News from ‘Uganda – Gifted by Nature’, the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
First edition May 2010
AVGAS GOES MISSING – AGAIN
Air operators using conventional single or twin piston engined aircraft are once again up in arms over the fresh shortage of AVGAS, the ‘juice which makes our aircraft fly’ as one of the contacted domestic airline executives said to this column. Only recently did a severe shortage come to an end which curtailed flying and halted flying lessons, as airlines rationed the precious liquid to serve their regular commercial clientele.
However, no sooner had supplies been restored did Shell once more let the market run dry, again remaining largely indifferent to the plight of the domestic airlines and owners of private planes.
Shell recently announced that they would sell of their Eastern African distribution operations and it is now alleged, that, although Shell has behaved ‘badly’ in the past the bottom is now dropping out of their service and care of their erstwhile business, probably showing their true faces as they prepare to exit Uganda and the rest of East Africa.
One irate air operator has threatened to sue Shell for breach of contract, and predictably no comments were received from Shell over the repeat problems inflicted on local airlines. Shell had dragged their feet in related matters too, such as the installation of a fuel storage facility at the Kajjansi airfield which has been going on for years and now seems destined for ‘neverland’, considering that Shell is hardly ready or likely to pay for the completion of the depot now that they have declared their intention to leave the market place. Said another operator from Kajjansi to this correspondent: ‘Shell is becoming completely hopeless. Our relationship is marked by broken promises and non delivery of AVGAS. The sooner they go the better as we hope a new and dedicated distributor of oil, lubricants and aviation fuels will do better and have some respect for their clients. Shameful behaviour!’
BRIDGES INTO DISASTER AREA WASHED AWAY
A few weeks after the tragic landslide in Bududa / Mt. Elgon, which cost the lives of several hundred people, have fresh torrential rains now added more misery when swollen rivers washed away bridges leading to the area. Emergency personnel have reportedly been sent to the scenes to assess the damages and as and where possible begin emergency repairs, but a full restoration of road links may take well until after the rainy season is over, when the construction sides are safe and further rains do not wash away whatever repairs may now be done. The flow of supplies, but also access to schools, health centres and other social services now remains severely impeded in the Bududa area. Additional new landslides in the immediate vicinity of where the original disaster occurred were also reported in the media a few days ago, underscoring the need to continue moving people out of the park area and into safer zones further down the mountain or other parts of the region.
The same part of the country was already in 2007 subjected to flooding and destruction and as a result of the El Nino induced current heavy rainy season across Eastern Africa many parts of the region are suffering of similar problems as repeatedly reported here.
GORILLA TWIN PASSES AWAY
Sad news have reached a few days ago that ‘Katungi’, one of the twin pair born in late 2008, has apparently died. The little adolescent mountain gorilla was a member of the Nkuringo group, visited last year by this correspondent. It is a very rare occurrence that a female mountain gorilla gives birth to twins, and when discovered it was cause for both celebrations as well as scientific interest amongst researchers working in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
It is understood that vets working with the Uganda Wildlife Authority are trying to establish the cause of the gorilla youngster’s death to learn more about health issues surrounding the gorillas and be able to more effectively provide medical assistance when and where required.
Visit www.friendagorilla.org for regular updates by UWA on what is going on amongst their ‘gorilla community’, or better befriend one of them for the nominal fee of just 1 US Dollar.
CHOGM ‘THIEVES’ TO FACE IGG PROSECUTION
The Inspector General of Government of Uganda, in short the IGG, has now confirmed that they will begin to prepare indictments towards some individuals suspected to have diverted funds or ‘stolen’ funds in the run up to the Commonwealth Summit in November 2007, following constant revelations from the parliamentary public accounts committee and interrogations of suspects by the CID officers attached to parliament. Many civil servants, business people and government officials were implicated by the public accounts committee and accused of complicity in the misuse of funds, while the public at large was outraged that road repairs and other infrastructural measures soon after the summit began to fall apart and deteriorate with no sign of maintenance or the initial contractors being asked to fix up their shoddy work.
In fact, sources from parliament are talking of their intention to press for prosecution of very senior officials, including the country’s Vice President, senior ministers including the state minister for tourism and a range of other officials who had come to the attention of the investigators and failed to absolve themselves while answering allegations and questions from MP’s. Notably the Vice President evaded the parliamentary committee – some sources suggest he defied summons – while others staged ‘walk outs’, took several summons to appear or failed to cooperate in the eyes of committee members.
The IGG will according to reports from parliament share the ‘burden’ of prosecution with the office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and court cases, according to another source close to the investigation, would likely be filed already soon.
The parliamentary public accounts committee also visited the president last week at State House in Entebbe to discuss issues surrounding their investigation and shed light on to attempts by some of those questioned before the committee trying to hide behind obscure ‘presidential directives’ without however presenting any documentary evidence to that effect. It was made clear by the President in the meeting, that while he was not in any way involved in procurement of goods and services for the summit, he had on several occasions guided and counselled those concerned to observe existing rules of procurement and ensure that the requirements of the Commonwealth Secretariat for holding such a summit, as laid down in the ‘Blue Book’ were catered for. He also challenged anybody trying to hide behind any of these obscure ‘directives’ to produce evidence to that effect. The President also expressed satisfaction, that inspite of the ongoing queries and investigations the summit overall was a success as it showcased Uganda around the Commonwealth family of nations and the world at large and subsequently increased tourism arrivals substantially. The President also commented favourably on the increase in bed capacity of the Ugandan hospitality industry, which he said was another reason why the country was now able to attract more conferences and global meetings, something not possible without having held the Commonwealth summit.
2010 being a pre-election year in Uganda, with general and presidential elections now less than a year away, this saga will obviously continue to attract public attention and it is not ruled out that consensus for some prosecutions will be granted sooner rather than later to present a strong anti corruption stand as repeatedly stated by the President to the Ugandan public at large and reiterated when meeting the parliamentary public accounts committee last week.
Read more about this issue in some rather candid articles from the local print media like the New Vision, Uganda’s leading daily via www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/13/717758, www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/12/717996, www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/13/718058 and www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/12/718066 or from the Daily Monitor via www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/909310/-/wy25tq/-/index.html
And in breaking news just in, the Vice President reportedly reacted with anger, according to Ugandan media reports, when finally meeting with the parliamentary public accounts committee yesterday, directing ‘words’ against the chairman of the committee and the auditor general.
Read all about these latest twists in this saga via www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/12/718368 by the New Vision and www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/911640/-/wyi7lp/-/index.html in the Daily Monitor, which used particularly strong words and language when reporting about the latest developments.
CLIMATE CHANGE FALLOUT BLOCKS ROUTE TO RWENZORI PEAKS
Glaciers on the top of the Mountains of the Moon, aka Rwenzori Mountains, have shrunk considerably since the peaks were first climbed over a hundred years ago, and since satellite surveillance and mapping has started to provide detailed records, part of the progressive disappearance of the equatorial icecaps also seen on Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya. This has worried climate researchers, conservationists and economists alike, as the fallout for the local ecosystems and the subsequent economic fallout, when runoff water quantities from the mountains begin to dwindle, will be having a major impact on millions of people living around these mountains.
Meanwhile though have reports filtered back from climbers – the Rwenzori Mountains are a national park under the auspices of the Uganda Wildlife Authority – that the glacier leading up to the Margherita peak has developed a deep crack which has widened to several meters, effectively blocking the ascend for climbers. This particular glacier has shrunk to less than 20 percent, according to available records, since the 1960’s and the deep crack may be a harbinger of things still to come, should global warming continue unchecked.
There is now a risk, that should the crack widen further, that part of the glacier may progressively ‘slide’ away further. According to UWA sources other but smaller cracks have also been observed on other glaciers in the mountains although it could not immediately be ascertained what impact this would have on mountain climbing tourism, the major source of income for this particular national park. Many alpinists come to Uganda to climb the challenging Rwenzoris’, the only ‘proper’ equatorial mountain range besides the free standing Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro
The equatorial icecaps were immortalised in Ernest Hemingway’s book ‘Snow on Kilimanjaro’ and have been attracting tourists from all over the world to East Africa.
In recent reports, and as witnessed directly by this correspondent, was mention made about the Mt. Kenya glaciers shrinking to a minute portion of their former glorious self, while the Kilimanjaro icecaps too are now only covering the top of the peak instead of reaching far down the mountain. Watch this space for more reporting throughout the year as the focus is now on the Mexico Summit where hopefully a globally binding agreement on the curtailing and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can be reached, as otherwise the equatorial icecaps may well be gone within the next 15 to 20 years. Stark prospects …
MADHVANI FOUNDATION SEEKS APPLICATIONS FOR SCHOLARSHIPS
The annual award process of scholarships worth 500 million Uganda Shillings is now going underway again as every year and applications must be received by the Foundation by 31st May. Most notably, scholarships are again available in the field of hotel management and environmental studies, both fields important for Uganda and of course the tourism and wildlife sectors. More details are available for Ugandan students via www.madhvanifoundation.com. Successful applicants will have their tuition fees paid directly to the institution of higher learning of their choice while all other study and living expenses are to be met by the students selected.
The Madhvani Group operates currently 2 of the best known safari lodges in Uganda, is about to open their third safari lodge in the upper part of Murchisons Falls National Park and recently acquired their first safari camp property in the Masai Mara in Kenya, a reason why the foundation in recent years added hotel management and environmental studies to their portfolio. Well done and bouquets for the foundation over their philanthropical engagement in the country for many decades and the enormous amounts of money spent on their charitable work here in Uganda.
NEW BANK NOTES LAUNCHED
The Bank of Uganda earlier in the week launched new and redesigned banknotes which will now be gradually introduced into the local economy. The present 1.000 and 5.000 Uganda Shilling notes have been given a ‘make over’, incorporating not only the latest security features and arguably given the notes a longer life span through new production processes, but in addition a new note with the value of 2.000 Uganda Shillings was also launched, which is equivalent to approximately 1 US Dollar. It is understood that the present one- and five thousand shilling notes will be progressively withdrawn from the market, as in any case their general appearance has suffered and in particular tourists were often seen shy of accepting old and tattered notes as change when purchasing items from local curio traders and shops. This did not give a good impression to tourists in particular and urgent action was needed to remedy the situation.
Hence, the new notes will undoubtedly also raise the ‘general fresh appearance’ Uganda gives to her visitors from abroad, a development which deserves a ‘bouquet’ for the Bank of Uganda.
Meanwhile, in a related economic development, has government released the latest inflation statistics, and proudly reported a fall from double digit inflation during the height of the global financial and economic crisis to now ‘only’ 5.9 percent, largely driven by consistently rising fuel prices. The same trend was reported from the entire region, where inflation rates have fallen on a broad basis and economic growth forecasts were upped across the board.
These latest data were released earlier in the week by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics in conjunction with the Bank of Uganda and the Ministry of Finance. Economic growth for the 2010/11 period is expected to be in the range of between 7 and 8 percent, giving overall good prospects for the local economy in the near term and excellent prospects in the medium and long term when oil production starts and a hung chunk of the national spending on the importation of fuels can then be dedicated to other crucial sectors like education, health and infrastructural developments.
WHERE ARE THE NEW FERRIES
Anger is spreading amongst commuters, the business community and the tourism trade over the unexplained delay of delivering the new ferries for the Likoni channel crossing, which presently connects the island of Mombasa with the southern mainland, a crucial link for tourists and the local community alike.
Initially the ferries were to be delivered already last year but constant delays were experienced and procurement payment issues in Kenya too were not helpful towards a timely delivery.
It is now understood that it may take several more weeks before the ferries may arrive in Mombasa, but no word was received to to the shipping route, which may add more dangers to the timely delivery should the route go through waters infested with Somali ocean terrorists, as it would more than likely need a navy escort all the way from the Red Sea to the port of Mombasa.
Interesting enough, no one has yet used the Icelandic ash cloud as a reason for explaining the fresh delays …
KENYA BUZZ PRODUCES NEW GUIDE / MAP
Kenya’s premier e-guide – available via www.kenyabuzz.com – has now launched a printed version of their accumulated ‘wealth of knowledge’ and is selling both, an up to date map of Nairobi as well as the quality guide book for 1.200 Kenya Shillings, or somewhere in the region of 15 US Dollars, a bargain considering the range of details contained in the new guide about eating out, shopping and all related information valuable to tourists and locals alike.
Subscription to the weekly edition mailings of the e-guide are free and can be requested when visiting Kenya Buzz’s website, where a variety of news items can be found week in week out, including links to some of the lesser known but nevertheless very good safari and beach properties available across the country for locals and overseas visitors alike. A ‘should really read’ publication for any intending tourists and business travellers coming to Kenya.
KENYA AIRWAYS ADDS ‘FRILLS’ FOR BUSINESS CLASS TRAVELLERS
It is now three pieces of baggage, weighing 23 KG each, which KQ allows their business class travellers to take with them when checking in for flights from East Africa for onward flights into their European network, moving to the same standard already in place with some other carriers, some of which also added perks to their faithful flyers in order to retain their top revenue bracket. A number of airlines flying to Entebbe already grant larger allowances in terms of overall weight while again others restrict the weight per piece to their standard 23 kilograms and then rather add an extra checked suitcase.
The use of customer loyalty schemes – Kenya Airways some months ago added a co-branded credit card for their faithful passengers which earns them extra ‘points’ – is also increasingly playing an important role as the ‘earn and burn’ opportunities continue to grow and frequent fliers often manage to accumulate enough ‘credits’ within a few months to enjoy a free weekend at the Kenya coast for instance with their families.
POACHERS SHOT WILDLIFE AND POLICE OFFICER
During a recent anti poaching operation it once again emerged that lives are indeed at risk when trying to enforce the law. Two officers were shot at and seriously injured by poachers in the Manyara region of Tanzania. The anti poaching operation comprising over half a dozen officers drove into what appears an ambush, during which the vehicle was sprayed with bullets, before those officers not injured then managed to arrest several culprits, which will soon appear in court charged with attempted murder and a variety of other crimes related to poaching and illegal logging.
Poaching has been a matter of concern in Tanzania amongst conservationists and government had been asked to do substantially more to combat the vice.
This correspondent expressed his sympathy and best wishes for a full and speedy recovery of the injured anti poaching personnel and commends them for their bravery.
WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM / AFRICA CHAPTER MEETS IN DAR
Hot on the heels of the third East African Community Investment Conference, held last week at the Munyonyo conference and resort complex outside Kampala, is the WEF / Africa chapter holding its economic review meeting in Dar es Salaam this week. Over 1.000 delegates from over 80 countries are expected to join governmental delegations and representatives of multilateral organizations.
The meeting is breaking new ground as it will be the first of its kind in the Eastern African region and the theme of the event is ‘Rethinking Africa’s Growth Strategy’ – a timely reminder of having just emerged from the worst global economic and financial crisis, which still reverberates in many of the economic sectors of the African nations. In particular Tanzania and her East African Community sister states will try to showcase the investment opportunities and potential to the visitors from abroad but it is a meeting for the whole of the African continent of course. Issues like food security and production, aggravated some years ago by a global demand for bio fuel crops which drove the price of food often beyond the means of ordinary people, will rank high on the agenda, as will infrastructure, which is in urgent need of major investments to bring Africa into the 21st century.
The tourism industry in Tanzania hopes for the proverbial shot in the arm during the present low season, hoping for good sales of pre and post congress tours to the Indian Ocean beaches and the country’s much fabled national parks.
It is also understood that a parallel forum for ‘young leaders’ is due to take place also in Dar es Salaam at the same time, for which a few hundred extra visitors are expected in Tanzania’s commercial capital, filling all the available hotel space to the delight of the hospitality trade and leaving ad hoc visitors and visitors with no prior bookings stranded to look for rooms in the city and then had to settle for hotels or resorts further out of the city centre.
NEW CEO FOR RWANDAIR
The Chairman of the Board of Directors Mr. John Mirenge has stepped down from the twin position of CEO of the company earlier this week, when German national Rene Janata was introduced as the new Chief Executive of the Rwandan national airline.
Mr. Janata comes from German flag carrier Lufthansa, underscoring the already close cooperation between Lufthansa and RwandAir as expressed in the purchase of two CRJ200 aircraft last year, which also came with maintenance support.
The new appointment is intriguing as RwandAir already operates a codeshare with Belgian flag carrier Brussels Airlines on the Brussels to Kigali route, and Lufthansa is presently the largest shareholder in SN with the option next year to substantially expand ownership and eventually purchase SN in full. Lufthansa is already flying under codeshare with Brussels Airlines to ‘neighbouring’ Entebbe and it is according to information at hand only a matter of time now before the LH code will also be placed on the SN flights routing through Kigali.
Further options for cooperation are now abound, as WB has for long sought a sound partner to become a core investor in RwandAir, and with the ‘German Connection’ now all but obvious the coming months and weeks will make interesting observations and watching. Stay tuned to this space for the most up to date information about East African aviation.
RDB – TOURISM AND CONSERVATION PUBLISHES ‘KWITA IZINA 2010’ PROGRAMME
The following programme has been published now for the forthcoming Kwita Izina celebrations this year, and intending visitors can now prepare where they want to go in Rwanda and what event they wish to see in person:
WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY AND KWITA IZINA CEREMONY PROGRAM
Day 0: 28th/05/2010: Press Conference to announce the WED and Kwita Izina activities
Day I: 29th /05/2010 Community Work (Umuganda) an official launching of World Environmental Day and Kwita Izina week activities highlighting the role of conservation of mountain gorillas. This will be on usual date for “Umuganda Rusange” of May 2010
Day II: 30/05 to 1st /06/2010: WED and Kwita Izina National Cycling Tour
To sensitize our communities and Rwanda citizens in whole on Environmental Conservation through Kwita Izina Cycling Tour to promote a carbon free environment. This event will be organized in partnership with Rwanda Cycling Federation and the cycling tour will be combined with exhibition of environment friendly products and a public campaign for environment management.
Day III: 2 June 2010: WED and Kwita Izina Soccer
Link WED and Kwita Izina with the FIFA World Soccer Cup tournament in South Africa—from Kwita Izina to World Cup. This will be a joint soccer with FERWAFA.
Day IV- 3rd June 2010: Environment and Conservation Conference and this will focus on “Celebrating the international year of Biodiversity”
The Environment and Conservation Conference will bring together environmentalists and conservationists to share experiences and future plans in the conservation of the biodiversity, ecosystem management and green economy and protection of the mountain gorillas as well as other threatened species and their ecosystems. The conference will demonstrate Rwanda’s willingness and ability to play a regional role in environmental management and gorilla conservation and will also be earmarked by the launch of biodiversity policy Wildlife Policy and the post conflict environmental assessment report.
Proposed topics that will be discussed by international guest speakers are;
v Conservation of national parks for green economy
v Payment of ecosystem services for sustainable development
v Reducing biodiversity loss for future generations
v Carbon offset and sequestration
Day V, 4th June 2010: Umuganda and Community Projects launching, general public exhibitions/expositions on environmental initiatives and Community party “Igitaramo”
On 4th June will be an opportunity for Rwanda to carry out the community work (Umuganda) with international dignitaries while planting trees in Kigali at Nyandungu wetland will be done as a symbolic way to promote a carbon free and green economy. The emphasis will be on wetland ecosystem for management and sustainable development.
On the same date Rwanda Development Board will launch new community projects realized surrounding Volcanoes National Park as part of the Kwita Izina week activities.
Since 2003 different community projects have been implemented through gorilla revenue sharing and support of Partners with the aim of alleviating poverty.
The traditional party called “Igitaramo” whereby different cultural dances are performed is a very exciting event organized by the Rwandan Community. This cultural extravaganza which involves different traditional dances such as superb “Intore dance “and “Ikinimba” will take place in celebration of the new born baby gorillas.
DAY VI, 5th June 2010: World Environment Day & 6th Annual Kwita Izina Ceremony
5th June marks the first time Rwanda is hosts the World Environmental at the global level and this will be celebrated in conjunction with the annual Kwita Izina Ceremony. On this day, we shall be celebrating the successes of gorilla conservation by giving names to the new baby gorillas. The focus will be on “Raising global awareness of biodiversity conservation as we give names to our baby gorillas” with honoured guests from International and regional Community Rwanda’s leadership, private sector local community, Gorilla Range States, and renowned conservationists and supporters of Kwita Izina
SEE US AT THE ARABIAN TRAVEL MARKET, AND AT INDABA OF COURSE
The Seychelles Tourist Board, together with representatives of hotels, resorts and destination management companies will be making an appearance in Dubai for the forthcoming Arabian Travel Market, before turning their attention immediately afterwards to INDABA in Durban / South Africa. Both markets are hugely important for the Seychelles and increased air capacity will help to sell holidays to the archipelago from both the Gulf States as well as from Southern Africa, where Air Seychelles has added Cape Town to their regular flights between Mahe and Johannesburg.
The delegation has indicated that they will be happy to welcome ad hoc visitors with no prior appointments at their stands and have all materials and information at hand for ‘buyers’ and also for casual non trade visitors, as both events are combined consumer and trade affairs.
KEY SPANISH OPERATORS VISIT SEYCHELLES
Following several activities in the Spanish holiday market last year and early this year has a group of leading travel and tour operators from Spain visited the Seychelles last week. The eight day trip was arranged by the Seychelles Tourist Board in conjunction with Air Seychelles and Iberia and Beachcomber Hotels.
The visitors had the opportunity to get acquainted with the main island of Mahe but also visited other islands on the archipelago like Praslin, Silhouette and St. Anne to gain a greater insight into the range of resort facilities available. An ocean cruise with ‘Silhouette Cruises’ was also on their programme, giving them ample experience of the activities available for visitors to the Creole islands and the quality of hotels and resorts.
It is understood from STB sources that invitationals for leading tour operators and travel agents from key existing and emerging markets will continue across the year, as will visits for press and media organizations to keep the destination firmly in the spotlight as one of the most desirable places in the world to visit.
GERMAN PUBLICATION VOTES LA DIGUE BEACH ‘BEST IN THE WORLD’
The Seychelles have again been voted as number one in the ‘top five’ bracket of the ‘best beaches’ in a recently published survey by a German publication, as available on the web via www.strandbewertung.de for interested readers.
This correspondent has visited this particular beach on La Digue during a visit long ago, and having seen many other beaches around the globe only agrees that this is an extraordinary example of a beautiful beach and truly deserves to be included amongst the very top. Visit www.seychelles.com for more information about the archipelago and in particular about the chosen beach ‘Anse Source d’Argent’ on La Digue Island.
GREEN ISLAND FOUNDATION TO WORK ON TWO ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECTS
Although the population of the Seychelles is still – in comparison with other countries – relatively small, pressure on the environment and natural resources is growing across the archipelago too. The emphasis is now turning to ‘sustainability’ in each facet of life and the economy and the Green Island Foundation has now commenced work on two projects related to these goals. A so called ‘integrated coastal zone management’ plan is being implemented along two beaches on the islands of Praslin and La Digue, bringing together tourism stakeholders, the business sector, communities and the administration all of which will be involved in discussions over resource use and resource allocation. The two projects are funded by the European Union and will focus on such sensitive matters as beach erosion, overfishing, see weed and reef preservation but also look at general biodiversity and water quality issues.
SEYCHELLES TOURISM ACADEMY GETS NEW CHAIR
Mr. Philip Guitton was recently appointed as the new chairperson of the committee (board of directors) of the STA, and at the same time appointed vice chairperson of the Seychelles Tourist Board. Mr. Guitton is the regional general manager of the Constance Lemuria Resort in Praslin and the Constance Ephelia Resort on Mahe and has been working in the Seychelles since 2006. His work background before coming to the Seychelles, as well as his track record on Praslin and now Mahe have made him a prime choice for his new appointments and the hospitality industry has high hopes that the Seychelles Tourism Academy will benefit from his experience and connections. Well done, and all the best for the challenges ahead in coming months and years.
MAIA’S LOSS IS PARADISE SUN’S GAIN
Mr. Philippe Bethune has been moved ‘across’ from the main island of Mahe to the Paradise Sun Hotel on Praslin on promotion from his erstwhile position as Resident Manager of the MAIA Luxury Resort and Spa, following three ‘wonderful’ years at the MAIA. The Paradise Sun is also part of the South African Southern Sun Hotels empire and his appointment as General Manager is surely a vote of confidence in his performance at the MAIA.
This correspondent had the opportunity to meet Philippe a few months ago while staying at the MAIA and was able to sample their hospitality and the award winning cuisine of this top of the range resort. (Conde Nast proclaimed the MAIA’s cuisine as the ‘best in Africa’) Using a breakfast meeting with Philippe to discuss hospitality industry issues and tourism to the Seychelles with him, he did say that working at the MAIA was ‘wonderful’. My best wishes and congratulations on his new appointment to Philippe through this column.
SEYCHELLES HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM ASSOCIATION OPEN LETTER TO THEIR MEMBERS
This issue of our industry’s e-News is the final one before the Annual General Meeting of our Association. I start by taking this opportunity to thank everyone for their support for our industry’s Board during their year of office. Our united effort has paid dividends and today we are, not only the respected body representing the industry, but we are becoming the Government’s partner in the continued consolidation of our industry.
It is that new found cooperation and understanding between the Government as the facilitator, and the private sector as the economy’s motor, that will make the real difference for our industry and in so doing for Seychelles.
Together we must now rally our individual efforts for our common good. We have, as an industry, managed to hold our visitor arrival numbers, but we now need to be united in our drive to better our yield. Many ideas are being floated, but this will need to be a united drive. Our ‘one island one hotel partners’ serviced by Air Seychelles are complaining about the recent increases in the airline’s charter rates to connect these islands to Mahe. These islands are an integral part of our country’s tourism infrastructure and as your Association’s representatives we have taken the matter up with the Minister of Finance. Air Seychelles and its Board of Directors are looking at themselves as a commercial entity and they decide their own path for the future, but Seychelles also needs to protect its main industry and enable that industry to develop and prosper. Today it has become evident that the survival of the national airline and the consolidation of different other commercial entities will need to be looked at together. If the time has arrived for opening the airspace for the connecting of our islands, then so be it and we need to be brave enough to do so. This will encourage local businesses to get together to open a second domestic airline, and as a result both the Seychellois and our tourism industry will benefit.
The drive for us to open new tourism markets was seen as necessary when the ‘European ash crisis’ closed all the European airports. La Reunion, India, China, South Korea, East & South Africa are all markets we have, as an industry, been working hard to open and to develop further, and this with the support of the Government. The week on week statistical figures have shown that our country’s arrival numbers have held during the week’s disruption caused by the ‘Ash Crisis’, because we had arrivals from other countries outside of Europe. Our strategy as an industry is working, and it is such a broad view of our industry that will make the real difference for our country. This is why we also need to open up to the world with more air access from or to areas that Air Seychelles is not flying.
The Seychelles Tourism Industry is disappointed that the SCAA have decided to block Emirates Airlines from introducing their 7th flight to Seychelles because that latest flight would clash with the arrival time of an Air Seychelles flight from Mauritius. Can our country really afford to miss the opportunity of being advertised with daily landings by Emirates at 7am, and this flying in from anywhere in the world. Yes Air Seychelles was using that slot before, but what is in the interest of the Country as a whole?, what is in the interest of the Tourism Industry as a whole? and what will bring in more benefits to the Seychellois as a whole?. Seychelles may now not have the daily Emirates Airline landing in Seychelles because we want them to land in the afternoon on that one day, and in so doing force our visitors (tourists coming to holiday in Seychelles) to sit in Dubai airport for some five hours whilst in transit. We appeal to Mr Gilbert Faure of the SCAA, and to Mr Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, the Chairman of both the SCAA and of the STB to look beyond the file on our desk and to look at the economy of the country. Let us urgently review that decision that will seriously hamper our country’s new found tourism drive. The decision is yours and the effects will also be from your hands…because we will not be able to ask why other destinations are zooming ahead whilst we are stuck with our 150,000 arrival numbers!!!
I am ending this message by encouraging every tourism and hospitality industry member to make a special effort to be present at our AGM in May. Come and listen to where we are and what is still outstanding from our ‘to do list’.
Much has been achieved over the past year, however there is still more to be done; our demand for the industry to be represented on key Board i.e. Planning Authority, Praslin & La Digue Development Boards, the Management Boards of our USPs – SIF for Vallee de Mai & Aldabra, Botanical Gardens, Marine National Parks is still outstanding. Our Country is too small to have such key bodies operate with no input from the industry that remains the pillar of the Seychelles Economy. It is our hope that we will succeed this year in convincing government such requests are for the good of Seychelles.
Thank you to President James Michel and to his Government for their trust in our Industry and in our Association, thank you to all our Industry’s Members for their continued support and friendship, thank you to all the SHTA Board Members for your loyalty and support, thank you to the Tourism Industry at large for the spirit of togetherness that is so apparent and which is so encouraging.
Louis D’Offay, Chairman, Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association
Southern African News
LUFTHANSA TO USE THE A 380 TO JOHANNESBURG
Information was received from a regular contact in South Africa that apparently the local Lufthansa office ‘leaked’ the good news to the local travel and tourism trade, that they will commence flight operations with their soon to arrive fleet of A380’s to Johannesburg on an initial three times a week basis, when the four expected giant aircraft due for delivery have been received by Germany’s flag carrier. Operations are due to commence, as per the information at hand, by October this year when the traditional ‘switch’ to the fall and winter schedule takes place. Presently LH is using their proven B747-400 on the route, but a growing volume of cargo and passenger traffic to and from South Africa has probably prompted LH to choose JNB as their first – and for the time being surely ONLY – African A380 destination, after recently announcing the deployment of the new aircraft also to Tokyo and Beijing.
Johannesburg was also the first ever African scheduled destination for the A380 for flights by Air France, a signal of confidence in the destination and vote of confidence for JNB to handle the giant airlines satisfactorily. Bookings for the new service are already available on the system, it was also pointed out.
And in closing today as usual some material from ‘down south’, taken from Gill Staden’s The Livingstone Weekly, this time highlighting her experience with a hunting dogs, aka painted dogs project:
Project Update April 2010:
Stability returns to the Kutanga pack.
“Shall we do it?” I asked Jealous.
He gave me his usual smile and said, “lets go.”
Janet and Sandra, our long time friends and now Trustees of PDC UK, were with us. They watched this little cameo between Jealous and me play out with some amusement.
We were on the trail of the Kutanga pack again and they had moved off the road into a thickly wooded area. As usual I was torn between Hwange and Harare, and this was my last day before I had to travel from Hwange to Harare for meetings with National Parks.
After dealing with Squirrel (who was still in our Rehab Facility) and Bulls Eye (who was fully recovered now) there seemed to have been some in-fighting between Moth and Blaze for the apparently vacant alpha male position. It seems that Bulls Eye was in fact the low ranking male. Now Moth and Blaze were badly scarred from the fighting. Blaze seemed to have come off worse and was limping badly and had multiple bite wounds over his body, including the most delicate of places for a male!
We will never take chances with the welfare of a dog. It was the welfare of the tyres on my Landrover that caused the momentary hesitation between Jealous and me as we surveyed the thick bush in front of us, full of intimidating, thorny, acacia trees. Jealous’ smile was a knowing one, as he would be fixing the punctures. We pushed forward, experience telling us that the dogs had now settled for the morning and would not move until the late afternoon, unless they were disturbed. We have done this many times before and quickly closed in on the pack, using the signal from Moth’s collar to guide us. We sat staring hard into the thick bush, searching for a telltale flick of an ear or tail. It was Janet who spotted
the slight flicker of movement and I slowly manoeuvred the Landrover to within 12 meters of the snoozing dogs. I quickly prepared the dart, filling it with the immobilizing drugs and took aim. Blaze got to his feet slowly and stood for a second looking at me. He shifted his weight slightly, in obvious pain, and I fired.
My aim was good and the dart hit home in his upper left thigh. He moved off a few metres, pulled the dart out with his teeth and lay down. It was as if he knew and welcomed what was happening. Five
minutes later he was in a drug induced “sleep.” Jealous and I moved quickly but quietly, picking Blaze up and carrying him to the side of the vehicle to begin treating him. His wounds were extensive though
not too severe, not as bad as those of Bulls Eye and Squirrel anyway.
Working methodically from top to tail we cleaned up all of the bite wounds, flushing them out with diluted betadine solution. I administered two long acting anti- biotic injections, while Jealous
fitted a collar, as the rest of the pack sat watching us just a few metres away! It really felt like they knew what was happening, that it was not a bad thing, that we were helping their pack mate.
An hour had passed and Blaze started to come round. With the reversal injection given we cleared our kit away and got into the Landrover. Blaze staggered on wobbly legs to the rest of the pack, who mobbed him with typical enthusiasm and they all moved a short distance away into the shade of the thick bush. We drove away, happy that we had done all we could and confident that he would recover quickly.