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 stories are also published in a wider global forum via www.eturbonews.com/africa and in the Africa Travel Association web magazine.
Second edition September 2011
East Africa News
CROSS BORDER SENTIMENTS TO COME TO A HEAD IN NOVEMBER EAC SUMMIT
Disturbing news have reached from Arusha that the debate on the Transboundary Ecosystems Management Bill which was introduced in 2010 to the East African Community Legislative Assembly, has upon substantial pressure by the Tanzanian government been postponed to allow the forthcoming Head of State Summit in November to discuss it and its recently discovered additional implications first.
The true sentiments of the Tanzanian governments push to delay further debate on this ground breaking bill became known when the current Chair of the Council of Ministers let it slip that the bill was not catering for any issues arising between member states when one would wish to engage in development projects which may impact on the ecosystems and environment of the neighbours, the clearest signal yet just how angry Tanzanias political establishment is with the recent ruling of the East African Court of Justice. A court case brought by environmental activists was given the go ahead when objections and an application to have the court rule against the plaintiffs was kicked out, though an appeal is almost certain to be launched shortly.
It is now abundantly clear that the entire political smokescreen put up over the delay of the debate of the bill was singularly created over the hugely controversial plan to build a highway across the main migration route of the big herds in the Serengeti, which according to the most reputable wildlife research organizations and global conservation groups would do irreparable harm to the transboundary ecosystem and decimate the approximately 1.5 million wildebeest and zebras to a fraction of their present numbers.
Conservationists and environmental activists immediately smelled the proverbial rat and are blaming the Tanzanian government to use political pressure to bring down the ruling of the EACJ by changing the rules in their favour or as one regular source from Arusha put it: they are trying to change goal posts during the match. We have spotted this immediately and will lobby across the region to make sure the other member states understand what exactly Kikwetes regime is up to. They have often made it clear that Kenyas Masai Mara can go to hell and is not their concern, belying the spirit of the EAC. They are stuck in the 70s mind set still and see Kenya as an enemy, not an ally. Many of their actions, like keeping the Bologonja border shut, treating safari operators and safari airlines as foreign are examples of this. In this case they insist to build a highway across the Serengeti as payback to the mining companies. We know all about campaign contributions and such stuff and now they have to deliver. If the EAC stops the project, or if the court sides with the plaintiffs over the enormous impact this road would have, Kikwete is in a fix, he promised and cannot deliver. So this diversion to use the summit to change the rules is just a desperate act by him and shows exactly what is going on in his mind.
A source within the EAC Secretariat in Arusha, on condition of strictest anonymity, had this to add: The Tanzanian government has a right to refer this matter to the Summit. If they think that the Heads of State will agree with their position, that is to be seen. Citing overlapping responsibilities now introduced by the new bill with the existing provisions of the Lake Victoria Basin Commission is also not a big obstacle, but their main cause is that they claim sole ownership and sole decision rights over what they do with their own land, in their own country. That said there are provisions however on the fallout, the consequences of projects near the borders which impact on other member states and the two positions need to be harmonized, the partners need to discuss this matter and find a compromise, a solution. It is in the nature of the EAC that some issues are very emotional and are used for domestic politics, but in the end the concept of a common market and growing together politically too cannot be stopped.
Watch this space as this latest sideshow over the Serengeti Highway plays out when the November EAC Summit goes underway.
E-NEWS FROM THE REGION
Many readers of my regular weekly roundup or even those following me on Twitter or are connected via LinkedIn or Facebook where all my blog articles are cross loaded to reach more and more people interested in Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean events, keep asking for :where can we read more.
In Kenya the choice is obvious, as KenyaBuzz really covers Whats On over a wide range of topics across the entire country and while there are weekly mailings every Friday subscription is free and easy the main content can always be accessed via www.kenyabuzz.com. Not to be left out is the e-version of Travel News Kenya, which can be subscribed to for free and is ONLY available on the web, no longer in print.
For Uganda and Rwanda the first e-publications which come to mind are The Eye, for Uganda via www.theeye.co.ug every two months and for Rwanda via www.theeye.co.rw, every three months.
For Uganda the Guide2Uganda can be followed on Twitter @Guide2Uganda where current events are also featured via www.guide2uganda.com, while for Tanzania I can recommend @YellowMasai which is dedicated exclusively to travel information about the mainland and Zanzibar www.yellowmasai.com
For the continent of course there are the Africa Travel magazines for Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, accessible in part on the web and subscriptions to their regular e-updates can be obtained for free through their website.
And not to be forgotten is of course the web edition of the Africa Travel Associations magazine which covers also the entire continent. Enjoy finding out much more about travel to and across Africa, the most popular and the most luxurious destinations, how to get there and what awaits you.
EAC FINDS FACE SAVING WAY OUT OF KHARTOUMS MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION
When the application by the Bashir regime in Khartoum to join the East Africa Community became public knowledge, it put the political leaderships in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Kampala, Kigali and Bujumbura into a dilemma of sorts. Bashirs cunning plan, to apply ahead of the South Sudan becoming independent and being able to file their own application, was not generally considered genuine and honest but thought to be aimed at creating divisions amongst the EAC countries and also to snub the new government in Juba.
Community bureaucrats and the EAC legal minds urgently sought a way out of this unenviable situation and have now come up with an escape hatch, as applicant countries must be of geographical proximity which the united Sudan WAS but the now separate North no longer is as it lacks a common border with existing EAC members. Also required by applicant countries is a range of political prerequisites, such as good governance, the rule of law and observance of human right, none of which can be said about the regime in Khartoum which leader is wanted by the ICC over alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes.
This legal guidance will be received with relief amongst the EAC Heads of State as it will allow them to return Bashirs application for the time being while attending to the expected formal request to join by the Republic of South Sudan a process which is expected to take several years to complete.
A victory of sorts it is too for South Sudan, while the current EAC leaders are let off the hook of having to actually tell Bashir what he needs to be told, that he is a pariah, has turned his country into a pariah state and is not welcome, ever, until fundamental change has taken place in the North Sudan. Watch this space.
9/11 TEN YEARS ON
It was a just past 4 in the afternoon when I got a call, being on the outskirts of Kampala enroute back from the airport in Entebbe, that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York, prompting me to abort my drive to where I was heading to and instead went to the Sheraton Kampala Hotel, certain I would see live coverage on the news. Han de Windt, then the General Manager, and Jennifer Zizinga, then the Director of Sales and Marketing, stood together, eyes glued on the TV screen, as the second plane struck and it was then clear that a major terror attack was underway against the United States.
Breaking news followed on the strike against the Pentagon in Washington and soon afterwards, amongst all the confusion of reports, retractions and new reports, confirmation came in that a plane had crashed while presumed hijacked too and flying towards Washington also.
We saw the Twin Towers come down in a cloud of dust resembling a volcanic eruption and no eye stayed dry that moment. Strangers hugged and cried together and the Americans amongst the gathering crowed were commiserated and had drinks bought for them.
Soon afterwards it became clear that Osama Bin Ladens Al Qaida terror network was behind the coordinated attack, which had left the American security agencies reeling, completing what an earlier attempt to bomb the World Trade Centre had not achieved.
The world stood by America in their hour of grief and the Americans were the good guys. A global coalition formed swiftly to support America in any which way necessary and NATO declared the attack on America and attack on the alliance, an unprecedented act.
Within weeks the Taliban regime faced their ultimatum to hand over Bin Laden and his goons or else and the or else it was as bombs and cruise missiles started to rain on Al Qaida bases and Taliban positions, driving them out of Kabul and into the Bora Bora mountains where some of the most intense bombing runs by B52s ever seen were unleashed on the caves suspected to hold Bin Laden and his merry men of terror.
The world stood united behind America for the invasion in Afghanistan as the hunt for extremists and terrorist continued, from the air and from the ground.
And then came Iraq and the global goodwill America generated after 9/11 evaporated as the US and Britain moved towards a war which many then suspected and now know for certain was for all sorts of reasons but not the ones given in the UN. The war mongering of the Bush administration, echoed in Number 10 Downing Street, tore the erstwhile alliance apart and caused lasting rifts amongst allies and with friends of America for counseling caution and restraint.
My own articles, speaking out against the growing trend of going to war with Iraq, published in eTN at the time, created all sorts of hate mail, but I suppose with all the world now knows, about the intent and purpose of the Bush administration to go to war and the disastrous results in Iraq with collateral damage running into allegedly tens of thousands of innocent women, children and elderly, many of those zealots and patriots may well have changed their mind in the meantime and agree with what I said back then.
The Iraq war turned out to be a monstrous mistake and money needed to build American infrastructure and improve their social systems went up in the proverbial smoke of bombs and missiles exploding. The eyes went off the ball in Afghanistan too and todays resurgence of the Taliban is a direct result of not finishing the job when it was possible to do so with much greater ease, while Bush was proudly announcing on a carrier he had flown on to in an act of the best Wild West tradition mission accomplished far from it as we now also know.
I have stayed with eTN as their East Africa and Indian Ocean correspondent since then and as a frequent traveler witnessed the fallout of the post 9/11 security frenzy at airports around the world, the no fly lists when wannabe passengers were told they could not be checked in, the container loads of pocket knives and nail scissors, lighters and leatherman taken off passengers at various security check points, which made our lives as frequent travelers hell, yet purporting to make flying safer.
Is the world safer since or because of the Iraq war not anywhere near it as the many terror attacks since then remind us of. In fact it bred a new generation of war hardened and more sophisticated terrorists and suicide bombers who struck targets across the world with almost impunity, picking their moment with care and inflicting maximum pain and suffering and loss on the innocent.
To this day I have cold anger boil up in me when I see old movies, where the Twin Towers still stand as the Big Apples main landmark. I remember my first visit to the World Trade Centre in 1974 and many times since until that tragic day in September 2001. To this day I mourn the thousands who died in the planes, in the Twin Towers as they came down, those in the Pentagon and the countless brave men and women who have given their lives since then defending ourselves from terror, but also the many victims of terror since that September day around the world.
When the bell tolls in New York on the 09th of September this year, when America falls silent in remembrance 10 years down the line, I will observe my own personal minute of silence and remember what unfolded in front of my eyes a decade ago on the TV screens of the Sheraton Kampala. I will also celebrate the bringing to justice of Bin Laden and many of his henchmen over those 10 years. And I will mourn the innocent lives lost in Iraq too, and those of service men and women from around the world, who were sent to that war to do the bidding of their masters without knowing the true agenda those masters had.
9/11 this year is a special day, reminding us of our hard fought for freedoms and liberties, being able to stand up and oppose what is wrong even if the powers that be spit fire at us democracy is not supposed to be easy for those whom we chose to govern us, something they often forget when they get into office and enjoy their splendid isolation from the electorate for four or five years.
9/11 is also a symbolic day now, a constant reminder of the ongoing fight between good and evil, not between Islam and Christianity, not between East and West but plain and simple between good and evil. When you read this take a moment, say a prayer or if you dont pray, simply remember and honour that day in September 10 years ago and what happened in New York, Washington and in the skies over America.
BIRD WATCHING BONANZA FOR WORLD TOURISM DAY CELEBRATIONS
Ugandans will once more have the opportunity to get into the countrys national parks and forest reserves free of charge at the end of the month, when the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the National Forest Authority have combined forces to promote bird watching. Coinciding with the World Tourism Day, an event celebrated year after year in Uganda, alternately in Kampala and then again at a chosen location outside the capital city, the open door weekend will undoubtedly attract thousands of extra visitors to the protected areas, where the focus will be on birding.
Uganda is blessed with over 1.000 species of migratory and resident birds, many of them endemic to certain areas of the country and the parks or reserves located there, and Queen Elizabeth National Park alone is home to over 600 species, making it one of the richest birdwatching areas in the world. Specialized safari operators have for years now concentrated on marketing their services around the world in tourism trade fairs and exhibitions dedicated to birding and it is a known fact that tourists coming for such activities stay longer and spend more money than visitors on conventional safaris.
A splendid idea by UWA and NFA, to bring Ugandas biodiversity and natural wonders closer to Ugandans, so that they too can not just enjoy them but also appreciate the need to protect and conserve natures gifts for future generations.
ENTEBBES WEATHER RADAR NOT A PRIORITY
Members of the parliamentary committee on natural resources were shocked, as were aviation observers when the news filtered into the public domain this morning that Entebbe International Airport was lacking a functioning weather radar system. Considering how regular thunderstorms are in Uganda, along the departure and approach paths of aircraft taking off and landing, and what monster storms often brew out over Lake Victoria, the lack of such a system was called sad reality in Uganda aviation by a regular source from within the sector. Communications reach to a certain point out of Entebbe or Kajjansi but from some areas of the country Entebbe is hard to reach from the ground, and this is a violation of the regulations in fact. Something goes wrong the pilot will be blamed, CAA can never be at fault. Another source said that modern jet aircraft used by airlines flying into Uganda give the cockpit crews clear images in the cockpit of bad weather ahead, but conceded that otherwise local domestic aviation depends more on weather satellite pictures from the internet as no radar details are available from the Meteorological Department in Entebbe.
The cost for the required two systems was pegged at 8 million US Dollars, apparently long applied for and always rejected as a non priority item how much is aviation safety worth one wonders? The answer is probably found in the same offices which decided that passengers must get wet during rains before reaching the terminal building to check in as recently posted here in a different story about airport security, in Entebbe and in comparison the wider region. Watch this space!
CHANGE AT FLY 540 UGANDA
A public notice in the Daily Nation of Kenya and the Daily Monitor in Kampala has tipped off this correspondent and confirmed earlier rumours that Jackie Arkle, the soul and good spirit of Fly 540 in Uganda, has left the airline under unclear circumstances.
Jackie arrived in Uganda after two years at Fly 540s head office in Nairobi where she was responsible for sales and marketing and from where she put the airline visibly into the public domain. Upon her transfer to Uganda as country manager in January 2010 she was the one putting Fly 540 on the map in Uganda and inspite of regular operational issues kept travel agents and regular travelers on board through her charming personality and never giving up in promising improvements in on time performance. This was often aggravated by the use of aircraft other than the CRJ jet, such as the Dash 8 or even the B 1900 Beechcraft, leaving the marketing and sales staff hanging out to dry over such operational changes beyond their control.
It is understood that Air Uganda and Kenya Airways personnel are on a charm offensive in Kampala trying to exploit the situation which could result in a sharp reduction of load factors for Fly 540 on the route where they have to compete with Kenya Airways four flights a day and Air Ugandas three flights a day by offering only two flights a day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday while on Monday, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday they only operate one service a day. With competition in Kenya and the wider region getting quite cut throat, following Kenya Airways aggressive re-entry into the domestic market last year and their open option of forming their own LCC under Jambo Jet, competition has heated up in recent months and it will be survival for the financially fittest only, as the shoulder / mid season for Kenyas beach resorts is now approaching and loads across the jet network between Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi and Kisumu reduce.
Jackie herself was tight lipped over the reasons for leaving the airline, reportedly on advice of her solicitors, indicating that this development will lead to a very likely court case, especially following the nasty of going public with an advert the way the airlines top executives chose to do.
Fly 540 is the first regional self professed LCC in East Africa and operates an extensive domestic network in Kenya, within and to Tanzania and to Uganda, while also serving regional routes in the wider region. The group has also established operations in Angola and is reportedly working on setting up other LCCs in West Africa, but with few details on progress made so far inspite of this being on the drawing board for some time now. Wherever Jackie goes, she will be an asset of great value and this correspondent for one is sad to see her leave Kampala and return to Kenya.
NEW AIRPORT TERMINAL ATTRACTS INTEREST FROM ACROSS THE WORLD
Information received overnight from Nairobi talks of over 100 international and regional construction companies expressing interests in the tender documents available from the Kenya Airports Authority for the re-development of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport into a first class international airport with the capacity to handle an intermediate 9 million passengers a year. Ground breaking is due for early 2012 and the construction of the new terminal and surrounding facilities should be completed within 24 months.
Built in the late 70s and opened officially in 1978, taking over from the old Embakasi airport which now serves as Kenya Airways headoffice and maintenance base, the airport at the time was state of the art but the maximum capacity of only 2.5 million passengers has long been exceeded. Congestion now marks all facilities at the airport as over 6 million travelers are crowded through departure and arrival lounges while the single runway is seen as a major capacity and operational constraint..
National carrier Kenya Airways, set to double its fleet over the next few years, is said to be very keen to see construction of the new terminal and final planning for a second runway completed on the fast track, and there has long been speculation if KQ would not eventually be compelled to build their own integrated terminal where international and domestic departures and arrivals could be handled under one roof without having to change terminals.
International airlines too continue to have a keen eye on flying to Nairobi and especially from the Far and South East there are vast gaps in the route network of direct flights to Nairobi, considering Japan, Australia or Singapore to name just three countries with the potential to uplift passengers and cargo on scheduled flights to Kenya. Other airlines already flying to Nairobi also regularly complain about their working conditions and their problems to add more flights in view of the ever tighter slot regime now in place for Nairobi, and recent power outages and runway blockages have added further pressure on the KCAA to press ahead with the airports modernization and expansion.
KENYA AIRWAYS RECEIVES EIGHTH EMBRAER, CONTINUES EXPANSION
Another Embraer E190 joined the growing KQ fleet overnight, when the latest bird arrived in Nairobi and was taxied to the Embakasi base of The Pride of Africa. Registered as 5Y KYR the new aircraft will shortly be deployed across the East and Southern African skies, soon to be followed by the ninth aircraft of the same make due for delivery in October.
The cabin configuration is the now familiar 2×2 in economy (84) and 2×2 in business class (12), offering overall 96 seats and as such ideally suited for routes where a smaller aircraft will make the destination financially viable from a very early stage. An inflight entertainment and information system has been integrated for the benefit of passengers, who can now watch movies or series from their own personal screen.
Only a few weeks ago did Kenya Airways sign a firm order for another 10 Embraer 190 aircraft with the Brazilian manufacturer while also confirming 16 more options, which can be converted into firm orders at a later stage. KQ presently operates 5 Embraer 170 and now 3 Embraer 190, with two more aircraft from the current order due for delivery before the end of the year. Happy Landings to the new bird, the crew and all the future passengers on board.
TRAGEDY STRIKES NAIROBI
A major fire near or at a Kenya Pipeline Company depot in the industrial area on the outskirts of Nairobi has claimed dozens of lives according to breaking news from Kenyas capital.
As the fire brigade is deploying in full force to control the fire and prevent it from spreading to other nearby installations and buildings ambulances are deployed to administer first aid to burn victims and taken them to the available city hospitals. Security services are also on full alert to cordon off the area.
No cause of the fire has yet been established and the city is awash with rumours already, while a source in regular contact with this correspondent from Nairobi is counseling caution: At this stage it is completely premature to speculate over the causes of the fire. You know the drill, we cannot rule anything in or out at this stage and priority now is to get the fire under control and extinguish it. Priority now is dealing with the injured people and remove the victims of the fire for identification and autopsies. I want to make it clear that we are not talking causes right now and a full investigation will hopefully shed light on it just as soon as the fire is out. However, indications from other sources blame aged pipes and equipment which may have broken and leaked fuel before igniting. Considering the vigilance of Kenyas security apparatus and their high state of alert coinciding with the 10th anniversary of 9 / 11, it is unlikely that this could be a terror attack and most likely an accident, at least according to the sketchy information patched together in the short period of time available.
Ironically has the Kenya Pipeline Company in 2008 called for the establishment of a fire station nearby to offer greater protection and reduce response time in case of fires. Watch this space for updates as more news become available.
No tourists have come to any harm as Lunga Lunga Road in the industrial area part of Nairobi is not ordinarily frequented by travelers and while major traffic jams are expected to hinder transportation to and from the International Airport and Wilson Airport, no other fallout for the tourism industry is expected at this moment in time.
Meanwhile does the eTN Africa team extend our sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who have perished in this fire.
GAMEWATCHERS / PORINI OFFER MOBILITY IN THEIR CONSERVANCIES
Gamewatcher Safaris and Porini Safari Camps have launched a mobile tented operation, which is available during certain times of the year, currently between July and October. Comprising 6 dome tents, which sleep up to two guests at a time, they are located on their Selenkay Conservancy outside the Amboseli National Park and on their Ol Kinyei Conservancy outside the Masai Mara Game Reserve, the mobile camps are put up in areas where the game is concentrated, and while not offering the infrastructure of the regular Porini Safari Camps it nevertheless brings safari tourists even closer to one of the most unique wildlife experiences possible and at a lower cost too. Access to areas in the conservancies frequented by game, including predators, is swift as the camp locations are strategically chosen, to be hidden as much as possible from sight but also to be right in the middle of where the action takes place.
(Picture courtesy of Porini / Ol Kinyei Conservancy)
Gamewatchers / Porini offer the option of visiting only one camp or else both camps in a week long package where the arrival at Selenkay is by road while the move to the Ol Kinyei conservancy is by air with SafariLink via Wilson Airport. The return from the Mara to Nairobi is again by road, offering the scenic route up the escarpment of the Great African Rift Valley.
Game sighting details passed on to this correspondent sound almost too good to be true, but having visited the conservancies last year it is absolutely clear that there was no exaggeration, not for the figures nor for the species actually seen.
The conservancies in fact are often offering better game viewing and bird watching than the neighouring parks and in addition permit night game drives and guided walks, something which is still not possible in the national parks for reasons never fully understood.
Visit www.porini.com for more details on these locations, information about the Porini main camps and for bookings of their mobile camps and other services.
ATTACK ON REMOTE BEACH RESORT LEAVES ONE BRIT DEAD AND ONE ABDUCTED
A small upmarket resort on the Indian Ocean beaches, the 18 room Kiwayu Village Resort some 30 miles north of Lamu was attacked earlier today [Sunday, 11th September 2011], according to reports emerging from reliable sources in Nairobi. Information is sketchy right now but it appears that the British High Commission has already confirmed the death of a British citizen while the wife has reportedly been abducted.
Attacks on tourists in Kenya are very rare and the countrys security apparatus, already on high alert on the anniversary of 9 / 11 today, swung into action immediately to establish where the attackers had come from and which way they had taken the hostage. It is understood that an aerial surveillance mission is already underway, aiming to track the attackers.
There is growing indication from a range of regular sources in Kenya that the attackers could have been either Somali pirates, aka ocean terrorists or else Al Shabab militants seeking to spread their action radius beyond the border of Somalia into neighbouring Kenya to arguably prompt a direct response from the Kenyan armed forces and widen the conflict which has been raging on in Somalia for years.
One regular source with close links to the Kenya Tourist Board had this to say, on condition of anonymity: This is the first incident of its kind in Kenya along our beaches. Violence against tourists is rare in Kenya. Our security forces are treating this regrettable incident with the highest priority and the attackers are already being pursued, on land and from the air as far as I understand. Security along all beach resorts, especially such remotely located beach camps, is being stepped up already and will undergo further review in coming days, to prevent such an attack from happening again.
Watch this space for updates as and when additional information is available.
POLICE POST IN MASAI MARA TO IMPROVE SECURITY AND STEM POACHING
News were confirmed today that the Kenya Police will establish a new police outpost in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, from where officers will work hand in hand with game rangers and wardens to improve overall security in Kenya key park.
Attacks or robberies on tourists are relatively rare, but high profile events when something happens but poachers crossing the common border between Tanzanias Serengeti and Kenyas Masai Mara are equally a target of the new police outpost.
Tourism stakeholders have broadly welcomed the initiative but also said that from announcing the new facility to actually putting it up and operating it are two different things in Kenya, so time will tell here just how long it will take to turn promise into reality. Meanwhile though it should be said that the initiative is most welcome and certainly much awaited.
PARLIAMENTARY VOTE PUTS GOVERNMENTS SHARE POSITION AT KQ IN DOUBT
Information emerged from Nairobi that parliament slashed the budget estimate of the government to retain their significant 23 percent shareholding in Kenya Airways during the forthcoming rights issue in doubt, as only 2.5 billion of a requested 5.5 billion Kenya Shillings was passed. The Kenyan government was thought to defend their stake by injecting some 60 million US Dollars equivalent into the airline through taking up their full allocation of the upcoming share rights issue. The twist inflicted on them by parliament though may mean that the government can either not take up their full share and other investors will be able to step in and acquire a significant shareholding in KQ, or else government must try and convince parliament to allocate the entire amount needed. While the Kenyan government has let their shareholding in other parastatals and co-owned companies slip to allow greater private sector investments, this is not thought to be the case with KQ, where the country has a strategic interest and is keen to retain influence on board level to fully participate in the affairs of The Pride of Africa. It has been suggested that special arrangements be made for government to hold on to their share in the company by stretching the payments but it is not clear how other shareholders, or intending buyers from the private sector, may view such extraordinary measures and if at all such would stand legal scrutiny.
KLM / Air France, the other major shareholder, has already signaled that they will also take up their share rights in full, to retain their 26 percent holding.
Kenya Airways has opted for this method of raising cash, needed to finance upcoming bills for purchasing new aircraft and to reduce their debt exposure, which otherwise could make for uncomfortable reading of reports in finance meetings of the airline, when payments for the new aircraft ordered or still due for delivery become due.
KQ has made it clear through statements in recent months that it intends to become the number one airline on the continent, connecting all African capitals and key commercial centres from their hub in Nairobi and is also looking at expansion on intercontinental routes to capture more traffic for destined for Kenya, the region and the rest of Africa. An order and option package for 26 additional aircraft, signed with Brazils Embraer last week, will literally double the fleet of Kenya Airways and facilitate an aggressive rollout of new destinations in Africa, greater presence in the East African region and, on the domestic market the eventual introduction of a shuttle to Kisumu, similar to the shuttle to Mombasa.
STAKEHOLDERS DEMAND MORE TIME TO REVIEW AND AMEND WILDLIFE BILL
The attempt by the Kenyan government to rush through a controversial wildlife bill, with little time given to stakeholders to widely consult and contribute opinions and propose changes to the draft text, has obviously failed as growing opposition is now reported to be forming from conservation circles, land owners and the affected communities against the current version of the draft bill.
Attempts by government to limit the time for review and input and set an unrealistic deadline, which expired yesterday already, prompted a growing chorus of voices to protest vehemently demanding that the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife re-engage in consultations and dialogue and not proceed to take the draft bill to parliament. Leading conservationists, including former KWS Executive Directors, have gone on public record with their concerns over the given time frame and reportedly said they would not legitimize a flawed process by sending in their observations unless the entire public consultation exercise is repeated with a longer time frame and greater transparency.
Dr. Paula Kahumbu of the Kenya Land Conservation Trust, a respected conservation figure not only in Kenya but recently honoured by the National Geographic Society for her work in conservation had this to say: The draft bill is full of inconsistencies and errors that make it unworkable. We cant afford to rush this process or we will get it wrong and risk losing Kenyas most important assets, our spectacular wildlife treasures and the tourism industry that depends on it. Who will take responsibility for that?
Other eminent conservation figures like Allan Earnshaw, Judy Kepher-Gona, James Isiche, Paul Matiku and Hadley Becha, amongst many others, co-signed a letter to the Minister but no formal response was given from the ministry, either due to the short time available to them to formulate a response since the letter and demands were delivered to them or else for being stunned over the vehement protests their ill considered plans for a new wildlife bill has triggered in the public domain. Watch this space as the latest wildlife saga in the region gains momentum.
ZANZIBAR GOVERNMENT DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF OWNERS OF SUNKEN FERRY
In an extraordinary, though not unprecedented turn of events has the government of Zanzibar reportedly denied to have any knowledge of the registered owners of the MV Spice Islander.
Registration and licensing of ocean going vessels however has been confirmed to be a function of government by tourism stakeholders, one of whom said this in an email overnight: This is not just unreal but almost mocking those seeking answers, those who lost relatives on the islands. How can a government claim not to be aware of the owners and it is the same government giving them a license. We are also disturbed about conflicting figures, some of which put the total passengers to over 800 and then government mouthpieces try to shrink these figures to within the licensed number. What is going on here. The tragedy was avoidable if only rules were enforced. There is notorious corruption across all outlets of public services and they are now just trying to whitewash the whole thing. It is high time that government brings us new safe ferries which can be used to travel from one island to the other without risking our lives every time one sets foot on board. The central government in Dar es Salaam did according to media reports release 300 million Tanzania Shillings to assist bereaved families with funeral expenses.
The official number of casualties was given by a Zanzibar government spokesperson as just under 200 with nearly 600 survivors, which would put the overall number of passengers on board well over the licensed figure permitted. There is also no certainty over the number of bodies not yet recovered, as apparently no complete passenger manifest was produced prior to the ferry leaving for its last ill fated journey to Pemba. Reconciling survivors and casualties is therefore literally impossible for the authorities in Zanzibar. It is understood that Kenyan authorities are now also keeping a watch along the shores from across the Pemba Channel, in case any bodies would be spotted across the international border.
ZANZIBAR STRUCK BY FERRY DISASTER
News broke earlier today but took a while to confirm and fully ascertain, that a ferry with reportedly over 600 people on board between Unguja, commonly referred to as Zanzibar and Pemba sunk after capsizing, leaving scores of passengers dead in the water and others struggling to survive by clinging on to debris until they could be pulled out of the water by rescuers. Foreign tourists were reportedly on board the ferry but the nationalities of the bodies recovered could not at this stage be confirmed until autopsies have gone underway and identities could be formally confirmed. When going to press over 160 bodies had been recovered by fishing boats and other vessels which rushed to the aid of the stricken ferry, but many more passengers are missing and must be presumed dead by now. About 250 passengers out of the 600 on board were rescued and are either undergoing medical treatment or have been treated and discharged.
The ferry was reportedly often overloaded with passengers and cargo but authorities, though aware of the practice, did apparently little to step in and enforce loading limits as it was one of the few links between the two islands. New ferries, promised time and again by the Tanzanian government have for long been awaited and according to a source in Dar es Salaam this was an accident waiting to happen. Backpackers and budget tourists often use the ferry to get to Pemba in the absence of other affordable transport and the wananchi of course must use it, they have no choice at all to get from one island to the other. There has always been talk of mechanical problems but nothing ever came of it. The sinking of the ferry exposes a great weakness in our system of supervision and regulating marine transport and who really knows what went on behind the scenes to have this ship continue to operate and officials looking the other way.
In January this year and in May last year two overloaded boats sank in the vicinity too, with dozens of passengers drowned in both instances, indicating that regulations were either lax or not enforced, laying blame squarely on the ferry operators and the authorities charged with supervising ocean transport.
The eTN team expresses their sorrow and extends condolences to the families and friends of those lost in this terrible tragedy.
TOURISM MINSTERS ALLEGED DEROGATORY REMARKS ABOUT KENYA TRUE AFTER ALL?
When Kenya burnt a cargo of seized ivory a few weeks ago at the KWS training school in Tsavo, dignitaries from across the region had been invited to witness this act of defiance and declared opposition to poaching and the growing trade in blood ivory, which is threatening the very survival of the African elephant in the safari countries of Eastern and Southern Africa.
Tanzanias representative the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Ezekiel Maige, an increasingly controversial figure over his outbursts and let rip remarks, i.e. calling UNESCOs World Heritage Committee an insignificant entity, was soon afterwards reported by a reliable source from Dar es Salaam to have made remarks about the Kenyan stupidity to burn ivory instead of joining us to sell it.
Such suggestions were at the time vehemently denied yet today media reports emerge from Tanzania that the very same minister has now publicly spoken against burning ivory as it never stops poachers and causes loss to the government. Political circles in Kenya will now give fresh attention to what has been reported here before, that indeed Maige may have made rather undiplomatic references over an event which none other than President Kibaki performed in Kenya, and may demand through diplomatic channels that he face the music and be reprimanded, if for nothing else but being careless and overheard when making his utterances.
Maige is increasingly seen as a liability and been accused by the conservation fraternity of misleading UNESCO in a letter he signed about NOT proceeding with a controversial highway across the Serengeti, itself a World Heritage Site, only to soon afterwards denounce the letter he signed and continued to talk about the highway would go ahead by hook or crook. Maige is also on public record downplaying the substantial risk for environmental pollution by a planned Uranium mine in the Selous, which could poison water sources and the wider environment for decades to come.
2011 is the 50th year of independence for Tanzania and was meant to be a hallmark year for tourism and conservation but the conservation reputation of Tanzania appears more and more in tatters over a large number of hugely controversial industrial projects, leaving the tourist board struggling to overcome sentiments and growing resentment against the country. Maige and other officials are on record lamenting that they are sitting on a treasure of ivory they are not permitted to sell, as CITES last year turned down their request for an extraordinary sale of supposedly legal ivory stocks, denouncing the decision and blaming amongst others Kenya for the rejection, which denies the poor health care and roads. This line of thought makes it clear that the proceeds of an ivory sale would contrary to soothing statements made at the time not go towards conservation and anti poaching but be absorbed by the countrys treasury. Maige and others also made it clear that they would apply once again at the 2013 CITES meeting, showing that no lessons have been learned and that the concept of conservation instituted by the founding father of Tanzania, the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere has been largely discarded for profits and short term gains. Watch this space.
WIKILEAKS DOCUMENTS PROMPT ANGRY RESPONSES IN DAR ES SALAAM
A leaked cable from the then US Ambassador to Tanzania Michael Retzer to the State Department has produced angry reactions in Tanzania with denial chasing denial. The cables alleged a bribery scandal involving none other than President Kikwete and the owners of what used to be the Kempinski in Dar es Salaam, now under Hyatt management since the beginning of August. The company under the spotlight is the Albwardy Group, which also owns the Zawani Zanzibar Resort, the Bilila Serengeti Lodge and also reportedly the Saadani lodges, besides the Four Seasons in the Seychelles and the Desert Palm properties in Dubai. The cables allege the group gave inappropriate gifts, in other words bribes to top Tanzanian officials prompting Albwardys CEO to issue a statement denying any such gifts. The alleged source quoted by the former Ambassador in his secret cables has upon the publication of these hugely damaging documents also denied ever having given such information, calling it a load of rubbish and defamation of her personal character what else to say now that the stuff is out in the open.
State House sources in Dar es Salaam called for substantiation of the claims made while otherwise dismissing them as lazy gossip, falsehoods and innuendo, especially the claims that the ruling party CCM had received major campaign contributions again, what else to say now the Wikileaks has blown the lid off murky deals, not just in Tanzania but around the world.
Rumours have long existed over in particular the true ownership of the Bilila Serengeti Lodge, and unguarded remarks by a staff member at the launch of Safari Plus a few weeks ago, that Bilila Serengeti was the unofficial Camp David of Tanzania only fueled suspicions once more.
Conservationists however are putting their own two plus two together now and are launching additional investigations over just why President Kikwete seems so hellbent to have a highway, graveled or not, built across the Serengeti to earmarked gold mining areas between the Serengeti and Lake Victoria. Other inexplicable projects of the same controversial nature by the Kikwete government are a soda ash plant on the shores of Lake Natron, which would irreversibly destroy the sole breeding grounds for East Africas flamingo population, the withdrawal of the application to UNESCO for WHS recognition of the Eastern Arc Mountains, the plans for uranium mining in the Selous Game Reserve or the building of a new mega port inside the marine national park at Mwambani where the Coelacanth prehistoric fish is found. Many questions yet few answer, for now that is. Considering that Wikileaks managed to obtain top secret cables between American embassies abroad and the State Department, is may only be a matter of time before more leaks from other sources within Tanzania may shed more light on the allegations and confirm either truth of falsehoods. Watch this space.
AIR TANZANIA GETS NEW ACTING CEO
Paul Chizi has recently been appointed interim or acting CEO of ATCL by the Minister for Transport Hon. Omari Nundu, to take over at ATCL with immediate effect.
Paul was previously with Air Tanzania, which he joined in 1979 according to information from Dar es Salaam, before leaving in the airline 2002. He has since been with Community Airlines, which only existed for a short while before moving to Jetlink as their country manager.
He will have the daunting task of getting the ailing airline back into the air, now within reach as government has bailed out ATCL once again by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for the maintenance of a Dash 8 aircraft, which in February had been flown to South Africa for major work to be carried out on it. In the nick of time, before the aircraft was reportedly put up for auction by the maintenance organization, did the government come through with funds, arguably drawn from other budget lines.
When this single plane returns to service, TCAA is currently evaluating the maintenance work with the ultimate objective of either awarding or not awarding a Certificate of Airworthiness, it will make Air Tanzania once more the runt of the litter of the present aviation industry, as it will have to compete against the well oiled machinery of Precision Air and others which have taken over ATCLs market share and are flying more frequencies to more destinations now than even Air Tanzania of old did not manage to do.
Sources close to ATCL have also off the record indicated that the airline may have to resort to wetleasing aircraft for the time being to offer a viable service level on key routes from Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro / Arusha, to Mwanza and to Zanzibar, before considering a wider network both domestically and regionally. Generally, without being recapitalized by government and finding finally a partner willing to take on the problem riddled carrier, ATCL is thought to have only a limited future and might never rise to its former level again.
TANZANIA GOVERNMENT TO APPEAL EAST AFRICAN COURT OF JUSTICE RULING
The anger by the Tanzanian government could hardly be concealed over the ruling against their ill fated plans to build a highway across the Serengeti, when the announcement was made earlier in the week that the matter would be appealed at the EACJ in Arusha.
The appeal is also a clear signal that the government in Dar es Salaam has not learned a single lesson and that their appeasing letter to UNESCO earlier in the year, assuring the world body that there would be no road, must be taken with a pinch of salt, or in this case with a ton of salt.
Environmental organizations had taken the matter to the only court in the region seen as unbiased and unlikely to bow to the pressures from Dar, and true to their calling did the judges side with the plaintiffs and threw out the objections of the Tanzanian government which had tried to have the case dismissed.
A panel of the appeals bench is now expected to be constituted shortly to look into the decision of their colleagues and either uphold the earlier decision, which many observers feel is entirely in line with East African legislation, or else succumb to the increasing pressures brought by the powers that be in Tanzania, allowing them to go ahead and do as they please, as if they own the environment and can ride roughshod over it at will.
Environmental groups and conservation groups across the region have taken the initial decision as a signal that the EACJ is indeed independent of the usual power games other courts are often thought to be subjected to in cases of sensitive nature, and more and more such court action against governmental impunity can now be expected to be brought in Arusha, when failing in the respective member states.
Government officials were reported to have been seething with anger and true to their nature resorted to name calling in conversations overheard by sources, many of them within government circles and yet totally opposed to seeing their countrys pristine environment and biodiversity being sacrificed on the altar of progress and development, to phrases regularly used to browbeat public opinion and whitewash the potential dangers and environmental degradation and pollution associated with some of the pet projects of the powers that be. Watch this space as the legal case goes into round two.
PROTEST AGAINST URANIUM MINING IN THE SELOUS GOES INTERNATIONAL
As a taste of things to come, should the Tanzanian government go ahead with their controversial plans to reduce the size of the Selous Game Reserve and risk environmental degradation and significant pollution of land and water, have German activists began a campaign against the project. A letter addressed to President Kikwete was reportedly handed over to the Tanzanian Ambassador in Berlin / Germany and the groups involved have already made it clear that they will seek to build a global alliance against Uranium mining in the Selous, similar to the Stop the Serengeti Highway coalition which has spread around the globe.
Germany notably has committed to get out of nuclear power generation and substitute it with renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, the first major industrial nation to make such a bold statement. The green movement in Germany has over the past decade gained in respectability when the party entered into coalition governments with various partners, assuring at state and federal level that environmental concerns are understood, addressed and mitigated.
There have been no official comments from Dar es Salaam yet though the local environmental and conservation groups have welcomed the news, knowing they have allies around the globe to assist them and strengthen their voices, which locally have been often suppressed and brushed aside as anti government or anti development, and been bedeviled, mocked and ridiculed by government sources times and again. Watch this space as a series of planned projects by the Tanzanian government with significant impact on the marine and land environment are being pursued irrespective of the potential damages done to the environment and the countrys biodiversity.
ANOTHER IVORY HAUL FROM TANZANIA CONFISCATED IN MALAYSIA
News just broke that Malaysian customs officials confiscated a shipment of 700 tusks destined for a final destination in China and reportedly coming from the port of Dar es Salaam. The blood ivory is thought to be worth over 1 million US Dollars on the black market.
Malaysia has stepped up surveillance and monitoring of transit cargos from the East African ports destined for China, following increasing pressure from global conservation groups to do more to prevent contraband of this nature to be shipped via Malaysian ports. In August did authorities in Hong Kong detect over 2 tons of ivory, also shipped from East Africa via Malaysia, triggering a series of measures being instituted by Malaysian customs officials to bring the illicit trade to a halt.
Conservation groups from around the world have hailed the latest seizure of an ivory shipment but at the same time expressed their disappointment that blood ivory can still pass through ports like Dar es Salaam undetected, demanding that authorities there too step up monitoring and inspections.
A DNA analysis of the ivory is due to be carried out to establish the exact origin of the ivory consignment but it is thought that it may have either come from Tanzania or been shipped from beyond via Tanzania. Government in Dar es Salaam has often denied that lax enforcement is to blame but increasing finds in Asia of cargos originating in Tanzania have done little to make the world community believe empty assurances.
However, only last week did Tanzania officially launch a national task force to combat poaching across game reserves and national parks, maybe a sign that constant criticism and actual evidence that ivory has been shipped out of Dar es Salaam has finally prompted the country to take its obligation under the CITES Convention more seriously and take more drastic measures to bring poachers to book.
China is regularly mentioned as the main culprit country, as growing wealth has triggered a wave of demand for ivory and other wildlife products like rhino horns, but there is little indication that the Chinese government is robustly enforcing existing laws and regulations to prevent the illegal import, processing and possession of ivory in order to support Africa in her daunting task to ensure the survival of the elephant species. Watch this space.
RWANDA AWARDS VACANT TELECOMS LICENSE TO AIRTEL
The third license to operate mobile telecom services, withdrawn from a Libyan owned company a few months ago over regulatory offenses, was finally awarded to Airtel Africa earlier this week, bringing the number of mobile operators back to three. Airtel of India had taken over the Zain network across Africa, making it one of the worlds leading mobile operators and their arrival in Rwanda closes a gap in their coverage of East Africa, as they expand their presence on the continent to vie with South Africas MTN for continental leadership. The company, on receiving their license, committed to invest at least 100 million US Dollars in a GSM / 3G network across Rwanda over the next year. It is not clear if they are considering taking over network assets from the former Libyan owned company, which is now under winding up proceedings, such as transmission towers and other installations or will roll out an entirely new network infrastructure. Rwanda is understood to encourage mast sharing amongst operators to prevent the proliferation of telecom towers which, though initially a sign of progress and development are now often perceived as an eyesore, especially when littered over several hills in close proximity.
The arrival of Airtel is good news for business and tourist visitors as it widens the choice of operators and keeps the cost of communications competitive. After the closure of the Libyan owned company about 600.000 subscribers had to move to MTN and Tigo and the new choice will undoubtedly lead to a major migration of phone users to Airtel in coming weeks as their marketing campaign is rolled out.
RWANDAIR SIGNS OPTION DEAL FOR 2 B787
Following the announcement by the airlines CEO John Mirenge on the occasion of the delivery in Kigali of RwandAirs first B737-800 Sky Interior about the vision for Rwandas national airline, it was established that an option agreement for 2 Dreamliners has been signed. Deliveries are likely to fall into the 2015/16 period, at which time additional aircraft are also due to have come on line for the airline. The 2020 strategic plan speaks of a total of 18 aircraft WB intends to fly from its hub in Kigali, very likely then from the new international airport at Bugesera.
There is intense speculation amongst aviation analysts and observers in the region over the exact plans for the airlines growth, starting from the almost certain new destinations when the second B737-800 is delivered in the last week of October this year, but even more so about the intermediate future fleet development of the airline ahead of the intended B787 delivery. Considering the complex structure of the Rwanda Incorporated decision making, it is thought that a number of key decisions are pending before cabinet until pen is put to paper and firm commitments can be made for the purchase of additional new single aisle aircraft.
While the airline is reluctant to discuss these details, clearly not wanting to give the game away by alerting their competitors in the region too early to their plans, it is clear that sooner or later larger turboprops than the presently used Bombardier Dash 8 will be required to support growing demand from the domestic network, and it is anybodys guess where they may be sourced from. They could either be the larger Bombardier models like the Q400 or else for instance turboprops from French manufacturer ATR, which several other airlines in the region like Precision and Fly540 already operate successfully.
As to additional jets, the guess equally is anyones right now. It is known that Embraer has a keen eye on the East African region following their overwhelming success in selling their 170s and 190s to Kenya Airways, but even Bombardiers new C-series, with their superior economics may be a contender, besides of course Boeing itself, though they might not have the right-sized smaller jet available for RwandAirs needs in that segment. Time will tell the story in greater detail but the aggressive plans by RwandAir, for making Rwanda a regional aviation hub and claiming their place amongst the major airlines in East Africa will undoubtedly be material for more speculation in coming months. Watch this space for the most current aviation updates from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
South Sudan News
MAJOR INVESTMENT CONFERENCE PLANNED
Juba will host the first post independence South Sudan Investment Conference and Trade Fair in October, according to a regular source in Juba. We will be showing potential investors what great range of projects they can apply for, can make a sales pitch for. We need foreign investments in the entire infrastructure, in manufacturing and services, because our government cannot do this alone, we South Sudanese cannot do it alone. We are offering opportunities in housing developments, telecommunications, the health sector, education, power generation and distribution, airport development, railway development, mining, agriculture and agro processing and tourism. We need all those things to make our economy take off and when we are part of East African Community we can offer an even bigger market for those manufacturing or producing agricultural products. Tourism needs hotels in all the state capitals, in the new federal capital, in the safari parks or along the rivers. South Sudan is now open for business and we will facilitate good investors and good projects as much as we can.
True enough adds this correspondent in closing, that a huge potential exists across the South Sudan for all the sectors mentioned, plus aviation which the source inexplicably left out from the extensive list quoted. Watch this space.
HIGH WAVES WARNING FOR BEACHES IN SOUTH OF MAURITIUS
Forecasts are predicting waves on the southern and western beaches of Mauritius to rise up to 4 metres high this weekend as a result of both strong winds and sea swells combining to bring about this unusual phenomenon outside an actual cyclone storm.
Beach resorts appear to have been told in good time to alert their guests of the high waves and while very experienced surfers may try to take advantage of the big ones, generally caution has been advised to guests intending to swim, snorkel or dive on the affected part of the island.
AIR MADAGASCAR LEASES B777 TO CIRCUMVENT EU BLACKLISTING
Following the blacklisting over safety concerns by the European Union earlier this year, reported here when it happened, Air Madagascar has substituted a wetleased B767-300ER from Air Italy with a leased B 777-200ER from another European registered airline.
The airline operates three flights a week between Antananarivo and Paris and the route is a major income earner for the islands national airline with almost 120.000 passengers carried between the two countries last year. While initially absent from the route after the ban Air France picked up considerably more traffic on their own 4 times a week service and Air Madagascar had to claw their way back into the passenger good books. Confidence in the airline had diminished in Europe after the ban but returned gradually when a leased aircraft with European registration were brought on line.
Tourism is a potentially huge income earner for Madagascar but has suffered substantial downturn since the political upheavals brought a regime into power by a coup d etat and the country was subsequently suspended by the African Union and put under sanctions by Western countries. Happy Landings to the new bird, the crews and the passengers of Air Madagascar.
SEYCHELLES TOURISM ACADEMY OPENS TRAINING SPA
The Seychelles Tourism Academy at La Misere opened their new Spa facility in the presence of Principal Flavien Joubert and Seychelles Tourism Boards Deputy CEO Elsia Grandcourt.
All the leading resorts across the archipelago presently operate Spas and wellness centres and students at the STA can now acquire appropriate skills, allowing them to eventually be deployed in such facilities and meet the job requirements. Many of the Spas presently employ expatriate expert staff offering their clientele exactly the standards they are accustomed to but the new course components now taught at the STA will gradually see more Seychellois citizens to make their way into such positions.
The new facility was created with joint funding from government and private sector contributions, but also through fundraising events organized regularly by the Seychelles Tourism Academy, which has in recent years established itself as a leading hospitality training institution in Africa. Partnership and cooperation agreements with Irish hospitality school counterparts have led to a sharp improvement in course quality and the range of courses offered. Graduates, many of whom have taken advantage of doing part of their courses in Ireland, have been absorbed by not only resorts and hotels in the Seychelles but also found work abroad as expatriates where they can gain valuable experience before returning home and very likely start their own businesses under the various entrepreneurial schemes available from government. Congrats to STA for their innovative spirit.
THE MAIA TURNS 5
It has been a fast 5 years for the Maia Luxury Resort and Spa on Mahe, since it opened its doors for the first time in September 2006 and it has been a good 5 years by the signs of it.
On Tuesday this week, while yours truly was checking out luxury properties in Dubai, the MAIA celebrated the big day in style by throwing a big birthday party at their helipad for resort residents, invited guests and representatives of Southern Sun and Qatar Diar which jointly own the MAIA, offering those in attendance the sweeping views of the Indian Ocean waters and the surrounding lush countryside.
The MAIAs 25 villas are built into the hilltop and offer visitors every imaginable luxury, including the most precious one privacy since guests can actually take all their meals in situ, prepared by the team of chefs on call for exactly such requests. All villas have their own infinity swimming pool and of course their own personal butler, who is on call 24 / 7 should guests require any services, snacks, drinks or the latest newspapers from back home, which the resort actually prints on a daily basis and delivers crisp and fresh, either for breakfast or at any time of the day.
Managed since the opening in 2006 by Frederic Vidal, he and his team have over the years bagged a cabinet full of hospitality and travel magazine awards, including a few prestigious Best of from Conde Nast and other leading publications. Said Frederic on the occasion: All these prestigious awards and accolades are the result of an incredible team work, where every member of the Maia family plays his or her role.
Present from the Seychelles government was the Chairman of the Seychelles Tourist Board, Mr. Barry Faure, who is also the Secretary of State in the Presidents Office the tourism portfolio is held directly by President Michel, signifying the importance the sector enjoys on the archipelago accompanied by the STB top brass of Alain St. Ange, CEO and Elsia Grandcourt, Deputy CEO.
Notably were some inaugural guests also present, who have for the past 5 years faithfully spent their annual holidays at the Maya, a clear sign of how visitors, once they caught the MAIA bug, keep returning time and again to get more of what this correspondent once described as hospitality made in heaven and sent to earth.
From this correspondent it is a very warm Happy Fifth to the MAIA and their extraordinary staff, who have made every visit a unique experience and who are the backbone of the success of the MAIA.
(Picture courtesy of the Seychelles Tourist Board)
One the left the release of the celebratory balloons while
on the right is Frederic Vidal addressing the guests and
staff with Mr. Barry Faure (right) and Alain St. Ange
(left) looking on.