Weekly roundup of news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region, Third edition May 2011

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 via Twitter @whthome or on my blog: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com

Third edition May 2011

Africa News

GOOD SAFARI GUIDE WINNERS FOR ALL TO SEE

The Good Safari Guide award ceremony on the eve of the INDABA tourism fair in Durban earlier this month has once again produced some deserving winners, honouring the at times stunning facilities, services and settings of safari camps, safari lodges, resorts and hotels.

Proposed for consideration to the judges of the contest, those making it on the finalist line up could all be proud and winners as in previous years came from Eastern and Southern Africa in almost equal measure.

Those selected and honoured with prizes, but also those who did not quite make it to the podium, deserve attention and the extra interest these awards will hopefully generate for them and the following list, available via the given web link, may help to see who they are and where they are, so that planning of future safaris will be made a little easier.

Being a little biased towards my own region here in Eastern Africa, I extend particularly warm congratulations to winners, runners ups and finalists from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda but give equal applause to those from Southern Africa.

Doing Africa’s tourism industry proud, very much so!

Visit www.safariawards.com/winners11/ for the full details, including web links directly to their company websites.

 

NEW EAC SECRETARY GENERAL OUTLINES PRIORITIES FOR HIS 5 YEAR TERM

Dr. Richard Sezibera, just installed as the new Secretary General of the East African Community and based in Arusha, is the first Rwandan national to hold this important post, which habitually rotates amongst the member states. In one of his first media appearances Dr. Sezibera outlined what he said would be crucially important 5 areas he would have to deal with over the next five years, naming the advance of a common East African currency amongst them. In addition he named the consolidation of the present Customs Union with especially the formation of a single customs territory, following which the internal boundaries and customs check points could eventually be removed with staff re-deployed to the ‘external’ entry points into the EAC like habours, airports and land border crossings from countries around the East African Community.

He also mentioned his desire to have Non Tarrif Barriers removed from all dealings of EAC member states, a message which will find particular favour with a number of aviation bodies in the region, which have especially loudly complained about the ‘shut door’ policy of some countries against the duly registered airlines of others, treating them often as outright foreign against both spirit and letter of existing protocols and agreements.

However it will be the march towards a single currency, which will eventually replace the national currencies of the East African Community member countries, which will capture the imagination of East African businesses and their trading partners, but also of the people of East Africa, as freedom of movement and residence, when fully implemented can only be enhanced by using the same currency across the entire region. New applications for EAC membership are expected to be discussed amongst heads of state present in Kampala this week for the inauguration of President Museveni, and bi- and multilateral talks in particular with President Kabila of the Congo Dr and President Salva Kiir of the Government of South Sudan and soon to be head of state of the new Republic of South Sudan are expected to outline the way forward. Congo DR and the new Republic of South Sudan are the likely next applicants to join the EAC and would have to undergo a process of harmonization first before graduating from ‘applicant member’ to ‘full member’ status. Ethiopia, represented in Kampala for the swearing in by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, is also a likely candidate to submit a membership application in Arusha, and joint massive infrastructure projects like the new planned railway lines between South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya and the new section from Isaka in Tanzania to Rwanda, Burundi into Eastern Congo lend all more importance to a stronger economic and subsequent political cooperation between the EAC and the neighbouring countries.

One of the key economic sectors across the entire EAC, and potentially also for ‘new’ members is tourism, which in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda is at the top of economic performance and in particular for job creation and foreign exchange earnings, and South Sudan and Eastern Congo – the latter when peace has been fully restored – have the potential to become a tourism force to be equally reckoned with, considering the vast parks and huge migrations in the South Sudan and the wilderness of the Virunga range in Eastern Congo. Even Ethiopia has a largely untapped tourism potential, for adventure activities like white water rafting on the Blue Nile, the Gambela National Park with its big migration of white eared kobs and the Nile Lechwe and the cultural and historical component available from its rich heritage.

Cooperation under the banner of the East African Community is bound to improve East Africa’s tourism foot print and exposure around the world and is likely to attract more visitors to the region, and not just one country at a time, offering the outlook for more investments and more jobs across the region. Watch this space.

 

Uganda News

AIRPORT CLEANERS STAGE SIT DOWN STRIKE

Information received late yesterday from the Entebbe International Airport spoke of an impromptu sit down strike on arrival on Monday morning, vowing not to start their work until they had been addressed by their managers over demands for higher wages. It reportedly took several hours before a senior airport police officer convinced the staff to return to work and commence their cleaning duties while the company management prepared to address the workers on Tuesday. Contrary to one other report seen it was ascertained that there was NO police deployment other than a few officers with their senior commander who was quietly reasoning with the strikers before succeeding to have them go back to work.

Two travelers who returned to Uganda from neighbouring Kenya, when asked about what was happening at the airport, denied any service interruptions nor were they able to confirm that the lack of morning cleaning had in any way affected operations. Said one: ‘I arrived from the aircraft, passed immigration and collected my bags before leaving the arrival hall for my transport to town. I was not even aware there was some strike going on before you asked me, there was no change to any of my previous trips’.

The situation in Entebbe will be monitored throughout the day to ascertain if the cleaning staff, incidentally employed by a concessioned company and not the airport directly, will stage another strike or if they will resume their duties henceforth.

 

LOW SEASON GORILLA TRACKING FEES IN THE OFFING

Although the information has been kept under tight wraps, details are beginning to emerge that the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Uganda tour operators association AUTO have struck a deal to lower the gorilla tracking permits, presently costing US Dollars 500 year round, during the ‘low season’ which however was not defined by dates as yet. A ‘low season’ tariff of US Dollars 350 per person appears to be floating around but is also still to be officially confirmed, while regular sources however gave the ‘nod’ to the question.

The decision will put Uganda Wildlife Authority on a collision course of sorts with Rwanda and Congo DR, as a tripartite forum some time ago had resolved that all three countries would charge the same rates, year round, without any rebates, discounts or seasonal adjustments.

Should therefore ministerial consent be given to the tariff adjustment in Uganda, for whatever ‘low season’ period may be determined, there is an even chance of tariffs for the rest of the year being looked at again with an eye to adjust them upwards to avoid financial losses for the organization.

The move was arguably initiated by the tourism fraternity over concerns of falling sales in the face of negative global publicity for the country, which while one-sided and mostly inaccurate nevertheless is what media houses chose to put on air or into print media with little if any regard to ‘the truth’ or the damage they are doing to the country as a whole and the tourism industry in particular. Watch this space.

 

BRUSSELS AIRLINES OFFERS ‘GORILLA TRACKING DISCOUNT’

The Belgian flag carrier and member of the Lufthansa Group, Brussels Airlines, has just passed on information that they will with immediate effect offer a 10 percent ‘gorilla rebate’ for passengers flying to Entebbe / Uganda and Kigali / Rwanda, against proof of having purchased a gorilla tracking permit in either of the countries.

The news were welcomed in both countries, as in particular Uganda had been facing difficulties in marketing tourism over recent political events in the country, as reported here repeatedly in past weeks.

The airline’s country manager for Uganda, Mr. Pierre Declerk confirmed the details and pointed out that the rebate of 10 percent as applicable to the airfare only, NOT any taxes charged by various governmental bodies on these fares, and would be reviewed in three months time to assess what assistance the airline had been able to provide to the tourism sectors in Uganda and Rwanda. Watch this space for up to date news from the East African aviation industry.

 

NILE WATER PRODUCERS REMOVE EGYPT’S VETO RIGHTS

Almost unnoticed did a key ceremony take place last week in Kampala, when the six signatory nations to the new Nile Treaty came together to formally pronounce the treaty ratified and valid, and becoming the ‘new law’ of how the Nile waters would be governed and shared. The ‘Cooperation Framework Agreement’ has now finally replaced the ‘old’ treaties and opened the door to global financiers to back projects involving the waters of the two Nile arms, of Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert.

Egypt’s former regime had been fundamentally opposed to even discuss giving up their veto rights, enshrined since the 1929 and 1959 treaties initiated by colonial power Britain back then, which subsequently forced these treaties upon the newly independent states in East Africa, namely Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

Egypt’s position was enforced by regular sabre rattling over the potential use of force to secure ‘their water’, conveniently overlooking however that the Nile waters, from the East African ‘White Nile’ and the Ethiopian ‘Blue Nile’ were ‘produced’ in those countries and region and should be treated as a natural resource belonging to the people of those countries.

When Burundi some weeks ago became the sixth country to sign on to the new Nile Treaty, it became de facto ‘law’ and the ceremony in Kampala last week only served to re-enforce this for all the partner states to see.

The countries of Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo DR and Ethiopia, soon to be joined by the new Republic of South Sudan, are considered the ‘producer states’ while the downstream countries of the remaining Khartoum Sudan and Egypt are considered ‘consumer states’ as far as the Nile waters go.

Intriguing enough, the swearing in of President Museveni brought heads of state and government from the six signatory countries together and it is understood that the remaining country, the Congo DR has given assurance that they too will now sign on, as will – when independent – the Republic of South Sudan.

The Egyptian Prime Minister too was in Kampala, although Khartoum’s regime leader, wanted by the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, only sent a representative. Could Egypt’s new government have made overtures towards the ‘produce countries’ in regard of their new political position and readiness to engage in meaningful dialogue at last? Time will tell, so watch this space for future updates on the controversial issue of the Nile waters.

 

NEW PARLIAMENT COMMENCES SWEARING IN

Starting from today the members of parliament will be sworn into office at the main chamber of the house in alphabetical order, with the entire exercise expected to last three days, before the 9th parliament of the Republic of Uganda will then formally meet for the first time, and elect a Speaker as its first order of business. Once inaugurated the new parliament will also vet the choices by the President of his cabinet appointees, a mandatory requirement before any appointment can become legally effective, and it is understood that an extensive list of potential ministerial candidates will be submitted, allowing the President to choose his new team. Ministers of the former government remain until such time that the new appointments take hold in office in an acting capacity, ensuring that the functions of government can be carried out without interruption.

Meanwhile are preparations continuing at the Ministry of Finance for the reading of the national budget 2011/2012 which is due in June and will be submitted on the same day and at the same time to all parliaments of the East African Community, with harmonizing measures built in as every year in the recent past to gradually bring tax, duty and excise tariffs in line as required by the various protocols of the EAC. Watch this space as the new legislature finds its footing and determines its business for its first year in office.

 

EBOLA REPORTEDLY STRIKES AGAIN

The Sunday Vision has confirmed rumours emerging late last week that a case of Ebola has been confirmed. The reported alpha patient is said to have died in the Bombo Military Hospital some 60 kilometres outside the capital Kampala, and about three dozen individuals are now said to be under quarantine and monitored for any signs of the outbreak of the disease. The case was confirmed when a blood sample was tested positive for Ebola at the Atlanta based Centre for Disease Control or in short CDC by mid last week, but the information itself had started spreading even before the results were in, prompting the Ministry of Health to immediately form a task force with the objectives to find the origin of the outbreak, identify contact persons and contain them in isolation units of hospitals or at home. The last outbreak in 2007 in Western Uganda, when some 37 people died out of almost 150 infected patients. The relatively low death ratio was attributed to the swift reaction of the Ugandan health task force in conjunction with their international partners which included staff from the WHO and the CDC at the time. Most outbreaks in the past have been originating in the deep of the Eastern Congolese rainforests and jungles and are being ‘brought’ to neighbouring countries out of ignorance by the infected individuals and the absence of any trained health personnel able to spot the disease and raise the alert.

Officials have already made it clear that tourist and business visitors do not need to worry as containment measures have been put in place several days ago already as they are in any case very unlikely to encounter anyone infected an not yet put into quarantine.

Watch this space for more news if you intend to come to Uganda in the near future or watch out for official statements being posted by government on the official Uganda website or the tourist board website www.visituganda.com where a separate statement is expected to be published very soon.

 

OUR OLD PRESIDENT BECOMES OUR NEW PRESIDENT, AGAIN

All roads were leading to the Kololo Ceremonial Grounds today, as President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni took his oath of office for another term of 5 years. Tens of thousands of enthusiastic Ugandans had lined up along the perimeter, watching the ceremony unfold, after ‘M7’ arrived on the stroke of 11 a.m. and then awaited the arrival of his fellow presidents and heads of government honouring him and Uganda on this day with their presence, a resounding vote of confidence in the stability of the country.

The end February election win of President Museveni, which also saw a two third NRM majority return to Parliament paved the way for the function today.

The head of the Electoral Commission declared the President duly elected before Chief Justice Odoki administered the oath of office to the jubilations of all present, while a 21 gun salute was fired.

Cultural groups from all corners of Uganda performed dances and songs, while the Uganda People’s Defense Forces performed the Honour Guard and executed a text book march past, spurred by the tunes of the Uganda Police Band, arguably the best in the country. The Uganda Air Force also staged a fly past with the fighter jets, ejecting pink clouds into their trails, which caused the crowd to go wild, as the colour pink has in recent days gained special significance when dealing with opposition rabble rousers in the streets.

Notably was the East African anthem played ahead of the Ugandan anthem when the function commenced and ended, signifying a firm commitment towards further regional integration and cooperation during the President’s new term of office.

Defeated presidential candidate Abed Bwanika was also given a strong ovation for being present on the occasion, having put his defeat behind him, while other defeated candidates had opted to stay away from the function, for reasons best known to themselves and best described as an act of childish defiance.

The full text of the President’s acceptance speech is available in due course from Uganda’s leading daily newspaper, the New Vision via www.newvision.co.ug but significantly the President did commit himself, and his new government, to tackle the current wave of price increases as well as ensure the safety and security of all law abiding citizens in the country, to be able to go after their daily business without fear or worries, while highlighting the NRM’s achievements over the past 25 years since it came to power after dislodging the last of the notorious dictatorships in January 1986 and bringing peace, development and progress to the country.

 

SAMUKA ISLAND REOPENS ITS DOORS

It was learned recently that the Samuka Island Lodge has opened its doors again to visitors, Ugandan and foreign alike. A new speedboat collects guests at the Source of the Nile for a ‘ride’ out onto the open lake and in less than an hour visitors reach Samuka Island offering grand views towards the mainland on one side and the open lake and other islands on the other. According to owner Daniel Tyler some refurbishments and renovations have been carried out before throwing the doors wide open again and visitors are welcome with immediate effect. Details on rates and room availability can be obtained through the property’s Kenyan General Manager Ronald who can be reached via +256 772 401508, direct email contact still to be advised.

A visit to Samuka also offers plenty of opportunity to sample the adventure activities along the upper Nile valley, or go out on Lake Victoria for a spot of fishing.

 

QUO VADIS UGANDA TOURISM

Tourism and hospitality operators, under cover of strict anonymity for fear of repercussions and being potentially singled out for violent reactions by political ‘rent-a-hooligan’ gangs, have started to comment on the recent spate of opposition demonstrations in Kampala and upcountry political hot spots. While careful not to be too offensive in their comments towards the responsible section of the opposition, probably mindful that the opposition today may sometime in the distant future mature enough to become the government of the day, the underlying sentiments are nevertheless strong and may give opposition strategists an insight just how much they are offending stakeholders in tourism responsible for providing hundreds of thousands of jobs for Ugandans and potentially creating a new wave of anti opposition sentiments spread by business leaders.

Today is the swearing in ceremony of President Museveni, following his convincing election victory, which magnitude was predicted by all opinion polls including those commissioned by the opposition parties and their foreign NGO friends – all taken aback by the results of the polling and eventually the votes cast.

Economic development and progress, including in the tourism industry, has for many years been a hallmark of the NRM government, and while government is regularly criticized over the lack of sufficient funding for the Uganda Tourist Board and related institutions at least government has provided an enabling environment for business to prosper. In fact, government’s ability to bring peace to the country and through a series of economic and fiscal measures ensure economic progress and development over the past two decades are arguably the main factors for the election win, something either not understood or overlooked altogether by the opposition.

The onset of the political crisis in Northern Africa and parts of the Middle East, which sent oil prices rocketing and fueled global inflation hit East Africa’s populations, not just Ugandans very hard, and though relief is now in sight due to the sharp downward correction of crude oil prices, this will take a while to translate into the cost of imported items, including fuels, to come down.

It was here that sections of the opposition perverted the daily struggle of Ugandans, who cannot afford a bus fare and have to walk to work. Staging scripted ‘walk to work’ protests, with sections of the local and international media in league and almost open cahoots, they were attempting to turn the daily challenges of life for many Ugandans into counterproductive road blockages, random violence by rented mobs and looting of mostly small scale retail businesses.

Government came down hard and fast on them but the deliberate way of biased and one sided reporting by sections of the media swiftly portrayed Uganda as an unsafe destination, to the deluded delight of the perpetrators of such incidents who happily see the economy, and in particular the tourism industry sink into the abyss, ready to destroy what has taken 25 years to build if only to serve their own selfish purposes and satisfy their own egos.

Tourism operators have now warned that the country could lose as much as 100 million US Dollars a month in projected tourism incomes, as airline chiefs in Kampala too have sounded the alarm over the cancellation of booked tickets with potential visitors scared off by sensational TV pictures NOT reflecting the reality on the ground. Hotel managers have confirmed a trend downwards of occupancies since the opposition started their ill conceived campaign and safari operators and car hire firms are seeing their fleet utilization come down too, as have occupancies in safari lodges and camps in the national parks.

As said here before, Uganda is a fundamentally peaceful country, with unique attractions worth visiting, from Lake Victoria and the Source of the River Nile to the Mountains of the Moon, from gorilla tracking in Bwindi and Mgahinga to the spectacular scenery of Kidepo Valley National Park and from Murchisons Falls to Kibale Forest. The municipality of Jinja has acquired the byname of ‘Adventure Capital of East Africa’ for its range of thrilling attractions, offering white water rafting, river trips, bungee jumping, quad biking, horseback riding but also hikes along the river and trips by bicycle through the friendly villages nearby. Over the years, and while admittedly with a more focused and deliberate financing of the sector by government much more could have been achieved, the progress of the industry is impressive by any standards. Indigenous stakeholders, arguably more than in any other country of the East African Community, have come to the forefront of the tourism industry and are now providing tens of thousands of direct and even more indirect jobs, tourism after coffee and tea is the highest foreign exchange earner for the country and the upswing of demand has seen more and more international airlines fly to Entebbe, connecting Uganda to the world and the world to Uganda.

Said a leading stakeholder yesterday to this correspondent: ‘…the opposition lost the plot when they started to incite violence amongst their supporters. They cannot deny this. It is on public record that the main culprit has even ruled out the use of force when asked before the elections. Does this not show what is going on in his mind? Ugandans have rejected him, three times in a row. I and many of my colleagues welcome our government’s response. Ok, some measures were poorly executed and the responses seen on TV were unproportional here and there, but in the final analysis those blocking roads, throwing stones, looting and stealing in the midst of what they created were getting what was due to them. No government can just look on when rented hooligans and criminals are unleashed on the people, and the motives behind it are clear, it is an attempt to grab power by illegal means.

Already our hotel occupancies are down, restaurants have empty tables, hire cars are left parked and less safaris go on the road to the parks. Business leaders now must speak out and stand up, support government in reasonable measures to restore quiet on our streets and demand of the opposition to make their case in parliament when it is inaugurated next week. Politics in Uganda is no longer for the streets, it is for the institutions we have created for that purpose. You yourself have struggled with us for many years to make tourism what it is today and I and my colleagues sincerely hope that this political madman is not allowed to destroy what we built by hard work and determination.  We have to tell them ‘No you Cant’, stop the violence and stop going on the streets before you ruin all of us, otherwise expect no sympathy when you get arrested again and thrown in jail, you are no martyr, you are by all means a political failure and hooligan now.’

Similar sentiments were expressed in varying degrees by other stakeholders in regular contact with this correspondent, showing how fed up the tourism industry, but also the business community in general have become with these attempts to rock our peace. It can only be hoped that after the formal swearing in of the president today and the announcement of a new government, calm will return to Kampala allowing our visitors from abroad to peacefully walk our streets, sightsee and shop as has for long been our hallmark.

 

KENYA AIRWAYS EXPLAINS DENIED BOARDING FOR UGANDAN OPPOSITION LEADER

The CEO of Kenya Airways, Dr. Titus Naikuni, has just released a statement explaining the circumstances under which Ugandan opposition leader Besigye was denied boarding this morning in his attempt to return to Kampala. The Kenyan national airline had received information that the flight would be denied landing in Entebbe, causing the plane to turn back to Nairobi and inconveniencing passengers.

Hence, the passenger was asked to step aside when trying to check in until the airline was able to ascertain from competent authorities at Entebbe International Airport that any aircraft carrying him would be allowed to land, and once that information was at hand the passenger was rebooked on to the late afternoon flight from Nairobi to Entebbe.

The Media Centre in Kampala however sent out a statement to the press that Besigye had apparently declined to travel on the evening flight, further complicating the situation.

Meanwhile have several head of states and government arrived in Entebbe who will witness the swearing in of President Museveni tomorrow at the ceremonial grounds in Kololo and have settled down at the Commonwealth Resort in Munyonyo, from where they are also expected to hold bilateral and multilateral talks with their Ugandan hosts.

 

Herebelow is the Kenya Airways statement in full as received just minutes ago:

 

Wednesday 11th May 2011

Kenya Airways Statement

Kenya Airways would like to confirm to its passengers, customers, investors and the public that Ugandan Opposition Leader Dr. Kizza Besigye is now scheduled to depart on KQ414/11th May departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for Entebbe International Airport at 1750hrs.

Dr. Besigye was earlier denied boarding on KQ 410/11th May at 0800hrs following information from Kenya Airways internal intelligence sources that the aircraft would not be allowed to land at the Entebbe International Airport if he was on board. Dr. Besigye thus could not board the aircraft as Kenya Airways had to first ascertain this information without inconveniencing the other passengers destined for Entebbe.
The airline has now confirmed and issued Dr. Besigye and his wife tickets to depart Nairobi in the evening. The airline takes earliest opportunity to apologize to Dr. Besigye for any inconveniences caused.

Titus Naikuni

Group Managing Director and CEO

Sent  by:
Chris Karanja
Corporate Communications Manager
Tel. +254-20 +254 20 642 2582 Mob. +254+254 732 845 915
Website:http://www.kenya-airways.com

 

SHELL CONTINUES TO RIDE ROUGHSHOD OVER AVIATION FUEL CUSTOMERS

Domestic charter airlines depending on a regular supply of AVGAS to run their aircraft had news from Shell, some say after being stung by acid criticism over their pricing and supply policies in Uganda, when the price for AVGAS came down from a record high of US Dollars 2.71 per litre to 2.51 US Dollars. While aviators generally welcomed the 20 US cents reduction one known for his ‘rapid reaction fire’ commented: ‘these boys from Shell are mocking us surely. They reduce their price to 2.51 US Dollars while in Dar es Salaam the price for AVGAS is 1.60 US Dollars, and even in Nairobi the price is after recent increases US Dollars 1.93 per litre. Do they want to earn another big bonus before they finally depart from their retail business in Uganda at our expense?

A regular source at the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority commented off the record that the developments in fuel prices, especially for AVGAS which largely ‘drives’ general aviation, has been of great concern to the CAA as they are the ones giving concessions for fuel supplies at airport and aerodromes, saying: ‘we hear about the discrepancies in prices between say Mwanza or Kilimanjaro and Entebbe. Of course this does not make us happy because it makes flying so much more expensive in Uganda. From what I get from the airlines Shell cannot explain why the added distance of transport between Kenya and Uganda should inflate prices so much and it looks a lot like monopolistic exploitation and price fixing.’

Sources in Kajjansi also confirmed that charges for charter flights now reflect the high fuel cost and that leisure flying has reduced, no surprise considering the cost of ‘going up’ for an hour or part thereof.

The Uganda Association of Air Operators is said to be looking into opening a new supply route from Tanzania, where BP is trading AVGAS and said to be willing to explore an onward export to Uganda to finally end the chronic shortages and sell fuel at prices reflecting market developments and not Shell’s arbitrary demands. Watch this space.

 

Kenya News

FACEBOOK ‘ANTI KENYA AIRWAYS’ SITE ‘BOUND TO FAIL’

Following the incident last week when a Ugandan opposition leader was denied boarding while the airline investigated reports that their flight would be denied landing in Entebbe – sufficiently explained later on and at least in aviation circles accepted as a prudent decision – a group of Uganda’s opposition activists has now resorted to creating a Facebook page ‘Boycott Kenya Airways 4 Violanting Dr. Kiiza Besigye’s rights’. Besides the obvious spelling error, pointing to the haste and incoherence in setting this up, the effort is widely regarded as a waste of cyberspace, and a ‘cyber bar’ where ranters and ravers find an outlet to vent their anger against all and sundry with comments often not even relevant to this event.

Said a regular aviation source to this correspondent yesterday: ‘Facebook is becoming a safe haven for all sorts of people wanting to also say something. At times Facebook takes them off because they are not just a nuisance but breaking the law by calling for criminal acts. The impact of this will be very little, hardly felt probably because Kenya Airways is the leading airline in the region and just got caught up in this almost by accident. When an operations department gets word that a flight might be sent back without landing because of a certain passenger on board, they have to act to avoid all other passengers getting delayed. In this case it appears that KQ was eventually given the assurance that they would be able to land in Entebbe with that passenger on board but by that time the flight had left. They rebooked the man and then he refused, he even refused to go with Air Uganda for reasons best known to himself.

Kenya Airways offers the most connections between Nairobi and Entebbe and has been flying there through thick and thin. Air Uganda now flies about three times a day most days and 540 flies about twice a day. So people have a choice and option which airline to use and still KQ is market leader. In fact many Ugandans own shares in Kenya Airways and are not going to sell them over something like this.’

Another aviation regular had this to say: ‘…best to keep politics out of business. This was unfortunate but some are making a fuss out of it for their own ends, like the EastAfrican because of their affiliation with Air Uganda. This is known but not many talk about it. They have tried to talk funny things about KQ in the past and it never worked like they intended. So really, this is a passing cloud’.

True enough, as this correspondent will continue to fly the ‘Pride of Africa’ regardless. Happy Landings.

 

NAIROBI SET TO CEMENT REGIONAL DOMINANCE WITH MORE HOTELS

News have emerged from Nairobi that the arrival on the hospitality scene by Rezidor, owner of the Radisson hotel brand, will invigorate the hotel market in the Kenyan capital. The company is reportedly going to open a medium sized hotel in the Westlands area of Nairobi as more global players are also eyeing Kenya as a new and lucrative destination. Presently InterContinental, Hilton and Fairmont are the three leading global brands present in Nairobi but Sheraton, Marriott, Kempinski and others too are said to keenly observe the market development in Kenya, which in recent years, inspite bumps in the road, has positioned itself as East Africa’s leading MICE destination with in particular Nairobi taking the lion’s share of the meeting and convention business opting for an East African destination. They however have to contend with regional giant Serena Hotels and local Kenyan group Sarova, both of which have a strong market position with their Nairobi flag ship properties combined with a regional network of safari lodges and beach resorts.

The government’s plans to construct a brand new state of the art convention centre in Mombasa has also spurred interest for coastal properties, but for now the ‘big league’ is probably more keen on being represented in Nairobi than seeking a presence in the coastal resort market.

A planned expansion of the international airport in Nairobi, which includes a second runway in the medium term, is also thought to be an added factor for investors in the hotel industry in Kenya, as more airlines are queuing up to fly into East Africa’s strongest aviation hub. More airlines and more flights are the foundation for more passengers streaming into Kenya, and they all need a bed to sleep in. Watch this space.

 

KENYA SET FOR MORE ‘GREEN’ ENERGY

Geothermal energy sources are already in use in Kenya through the existing geothermal power station in the Rift Valley near Mt. Longonot, but the lastest results of test drilling near the Menengai Crater not far from the town of Nakuru are yet more promising. The ‘Menengai field’ as experts call it is thought to have the capacity to generate as much as 1.600 MW of power and the first successful drill, some 900 metres deep, and shallower than in other places hence reducing the cost of such projects, will by mid 2012 produce an initial 8 MW while other sites nearby are being prepared for production.

Kenya has in recent years suffered of droughts seriously effecting the capacity of hydro power generation as dams were drying up while at the same time demand for electricity rose sharply. This caused the increased use of thermal power generation units, which use heavy fuel oil and diesel and are both expensive and environmentally unfriendly.

As the country, renown worldwide for its outstanding safari parks, works on reducing its carbon foot print, wind energy projects are advancing across the country. Near Nairobi, on the Ngong Hills, an existing wind power farm is being expanded and two projects in Northern Kenya, one of them in Turkana, have secured financing and are advancing on schedule, bringing on completion a further combined output of 650 MW into the national grid. Going green to stay green, way to go Kenya.

 

SNIFFER DOGS TO BE DEPLOYED AT MOMBASA PORT

Information was received overnight from Nairobi that the Kenya Wildlife Service is now set to use sniffer dogs at the seaport of Mombasa too, besides already deploying the canine detectives at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. Recent seizures of blood ivory hidden in cargo containers or checked baggage at Nairobi’s international airport are largely attributed to the vigilance of the four legged ‘sniffers’ who have a high success rate in their ability to detect ivory, rhino horn and other illegal animal products like skins and bones.

However, indications are that increasing amounts of blood ivory are being hidden in ordinary shipping containers too, which leave the country through the sea port of Mombasa and as an added measure of prevention and detection the dogs are now going to be based at the port too together with their specially trained handlers. This measure follows the recent confiscation of blood ivory in Thailand contained in a frozen fish container shipped out of Mombasa, which yielded over two tons of ivory.

In a related development, but not yet formally confirmed, was it learned that Kenya was once again setting an example for other African countries in the fight against poaching, by publicly burning confiscated ivory stocks to take the contraband permanently out of the market, a sharp reminder that other countries, including Tanzania, ought to follow such splendid examples instead of seeking permission from CITES to export blood ivory. Expect confirmation and date here shortly, so watch this space.

 

PLANS FOR ROAD THROUGH NAKURU PARK ‘UNACCEPTABLE’

‘Have our planners learned nothing from the controversy about the highway project across the Serengeti’ asked a furious tourism stakeholder from Nairobi, when news emerged that the Nakuru council and the Kenyan Road Authority had put up proposals to create a ‘bypass’ for the traffic which presently snarls from further upcountry through Nakuru and congests the municipality.

Plans for a highway around Nakuru date back almost 40 years but were never pursued until recently revived and brought into the public domain when tenders for planning and designs were advertised.

Lake Nakuru National Park, world renowned for its ‘pink shores’ when countless lesser flamingo are present and feed in the alkaline waters of the lake, is one of Kenya’s biggest tourist magnets and a major source of income for Kenya Wildlife Services and the municipality. The park is also home to the endangered Rothschild giraffes and most notably Kenya’s first designated rhino sanctuary, created back in the early 1980’s when poaching was as rife as it is today again. Any attempts to reduce the size of the park, already shrunk from its long ago size and now totally fenced off to restrict animal migration and protect adjoining farmlands, would lead to serious consequences for the game inside the park, and a road, as is the case with the planned Serengeti highway, would have potentially devastating consequences.

Tourism stakeholders and the conservation fraternity were quick to serve notice to government that national parks were a ‘no go’ area for national roads and that they would swamp government with court cases, petitions and if necessary peaceful protests in Nakuru and Nairobi, should the plans not be shelved and the planned road not be routed differently. Watch this space as yet another conservation saga is in the making, pegging conservation against ‘progress and development’.

 

Tanzania News

KEMPINSKI DROPS ZANZIBAR

Information was confirmed today that Kempinski Hotels will be ending their management involvement in the ‘Zamani Zanzibar Kempinski’ with immediate effect. The shock news for the Zanzibari tourism sector were elegantly smoothened over by information from Kempinski Hotels that the management agreement with the owning company ASB Tanzania Investments Limited had run its course and was not being renewed by mutual consent. It was not immediately clear if ASB would be seeking a new management company for the property or opt for direct management, as the name ‘Kempinski’ which has been shining alongside the Zamani is now being taken down and off the stationary.

Kempinski is now left with two properties in Tanzania, the ‘Bilila Safari Lodge’ in the heart of the Serengeti and the Dar es Salaam showcase ‘Kilimanjaro Kempinski Hotel’.

The company was only recently rumoured to be pursuing a hotel project in the UNESCO World Heritage Site protected old ‘Stone Town’ in Zanzibar, which proved to be somewhat of a PR nightmare for them but it could not be ascertained that the plans for the old ‘Stone Town’ had anything to do with the company’s decision to end the management agreement or if in fact it was ABS which ‘pulled the plug’ following a ‘disappointing overall performance in recent years’ as a source close to the property in Zanzibar has claimed.

Kempinski then quelled speculation immediately on their overall future in Tanzania, denying any plans to pull out from their remaining two properties, a statement which will be tested as time goes by. Watch this space for breaking news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors.

 

KARIBU TOURISM FAIR ‘SOLD OUT’

The ‘safari capital of East Africa’ as Arusha is also known is bracing for the influx of as many as 8.000 more visitors in early June, when the Karibu Tourism show, the region’s one and only international tourism trade fair, is taking place between June 03 and 05.

As many as 300 exhibitors can now be accommodated, most of them coming from the wider East African region although the Seychelles too have for the second year running taken up space to promote twin centre holidays between the East African mainland and the paradise beaches of the archipelago.

Companies from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda will make up the bulk of exhibitors and visitors, including the all important ‘buyers’ are expected to come from many parts of the world to see the latest innovations and product improvements resorts, safari lodge and camp operators and safari companies offer to their clients.

Many coming to Arusha for Karibu also take advantage of the low season fam trips organized for travel agents and overseas tour operators, who now happily combine the attendance of the Arusha based Karibu fair with a fact finding mission to the ‘Northern Circuit’ national parks of Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti.

Media houses attending the Karibu Fair are however also expected, besides reports from site and interviews with stakeholders, to focus on a range of environmental and conservation issues this year, ranging from the controversial Serengeti highway over the soda ash plant at Lake Natron to the dropped application to UNESCO for recognition of the Eastern Arc Mountains as a World Heritage Site. These controversies, which also include Stiegler’s Gorge at the Selous and the old ‘Stone Town’ in Zanzibar, have stirred global debate over the wisdom of the Tanzanian government to engage in such destructive projects and undoubtedly the conservation minded tourism industry in Tanzania will find allies with the international media in their struggle to preserve the very nature from which tourism not just benefits but entirely depends on.

 

PRECISION AIR SHOWS OFF NEW PILOTS AND ENGINEERS

Tanzania’s leading airline has released information yesterday about their successful cooperation with French aircraft manufacturer ATR to train engineers and pilots alongside the 7 aircraft purchase deal signed back in 2006. All aircraft have since been delivered and are flying in the Precision colours across the Tanzanian and East African skies while 8 engineers trained by ATR on aircraft maintenance for their -42 and -72 aircraft have also returned home and joined the Precision Air workforce.

Precision has invested heavily in a new hangar in Dar es Salaam where scheduled light and heavy maintenance is now being carried out, keeping such work inside Tanzania and saving the airline substantial expense compared to previous times when such maintenance had to be contracted out to facilities capable of meeting the required standards and approved by the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority at substantial cost.

At the same time has the airline announced that 4 pilots trained to fly the ATR aircraft have also completed their integration into the pilot’s ranks and are now flying for Precision, including two lady pilots, still a rarity in East Africa and across the continent. According to a source at the airline the trainee pilots were selected from amongst hundreds of applicants and trained from ‘scratch’ at the expense of Precision Air, graduating through the various pilot stages until they ‘checked out’ for the ATR range of aircraft used by Precision as First Officers. The cost of becoming a commercial airline pilot is generally prohibitive for most aspiring young people and it is often only through the sponsorship of an established airline that the citizens of the East African countries can manage to fulfill their life’s ambition and take to the skies. Precision Air deserves unreserved congratulations and compliments for their commitment to train young Tanzanians for such responsible positions and assist in gradually phasing out expatriate pilots.

 

GOVERNMENT INTIMIDATION BLAMED ON LOW TURNOUT FOR CONSULTATIONS

The present regionwide consultations for the new proposed East African Community Ecosystems Bill also took to Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam, but in contrast to a good turnout elsewhere in the region attendance was reported to have been low, when the meeting kicked off.

Many outspoken critics of the Tanzanian government’s plans to build a highway across the Serengeti, permit a soda ash extraction plant amidst the sole breeding grounds of the lesser flamingo on the shores of Lake Natron, the revival of plans to build a hydro electric dam and power plant at Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous or the latest revelations that the Tanga Marine Park was to be the site for a major harbour development, opted to stay away from the meeting. Two regular sources from Arusha and Dar es Salaam cited fears, pointing to the government’s campaign to silence the local media and intimidate opponents of their plans who have been called ‘traitors to development’, often a precursor for trumped up criminal charges to get rid of ‘problem people’ alleged to be against the government. It has in the past been repeatedly alleged that TANAPA and SENAPA staff, but also others from different government departments involved, were given gagging orders not to publicly comment and express their disagreement to the Serengeti project in particular, under the threat of losing their jobs if not worse.

‘Some of us cannot afford to be seen. We know that government is shadowing these consultations and may identify us when we speak up in public. Right now we might submit written feedback to the EAC in Arusha about the bill. The new bill is good because even Tanzanian government must obey it when it has been passed and they can then no longer just decide on their own to cut the Serengeti into two or destroy the flamingo breeding grounds on which all of East Africa depends’ said one source using the phone of a third party to avoid tracing the call back to his own number.

Another source also hailed the new EAC draft bill as big progress and then added: ‘we are using the EAC institutions to fight against such projects. Tanzanian courts are not likely to give us hearings but the East African Court will be independent when we take government to court to block the highway, to block the soda ash plant location, to block the Tanga project. Our government thinks it is not accountable to the people but when we have our day in court in Arusha they will see that they cannot act in total isolation and ignore pleas and petitions from all over the world.’

Watch this space to get regular updates on these most controversial issues surrounding a number of planned major projects driven by the Tanzanian government with big global financial and mining interests hiding in the background.

 

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR EXPANDS DOMESTIC AND SHORT REGIONAL ROUTES

The national airline of Rwanda has confirmed that they are adding two afternoon flights on their domestic route between Kanombe International Airport / Kigali to Kamembe. The daily 08.30 departure, using the airline’s Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft, will now be supplemented with a Tuesday and Saturday 2 p.m. flight, following an upswing in demand and persistent requests by passengers using RwandAir on the route.

It was also learned that at the end of May the airline will start operating an onward flight between Kamembe and Bujumbura / Burundi as well as add a Kigali – Gisenyi flight, although traffic days and departure / arrival times are not yet available. Check www.rwandair.com for this information which should be available on the website shortly. Happy landings.

 

RWANDA HOTELIERS SEEK WISDOM FROM MOMBASA COUNTERPARTS

The hotel and restaurant association of Rwanda has just embarked on a fact finding mission by at least 30 members to Mombasa, where they expect to meet and interact with their counterparts running beach resorts along the sunny beaches of Kenya’s coastline. According to information presently available they may also meet colleagues in other parts of Kenya including Nairobi.

High on the agenda will be matters concerning staff training, marketing and operational issues and the Rwandan delegation is expected to also meet with officials of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers to also talk about institutional cooperation in the future.

The group was seen off after a cocktail function held by the association during which notably the head of tourism and conservation at the Rwanda Development Board Ms. Rica Rwigamba urged the hoteliers to improve standards and ensure that Rwandan hotels, resorts and safari lodges are of equal standards as those in the East African Community member states.

 

KWITA IZINA PROGRAMME FRAMEWORK NOW AVAILABLE

The annual gorilla naming festival, now in its 7th year, has grown in leaps and bounds and is today a weeklong celebration of conservation and tourism in Rwanda, paying tribute to the country’s ‘signature animal’ and most sought after tourism activity.

Once a single day event the organizers at the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation, have worked hard to arrange a series of activities and special commemorations, drawing in conservation and tourism journalists from all over the world and bringing tourist visitors into the country booked to co-incide with Kwita Izina to sample the incredible spirit this celebration evokes.

A national cycling tour will leave Kigali on June 11th for a two day sporting event, bringing together local, regional and international riders and this will then be followed by a conservation conference on the 15th of June, before launching a series of community programmes and projects, co-financed with tourism income, on the 16th of June. June 17th will see “Igitaramo’ unfold, a festival aimed at the local communities in which foreign visitors are truly welcome and made part of it before ‘Kwita Izina’ will then take place on Saturday 18th of June, when 22 newly born gorilla babies will be formally given their names at the festival ground outside Ruhengeri / Musanze.

‘Namers’ have again been drawn from within Rwanda, from the region and from further abroad to recognized individuals with a proven record in conservation but also public officials involved in one way or another with tourism. Visit the official website www.rwandatourism.com for more information on the country and details of the cycling route and the location of the other festivities and activities.

 

IT IS INAUGURAL DAY FOR LIBREVILLE

RwandAir has today operated its very first ‘extension’ flight between Brazzaville / Congo and Libreville / Gabon, using a B737-500 aircraft. The flight, with full traffic rights between Congo and Gabon, is the first of an East African airline to use that routing and passengers bound for these West African destinations are sure to flock to RwandAir through connecting flights.

RwandAir is expecting two brand new B737-800’s to arrive over the coming months to further upgrade and modernize their fleet, and the two new ‘birds’ are expected to join the CRJ200’s flying for RwandAir in the East African region. The new aircraft will be equipped with the latest on board entertainment systems as they will be deployed to West Africa, South Africa and to Dubai via Mombasa.

Visit www.rwandair.com for more information on flight schedules, destinations and special offers both to and from Rwanda – the Land of a Thousand Hills’. Happy Landings!

 

KANOMBE INTERNATIONAL UPGRADES TO CONTINUE

Although the planning for the new Bugesera International Airport is continuing on schedule the Rwandan government is nevertheless committed to upgrade and modernize the present Kanombe International Airport to keep it user friendly and able to cater for the sharply risen traffic experienced in recent years.

‘We are a landlocked country and depend on air traffic more than others, for our visitors to reach us, for urgent cargo to arrive by air’ said a senior aviation stakeholder when asked about the latest reports, that the number of check in desks at Kanombe was being doubled and the arrival capacity for baggage delivery too expanded by 100 percent. ‘We need to make Kanombe even more user friendly, this is the public face of Rwanda our visitors see when they arrive and when they depart. The country must give a positive impression to them on both occasions. It is not only the physical facilities which are face-lifted and improved. We now have the latest technology for check in and so forth in place, but lounges and shops also are on the agenda. More traffic often means that some flights come and go almost at the same time so we require faster handling which makes for shorter waiting and queues. There will be better and more parking also and the entire package of our international airport is upgraded and made attractive for business to come and invest in extra facilities to serve travelers and people working here but also Rwandans who want to come and see what our gateway looks like. But also very important is our staff here and we have invested in training them, giving refresher courses and bring the latest information on  aviation security, safety and customer relations to them. Mind you it is not the new check in desk which makes the difference we seek it is the people manning those desks and interacting with our passengers’.

Rwanda has in recent years made a huge and deliberate effort to upgrade and improve infrastructure across the entire country and roll out a human resource development programme which has paid off handsomely with investments pouring into the country on an unprecedented scale and visitors streaming to the ‘land of a thousand hills’ in ever greater numbers, enjoying the natural and cultural attractions Rwanda has to offer. As reported a few days ago, year on year results for the first quarter of tourism receipts shows an increase from 43 million US Dollars to 56 million US Dollars in direct earnings, an indicator just how successful the quest for quality has been in Rwanda. Watch this space for regular updates from Rwanda and other countries in Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.

 

MARRIOTT TEAM EXPECTED IN KIGALI

Information came overnight from Kigali that a team of senior Marriott executives is due to arrive in Rwanda, where they will visit the ongoing building site of the proposed new Kigali Marriott Hotel. While in country they are also expected to hold discussions with government officials and make various courtesy calls on Kigali city officials and government leaders.

The Kigali Marriott Hotel is the first the group will manage in Eastern and Central Africa and maybe a harbinger of things to come, if conventional wisdom stands that global hotel groups, once entering a new market, will always seek a further expansion into that region.

The hotel’s construction is according to a regular source in Kigali advancing well and the hotel is due to ‘soft open’ in the later part of next year, adding much needed top quality facilities to the hospitality scene in Rwanda. The ownership of the hotel is said to comprise of a mainly Chinese business and financial consortium who underwrote the project jointly with local Rwandese partners.

Rwanda has been promoting its capital city as an emerging MICE destination and has embarked in recent years on a deliberate course to provide additional facilities to hold major continental and international meetings in the city, while in a parallel move also expanding capacity on the safari circuit to have corresponding numbers of beds available when the big MICE business starts to come in earnest to the land of a thousand hills.

 

Seychelles News

INTERVIEW WITH THE CEO OF THE SEYCHELLES TOURIST BOARD ALAIN ST.ANGE

Periodically opportunity arises to speak with leading tourism stakeholders, and Alain St. Ange has established a reputation in recent years to be one of Africa’ foremost tourism gurus, considering how he and his team turned around the fortunes of the Seychelles tourism industry since coming into office in 2009.They stemmed the tide of the global turn down and created ‘Brand Seychelles’ now acknowledged and observed if not intensely studied from around the world:

 

(The author seen here with Alain St. Ange during a past conference attendance)

 

Q1.

Seychelles made waves around the world with their first ever and hugely successful Carnival Festival with participants from all ‘traditional carnival nations’. What made you opt for the ‘global instead of local’ preparation?

 

A.

 

Seychelles saw a window of opportunity in having a carnival of carnivals exactly because everyone else was doing their own event for themselves and for their people. The world needed an event that went beyond day to day politics, religion and country differences. We wanted to stage an event where people are people and respected for what they are. This is primarily why we have launched ourselves with the task of organizing this unique event now called the carnivals of carnivals where the best and the most famous carnivals parade side by side with cultural groups from the Community of Nations coming from the four corners of the world. Seychelles is the ideal place for such an event that aims to bring the world together because we remain first and foremost a safe destination. Our safety label remains one of our unique selling point especially now when so much is happening in the different parts of the world. Secondly Seychelles, as a country prides itself that it remains ‘friends of all and enemies of none’ in the countries that make up the Community of Nations. Thirdly in bringing the cultures of the world together we felt we were well suited because the unique blend of our people is a reflection of the Community of Nations in itself, because the of the settlement of Seychelles that saw arrivals from the four corners of the world.

 

Q2. With Number One gone so supremely well, what have you in store for us for the 2012 Second Edition of the Seychelles Carnival?

A.

The 2012 edition of the Seychelles ‘Carnival International de Victoria’ will be even better that the 2011 edition. Already we have new countries confirming their participation and those who were part of this year’s event are confirming that their delegation with be bigger and better. We hope eTN will again honor us with your presence at this unique event which we stage as the melting pot of cultures where the world’s best and reputed carnivals join cultural groups from all over the world to stage an explosion of cultural mix. The carnival procession will be shorter in 2012 because we realized that the established route was a bit long. We shall have more music from the Community of Nations to turn Victoria into the Capital where cultures meet and mix. We promise those participating that we shall ensure adequate press coverage of their participation and this we will ensure that a big press delegation in again in Seychelles for our unique carnival of carnivals.

Q3. Certainly the tourism world, especially across Africa, sat up and took notice that ‘little’ Seychelles and not the big boys on the continent like South Africa staged such a hugely successful event. In fact, media coverage continues and your team and you in particular seem to have been singled out as Africa’s latest tourism gurus, and you are portrayed as the savior of Seychelles’ tourism industry?

A.

You are embarrassing me with such glowing remarks about my work. I am simply a committed Seychellois with no hidden agenda. I was mandated by the President of our Republic to redress and relaunch the Seychelles Tourism Industry and I have been working hard to deliver on what I had been mandated to do. I am very much a people’s person which enables me to network well. Tourism, you know, is a human industry, and as a people’s person I am at ease in this industry. I am not a difficult person and my political past has enabled me to dialogue as easily with grass root masses as with the leadership. I am also very innovative and not scared to be involved personally and to lead my team in needed actions. I operate an open door policy and believe that my team remains the backbone of my successes. I have empowered our people giving them the most important and crucial positions in the organization and know that they all remain as committed as I am because they are Seychellois first and foremost.

Q4. Don’t be so humble now, you have earned your recognition many times over. Have not other countries like Gabon invited you, the Seychelles that is, to help them out in literally creating a tourism industry there and turning it into a success, have not others in Africa come to study your recipe of success and are liaising with you on how best to copy it?

 

A.

Our desire to work with others has been well accepted. We [indeed] have a tourism industry that is working {very well now]. Last year we were 11% up in visitor arrival numbers on the year before and this year we are already up by more than 9% over the same period as last year. We are respected as a leader in the field of tourism and it is true, we have been asked to assist other countries in looking at their own tourism industry and see how we can best assist them to develop their own potential.

Q5. Coming to a very current hot topic regarding the Seychelles. How do you feel about the decision of the Royal couple to travel to the Seychelles for their honeymoon.


Answer:- The British Royal Couple have been in the news since their spectacular wedding. We in Seychelles followed the wedding on television like the whole world did. Out High Commissioner in the UK, HE Mr Patrick Pillay attended the wedding on behalf of Seychelles and as a former British Colony with close ties to Great Britain and with the People of Great Britain we shared in their joy. Our President, Mr James Michel sent a congratulatory message on his own behalf and on behalf of the People of Seychelles.
We have never said that they were in Seychelles, and we would never speak about any such high profile visitors. We receive many stars and VVIPs and, as a country offering a personalised style of tourism, we always ensure they retain their privacy and freedom.


Q6. How much of a boost will this ‘Secret Honeymoon’ mean to your team’s and the Seychelles’ tourism industry’s efforts to promote the archipelago abroad


Answer:- The hype in the world press and in the UK press will boost our visibility. This is a fact. The press has been speculating a lot and the name Seychelles has been mentioned. It is obvious that this is publicity for our islands and will help in our continued promotional efforts of the Seychelles.

Q7. You were just given huge recognition by Emirates Holidays as the most supportive national tourism organisation.


Answer:- Yes we were recently singled out by Emirates Holidays as their most supportive national tourism office in the Middle East, Africa and the Indian Ocean. It was a great recognition for our sincerity to our responsibilities and dedication to our work. The Seychelles Tourism Board has today a great and fully dedicated Team, this is why we are receiving such recognitions.


Q8. What does the double daily of Emirates mean to the tourism sector in the Seychelles


Answer:- Emirates has brought Seychelles to be seen as a tourism destination that is but one stop away from any country. This is a big big plus for our islands. Gone are the days where we said which day you could travel to Seychelles, today the travellers decide and pick their travelling days and that can be any day. The 14 flights announcement by Emirates has been a positive announcement which showed the confidence this airline sees in the tourism industry of the Seychelles.


Q9. Qatar Airways has announced they will go daily from Doha bringing even more passengers to the islands. How are resorts coping with the added demand and how many rooms are under construction right now to cater for the extra traffic, how many new resorts and which top hotel and resort brands are now queuing up.


Answer:- Yes Qatar Airways has also announced that they will be increasing their flights to seven a week. This will again increase out available seat capacity and will help grow our tourism arrival numbers. Last year (2010) we finished the year with an increase of 11% in visitor arrival numbers over the 2009 figures. This gave Seychelles a new record in visitor arrival numbers. This year todate we are recording a plus 9% in visitor arrival numbers over last year. These are positive indicators for our hotel owners, but the accommodation beds also grew considerably last year and we have today around 9000 bed in the islands inclusive of floating accommodation units, the boats and cruisers. Early this year Raffles opened their Praslin Resort and by the end of the year Kempinski Hotels will open their Mahe Resort. We noww have all the main and important brand names and we are satisfied that those we see amongs the best are here.

Q10. You now have the annual carnival and SUBIOS, are you planning for more such visible events which can further improve ‘Brand Seychelles’ recognition across the globe?


Answer:- In March this year we staged the very succesful Seychelles ‘Carnival International de Victoria’ which is now known as the carnival of carnivals because it is the only carnival that has the best carnivals of the world parade alongside cultural groups from the Community of Nations. In November we are staging the 23rd Edition of SUBIOS, The Seychelles Festival of the Sea. Both these events will play a major part on our calender of events. They are part and parcel of the ‘Seychelles Brand’ of Tourism because they encourage the human connection between visitors and the Seychellois. Events bring people and attract press coverage. Thjs helps visibility for our islands and it is a win win for our people, our country and provides a bonus for our visitors. We also have an Eco-Healing Marathon in February, the International Sailing Regatta in May, the National Day Celebrations in June, a La Digue Island Feast in August, a Seychelles Ball in September and a Creole Festival in October.  It is by all account an impressive list of events. We are a fun loving people and our ‘joie de vive’ remains one of our Unique Selling Points alongside our diversity in islands, people and food, and the best in sun, sea and sand holidays.

 

Thank you Mr. St. Ange for your time in answering our questions.

 

SEYCHELLES MAKE WAVES AT IIPT CONFERENCE IN LUSAKA

Wherever the Seychelles Tourist Board and delegation goes, expect ‘big waves’ and a lasting impact, as now seen at the IIPT Peace for Tourism Conference in Lusaka / Zambia. This Pan African Tourism Conference, under the theme ‘Meeting the challenges of climate change to tourism in Africa and the developing world’ brought together hundreds of senior private and public sector tourism stakeholders, looking at a variety of measures the industry can take to reduce its carbon foot print and become sustainable in coming years.

President Rupiah Banda personally greeted the conference participants and was saying ‘Zambia recognises the important role that tourism can play in the economic and social development of Africa and the developing world. Tourism also helps to foster peace in the world as every traveller is essentially a peace ambassador’. True words spoken by Zambia’s President and reflecting exactly what he already emphasized two years ago when granting an interview to this correspondent during an African Union meeting at the lake side resort of Munyonyo in Kampala.

Seychelles Tourism Board Chief Executive Alain St. Ange was invited to the conference by organizer and IIPT President Louis D’Amore and will speak to the delegates on the topic of ‘Developmental, Cultural and Partnership Perspectives’. Few of course are more qualified than Mr. St. Ange, whose fame at home in the archipelago but notably across the world rose exponentially as he steered the Seychelles tourism industry out of the doldrums, when the global financial and economic crisis hit in 2008 and the tourism sector stared into the abyss.

Aided by a change in government policy at the time in Victoria, the Creole archipelago’s capital city on the island of Mahe, the country’s tourist board was quasi ‘privatized’ and the entire private sector threw their weight behind St. Ange and his team’s proposals how to counter the downturn, give the destination a ‘new face and identity’ and rescue the economy of the country, heavily if not entirely depending on tourism and fishing receipts.

Since then a new marketing strategy was unveiled and is being implemented,  ‘Brand Seychelles’ was created, the air capacity to the islands was nearly doubled, new world class resorts opened by leading brand names in the global hospitality industry and yet environmental protection and conservation were deliberately advanced alongside economic development to protect the most important assets the island offers to tourist visitors, clean, clear ocean water washing up on pristine white beaches with a marine life second to none.

The Seychelles, as an Indian Ocean island state, is particularly keen to negotiate, conclude and enforce global agreements against climate change, as their long term survival depends in part at least in keeping the rise in ocean waters in check to safe low lying islands and atolls like Aldabra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Undoubtedly will the text of St. Ange’s address be made available via the IIPT website www.iipt.org but according to the feedback from participants this particular address is keenly awaited by the delegates, both on the subject itself but also to hear from one of Africa’s tourism gurus who has turned plans into action, action into progress and put the Seychelles on the global map. Watch this space and follow proceedings in Lusaka again on the IIPT website where regular updates are being posted.

 

TOURISTS FLOCK TO SEYCHELLES AHEAD OF ELECTIONS

‘Brand Seychelles’ not only rules the Indian Ocean it seems when it comes to visibility and magnetic attraction for seekers of exotic holidays in near eternal sunshine on white powder sandy beaches, but has seemingly also trumped the upcoming general elections, which are being held this coming weekend and – due to the expanse of the archipelago – take place between 19th and 21st of May.

Ahead in terms of tourist arrivals by 9 percent already, compared with the all time record breaking year of 2010, there seems no stopping the trend, and here too the Seychelles appear to be setting their own unique way of things. Almost all countries in Africa – the Seychelles does geographically belong to the continent and is a member of the African Union – experience a dent in arrival stats when elections loom on the horizon, with some even going into near free fall as tourists and business visitors stay away to watch the outcome from the distance. Not so in the Seychelles however. While known for competitive politics which at times in the past could easily be described as almost fierce, the economic changes rang in by the government of President James Michel over the past years, which did include a complete overhaul of the country’s tourist board and the introduction of a real private public partnership, did much to keep the people of the Seychelles content with their political leadership. As any opposition anywhere, on the Seychelles it too plays a role of ensuring accountability of government but with President Michel at the helm of the country his policies have been seen as generally inclusive and blessed with the good fortunes of weathering the challenges of the 2007/8 world economic crisis better than many others there seems no stopping him from securing another term of office, when the results are published. He was well advised to nurturing and developing the two key sectors of the economy, tourism first and foremost and fishing, where the country’s robust anti piracy responses have won them much acclaim amongst the naval coalition. Intensified foreign relations have led to an investment boom on the islands and conducive Visa arrangements, NONE ARE NEEDED, allow visitors from around the globe to flock to the islands, only needed a confirmed hotel reservation, a return ticket and sufficient funds to pay for their expenses while in destination. Double daily flights by Emirates has now put the Seychelles one stop away from most population centres around the globe, giving the archipelago’s tourism sector an added ‘shot in the arm. This correspondent will be reporting live from the Seychelles, speaking with Seychellois going to the polls and also with tourists in the resorts about how they, if at all they know that elections are going on, feel about spending their holidays on the resorts of Mahe, Praslin, La Digue and the other islands while elections are being held. Watch this space.

 

SEYCHELLES EXPECTS ‘HONEYMOON BOOM’ FROM ROYAL CHOICE

The choice of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to spend their honeymoon on the ‘North Island’ of the Seychelles, has catapulted an already very visible Indian Ocean island destination into the global spotlight like little else would have done.

A concerted effort over the last two years, including the use of London taxis to popularize the Seychelles in Britain, has seemingly paid off however as the couple decided on flying to the archipelago. Global honeymoon destinations, including Tahiti and other South Pacific Islands but also ‘competing’ Indian Ocean Islands and other destinations, had all hoped they would ‘scoop the prize of 2011’ as far as prominent honeymooners go but it was the Seychelles getting royal nod to the delight of the tourist board staff and the entire tourism industry across the islands.

Already collecting recognition and tourism trade awards en masse this year, wherever STB and the islands private sector appear, the Seychelles has in recent years managed to maintain and in fact increase its appeal for the rich and famous as a unique and secluded holiday destination, while at the same time pushing the message into the market of ‘Affordable Seychelles’, promoting Seychellois owned Bed and Breakfasts, holiday villas and beach houses.

Emirates is going double daily this year to Mahe and has underwritten a major marketing effort to push the destination in conjunction with the Seychelles Tourist Board and other airlines too have added frequencies or are using larger aircraft on the route.

Royal watchers may wish to visit www.north-island.com to get an insight of what exquisite and sophisticated resort the young Royals enjoyed during the post wedding get away and the resort is open for bookings, as are others across the various islands. For more information visit www.seychelles.travel where a comprehensive accommodation guide is available or see your favourite travel agent to book a holiday of a lifetime.

 

AIR SEYCHELLES GETS NEW ‘DIRECTOR FLIGHT OPERATIONS’

Captain Ralph Saminaden, already a senior captain and Deputy Director Flight Operations on the airline’s B 767 fleet, has earlier in the week been appointed as the new ‘Director Flight Operations’, a major career advance for Capt. Ralph considering the at the position has long been held by an expatriate staff. He can look back at a long and distinguished career which started according to details available with the Seychelles defense force pilot before eventually joining the domestic services of Air Seychelles. After rising to Acting Chief Pilot Domestic Operations he then moved on to the airline’s jet aircraft, serving after successful type rating as First Officer before being promoted to Captain in 1996. He went on to become Chief Pilot International Services in 2002 before being appointed as General Manager Flight Operations. In 2008 the appointment as Deputy Director Flight Operations followed before rising to Director in his latest promotion.

The Seychelles national airline is presently undergoing restructuring and with the emphasis on training and then promoting citizens for crucial positions in the airline this policy has once again paid off very well. Congratulations to Capt. Ralph who will now ensure that the ‘Creole Spirit’ continues to fly high and on time.

 

And in closing today some interesting reads from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ produced and distributed by Gill Staden – Thank you!

Phoenix Elephant Orphanage, Kafue National Park

elephantorphanageproject@gmail.com

Last year we rescued tiny ‘Rufunsa’, whose mother was tragically killed by poachers in Mozambique, on the Zambia border. Rufunsa fought for his life as he narrowly escaped their attack and managed to avoid harm as he bravely swam across the crocodile and hippo infested Luangwa River back to the Zambian shore – where astonished fishermen pulled him to safety and contacted the EOP.

Despite this very traumatic experience at such a young and vulnerable age (approximately 4months old and very dependent on his mother), Rufunsa has made a remarkable recovery at the EOP. With a winning combination of nutrient rich milk, and lots of love and affection from both his Keepers and the other elephant orphans he seems to have landed on his feet. In particular it is Chamilandu, the only female ele at the orphanage, who is to thank for such a speedy emotional recovery; she completely dotes on the little one and smothers him with tenderness. Chamilandu and Rufunsa are almost inseparable, with Chamilandu ensuring that Rufunsa is always content and near her side. At night they are stabled next to each other and

Chamilandu’s trunk is often found resting on a sleeping Rufunsa as she delicately places it between the spaces of the gum-pole walls.

At only 5 years old Chamilandu is already displaying incredibly strong motherly instincts and she often puts Rufunsa’s needs before her own, rushing her meals to find him if he has gone out of sight! Although Chamilandu is still a few years away from puberty and thus unable to produce milk, she does however allow Rufunsa to ‘comfort suckle’ from her mammary glands. This behaviour is reminiscent of

wild sub-adult female elephants who provide maternal assistance as ‘allomothers’ to the mother elephants within their herd by watching over calves, assisting them to forage and providing protection against predators which serves to increase calf survival within the herd. Here there seems to be a mutual benefit from this arrangement with Chamilandu enjoying her motherly role just as much as Rufunsawho is the recipient of all her affections.

Kafue, the newest ele to join the EOP herd, is progressing nicely since his rescue by ZAWA near Ngoma airstrip last October. Although emaciated on arrival and very nervous, six months on he is now settling into this surrogate herd and finding his place within his new family. His condition is picking up all the time and in particular we can see how thick and strong his skin has become (on arrival it was paper-thin and patchy) which is a good sign of his improved condition. His appetite for milk is insatiable and it is this strong drive for food that has encouraged him to become more friendly with his Keepers as he now harasses them for just one more bottle!!

The start of 2011 saw plenty of wild elephant activity around EOP resulting in socialisation opportunities for the young orphans. It was only Chodoba (now 6 years old) who showed much interest in two wild bulls as they entered inside the Boma fences one night. Senior Elephant Keeper and Team Leader, Gift, reported “Chodoba was lifting the trunk and smelling them. He wanted to touch. Chamma, she was fearing (meaning scared) at the back of her stable and the babies continued eating their grasses – they did not seem to notice”.

Only three days later and during a walk into the Park Chodoba took off from the orphan herd at a pace….he proceeded for ½km where there was a wild herd feeding at the edge of the forest. Oscar, an Elephant Keeper, and the ZAWA WPO who had followed Chodoba saw him trying to interact with this herd, but the Matriarch kept him at a distance by rushing him with her ears flared. “She had the very small calf and other babies behind her” said Oscar “She doesn’t know Chodoba and so was pushing him from the babies”. Despite the cool welcome Chodoba persevered with the herd for approximately 45 minutes before giving in and turning back to his surrogate family. Encounters like this are a perfect way for the orphans to experience the wild elephants living in KNP and provides them with an opportunity to start building relationships so that they may find their own way one day in Kafue National Park, wild and free, just how they should be.

STOP PRESS

Early Tuesday morning EOP received a radio call from ZAWA that an orphaned elephant calf had been found near Lake Itezhi-Tezhi in Kafue National Park…

The previous evening Senior Officers from Ngoma HQ had seen the distraught little elephant alone and pacing frantically along the road parallel to the lake shore. This tiny calf is estimated to be 11 months old (the same age as Runfusa) and without his mothers protection he was incredibly lucky to survive the night as there are often lions roaming the lake shores!

When little ‘Musa’ meaning ‘my friend’ in Tonga and named after the site he was found, was seen still wandering alone Tuesday morning ZAWA WPO’s and Village Scouts were able to catch him and a passing vehicle offered their assistance to bring him directly to the Elephant Orphanage Project.

Upon arrival Musa was dehydrated and exhausted and slept until the other six elephant orphans returned to the Elephant Boma for their lunch. Chamilandu, the only female (who now really has her work cut out with six bulls to deal with), ignored her much loved pellets to rush to his stable and reassure the youngster. After each elephant had taken it in turn to say hello to Musa we opened his stable door and the other elephants crowded the newcomer in welcome and curiosity.

It was Rufunsa though who Musa initially took to. As soon as he saw this same-sized calf he went to him and started following. Rufunsa did not think much of this and ran away trying to shake off this pesky shadow, but Musa was persistent and stuck to him like glue. They ran out of the Boma fence and through the bush – it was a very funny sight!

We encouraged the orphans to the nearby waterhole where sure enough Musa plunged in head first – he has not yet learnt to drink with his trunk so put his head under water as he gulped it down to re-hydrate himself.

Musa seemed happy and relieved to be back with fellow elephants. Although they are not his real family he is already following them around and playing with each in turn as he establishes his place amongst this surrogate herd. We do not yet know what happened to his mother, but can only guess. Elephant mothers do not leave vulnerable babies alone, so we are very thankful to the quick actions of ZAWA and the Village Scouts who rescued Musa. ZAWA are currently sweeping the nearby area for evidence of his mother.

During his first night in the stables Musa discovered the joys of the milk bottle and has been greedily guzzling down every feed offered since – which is 2L of milk every three hours!

Luambe National Park

From African Conservation

The picture shows what is left of the scout houses after the attack. The houses are destroyed, fittings and equipment burnt. Only a small part of last year’s crop could be rescued from the flames.

The core activities of CCSC (Conservation and Communities Society of Cologne) are the preservation and the management of the Luambe National Park in eastern Zambia since 2003.The project emphasizes on combating poaching activities through strict scout patrols, training and the provision of equipment. This successful task has resulted in a strong increase of animal numbers in the Luambe National Park, which was poached bare in the years prior.

14 days ago a harsh setback occurred:

A scout patrol found two poachers in the Park and in the commotion one of the poachers was accidentally shot during a scuffle. The other poacher managed to escape.

In retaliation, the following night over 300 hundred villagers raided the scout accommodation in Chitungulu village and at the park entry gate, Chipuka. Amongst these men and women were members of the community, long suspected as poachers, that spurred on the rest of the mob.

The wives and children of the scouts managed to escape and hid in the National Park for three days.

The houses, three of which were built new at Chipuka Gate by CCSC last year, were heavily damaged and partly destroyed as all windows were smashed and buildings were set on fire. Clay buildings that are used for children’s bedrooms, as kitchens and store rooms, were also damaged as well as a container used to store scout equipment. Bikes, crockery and maize (stored for the coming dry season) were also burnt. The attack was severe and personal. They even resulted in the destruction of a Land Rover a scout had worked hard to purchase by himself. The scouts were literally left with what they were wearing.

However, a positive outcome of this disaster is the resulting motivation of the scouts in a “right, now more than ever, serious anti-poaching patrol” approach. The 300 villagers involved only represent a small minority of the 11,000 strong population that did not get involved.

The scouts are prepared to work harder than ever to prove to the community that they will not be affected by this and want to act as an example for people to follow.

(Gill:  I don’t know this area well, so I have drawn a map.  Definitely an area that needs to be visited when I can face a 2-day drive along tar roads and through Lusaka!)

W: This article is particularly alarming and has meanwhile reached the international media drawing global attention to the potential destruction of pristine national park land through heavy mining pollution.

New Copper Mine

From Zambezi Resources website

Zambezi Resources (ASX: ZRL), a resource exploration and development company has been granted a 25 year Large Scale Mining Licence for its 100% owned copper project, the Kangaluwi Copper Project in Zambia.  Kangaluwi has been the subject of geophysical and geochemical surveys which led to a 50,000m drilling programme, at a cost of $12m. This programme only focused on 25% of the known strike of the deposit and resulted in the definition of an initial 23.4 million tones of resources grading at 0.85% copper.  Zambezi has initiated a Bankable Feasibility Study on Kangaluwi.   …

Kangaluwi and Chisawa are currently being developed as low cost, smaller scale open pit copper and gold producers, but the entire area has potential to turn into a multi-stage mine development featuring a number of open pits and underground mining operations.

(Gill: this mine is in Lower Zambezi National Park.  It was an old mine which was abandoned, I think, in the 1940s.  Obviously Zambezi Resources has re-found it.  One wonders who gave them permission to explore in the National Park in the first place.  With all the land that Zambia has available why do they have to pick that spot?  Surely they can find somewhere else.  There has to be mineral resources all over the country.

Kangaluwi is on the escarpment above the Zambezi River.  The main worry of this development, to me, is the polluted water which is bound to find its way into the Zambezi River.  Mining is rarely ‘clean’.

Lower Zambezi is opposite Mana Pools World Heritage Site – which includes Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Wilderness Areas.  I think the protectors of Mana Pools have a right to see and vet the Environmental Impact Assessment too.

Lower Zambezi is one of Zambia’s best National Parks.  It hopes to gain World Heritage status along with Mana Pools to make one world-renowned wilderness area.  Will this happen with an open-pit mine on their escarpment, polluted water running down the hills and into the Zambezi River, killing the wildlife?  This, of course, is a worst-case scenario, but it could happen.)

 

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