the local Travel Media. Exhibitors in the past were particularly impressed with the quality of the attendees enabling them to meet with the decision makers of most of the who is who in each country.
Currently are exhibitors from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Seychelles, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa confirmed as participants in the 2011 event
For more information on the Seashow visit www.houstonmarketing.co.za and to book a table at the event contact Derek Houston email@example.com
BALALA BLASTS PARTNERS OVER FEAR AND SUSPICION
The meeting of the East African Communitys sectoral council on tourism and wildlife in Mombasa ended with calls to fast track the long overdue introduction of a common tourist Visa for the entire EAC, to stimulate travel across national borders to neighbouring countries by tourists already in the region, without having to pay multiple Visa fees every time. At a cost of 50 US Dollars a person, a family of four travelling from Kenya to Uganda to Rwanda to Tanzania can easily spend several hundred dollars in such fees, a factor often seen as a deterrent to cross border travel.
Expatriates in the region have also sharply critizised that although they are duly registered in their country of residence, they too are required to obtain tourist Visa when visiting a neighbouring country, and many have as a result opted to go for their holidays to South Africa or as far as Dubai, where most expatriate nationals do not need Visa but are giving free entry.
Kenyas tourism minister Najib Balala hit the nail on the head when he said: Fear of the unknown and unfounded suspicions harboured by some partner states is holding back efforts to take the community to the next level of integration before echoing growing calls for the completion of ongoing preparations and consultations and finally launch the common tourist Visa the industry has been demanding for a decade now.
It could not be established if this issue will be put on the agenda of the next head of state meeting in November or if it will wait for the next sectoral council meeting due in April next year. Watch this space.
CHOGM AFFAIR HAUNTS FORMER VICE PRESIDENT
The unfolding prosecutions over allegations of misuse of funds for the 2007 Commonwealth Summit have claimed their first major scalp when former Vice President Prof. Gilbert Bukenya saw his bail cancelled, when the anti corruption court committed him for trial to the high court. While it is expected that his lawyers will request bail first thing in the morning, which considering that he is no flight risk would be a possibility, prosecution will oppose this citing the possibility of meddling with the case while out.
Not long ago had President Museveni in fact expressed a strong opinion that Bukenya should not be prosecuted but the Inspector General of Government thought otherwise and went ahead nevertheless.
This development is sending the chills through a large number of others who have been cited on various occasions as having been involved too in shady deals back then and the IGGs office is thought to have at least another dozen cases pending and ready to go to court, bolstered by their success to have the former Vice President actually committed to trial inspite of various legal challenges to oppose his prosecution.
CHOGM prosecutions are seen as a litmus test for the Ugandan governments real willingness to fight corruption which has over the past two decades eaten its way like a cancer into almost every aspect of public life, and while the NRM election manifesto was clear on their stand against corruption, it is now to be seen just how serious this is being taken. Watch this space as this saga continues.
NEW VISION GETS NEW WEBSITE LAYOUT
Ugandas leading daily newspaper, currently undergoing a redesign and showing new ooompf has today also commissioned its new public website layout, still available via www.newvision.co.ug
The entry portal is now showing on one page the key elements of the daily news and gives easy click access to front page headline news, national news, business news, sports, lifestyle and other regional and international events of interest to Ugandan readers.
This development follows hot on the heels of a similar overhaul by main rival The Monitor, accessible via www.monitor.co.ug signaling a continued battle over readership, subscribers and advertising revenues in an increasingly competitive business environment.
The New Vision is a publicly quoted company which shares are traded on the Uganda Securities Exchange and it has turned out to be one of the most profitable media companies in Uganda if not Eastern Africa. For all the news from Uganda, you now know where to go to find them on a daily basis.
AIR UGANDA TO INTRODUCE NEW ROUTINGS AND ADDED OPTIONS
The seasonal flights in August and September between Entebbe, Mombasa and Zanzibar came to an end last weekend but will resume in December once more to cover the traditional holiday period ahead and over the Christmas and New Year season. Using the CRJ200 U7 has the right sized aircraft to serve the route, making the operation financially viable. The major change however is due to take effect from mid January 2012, when according to a reliable source within the airline the stop in Mombasa will on three days a week become part of the flights to Dar es Salaam which in line with an earlier report will soon be a truly daily departure, when the airline adds from November onwards the Saturday flight which currently is missing.
Every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday will the service route from Entebbe via Mombasa on to Dar es Salaam, before returning nonstop to Entebbe again. Presently the airline has no traffic rights between MBA and DAR which in theory could be applied for under both EAC and COMESA aviation rules.
In contrast will Zanzibar be available for Air Uganda passengers through a cooperation with ZanAir, which will link the arrival and departure of U7 flights to Dar with the island, in the process offering a daily option as opposed to the three times a week Air Uganda used to offer during the tourist high seasons only. This change will widen the choices of travelers going on a holiday to the Spice Island as they are no longer restricted to three flights only as was the case in the past.
The changes will also serve to challenge other airlines in particular Fly 540, which has in the past been trying in Uganda to market their connections via Nairobi to the Kenyan coast and to Zanzibar but has been on the back foot since the sudden departure of their country manageress Jackie Arkle, who was generally perceived as Mama 540 in Uganda, losing market share to both Air Uganda and to regional giant Kenya Airways and putting their future on the Nairobi to Entebbe route into serious doubt. Watch this space for the most up to date information on aviation developments across Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
LAST GLIMPSE OF BUJAGALI FALLS
This weekend will give Ugandans one of the last chances to see the Bujagali Falls in their full flow, before the downstream Bujagali hydro electric power plant will begin to close the flood gates in preparations of starting production by the end of the month. All the rapids and falls behind the power plant will progressively submerge in coming weeks until enough water has been stored to support the power plant going on line.
(The Bujagali Falls, previously a major weekend leisure spot for Ugandans and an exciting white water rafting challenge soon to be submerged)
Ugandas three main white water rafting companies have already relocated their main starting points to below the new power plant and while there are at present lots of lingering sentiments about loosing a stretch of river which was easily accessible and visible from several vantage points, there is also resignation in the fact that the falls will within a week or two be gone for good and submerged under a new mini lake created by the dam further downstream. At the same time there is relief too that when electricity production finally goes underway the eternal rationing, aka load shedding by Ugandas electricity distribution monopolist UMEME will be a thing of the past, through probably not equally regular power interruptions due to a rotten network prone to outages when the first drops of rain fall, if not before.
Bujagali Falls was one of the most visited tourism attractions across Uganda, and being less than 10 kilometres away from Jinja and the main Kampala Kenya border highway easily attracted visitors to make a stop and see the gushing waters of the worlds longest river, as it starts its long journey through Uganda, South Sudan, North Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea. The immediate area around the falls become home to several adventure companies offering rafting, quad biking and accommodation like the Nile Porch or the Nile River Explorers Camp and while some facilities have shifted down river to where the future action is taking place on the river, much of the infrastructure will remain and refocus on new tourism products like jet boating and water skiing, taking advantage of the higher water levels.
For now the time has finally come when the falls will no longer be fully visible and only swirls in the water will remind future visitors of what once has been the Bujagali Falls of old, gone the same way as did the Rippon Falls when the Owen Falls dam was built in the 1950s.
IS A MEMBER OF THE UWA COMMISSION BEHIND THE MUD THROWN AT MINISTER?
There is speculation that a source from within the Commission of Enquiry could have deliberately leaked unsubstantiated allegations that Prof. Kamuntu, now the Minister for Tourism, has accessed UWA money to inoculate his cattle against foot and mouth disease. Prof. Kamuntu denied any such charges while he answered to the media over his directive to the commission of enquiry to wind up their work and immediately submit their report, something which clearly did not go down well with the commission chair, retired and ever more controversial Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba. He in turn seems to have cast aside the ministers directive and directly written to the office of the president asking for yet another extension of his commissions term, after the expiry of a concessional extension by already three months earlier in the year.
Usually well informed sources said on condition of anonymity: we cannot rule out that such attempts to smear our ministers name could have come from there. It seems that someone found something in their files and could have used it. We just dont know. But as for me, this would be a clear violation of their mandate. They should write the report and bring it for study. They should not release any such information at this stage when witness hearings are long over and try damage someones reputation because he might be opposed to some of their requests.
For more twists and turns in this long running and damaging saga, watch this space.
RAFTING FOR RHINOS RAISES 23 MILLION AND AWARENESS
(Rafting for Rhinos 2011 book your own date for 2012)
The Raft for Rhinos races on the upper Nile last weekend have according to Angie Genade, Executive Director of the Rhino Fund Uganda and the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary raised about 23 million Uganda Shillings, a significant boost for the sanctuarys ability to reach financial self sustainability.
The races were won by a team from the Peace Corps, with their supporters proudly waving the American flags, while runners up were the Rhino Rangers Ziwas own team followed by the team fielded by adventure company G&C Wild Frontiers and The Kjongs coming in fourth overall.
Hundreds of expatriates, company executives and many spectators from the area around Jinja came to witness the spectacle. Representatives from the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre and Ngamba Island our national chimpanzee refuge were also present as were senior members of the tourism fraternity who had helped to promote the event.
(Competing teams making their way to the rapids / Picture courtesy of Angie Genade, RFU)
Equally important though from the conservation standpoint, was the raising of awareness across the country of the presence of the prized animals in Uganda and the breeding programme which the Rhino Fund Uganda has made possible with the construction and establishment of the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, strategically located en route to the Murchisons Falls National Park where literally all of Ugandas tourists pass.
The initially imported 6 adult Southern White Rhinos, three male and three female were since then joined by 4 babies, three male and the latest birth a few weeks ago a much celebrated female, while the two other female adults are also due to give birth again between October and the end of the year.
Protection measures for the rhinos have been significantly stepped up by the sanctuary and the armed guards, under the disciplinary supervision and operational guidance of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, are deployed 24 / 7 to protect the growing herd. Adds this correspondent in closing: in my capacity as the immediate past chairman of the Rhino Fund Uganda this makes me particularly proud, to see Ugandas business and NGO community rally around RFUs objectives and extending such splendid support, financially and morally. RFU has now demonstrated that the breeding programme we established many years ago has been successful and it is time for our international friends and supporters to assist us in bringing in a breeding stock of Eastern Black Rhinos, a species originally found in Uganda, so that both species can eventually be restored to the national parks when the numbers in Ziwa so permit.
Well done to Angie and her entire team at the sanctuary for a superb job. Visit angie on details how to assist and support the rhino breeding programme in Uganda.
INFLATION RUNS AWAY WITH 28.3 PERCENT IN SEPTEMBER
Ugandans will wake up today to the shock news of a 28.3 percent inflation figure, published yesterday afternoon through the relevant departments of the Bank of Uganda and the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics. Last months figure, now looking relatively modest, was 21.4 percent and it was generally expected that the doubling of phone charges might push the annualized inflation to 25 percent but not to over 28 percent. Food prices, the key item for ordinary Ugandans, when taken as a standalone figure and not in a weighed basket of goods and services rose in fact by 50 percent compared with a year ago, pushing the absolute limits now for making salaries last through a month, feeding families, paying utilities bills and affording transport to work for millions of wananchi.
Economic observers and analysts feel that this latest data alone is almost bound to drive inflation even faster, as traders and businesses will try to push the use of hard currencies for their local transactions, likely to cause a further devaluation of the Uganda Shilling, similar to the neighbouring Kenya Shilling last week falling for some time through the psychologically important 100 mark.
Fundamentals are also not in favour of Ugandas economy now as the countrys import bill by far exceeded its export earnings and increased production becoming literally impossible with the ongoing sharp power rationing by monopolist distributer UMEME, which earlier in the week reverted again to a 24 hour no power cycle when independent power producers failed to get paid their contractually agreed subsidies and had to switch off their plants for lack of cash. Earlier in the week did the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry together with the Private Sector Foundation Uganda held a key dialogue and electricity rationing, together with the weak shilling and runaway inflation were indeed amongst the key issues raised by participants representing the business community.
While there has been no official communiqué issued by government as yet, the bombshell news has overnight certainly rocked the political establishment in the country, as a key component of the NRM government, economic stability, has been put to serious questions now and although parliament is presently in recess it is expected that the opposition will make the most of it and lay blame squarely on governments doorsteps for failing to arrest the slide of the Ugandan currency and halt inflation.
Bank sources have also indicated that they expect a further rise in Bank of Uganda interest rates as one of the available measures to take liquidity out of the market and make borrowing more expensive, thought to be a fine balancing act between combating inflation and strangulating economic activity. Notably was Ugandas Bank of Uganda Governor Prof. Tumusime Mutebile recognized last week as Best African Central Bank Governor for his work, but fighting this battle on behalf of the countrys economy will take very likely all he got to bring the ship back on level keel. The country has not seen such inflation figures since back in 1992/3, i.e. some 19 years ago when this correspondent moved from Kenya to Uganda.
Regular tourism sources were unwilling to neither go on record nor speak off the record when asked to comment late last night, also giving an indication of how the latest release of inflation data has shocked the business community. Watch this space.
NARROWBODY VERSUS WIDEBODY, DOHA VERSUS DUBAI VERSUS THE REST OF THEM
With the start of flights by Qatar Airways, connecting Doha daily with Entebbe with an Airbus A320, the question is now arising which way the loyalty of regular travelers will go. Emirates, already offering daily flights between Dubai and Entebbe, serves the route with a more comfortable wide bodied aircraft in a classic three class configuration of First, Business and Economy, but operates their flight via Addis Ababa, which adds considerably to the travelling time. Qatar Airways in contrast will use a single aisle aircraft in two class configuration of First and Economy, with Business sadly absent, but go nonstop to Doha, from where a growing network of global destinations by the self acclaimed 5star airline offers swift connections.
Emirates, without doubt the most senior of the Gulfs airline cousins, is the best known and best connected in terms of destinations and frequencies, and their frequent flyer programme and stop over options are second to none.
Yet, complacency kills the cat and the arrival of Qatar Airways is adding more options for Ugandan travelers, already being lured by very low fares when Turkish commenced operations to Entebbe. Like THY is Qatar expanding their destinations in Africa and across the globe with the aim to tap into the growing traffic potential both to as well as from the African continent, connecting passengers via their hub in Doha, where a brand new airport is also being constructed, expected to offer the very best services for connecting passengers with a Duty Free shopping array being created ready to rival Dubai.
Ugandans are now spoilt for choice when travelling abroad. Connecting via Nairobi with Kenya Airways, for many still is a choice option, and by nonstop and direct flights with key European carriers like Brussels Airlines, KLM, British Airways are now complemented by daily flights via Addis Ababa with Ethiopian, Turkish via Istanbul, Egypt Air via Cairo, the daily South African Airways flights via Johannesburg and of course the daily services by Emirates via Dubai.
The lastest new kid on the block Qatar Airways, renowned for their award winning inflight services, will have to pull something special out of the hat in terms of fares to break into this phalanx of established airlines and make their mark, but a strong team of staff has been assembled in Kampala and Entebbe to sell seats and handle passengers, all of them with long good standing in the industry, something which will surely help to make an immediate impact on Ugandan travelers.
Adds this correspondent in closing: Cant wait for the inaugural flight to touch down in Entebbe, helping to put Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, on the world map some more.
IT IS BIG BIRDWATCHING DAY IN UGANDA
The tourism and conservation fraternity is today, in fact since midnight, listening for bird voices and recording sightings for a 24 hour period, with birding enthusiasts given free entrance to the national parks and national forest reserves by UWA and the NFA. Uganda has nearly 10 percent of the global bird population with both resident and migratory species and for instance Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the worlds richest bird watching destinations with over 600 species recorded there alone.
GeoLodges Uganda and GeoSafari have taken the publicity campaign for this event to the social media through regular twitter updates, where twitchers can tweet in results of sightings, allowing the wider world to follow our national bird watching day from anywhere on the globe.
This correspondent shortly after midnight already reported the sound of Ibis and Crested Cranes from his gardens at the lake shores, arguably kicking off the event as a first reporter but hundreds of birding enthusiasts will be out and about at daylight across the country trying to find as many birds as they can possibly spot. Results will be available here in coming days, where else, so watch this space.
OPPOSITION TAKES ENTEBBE SEAT IN BY ELECTION
In what can only be described as a resounding victory has the opposition Democratic Party candidate taken the Entebbe municipality seat for parliament, after the High Court had declared the election results of the February general election as null and void due to the omission by the Electoral Commission of a number of polling stations when declaring those results at the time.
Muhammed Kawuma beat the ruling NRM party candidate by a margin of more than 2 to 1 with other candidates hardly registering on the percentage scale. Political observers felt that this election victory for one of the opposition parties was also a vote against what has largely been perceived as indifference by government over the continued challenges of inflation, devaluation of the Uganda Shilling, the Mabira saga and a range of other controversial decisions by government since the elections earlier this year. Said a regular contributor and staunch NRM supporter to this correspondent last night when the results were officially confirmed: We at NRM need to redouble our efforts now. We won the last elections by a very large margin but it seems we are now seen by many as too removed from the problem of ordinary Ugandans, as not caring enough about inflation, sugar prices, fuel cost, electricity shortages and so forth. We need an open internal party debate on policy priorities to restore our popularity. Lets not fool ourselves, our big guns were all campaigning in Entebbe for our candidate and yet opposition ran away with a big victory. We have to convince the electorate again that we care and we are taking the plight of our people very seriously. We must not be seen like acting in isolation of public opinion and be aloof of all the problems people have in their daily life. And we should really feel bad now as a party that Entebbe, where our State House is and our President lives, has fallen to the opposition again, let it be a lesson for us. Watch this space.
BUJUMBURA HERE WE COME?!?
Usually well informed sources within Ugandas aviation fraternity have given the clearest indication yet that Air Uganda will widen their reach, true to their slogan We are the Wings that connect East Africa and offer flights, initially three times a week, between Entebbe and Bujumbura. From apparently the end of October will U7 operate a 09.00 a.m. departure every Monday and Wednesday from Entebbe to Bujumbura via Kigali, using their CRJ 200 aircraft, before returning nonstop to Entebbe. On Fridays the order will be reversed, when a 14.30 hrs departure will fly nonstop to Bujumbura, before later in the afternoon coming back via Kigali.
The same source also confirmed that come end November additional changes on the Air Uganda network will come into effect. First will be a truly daily flight between Entebbe and Dar es Salaam, where the present gap on Saturdays will be closed while from December onwards Juba will see a second flight come on line, initially on Fridays only, before upping frequencies on that route by February 2012 on two more traffic days, to be advised nearer to the time.
Considering the recent momentum in Eastern Africas aviation industry, where Kenya Airways, RwandAir and Precision Air have made all the positive headlines, it is now Air Ugandas turn to have aviation observers and analysts sit up and take notice.
Air Uganda is operating two CRJ 200 aircraft leased from GECAS and one MD87 as back up aircraft, which is however regularly deployed on the route to Juba where loadfactors remain high, necessitating the use of the much larger MD 87.
Owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, under the Aga Khan Development Network, the airline commenced operations towards the end of 2007. Initially troubled by management turbulences the airline finally found its footing when former Kenya Airways Commercial Director Hugh Fraser took the helm, replacing the hapless Italian management seconded to U7 by Meridiana at the time of startup, which was thought to have been largely responsible for the initial losses the airline incurred before the turnaround was accomplished by reverting to the initially outlined strategy of using smaller and more economical jets.
Additional news on Air Uganda will be released right here in coming days, so keep watching this space for the most current aviation news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
AIR UGANDA UNDERGOES IOSA AUDIT
Information was received this morning that Ugandas quasi national airline Air Uganda is presently hosting an international audit team, which is in country to assess the state of preparations of U7 towards final certification under IATAs operational safety audits.
IOSA is arguably the gold standard for airlines as far as safety is concerned and international cooperation with other airlines, including code share arrangements, are now often made contingent of IOSA certification by the global aviation giants, before letting their passengers fly with third party airlines beyond their own hubs and destinations. This is a global development but particularly pertinent in Africa, where aviation has an unenviable safety record in countries like Congo Dr and the Republic of the Sudan, affecting the standing and reputation of aviation in general, justified or not.
Details ascertained from a regular source in Entebbe also confirmed that the audit team has been on site since Monday this week, and is due to finalise their reviews and interviews by Friday end of business. The result of the audit will then be communicated to IATAs relevant department which will in turn formally advise applicant Air Uganda of any measures required to be addressed and the time frames given, before a final audit will then establish when, rather than if IOSA certification can be granted to U7. This is expected to be achieved by sometime in 2012 according to other usually well informed sources close to the airline.
This development is a major step by Air Uganda to enter the big league, and while not by the size of their fleet at least by the level of quality matching that of already certified and re-certified other airlines flying in the East African region. Happy Landings!
15TH INTERNATIONAL TRADE SHOW UPCOMING
The Uganda Manufacturers Association is next week opening its doors to the 15th edition of its international trade show with over 850 exhibitors from Uganda, the East African Community and firms beyond the region and from other continents participating in the event. Companies from China, Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Egypt are amongst foreign exhibitors, a signal of how trade relations have in recent years changed from the traditional sellers in Europe to the East.
UMA has according to a press release also introduced innovations following complaints by visitors in recent years, introducing a VIP entrance gate, special guides to take visitor groups through the show ground and is finally providing a comprehensive insurance cover for exhibitors and visitors alike against all eventualities and liabilities.
The show this year is focusing to a greater extent on the exhibition of goods manufactured in Uganda, inspite of the rough economic climate made worse by regular power outages, a situation however which has plagued much of the East African region in recent months. The exhibition is expected to be opened by President Museveni and runs from 04th October until 09th October.
MOROTO BRIDGE TO REOPEN SOON
Torrential rains in Eastern Uganda in recent weeks have caused havoc conditions for road transport and when a key bridge between Moroto and Nakapiripirit was washed away, 6 districts were cut off from the rest of the country, including access to Kidepo Valley National Park. Information was now given by the Ministry of Works that a new bridge would be completed within the next two weeks, while work on at least 10 other bridges destroyed by flood waters was already in progress.
While most tourists visiting Kidepo fly to the park from either the Kajjansi airfield outside Kampala or from Entebbe, the roads nevertheless are of crucial importance for the wananchi but also of strategic importance as it links to the border triangle of Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan, where cross border cattle rustling continues to be of concern to the security forces in all three countries, often necessitating swift deployment by road. Emergency bridges have been put into place where practicable it is understood to allow safe crossing of rivers by trucks, busses and saloon cars, while repairs in the region are now ongoing after the rains have subsided.
EMIRATES TO CONNECT UGANDANS TO MORE DESTINATIONS
A regular source at the Emirates office in Kampala has confirmed that the airline will continue to introduce more destinations for travelers on their daily service from Entebbe. Dallas and Seattle will join the existing US cities of New York, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2012 it was revealed while in Europe and across the globe more cities will come online as deliveries of new aircraft permit. Amongst those new places is Copenhagen / Denmark, where Emirates now flies daily and other notable new destinations to be launched soon are, amongst others, Dublin, Geneva, St. Petersburg, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro. These brand new destinations will become available to travelers from Uganda and the wider Eastern African region between November this year and January next year, truly connecting Uganda to the world via Dubai.
There it was learned is a brand new terminal being built, to be exclusively used upon completion by the growing fleet of the giant Airbus A380, of which Emirates already operates the largest fleet of any airline in the world. In November another milestone will also be reached for Dubai when the airport is expected to overtake all other international airports but London Heathrow to become the second largest global international hub, of course spurred by Emirates growth. Watch this space as Dubais award winning airline continues its relentless march towards a truly global connectivity, reaching all major commercial centres on a daily or multi daily basis.
STUNG BY CRITICISM KENYA GOVERNMENT FINALLY REACTS TO SECURITY CRISIS
Stinging criticism over alleged complacency and even incompetence have produced the expected knee jerk reaction by the Kenyan government, which had come to realize that a lot more than just soothing words and empty assurances were needed to calm down the storm last weekends second abduction of a foreigner has caused in local and overseas tourism circles and in the global media. The abduction took place within a stone throw of a Kenyan naval base, also the location of training by reportedly US personnel of local army and navy units, leading to the ridiculing of the term safe by journalists.
Tourism stakeholders demanded and obtained audience with the Kenyan police commissioner who later on announced that 24 patrol boats and a helicopter would be deployed for more permanent surveillance, accompanied by an grudging admission that the two abductions were partly due to a lack of a coordination mechanism. Official sources over the weekend has made embarrassing statements over their perception of safety and where promptly challenged by tourism stakeholders and the public at large for not getting their act together after the first abduction inspite of full mouthed statements and broad assurances. A regular source who previously commented under condition of anonymity had this to say: If the police commissioner now announces the deployment of two dozen boats and a helicopter, what had they deployed before? They seriously underestimated the threat by the Somali militants and probably hoped for the best and no repeat after the Kiwayu murder and abduction. Now finally they wake up because they realized sharpishly that our entire coast tourism industry is under threat now. With the embassy advisories who would now want to travel to Lamu or other smaller resorts along that stretch of coast especially when no one has confidence in our security arrangements? Our police never lacks resources and speed when there is politics involved but to guarantee the safety of our visitors and our wananchi it is ever so slow. We are watching how long that helicopter they promised is flying and when the boats will run out of petrol. So let us not lament about embassies warning their citizens from coming to within 150 kilometres of the Somali border, let us fix our security first before mouthing off about such precautions.
This outspoken commentary was widely reflected by other conversations and email exchanges, blaming security failures as the main cause, considering the long standing threats by Somali militants against Kenya.
That all said however, it should also be recognized that by and large Kenya has been and will very likely remain a relatively safe destination for foreign tourists, be it on the safari circuit or at the coast. It is understood that hoteliers and resort operators are presently reviewing their own security and surveillance measures, playing their part in ensuring the safety of their guests but that they fully expect the broader security measures beyond their own properties would be shouldered by government and kept up at a level similar to securing other crucial installations. Watch this space.
LOW KEY CEREMONY MARKS ARRIVAL OF YET ANOTHER EMBRAER E190 IN NAIROBI
Last Saturday did yet another Embraer E190 aircraft arrive in Nairobi at the Kenya Airways base in Embakasi, bringing the total number of this aircraft type to now four. One more delivery from an original order of 5 E190 placed in 2010 is due to be effected in a few weeks before a second order of 10 such jets commences deliveries in 2012. Kenya Airways also holds options for a further 16 jets from Brazils Embraer although the specific type of those aircraft has yet to be decided when the order, as is expected, is being firmed up.
The new aircraft is registered with the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority as 5 Yankee Kilo Yankee Sierra or 5Y-KYS and will shortly be deployed on regional routes. The two class configuration ensures that passengers will receive the usual inflight standards and comfort with 2×2 abreast in the 84 seater economy class and 2×2 abreast in the 12 seater business class sections which offers wider seats, albeit not comparable with the superb recliners in the airlines B737 fleet. All seats have individual screens to follow the safety announcements and enjoy inflight entertainment, an investment thought to pay off through passenger loyalty. Watch this space for regular aviation updates from airlines across Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
TRAVEL EMBARGO NOW EXTENDS 150 KM FROM SOMALI BORDER
Embassies and High Commissions in Nairobi were swift to react to the second abduction of a foreign national from the sun drenched beaches of Kenyas Indian Ocean shores last weekend and introducing an all but essential personnel travel ban for their own staff and citizens to the area between the Somali border, extending now to a staggering 150 kilometres. This covers the entire coastline well beyond Lamu but has for the moment as it was put to this correspondent not gone as far as Malindi according to a diplomatic source in Nairobi. Speaking on condition of anonymity, extending it even to the mission the source is attached to, the following was said: After the first abduction all missions were monitoring the reaction by the Kenyan security forces very closely. This second incident now shows that not enough has been done to secure visitor safety along this more remote part of Kenya. It is appreciated that Lamu is a major tourism attraction for foreign visitors but our loyalty and concern and duty is towards our nationals, which is the same with every other High Commission or Embassy also. The scale of 150 kilometres is valid for now but under constant review, so that is can be adjusted if necessary.
Tourism stakeholders from Kenya, including the airlines flying regular services from Nairobi and Mombasa / Malindi to Lamu, have expressed concern over the blanket exclusions zone as one put it in an overnight communication, citing a potentially crippling development for hotels and resorts, in Lamu and the area now under travel embargo. There are some smaller resorts north of Malindi which are popular, we were having some tourism in the Tana river delta and of course resorts in Lamu itself. Overseas tour operators will follow such travel embargos because they fear to be held liable in case something else happens. Occupancies in such resorts and hotels will fall and it could ruin them financially. Scheduled flights might also be affected. Right now the media are flocking in but when that is over will tourists fly from Nairobi to Lamu, or from Mombasa to Lamu? There is no appeal mechanism for us when foreign embassies declare such travel embargos and the media hype right now seems to feed on fears and suppositions. Our government will have to come up with some very serious action now or the last quarter of 2011 could see a reverse of all our gains we have made this year. We have a navy and an airforce and an army which should secure our borders, keep our visitors and citizens safe, so let them step up said on regular contributing source from Mombasa while most others were uncharacteristically quiet and unwilling to comment.
Kenya is currently on track to reach record arrival figures and revenues from tourism and occupancies on flights and in hotels, resorts and safari lodges will be closely monitored in coming weeks to see if the trend holds or if these recent security incidents may have tipped the scale. Watch this space.
KENYA IS SAFE SAYS MINISTER PROVE IT SAYS TOURISM FRATERNITY
The fallout of the second kidnapping by suspected Somali militants of a tourist from a Kenyan beach resort has already started and is likely to degenerate into a furious row between stakeholders and government, the latter now accused of not having done enough to ensure security of tourists and wananchi in Lamu. Following the Kiwayu incident some three weeks ago, security was supposed to have been considerably stepped up along this stretch of coast line. Embassies and High Commissions upped the language of their travel advisories asking visitors to Kenya to absolutely avoid the coastal strip between the Somali border and Kiwayu and the Kenyan tourism fraternity was swift to point out that other places like Lamu itself were safe and could be visited without problems.
The abduction therefore of a paralyzed French tourist on Saturday night came as a rude shock to the tourism industry, as it took place literally under the noses of this very security, from a resort on Manda Island which is part of the Lamu archipelago and not far from a Kenya naval base it was learned during investigations into the circumstances of this latest incident.
To the credit of the Kenyan security services, once the alert had been raised by staff of the resort, following the swift departure by speed boats of the abductors, they swung into action immediately and launched a hot pursuit on the water and from the air, where surveillance aircraft were redirected and on daylight a helicopter pursuit launched.
While the abductors were eventually cornered before they could escape into Somali waters, this only led to a standoff with the reported exchange of gun fire, but eventually the suspected militants managed to slip away and get across into Somalia, putting the Kenyans in the unenviable position to either abandon the pursuit or else be in open violation of another countrys borders regardless of the fact that Somalia at present is a totally failed state. There are also unconfirmed reports that some of the Kenyan personnel involved in the manhunt may be lost at sea after their craft reportedly capsized. Other reports from the Kenyan coast speak of the apparent wounding of some of the abductors during the exchange of fire but sadly no information is available as to the health and well being of the French hostage.
Regular contributors to this columns news broadcasts were finding it hard to make sense of things but one source in particular from Nairobi really let fly: When Saitoti [Kenya?s Minister for Internal Security] talks of about the abduction being unacceptable to government, what is unacceptable is that this was happening a stone throw away from a navy base where there is supposed to be security. What is unacceptable is that government wants to build a port in the same place and they cannot keep it safe even now. What is unacceptable Bwana [Kiswahili word for
?mister?] Minister is that our security sleeps and lets this happen. Equally were comments made by Kenyas Tourism Minister Najib Balala critizised after he attempted to portray Kenyas coast as safe. Here again the same source said: How can Balala say the coast is safe. How can he comment and say we will beef up security? That was supposed to have happened after Kiwayu! Now the Somalis are coming as far as Lamu, what is next, Malindi? All the embassies in Nairobi have declared the entire coast from the border to Lamu and beyond a no go area now. Because our security slept and our ministers played peacock parading around the tourism business in Lamu is going to be spoilt. Who would now want to go there with such risks. There are many resorts, some even between Lamu and Malindi, who would want to go there when our government just talks and talks but fails to seal off those sea and land borders. Elsewhere the Somali militants stage hit and run attacks on refugee camps, can our army not defend our borders, can our navy not keep those boats away from our waters and from our beach resorts? Let us not mislead our visitors and ourselves about safety and security. Somalia is now a big problem and we have to get involved to sort this out. These guys need a strong government again, not a partitioned territory with Somaliland and others wanting to break away and Al Qaida using it for hideouts and for training to threaten us from there. So our ministers must not express themselves in such terms when they have failed to protect Kenyans and our visitors. Let Balala not pretend that all is well and it is business as usual and let him prove to us, to the world, that Kenya is really as safe as he claims.
Overseas tour operators too have started to make contingencies after initially standing by Kenya following the first murder and abduction three weeks ago, when it was generally felt that it could have been a one off incident and that Kenya would step up security measurably. This second incident however has dented that view and shrunk the level of public support. In the short time available it could only be ascertained that holiday bookings for the Kenya coast were being sheparded away from Lamu and other more remote beach locations to the more fortified resort areas of Mombasas north and south coast. This left the question hanging in the air to what extent Malindi might be affected as fear was spreading of possible additional abductions or outright attacks on tourist resorts by Somali militants to revenge on Kenya which is a major supply stepping stone for the African Union force in Mogadishu and for the UN relief organizations still active inside Somalia. Kenya has in the past steadfastly refused to be drawn in to the conflict and avoided contributing troops to the AU mission but may now have to review their policy in view of these blatant cross border attacks.
Overall, not a good weekend for Kenyas tourism industry after a Black September month which has seen a series of accidents and disasters taking place across the country.
Our sympathy is expressed to the family and friends of the abducted French tourist, who is understood to be paralyzed and in constant need of medical attention and for whom this abduction needs to end very soon unless the outcome will be tragic. Watch this space.
SECOND KIDNAPPING OF TOURIST NEAR LAMU SHOCKS KENYAS TOURISM SECTOR
Latest information from Kenya says that Kenyan coast guard and navy vessels have cornered the abductors of a French tourism from Manda Island last night and that presently there seems to be a standoff. It is understood that this is still in Kenyan waters and that the abductors have failed to reach the Somali border and cross it.
Additional information has been received from usually well informed sources in Nairobi that a large contingent of Kenyan military personnel has been deployed along the common border with Somalia after some hit and run attacks by suspected Al Shabab militias and other militants, which in a shift of position may see Kenya actively enter the conflict across its border. Serious fighting had broken out in Somali but apparently also spilled over to Kenyan territory where in particular refugee camps are affected and UN and other aid organizations are scrambling for safety. Kenya had long stayed out of the conflict and while hosting Somalia talks and politically supporting the TFG in Mogadishu had not contributed troops to the African Unions peace keeping force so far. However, the murder of a British tourist and the abduction of his wife three weeks ago had prompted a rethink and the overnight reports of the added abduction of a French tourist and the ensuing hot pursuit by Kenyan security forces had probably now turned the tide with Nairobi thinking enough is enough. Al Shabab too is becoming aware of these developments and from again usually well informed sources it is understood that large numbers of fighters are moving towards the Kenyan border, where if they do not stop they will undoubtedly get a hot reception. If any of these developments have a direct connection to the abductions, so as to have hostages as bargaining chips, cannot be at this stage ascertained but from past experience it would be very well within the tactical thinking of Somali militants to have human shields standing between them and Kenyan forces now finally ready to engage militarily with Al Shabab.
News are emerging from a range of sources in Mombasa and Nairobi that a second tourist kidnapping has taken place from the Manda Bay Resort near Lamu, when apparently a French woman was abducted in similar style as the recent kidnapping of a British woman from the Kiwayu Safari Resort three weeks ago.
There is no confirmation at this stage that any shots were fired, unlike at Kiwayu where the husband of the British tourist was killed in the abduction, but this latest development, and in fact nearer to the much better protected Lamu, has the tourism industry in jitters now.
A local member of parliament and the Lamu police chief appear to have confirmed the abduction last night to a Reuters correspondent in Kenya and police and security services are reportedly in pursuit of the abductors who fled by speed boat towards the Somali border in a near repeat of the same pattern three weeks ago.
Tourism sources in Kenya are presently not willing to make any public comments on the matter, citing lack of reliable information though have promised to go on record just as soon as they have been given all the details, but more likely waiting for clearance from government in view of this rather sensitive and potentially very damaging development.
One regular source from Mombasa though did off the record say: if this is true than we, our security forces have failed to blanket the coast from the Somali border to Lamu and towards Malindi with surveillance. Only a few weeks ago we had the case of a British woman being taken, her husband was shot, and now again and from right under our noses in Lamu? It may be the same group who was behind the first kidnapping and all searches in Somali from ground and air have failed to trace them so far and get the British lady back. If we are to survive this incident, if it is at all true because our media in Kenya are not saying anything about it, we need to reassure our tour operators that Kenya is safe, not by words but by action. Still I need to find out if this really is true from my colleagues in Lamu and Malindi. This strip of coast has always been sensitive and we know that Somali groups can stage hit and run attacks. That area should be full of our navy boats and our army on the ground to give us a sense of safety.
Watch this space for forthcoming updates at a later stage when more information has become available from sources on the ground or else through formal statements by the Government of Kenya.
AIRLINES AND TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS SAY NO TO EXTRA FEE
The coming into effect of the new Kenya Tourism Bill last week, when President Kibaki made it law by putting his signature to it, will also usher in an era of additional public bodies to be created, and more important to be financed. The now mandatory formation of such new bodies as the Kenya Tourism Authority, the Kenya Tourism Finance Corporation and others is driving home the final recognition that all of this will require funding, something the sector has been short of in recent years already.
Tourism marketing alone is asking for a multi billion budget allocation, and while certainly paying back by bringing in ever more tourists, creating jobs, investments and contributing to the national coffers by a range of assorted fees, charges and taxes, the ministry of finance has not given enough financial support in the past to allow the Kenya Tourist Board to fully implement their ambitious plans, even though regionally they do spend the most money to lure tourists to the country.
The new bodies however are now equally looking at the treasury and are hoping to get their slice of the money cake set aside for the tourism sector, something which has not amused the marketing gurus, one of them saying overnight to this correspondent this is our money, we are fighting hard for our budget and cannot share it with other new bodies. They must also learn to find funding but please not by cutting our already limited funding.
Minister Balala, normally an outspoken advocate of higher government funding for his sector, has now opened another can of worms when earlier in the week proposing a new fee on airline passengers of 10 US Dollars, something which immediately drew a mixed reaction from the industry.
A regular aviation source said: Our government thinks this industry is a cow which gives butter cream and milk without feeding it. KCAA are already looking at increasing some of our fees by as much as 400 percent. Now if Balala wants to find money for marketing, and I bet you it is not for that alone but to finance his new empire building with all those additional bodies no one knows even what they are supposed to do, he should look elsewhere. They could increase the Catering and Training Levy for instance, which is specifically to finance the sector. Why add again more charges for air tickets. Germany and Austria have done that with their eco taxes, the UK too is moving that way and aviation there is suffering from dropping demand. The EU emission trading scheme of next year will load a lot more financial burden on airlines and this makes flying to Kenya more expensive again. Now we also want to add 10 more Dollars to that? Our government should cut down on size and not hide behind the new constitution that everything has to expand in public service. If there is not money they should shelve it, trim fat cat benefits for parliament and procure services competitively. We in the private sector have to tighten our belts and the public sector is growing fatter.
Other tourism sources too have expressed their dismay over loading tourist with yet higher cost and one regular contributor said: and then there is the Eurozone crisis. We do not know how this will affect us. If this spreads around the globe like in 2007/8 we might see another downturn. Into this climate of uncertainty let us not increase cost but seek to be competitive. And we must be sure, absolutely sure, that any additional money by taxes, levies and fees from tourism comes directly to tourism and not goes to the treasury. Once money goes there it never comes out again, or only a portion, so that is something we in the private sector will not budge on. If money must be raised for tourism marketing, let it be for marketing not other administration expenses, strictly.
Mixed feelings then over the ministers attempt to find more funding, a lot more funding in fact and the ongoing debate which is undoubtedly going underway now will be closely monitored as it unfolds between Kenyas private and public sectors. Watch this space.
ULTRALIGHT AIRCRAFT CRASHES KILLING PASSENGER
News have emerged from the Kenyan coast that an ultralight aircraft, apparently used for a leisure flight at the South Coast of Mombasa, had crashed upon take off yesterday morning, injuring the pilot and killing the single passenger. It is understood from a source in Mombasa that the airstrip at Kinondo / Kwale District is mainly used for ultralight aircraft operations, allowing tourists to see their hotel from above during the short flights and get an aerial view of the coastline and the resorts along the beaches. In a report by Philip Mwakio of the Standard in Mombasa it was mentioned that the ultralight, supposed to take off after a short distance, apparently struggled to leave the ground, using the entire length of the strip before eventually crashing back to the ground.
The Kenya Civil Aviation authority is now investigating the air accident to establish the exact cause of the crash and vital information is expected to come from the surviving pilot of the craft when he has suitable recovered from his injuries. Added details and statements are expected also from eyewitnesses at the airstrip and the companys records on maintenance, training and other data kept.
AVIATION SOURCE DISMISSES MEDIA CLAIMS OF TURF WAR
A regular source from Nairobis aviation industry, close to Kenya Airways, has dismissed a media report in leading business daily of an imminent turf war between Eritrean Airlines and Kenya Airways as patently false pointing to the existing bilateral air services agreement between the two countries which governs air transport between Kenya and Eritrea.
Both airlines intend to resume flights between Asmara and Nairobi, for Kenya Airways very well in line with their expressed objective to link all African commercial and political capitals by 2013 through their hub in Nairobi and becoming the airline of choice when flying into Africa.
The arrival of more Embraer E190 jets in coming weeks under a current order and the start of the deliveries of more such aircraft from early 2012 onwards will allow KQ to aggressively roll out their network on the continent and begin serving destinations which in the past had to be dropped for a number of reasons, like Asmara, but partly also due to not having the right sized aircraft on the fleet.
Here Kenya Airways has an advantage over Eritrean, which only operates an Airbus A320 and a long haul Boeing B767-200, while Kenya Airways has relatively more aircraft to choose from to meet the demand for the route with Embraers E170 and E190 and different sized B 737s, ranging from the classic -300 to the NG versions of the -700 and -800s.
Eritrean Airlines was quoted in the Kenyan media as aiming at the cargo market which would almost inevitably require the use of the larger B767 to uplift palletized cargo as well as the leisure and business market, raising eyebrows though amongst observers. While undoubtedly Eritrea as a country does have a significant tourism potential, it is also a country under the most severe of anti travel advisories due to the murky role its government plays in the Somalia conflict and the simmering conflict with Ethiopia. Defections of national and league football teams while playing tournaments in Kenya are also fresh in everyones mind, and while many of the players found new clubs in as far as Australia, they are also ardent critics of the human rights situation in Eritrea and vehemently opposed to the regime back home and any economic support for them, advocating strong sanctions to bring about political change and freedom. In fact sanctions from the US are preventing the official delivery of spares for the maintenance of the B767 or the lease or sale to Eritrean Airlines of aircraft from US based firms, and as Airbus too has US made components used in the manufacture of aircrafts a fleet expansion by Eritrean, though affirmed to be on the drawing board, will be fraught with problems and challenges to overcome such hurdles. Sanctions also cast doubts over the ability to maintain such aircraft to the highest possible standards and this may yet be a decisive factor over being accepted by the market on a route where such issues matter a lot.
Said the same source in closing: The type of aircraft used on this route and the number of frequencies will be subject to what the BASA stipulates and what both governments and Civil Aviation Authorities finally agree on. Kenya Airways does not fear competition and the airlines track record of traffic uplifted in the wider East African region speaks for itself. Kenya Airways would not engage in turf wars or make public comments about the plans of other airlines but has a vision, a strategy which will be rolled out over the next 2 years to connect Africa to and from Nairobi.
Watch this space for daily aviation news updates from the entire Eastern African and Indian Ocean regions.
FERRY TRANSPORT SHORTAGE PROMPTS RETURN OF PREVIOUSLY BANNED SHIPS
Information was received from a source in Dar es Salaam that the Zanzibari maritime authorities have lifted the bans on two previously grounded ships, one out of service for several months already while the second was grounded following the sinking of the MV Spice Islander with the loss of over 200 lives.
Transportation of passengers and goods between the main Zanzibar islands of Unguja and Pemba was subsequently almost impossible and the cost of travel had immediately increased too, as the few options available reportedly exploited the situation with no intervention by government to stop the overpricing.
It was explained by the source that officials in Zanzibar had lifted the suspension on the two ships following supposed repairs and an inspection by staff of the maritime authority, mainly with the aim to ease the transport shortage between the islands. Subsequently it was mentioned that observers remained skeptical about the level of repairs and the quality of repairs, all of which seem to have been done in a big rush, forgetting the tragedy which had struck Zanzibar only weeks earlier when a possibly unseaworthy and massively overloaded vessel was allowed to sail and then sank halfway into the journey between the islands. Only last week had the Zanzibar government dashed hopes by the public that a new ferry would be procured, claiming it was beyond the available budget and would have to wait, leaving travelers, both wananchi and wagenis at the mercy of private operators under a lax supervision regime. Watch this space.
DAR ES SALAAM HOLIDAY INN COMMISSIONS HELIPAD
Information received from Dar es Salaam has confirmed that the Holiday Inn has launched a helicopter service from the international airport to the hotel, cutting commuting time to around 6 minutes for guests opting to pay 140 US Dollars rather than being stuck in traffic. The service will be operated by Everett aviation services, which has been long established in Kenya and also has a branch in Uganda.
It could not be ascertained if the price for a ticket quoted was tied to any minimum numbers of passengers on any given flight or if the operator will carry the risk of occupancy.
Traffic in Dar es Salaam, but also in Nairobi and between Entebbe and the main hotels in Kampala is often a nightmare and commuting times from hotels in the respective CBDs has become such an issue that entrepreneurs have found a market niche to provide helicopter services for airport transfers. Happy Landings!
SERENGETI COUNCIL NOW SUDDENLY READY TO SIGN JV AGREEMENT
In a strange turn of events, following earlier reports that the signing between Grumeti Reserves and the Serengeti District Council had bounced did news emerge overnight that the councilor who had raised the concerns appears to have changed his mind when the matter, according to his request, was tabled at the meeting of the committee to which he had wanted the entire JV document referred for review.
Information availed from Arusha now seems to indicate that the Joint Venture Agreement, verbally in place already for almost a decade, will now finally be signed next week, filling the councils coffers with some 200 million Tanzania Shillings annually for halting hunting permits in the area around Grumetis sphere of interest and influence as the source put it.
There is now of course intense speculation over the reasons of the sudden change of mind, leaving all options open of how to interpret this development, either that he has been heavily leaned on by his colleagues and in particular the council chairman who had apparently guaranteed the deal would be signed last week or else. Watch this space, should ever the truth emerge.
SERENA COMES TO DAR ES SALAAM AT LAST
East Africas premier hotel, resort and safari lodge company Serena Hotels, is finally closing a glaring gap in their portfolio with the reported taking over of what used to be, amongst other brand names before, the Moevenpick Dar es Salaam, aka Royal Palm and previously the Sheraton Dar es Salaam. With flagship hotels in Nairobi, Kampala, Kigali and Dar es Salaam it was long hoped for by Serenas faithful clientele, that Dar es Salaam too would come on line sooner rather than later, and their wish will soon be reality now as an announcement is thought to be quite imminent.
The Serena hotel group, established in Kenya in the 1970s with a hotel in Nairobi, two safari lodges in the Masai Mara and Amboseli and a beach resort north of Mombasa, has since graduated in to the big league and is the undisputed market leader in terms of quality and location reach not just in Kenya but also in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Mozambique. Their city hotels, all members of Leading Hotels of the World are competing in their respective locations with such global brand giants as InterContinental Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Fairmont, Hyatt, Sheraton and in Kigali soon with Marriott, due to open a hotel there in 2012. Yet, Serena has become an African brand par excellence over the years in their own right and ably holds its own and then some more in comparison with the big league players. Quoted on the Nairobi Stock Exchange the company has persistently outperformed their local rivals and is considered as one of East Africas Blue Chip companies, their shares being held in institutional investment portfolios as well as private ones.
The takeover of a hotel in Dar es Salaam, to be rebranded the Dar es Salaam Serena Hotel also reaffirms Serenas confidence into the future market development of business and tourism travel in the region and makes it the only hotel group with a significant presence in all the 5 East African Community member states. Success begets success comes to mind and a hearty congrats it is to the Serena family and its latest member joining the collection. Visit www.serenahotels.com for more information on the groups diverse locations and properties but also for rates and bookings.
TCAA ADMITS WIDE RANGING CHALLENGES
The Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority has earlier in the week acknowledged that operational constraints across the countrys airports, aerodromes and airfields are a major challenge to their mandate and objective to increase travel by air across the country.
In particular the availability of aviation fuels on such often remote locations, far from the main airports of Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro International / Arusha or Mwanza, made operations by airlines difficult, compelling them to bring the required fuel for the return or onward flight along instead of re-fuelling on location. The absence of infrastructure like runway lighting too was seen as a problem as many outlying aerodromes and airfields could only be accessed during daylight hours, restricting the use of aircraft capable of flying at night to the main airports but not the rest of the country. This, according to the TCAA Director General Mr. Fadhil Mangoni, was leaving much of the expensive infrastructure at other secondary airports unusable at night. Amongst suggestions made by TCAA was tax incentives for companies willing to store aviation fuels at such remote places and greater investments by government in aviation infrastructure to keep more airports and aerodromes open around the clock.
NGORONGORO SERENA IS TANZANIAS BEST SAFARI LODGE
The recently concluded World Travel Award ceremony in Sharm el Sheik has crowned Serena Hotels Ngorongoro Safari Lodge as Best in Tanzania, a well earned accolade and not the first but one of many Serena has captured over the years. Attention to detail from the very moment the company sets eyes on a potential site to the final touches before opening a lodge or resort, and then the crucially important service levels from the moment a guests arrives and check in to the moment they leave as friends and ambassadors have made the collection of Serenas hotels, resorts and safari lodges and camps some of the most sought after properties in Eastern Africa, at least for those travelers for whom quality not only matters but is a mandatory requirement. Established in the 1970s in Kenya and then eventually spreading their wings to Tanzania in the mid 90s, to Mozambique, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, Serenas name has become synonymous with the best locations and the highest standards. Quoted on the Nairobi Stock Exchange as a public company Serenas holding TPS (East Africa) has persistently performed well and made profits even during the most challenging periods of economic upheavals around the world, a testimony to the qualities of prudent management.
The Ngorongoro Safari Lodge is built into the top of the rim of the crater and literally invisible from the bottom of the caldera, a result of the use of local stone and vegetation to conceal the lodge unless one trains binoculars directly at it from the distance. Promoting the use of environmentally friendly operating practices including using the exhaust heat by the state of the art generator plant to heat water has reduced the carbon footprint of the lodge, as is the case in the other safari lodges and tented camps owned and operated by Serena across the region. Congrats to the Ngorongoro team in particular and to Serena Hotels in general for once again capturing the spotlight for a job well done.
SERENGETI COUNCIL DEFERS SIGNING OF GRUMETI DEAL
It was learned from a source in Arusha that the Serengeti District Council has after all not signed a joint venture agreement with Grumeti Reserves of American businessman Paul Tudor Jones, causing consternation and frustration amongst the companys executives but at the same time raising hopes that now that this is out in the open maybe there can be a broader discussion and the public can find out who is to be the main beneficiary or beneficiaries of the proposed deal, what is the core issue of the joint venture and what rights the investor will get and how the communities, the people are going to benefit long term according to the source. It was also said the public should know all details and not get the impression that this is a deal between some individuals and that company.
Grumeti Reserves has of late been in the media over a range of allegations, including mistreatment of staff and more recently the conduct of their game wardens but has mainly been in the cross hairs of the environmental lobby for their plans to build an international airport, previously called a monstrosity of the highest order by another regular contributor from Tanzania.
Grumeti Reserves own and operate three upmarket safari lodges in the wider Grumeti area and, while having all required operating licenses and permits they have apparently been dealing with the Serengeti District Council on the basis of verbal agreements for nearly a decade, something the bounced joint venture agreement was to formalize.
Notably would the council earn a reported 200 million Tanzania Shillings from forgoing hunting in the area which Grumeti has turned into a private game reserve, aimed according to a source claiming to be acquainted with the going ons in the area, to leave the game undisturbed and enhance the safari experience of visitors. According to this source even the airport plans have been overstated as this would probably be a local airfield, not an international airport for jets to arrive from abroad, something which however is not what has previously been said by the investors representatives when the impression of a fully fledged airport was given and not of a lesser airfield for light aircraft.
The Serengeti District Council also appeared divided over the postponement of the signing of the joint venture agreement, with some of the old guard, including the chairman of the council literally apologizing for not delivering a signed contract as they appear to have promised to Grumeti Reserves, while some of the younger councilors insisted however of referring the matter to the respective committee for perusal in greater details and translation in to Kiswahili. Time to sit back and watch how this unfolds and what discussions in the committees of the Serengeti District Council will bring to light.
NIGERIAN STATE VISIT PRECURSER TO RWANDAIR FLIGHTS TO LAGOS?
Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck is expected in Kigali for a two day official state visit, aimed to discuss a more intense political cooperation as well as stronger trade and investments links between the two countries.
The visit is also considered by regular observers as a precursor to RwandAir starting flights between Kigali and Lagos, just as soon as the second B737-800 is delivered to the airline in a few weeks time. Already flying between Kigali and Brazzaville / Libreville, Lagos is seen as a natural extension of RwandAirs reach into West Africa, and it is understood that the appointed General Sales Agent in Nigeria is presently in full swing to promote the airlink between the two countries, even though the launch dates have not been officially announced as yet. There is significant interest within Nigerian business circles to invest in Rwanda, seen as a role model country for the entire continent, and banking, insurance, manufacturing and other sectors offer plenty of opportunities to attract large scale investments.
Upon delivery of the second brand new B737-800 will RwandAir own and operate a total of 7 aircraft, one Bombardier Dash 8 turboprop, two Bombardier CRJ200, two B737-500 leased from GECAS and two owned B737-800NG. This makes RwandAir the fourth largest airline in the wider East African region after Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and Precision Air.
RWANDA US BILATERAL INVESTMENT TREATY RATIFIED
The US Senate has during the week in a unanimous vote ratified and sanctioned the bilateral investment treaty signed between Rwanda and the United States. This move further underscores the progress made in economic development by The New Rwanda since the 1994 genocide which has left the country in ashes, only to rise like the proverbial Phoenix to become one of Africas role models for transparent and accountable government.
Promoting investments, trade and tourism in a holistic manner under the Rwanda Development Board, Rwanda has managed to capture the attention of many investors from around the world and spurring additional interest in the countrys tourism attractions, boosting visitors numbers and foreign exchange earnings in the process while opening markets for Rwandan produce abroad such as coffee and tea.
Only last week was it reported here that OECD has ranked Rwanda at the top of their performer scale for the best use of development support and bilateral aid, showing the world that it can be done in Africa as long as good governance rules.
Trade volumes between the United States and Rwanda are bound to sharply increase this year with the purchase of two B737-800 by national airline RwandAir, which has reportedly also committed to the purchase of two B787 Dreamliners in 2015. In turn, Rwanda exports quality coffee to the United States where the establishment of a branch of the Bourbon Coffee Shop has greatly aided the exposure for tourism and trade opportunities amongst the US business community. The Land of a Thousand Hills undoubtedly going places.
RWANDA TOURISM EXPRESSES INTEREST IN JOINING ICTP
The International Council of Tourism Partners has received an expression of interest by the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation Division to join the ICTP alliance of global quality destinations, which provides members according to information published by them with Cooperative marketing / promotion / branding that helps members improve business, extend limited budgets and deliver quality and Sustainable development support to help members towards low carbon Green Growth. Founded and chaired by eTNs publisher Thomas J. Steinmetz, ICTPs president is internationally well known Professor Geoffrey Lipman, ably supported by a board of directors composed of leading tourism and conservation figures from around the world.
Rwanda is a leading high value and high profile tourism destination in Eastern Africa, where conservation of nature and the protection of flora and fauna is a key principle of government policy for instance all plastic shopping bag importation, manufacture and use in the country are completely banned and joining ICTP will undoubtedly widen their global reach to new and emerging markets alongside such other high profile destinations like the Seychelles.
Rwanda, breaking new ground once again as leaders and not as followers. Visit the respective web sites via www.rwandatourism.com and www.tourismpartners.org for more information on Destination Rwanda and the ICTP.
RWANDA GETS AN A FOR USE OF FOREIGN AID FUNDS
Another feather in the hat it was when results of a survey conducted by the OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development were published on the global use of aid funds in 78 countries earlier in the week. Some years ago Rwanda had requested to channel all funding through the national budget and assured donors and development partners of best practice in disbursing and using such financial support for the intended purposes. True to their word the OECD study has now shown conclusively that Rwanda has indeed made good of such promises, likely resulting in yet more attention shifting to Rwanda as a preferred partner when it comes to supporting government policies and programmes like the highly acclaimed re-forestation plans which will see 30 percent of the country under forest cover by the year 2020.
Coming out on top of 78 countries is a big achievement. It is also testimony of what can be done in Africa. We often hear that some things cannot be done in Africa, but Rwanda is showing the way and others should follow our examples. We have discipline in government, public officials are held to account and we have a system of checks and balances in every aspect of public life. As a nation we can be proud of the OECD survey results said a regular source from within Rwandas tourism fraternity when asked to comment.
Official delegations as well as individuals arriving in Rwanda for business or a safari holiday have also witnessed a concerted effort to prevent the unplanned and often sprawling suburbs seen in other cities in the region and on the continent in favour of a master plan rollout for the development of Kigali and the country at large. Working streetlights at night, people walking unencumbered at all hours as a result of good security, the pothole free road network in the city and across much of the country, traffic discipline, cleanliness and an orderly well regulated conduct in business and for investments have all catapulted Rwanda to the top of the African performance scale, a source of pride for all Rwandans who have seen their country rise from the ashes as a shining Phoenix. Watch this space.
NEW REGIONAL CONSERVATION TREATY WAITING FOR THE OTHERS
Rwanda has confirmed that their preparations to sign a new comprehensive transboundary wildlife management treaty with Congo DR and Uganda are completed from their side, now awaiting the neighbours to catch up and come to the table to put pen to paper. The new agreement, according to Ms. Rica Rwigamba, Head of the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation division, the new agreement will cover extensive components such as research, monitoring, anti poaching, community sensitization, tourism product development and planned interventions. Harmonization of policies, laws and regulations too are urgently required it was pointed out to more effectively deal with for instance cross border poaching, smuggling of wildlife products and life game, birds and reptiles.
It was learned from a source in Kigali that internal discussions by ICCN, the Institute of Congo for the Conservation of Nature are apparently at an advanced stage while no information could be obtained to that effect about preparation levels at the Uganda Wildlife Authority, which continues to suffer the fallout from multiple staff changes at the top and the Damocles Sword hanging over UWA in form of the final report of the Commission of Enquiry itself a mess according to the latest information available and very likely to produce two reports instead of one due to serious divisions within its ranks.
Be that as it may, Rwanda seems to once again lead conservation in the region and little surprise that is.
South Sudan News
SURVEYS FOR NEW SOUTH SUDAN CAPITAL IN RAMCIEL TO START SOON
Information was confirmed from Juba, South Sudans current capital city, that a proper land survey in and around Ramciel, Lakes State, would commence soon. Only recently has the South Sudan cabinet, or council of ministers as it is called, decided that the new capital city should be moved from Juba to Ramciel, where a purpose built political capital is to be established, leaving Juba arguably as the commercial capital of the new country. We have put a committee in place now to map out the way forward. There must be a full land survey to make sure that the area chosen is suitable. We have to build roads, a complete infrastructure, maybe even an airport, government buildings, a State House, hospitals, schools and so forth. It will be an administrative city, not an industrial city but there will be provisions for service businesses of course though maybe not manufacturing. This move is also to honour our late leader Dr. John Garang, who was committed to move the capital to Ramciel. It will be a challenge but we will make it happen. The committee is looking at financing options and they will brief President Kiir and parliament when they have completed their findings and recommendations. This will be a well planned new city in the heart of our new country said a regular source from Juba, also dismissing fears that investments in Juba may be rendered useless. Those with factories, hotels and other businesses in Juba need not fear. Of course their investments are safe. It is the political capital which is being separated from the commercial capital, and from the capital also of Central Equatoria state. It will have little influence of doing business in South Sudan and we expect to have government offices as liaison in Juba.
The process though is considered to be taking a considerable period of time, considering the cost of the exercise and the already strained budget of the new country, where job creation and a completely new infrastructure of roads, bridges and public services still is the number one priority of a government already quietly eyeing the next election cycle. Watch this space.
SEYCHELLES ELECTION RESULTS ARE OUT
Three days of peaceful voting have come to an end yesterday evening at 7 p.m. across the inner islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue, after all other islands had their voting carried out during the two previous days.
As expected and as witnessed personally at the end of May during the presidential elections, the conduct by the electorate was mature and no incidents of substance were reported from anywhere across the islands.
The general election became necessary when the previous parliament dissolved itself amid much controversy over the then opposition attempting to block parliamentary proceedings through a boycott and then failed to participate in the 2011 General Election. A new opposition party was swiftly formed by dissenters previously part of the SNP, but with little time to prepare for an election campaign eventually failed to capture a single elective seat from the 25 constituencies nor apparently gathered enough votes to claim some of the proportional seats otherwise available. Party LEPEP of President Michel captured all elective seats in the new assembly with a voter turnout of 74.3 percent.
The result, while celebrated amongst Party LEPEP supporters, leaves democracy in the Seychelles somewhat poorer than before, as opposition within parliament is now absent and will have to find another platform to participate in public affairs, and even President Michel expressed his regret over this turn of events when he said: we wished that the opposition gained some seats in order to encourage more debate. He however congratulated the leader of the sole opposition party participating in the election, David Pierre of the Popular Democratic Movement, for his efforts and maturity in being part of the democratic process.
Full results from each constituency will be available by mid day Sunday. Congratulations to the winning team and to the opposition a call to take heart as there will always be another opportunity to do better in the future.
Meanwhile was a message received from one of two close acquaintances presently on holiday on Mahe, saying: one would simply not have known about these elections but for the posters and headlines and articles in the local papers Nation and Today which we get in the hotel. Of course I dont listen to the local radio stations or watch local TV so I could not say what was on air. But unlike at home in Britain where elections are marked by big rallies and high visibility of candidates and parties, here it was just another day in paradise. I know you keep reminding me that Seychelles is part of Africa but to be honest, going for a holiday to Africa during elections is really not a good idea but here in Seychelles it was just business as usual.
Seychelles truly Another World.
TAX RISE SET TO ENDANGER TOURISM GROWTH
The Seychelles tourism private sector has once again warned of the potential impact of the planned GST (Goods and Services) tax rise from 12 to 15 percent on tourism services.
Introduced some years ago under an economic structural adjustment programme the GST is due to be replaced by a fully fledged VAT regime next year.
The increase will apply to eating out in restaurants, excursions and tours and other services tourists ordinarily enjoy during their stay on the islands, making everything more expensive by 3 percent a source from Mahe confirmed. Louis DOffay, the Chairman of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, had warned earlier in the year of the consequences of outpricing the destination but apparently to little avail, as the tax rise now seems just weeks away from implementation.
Said another regular contributor to this correspondents articles: SHTA has a point here. The global economy is again getting very fragile, the Eurozone problems and economic performance in the US are factors we should not overlook. Our traditional big markets are in Europe and although we have made a lot of progress in other new and emerging markets, if Europe has problems this will spread rapidly. We need to be mindful of global developments and should be careful on taxes and other charges put on tourism products. Our economy depends on tourism and we should stay competitive, see what our nearest rivals do in terms of pricing, taxation and so on. Our success in marketing cannot be taken for granted and we should avoid making this harder and more difficult.
Meanwhile are general elections underway in the Seychelles, yesterday on opening day 29th of September for essential personnel who are required to be on duty on the main election day 01st of October in Mahe, Praslin and La Digue and today, 30th September on the outlying islands where special logistics have been arranged to fly elections officials and materials to the more remote islands or else land them by boat to ensure that all Seychellois citizens entitled to vote have an opportunity to participate in the democratic process and shape the future of the country.
ELECTIONS ARE IMMINENT, CAMPAIGNS END
The long awaited general election is now imminent in the Seychelles, due to commence on the 29th September and ending on the 01st October. The campaign, almost invisible for tourists staying on the islands except for the party posters, has now drawn to an end as there is a mandatory cooling off period prescribed for the last two days before elections commence, giving the electorate the opportunity to weigh the arguments and promises made in relative calm before then going to cast their votes.
Inspite of the withdrawal of the main opposition party SNP will a two horse race unfold during election days as the ruling Party LEPEP is faced with a new opposition group, the Popular Democratic Movement party of former SNP member David Pierre, who has inspite of the short time he had fielded candidates in all constituencies across the islands.
This is the first election under the recently constituted Electoral Commission, a departure from past elections when an Electoral Commissioner was solely responsible for the organization and oversight of the democratic process. Watch this space on 02nd of October to get the drift of the results and who will dominate the parliaments of the Seychelles for the next couple of years.
Meanwhile though has it been confirmed by two friends of this correspondent currently vacationing on the island of Mahe, that indeed the last few days of the campaign have been entirely peaceful and that by and large tourists in fact have little idea of a general election taking place within days now, as life on the Creole Island Paradise continues like normal, to quote part of an email from one of them. Seychelles truly Another World.
SEYCHELLES SUSTAINABLE TOURISM LABEL LAUNCHED ON WORLD TOURISM DAY
The Le Meridien Fishermans Cove Resort in Bel Ombre was the venue today for the launch by the Seychelles Tourism Board of the Sustainable Tourism Label, organized in conjunction with the Global Environment Facility, in short GEF and the Government of Seychelles UNDP Programme Coordination Unit. Going Green has never been an issue for the Seychelles, as it has stayed Green since independence from Britain and with more than 50 percent of the land set aside as territorial and marine national parks, the country is globally leading in the effort to promote ecofriendly practices and maintain biodiversity.
The new Sustainable Tourism Label, aka Eco Label will nevertheless now rate the efforts of individuals hotels, resorts, guest houses, holiday villas and other tourism ventures and certify them according to an internationally agreed scale, agreed earlier in the year between stakeholders under the guidance of STB.
The Seychelles Tourism Board will also, at least in the initial stages, act as guardian and caretaker of the labels implementation to ensure impartiality and maintain the overall interest in showing off the Seychelles Green Credentials around the world. Seychelles on this World Tourism Day Truly Another World.
PRESIDENT MICHELS MESSAGE ON WORLD TOURISM DAY
Seychelles President James Michel, who is also holding the portfolio as Minister of Tourism, underscoring the ranking of the sector within government, has on the occasion of the globally celebrated World Tourism Day sent this message to the tourism fraternity and Seychellois at large:
This years world tourism theme is Tourism – Linking Cultures. Over a year ago, I launched the Seychelles Brand, that diverse suite of attributes that differentiates our paradise islands from other destinations. The Seychelles Brand is the foundation upon which we are building our modern Seychellois tourism industry, but it is also the bridge, the link, between our culture and the culture of other civilisations in the world.
Thousands of people from other countries come to Seychelles on holiday. They are bearers of their own cultures. We have our own way of life to proudly share with them. Our dynamic Creole way of life has given us social cohesion and a vibrant culture. Our unity and tolerance provide us with harmonious living. Beneath our nations skin are our rich history, colourful art, environment friendliness, an authentic Creole cuisine, our creativity and hard work. Our family-run tourism businesses which we are encouraging are serving our reputation as a welcoming and hospitable nation.
The Seychelles Brand is for maximum participation of the entire Seychellois population in an industry that is theirs. Increasing Seychellois ownership of our tourism industry gives our people the chance to gainfully showcase to international visitors our attributes as a nation of diverse backgrounds living together in harmony, at peace with nature, creative, and welcoming.
I encourage all of us involved in the tourism industry to preserve these values for the sustainability of our tourism industry.
Tourism is the main pillar of our economy, a solid foundation of our prosperity, but it should also remain a dynamic force to promote a safer, more tolerant, more understanding and united world. That is why I have called upon the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) and the Seychelles Tourism Academy to embrace the ten principles of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism. These guidelines for sustainable and responsible tourism development are based on the proven interaction between tourism and peace, human rights and understanding.
Today, as we observe World Tourism Day, our message is clear: our business is that of creating links with the rest of the world by making people from other cultures and diverse corners of the world become more aware about our culture. Today, through our leadership in world tourism, we also strengthen our own commitment to contributing to a more tolerant, open and united world.
I take the opportunity to thank everyone involved in our tourism industry, from STB to our trade partners and stakeholders in the industry, as well as our people in general, as we observe this World Tourism Day.
NEW SCAA BOARD MEMBERS APPOINTED
Following the retirement two weeks ago of two key members of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, after their appointment by President Michel to the board of Air Seychelles, did new faces join the remaining SCAA board members, when the Minister for Home Affairs, Environment, Transport and Energy the Hon. Joel Morgan yesterday made the following announcement:
SCAA Chairman of the Board Capt. David Savy
Ms. Elsia Grandcourt, representing the Seychelles Tourism Board
Mr. Ashik Hassan, representing the Ministry of Finance
Ms. Michelle Murray, representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
These four are joining their colleagues who were already on the board, Gilbert Faure who is also the SCAA Chief Executive Officer and Philippe Morin, David Bianchi, Wills Agricole and Samantha Aglae.
Congratulations to the new appointees, especially Capt. David Savy, whose valuable expertise in the aviation industry is once again required by his country and to Elsia Grandcourt, Deputy CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board.
AND in closing today again some interesting reads from Gill Stadens The Livingstone Weekly with news and updates from further down south:
I dont really do politics but it is in the headlines at the moment because of our new government which has set itself such colossal targets to achieve during its time in office. The new government setup was announced during the week.
Dr Guy Scott is Vice President which has raised some eyebrows! But he has been side by side with Michael Sata for years.
Here is a list of our Ministers:
Finance: Alexander Chikwanda
Information, Broadcasting and Tourism: Given Lubinda
Defence: Godfrey Mwamba
Foreign Affairs: Chishimba Kambwili
Culture and Chiefs Affairs: Inonge Wina
Home Affairs: Kennedy Sakeni
Health: Dr Joseph Kasonde
Agriculture and Livestock: Emmanuel T Chenda
Labour, Sports, Youth and Gender: Fackson Shamenda
Commerce: Robert Sichinga
Education, Science and Vocational Training: Dr John T N Phiri
Lands, Energy and Water Development: Christopher Yaluma
Local Government, Housing, Early Education and Environmental Protection: Prof Nkandu Luo
Community Development, Mother and Child Health: Dr Joseph Katema
Chiefs and Traditional Affairs: Inonge Wina
Transport, Works, Supply and Communications: Willie Nsanda
Central Province: Phillip Kosamu
Copperbelt Province: Yamfwa Mukanga
Luapula Province: Davies Mwila
Eastern Province: Solomon Mbuzi
Lusaka Province: Miles Sampa
Northern Province: Freedom Sikazwe
North-Western Province: J. Limata Limata
Western Province: Nathaniel Mubukwanu
Southern Province: Lukulo Katombola
The Media and Corruption
For a long time I have not bought a newspaper. The government newspapers merely praised the MMD and the Post went for the jugular of the MMD. It became extremely dull. Now, though, the media has been told by the new minister, Given Lubinda, that they must operate professionally. Michael Sata says they must just report the news!
Given Lubinda: I will be a sad person if everyday a person opens the page of the Zambia Daily Mail the first picture is of His Excellency the President Michael Sata and the second of the first lady, third the picture of the minister of information. For you, my dear friends in the media, give the people of Zambia a fresh breath. Please show the Zambian people that you are capable of showing balanced reporting.
We in the PF are not shy to criticism. We would like you the media to assist us by projecting the truth on the ground. Please do not hero-worship the president, dont tell stories that do not exist on the ground. We do not want you to improve our image. Let the people tell us where we are failing and also to give us accolades where we are succeeding.
Interestingly Given Lubindas ministry also includes tourism. It is a very different combination. Previously tourism has always been included with the environment. Environment is now linked to Local Government.
Corruption, the evil of any society, is to be taken on by Kennedy Sakeni, Minister for Home Affairs. Kennedy Sakeni: I promise to work hard and will ensure that law and order is maintained. Anyone involved in crime will not be spared. All Zambians should come on board for us to fight corruption. Government alone will not manage. Corruption affects all, hence the need to fight it concertedly.
New Airport Names
Livingstone Airport is to be renamed Nkumbula Airport after Harry Nkumbula; Lusaka Airport is to be called Kaunda Airport after Kenneth Kaunda and Ndola Airport will be Kapwepwe Airport after Simon Kapwepwe.
Emirate to Fly to Zambia and Zimbabwe
Emirates Airline is to start flying in to Lusaka and Harare five times a week from February 2012. Many travellers use Emirates because it offers cheaper flights than other airlines, so this may be a boost for business and tourism in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Mana Pools is a World Heritage Site and has continued to be the most popular National Park in Zimbabwe. It is opposite Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia.
There is concern that the government is committed to adding further development to the park and conservationists are worried that the park will lose its wilderness value, and, more to the point, lose its World Heritage Status if the development goes ahead.
The proposed site for the development is on the Zambezi River between the Mana and Cheruwe rivers. It is right next to the camping area and is a popular spot for walking visitors are allowed to walk unaccompanied along the rivers edge as long as they are careful.
This is from the Zambezi Society:
EIA PUBLIC CONSULTATION FOR PROPOSED UPMARKET LODGE DEVELOPMENT IN THE MANA POOLS NATIONAL PARK
Although, to this date (21st July 2011) The Zambezi Society has not received direct official notification of this proposed tourism development, we believe that the preliminary EIA process for it is in the final stages of preparation. As major stakeholders in the future of the Mana Pools National Park, the Mana/Sapi/Chewore World Heritage Site, the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve, and the Lower Zambezi-Mana Pools Trans-Frontier Conservation Area, we wish to take the opportunity to make inputs into the process, and trust that our informed opinions will be treated with due consideration.
The Zambezi Society advises that it is obliged to inform its membership worldwide about the details of this proposed development and to consult them on their views. We will then report the detailed results of this consultation to the EIA consultants, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, and to UNESCOs World Heritage and Mana and Biosphere Committees.
We cannot at this stage, therefore, make anything other than preliminary comments on the proposal as follows:
a)The Zambezi Society has no objection to tourism development and job creation in Mana Pools, as long as this
Does not impact upon the globally-important wilderness and wildlife values which resulted in the Mana/Sapi/Chewore designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Core Area of the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve
Does not have detrimental effects on the ecology of the narrow strip of alluvial terrace environment along the Zambezi River
Does not deprive ordinary Zimbabweans of access to and enjoyment of prime areas within the Mana Pools National Park and World Heritage Site
Falls within the guidelines recommended by the Mana Pools Management Plan developed by the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Authority during 2006 in consultation with all stakeholders and funded by the African Wildlife Foundation.
The Tourism Programme for Mana Pools, as described in the Executive Summary of the Management Plan states:
The Tourism Programme strives to maintain the wilderness character of the park by advocating low impact camping and semi-permanent camps as the main form of accommodation. It will preserve a stretch of the Zambezi river as wilderness in which no developments will be permitted. Provision has been made to open up new, low impact accommodation facilities away from the river. An inland site will be allocated for a joint-venture community development tourism project. Activities on offer will be diversified and walking will be encouraged. Use of the park for educational trips will be promoted. Wet season motor-boating will be permitted on a trial basis. At least one site will be investigated for a community/public/private partnership but the details of how this type of operation will work still need further investigation.
A list of Guiding Principles were elaborated for the Mana Pools National Park Tourism Programme. They are listed below
1. Wilderness qualities will be maintained
2. Tourism away from the river will be encouraged
3. Camping and low impacted tented camps will be promoted
4. Unescorted walking will continue to be permitted
5. Citizen and educational access will be promoted
6. ZPWMA accommodation will be competitive
7. Linkages with appropriate communal areas will be encouraged
8. Exclusive use areas will be discouraged
b) The Zambezi Society believes that the site in question is not suitable for tourism development for the reasons outlined below, and that an alternative site should be chosen.
We object to this particular development for the following reasons:
1. The site proposed is adjacent to the Zambezi River and its position directly contradicts the recommendations of the Mana Management Plan which advises low impact accommodation facilities away from the river in order to reduce tourism pressure on the very fragile eco-system of the Mana alluvial terrace area.
2. The Mana and Chiruwe rivers form a natural corridor for wildlife between the interior and the Zambezi River front. A permanent development in this area would interfere with wildlife access to the river. In fact, a site on the Chiurwe river (less than 1km from this proposed site) was rejected during the early part of the Mana Pools planning phase for this reason.
3. A 24-bed lodge occupying 43 500 sq m of prime riverine environment with associated staff facilities and outbuildings cannot be described as low impact as advocated in the Management Plan.
4. The site chosen is an existing low-impact public Exclusive campsite. Development of a 24+ bed lodge in this site would therefore reduce the camping opportunities available to visitors seeking a low-impact tourism experience (often Zimbabweans) and necessitate the replacement of this site with an alternative along the river, adding to the riverine tourism pressure specifically advocated against in the Management Plan.
5. The site overlooks Mana Mouth a popular spot for visitor recreation, fishing, game viewing, walking and sundowners. There is also a nesting colony of bee-eaters in the riverbank here which attracts birdwatchers. The presence of the bed units of a 24-bed lodge just above this bank, within 50 metres across the Mana River and facing directly towards the visiting tourists is not conducive either for the privacy of the lodge guests or the enjoyment of the Mana Mouth visitors and wildlife enthusiasts. The impacts in both cases would be unsuitable and create a conflict of visitor uses. It would be a gross infringement of the rights of visitors to Mana Pools if public access to Mana Mouth were to be prevented because of its potential impacts on a 24-lodge development on the opposite bank of the Mana River. The Mana Pools Management Plan makes specific reference to avoiding such exclusivity.
6. The provision of three extra tents for occasional use effectively increases the 24-bed lodge to 30 beds . This opens the door for this to become a bigger development right from the start. There also needs to be greater clarity about the nature of these tents, bed units and lodge structures and the visual impact they will have from across the Mana and Zambezi Rivers
7. Road access to this site is impossible during the rainy season because of its location between the Mana and Chiruwe river systems and the nature of the soils in Mana Pools. Unless major road reconstruction and bridge-building were to take place (which would hugely impact on the Mana Pools alluvial terrace environment), the proposed lodge would only be useable for the dry months of the year.
8. The proposed site lies within the Lower Zambezi-Mana Pools Trans-Frontier Conservation Area and is directly opposite the Zambian Lower Zambezi National Park where lodge development has deliberately been kept to a minimum (most tourism developments on the Zambian side of the Zambezi River are in the Chiawa Game Management Area). With its current use as a public exclusive campsite, this site has the advantage of creating minimal visual impact from the Zambian side or the river. The proposed lodge development, however, has the potential to create adverse visual impact from the Zambian side and it will be necessary to consult the Zambian authorities and stakeholders in this regard as part of the EIA process.
9. Despite repeated assurances to the African Wildlife Foundation which funded the development of the Mana Pools Management Plan via a full consultative process during 2006-2007, that the Plan would be approved, the Plan has never been signed and no reasons have been given for this. This particular tourism development proposal situated at a prime riverine site was not presented during the long process of negotiations and compromise that resulted in the Management Plan. It also appears that there has been no tender process for this site which has been allocated to a tourism company with no known track record in Zimbabwe or the region. These facts, together with the apparently deliberate delay in the signing of the Management Plan will only raise suspicions of insider dealing and corruption on the part of the Zimbabwe Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Parks and Wildlife Authority and could cause local and international outrage, given the global recognition of Mana Pools as a World Heritage property. This would be an embarrassment to Zimbabwe and the region.
c) The Zambezi Society recommends:
that a tourism development site inland of the Zambezi River be found as an alternative to the one proposed e.g. at one of the inland pans or at the former Ruckomechi Research Station.
that the existing National Parks lodges site be redesigned and upgraded to up-market standards by this developer and/or that the existing development area between the Parks Lodges and the Office is utilised.
We look forward to more detailed engagement as an important stakeholder in the EIA process for this development as it progresses.