KENYA AIRWAYS DECIDES FOR B787 AFTER ALL
In what appears to have been a well executed role play, using discussions with Airbus to obtain ultimately the very best deal from Boeing in regard of compensatory concessions for to the extraordinarily long delay of the delivery of the first of 9 B787 Dreamliners, has Kenya Airways finally announced this afternoon that ‘Boeing it is’.
Kenya Airways initially signed for 9 Dreamliners with a further 4 options over 5 years ago in 2006, but had counted to have the new fuel efficient and larger B787 already in service, to substitute against the less economical and smaller B767’s which have for long formed the backbone of the long haul fleet of KQ, besides their larger ‘sister ship’ the B777.
Information received from ‘The Pride of Africa’ just now talks of the first delivery of a B787 by the last quarter of 2013, but no one would be surprised if Boeing, saddled with a multitude of problems with the aircraft up to this point, would miss that delivery deadline too by a few weeks or months.
While announcing the re-confirmation of the contract with Boeing the airline’s CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni also spoke of plans to fly to every major African capital by 2013, using the modern new aircraft to allow the planned network expansion across the continent, which now forms the backbone of Kenya Airways’ revenue generation, for both passengers and cargo.
Remaining an almost exclusive Boeing operator – KQ also has a fleet of Embraer 170 and 190 for regional operations where smaller aircraft than the B737 are needed – will also take care of the in house maintenance at the airline’s base in Embakasi / Nairobi, which is fully geared towards all major maintenance work, including heavy maintenance, for their Boeing fleet.
MORE SABRE RATTLING BY EGYPT OVER NILE WATERS
Inspite of the political upheavals over the past few months, and a diplomatic charm offensive by the current government in Cairo with visits to Eastern African countries in recent weeks, there is another dimension to the now valid new Nile Treaty, after the signing of Burundi made the new deal ‘official’.
Yet, the latest information from Egypt is that the military, probably thinking longer term and more strategically than the current and probably inexperienced civilian politicians now in power, has made thinly concealed threats towards the ‘water producers’ in Eastern Africa. The army leadership reportedly instructed relevant units to ‘be prepared for any eventuality over the dispute on the Nile waters’, instantly raising the barometer in relations between Egypt and Eastern Africa, and the present water and irrigation minister echoed similar sentiments when first saying ‘we will ask the international community to intervene if Ethiopia does not reply’ after claiming that no answer was received to their expressed concerns over the start of the construction of a new hydro electric dam near the Ethiopian border with Sudan, which commenced last week. The minister wisely left the question of ‘direct intervention’ open, but had to admit that Egypt was lobbying hard around potential financiers of the project to withhold funds until the Egyptian side has asserted their authority under the old and outdates, and now superseded Nile treaties of 1929 and 1959. References to the possibility of ‘renewed regional conflict’ also did not help to calm the nerves in Eastern Africa, and Uganda for that matter is actively considering acquiring a fleet of modern military aircraft to be able to defend her airspace in case of such an ‘intervention’ as the Egyptians seem to keep in the back of their minds.
The unrest in Egypt could hence not have come at a worse time, leaving the army there to ‘hold the bag’ and left without political oversight and a strong hand to ‘guide’ them, they might well be capable to acting irrationally over the Nile waters, claiming ‘vital national interests’ and jump the proverbial ‘gun’ in the process without an assertive political leadership in Cairo to stop them..
The new dam in Ethiopia is expected to hold some 62 billion cubic metres of water, which while filling up when the dam is completed will somewhat reduce the flow of the Blue Nile. This branch of the river, when reaching the confluence with the White Nile in Khartoum, adds more than 2/3 of the entire water mass to the river, as it flows downstream.
Watch this space as the Nile water saga continues to erupt back into the forefront of reporting.
NO ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST INDEPENDENT SOUTH SUDAN
Information from Washington will bring great relief to in particular the business community in the soon to be independent new Republic of South Sudan, especially those with interests in the tourism industry.
‘There will be no sanctions against the new country’ was the tenor of the message from DC, indicating that while the sanction regime against Khartoum will remain in place until all required conditions for the removal of sanctions have been met, the South, not being part of the crimes committed by the North, will be exempted by the US.
This decision is likely to add more fuel to the fire in Khartoum, already ‘unhappy’ with sanctions yet the regime had done little to meet the demands of the international community. Only last week did the parliament in Khartoum resolve that members elected in the South of the country would no longer be permitted to attend parliamentary sessions, inspite of the continued integrity of the country until the actual Independence Day, and there is even more nasty stuff coming from Khartoum over plans to also prematurely dissolve the coalition government in which the SPLM has several key positions and sack ministers and even the First Vice President as a measure of retaliation against the South for voting nearly 100 percent for independence during the January referendum.
Inspite of such vengeful acts by the Northern regime, the Southern leadership and business community are confident that their march towards the 09th of July can now no longer be derailed, and being able to trade freely with the rest of the world after independence, without the application of any sanctions, will be a further confidence boost for the new country.
It is also understood that in particular safari operators and tented camp operators from the East African region have been trying to get as much information as is available about the 6 national parks and the dozen or more game reserves with the aim to establish businesses soon after independence. The prospect of lifted sanctions is encouraging for such investors too, as it lifts any uncertainties of dealing with a country under US and international sanctions.
Watch this space.
TOURGUIDES COMPLETE TRAINING AT SEYCHELLES TOURISM ACADEMY
A dozen newly ‘crowned’ tour-guides were graduated a few days ago by the STA after completing the first ever such course for ‘freelancers’. The graduates, drawn for a variety of ‘day to day jobs’ underwent intense training, including field work, for the past six weeks, learning about marketing, tourism in general, geography of the archipelago, its history, ecology and much more, to make them ‘allrounders’ when they take out their first clients to show them the Creole way of life, nature and the marine habitats.
The course was specifically designed by STA’s lecturers to produce ‘quality guides’, providing new opportunities for Seychellois’ to earn a living from tourism and in the process proudly show visitors just how much more the islands have to offer than just ‘sun, sand and sea’.
It is understood that once sufficient applications for the next course have been received a second such training will be arranged, although one source also mentioned that future refresher courses and topic specific courses may also be arranged for the graduates of the inaugural session.
The Seychelles Tourist Board too has warmly welcomed the initiative and was ready to work hand in hand with the new guides and provide them with information as and when required.
Well done and congratulations to all twelve graduates.
OMAN AIR TO IMPROVE CONNECTIVITY FROM INDIA TO ZANZIBAR
The national airline of the Sultanate of Oman has just announced changed in their scheduling for flights from Muscat to Zanzibar. Effective mid may the airline will offer convenient connections from their four key destinations in India, Dehli, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, operated three times a week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays. The airline also announced that travelers to Zanzibar, or in fact from Zanzibar, can also easily connect to other Oman Air network destinations in Muscat.
The new connections will be a boost for tourism to Zanzibar, but also for increased trade links, and have been welcomed by the tourism sector and the business community on the islands.
Oman Air has already been flying to Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam and the addition of Zanzibar shows strong confidence in the growing demand for the destination. Zanzibar has often complained that tourists destined for the resorts on the islands have to catch connecting flights in Dar, extending the journey unnecessarily and have improved the international airport in recent years to attract more carrier to fly directly into Zanzibar.
VISA FEES TO REVERT TO 50 USD
Confirmation has been received from Nairobi that Kenya will return to the pre-crisis 50 US Dollar per person Visa fee effective 01st July, partly to raise additional income but also in response to the intransigence of other East African countries to either follow suit or else finally agree on a common East African visitor’s Visa.
The latter has for the past 10 years been toyed with and deliberated over with little progress, causing foreign tourists to pay Visa for each country they visit in the region, effectively suppressing demand for wider regional visits beneficial to all member countries of the East African Community.
Said a senior tourism stakeholder in Nairobi: ‘after the crisis in 2008 and considering the impact of the economic meltdown at the time, we decided to lower our Visa charges to 25 US Dollars per person. In addition we offer free ‘re-entry’ for tourists for instance going to Uganda for gorilla tracking and then come back to Kenya. However, our neighbours stuck to their 50 US Dollar charge, some even calling us ‘spoilers’ when all we were interested in doing was to attract tourists back to Kenya with good package costs.
We also feel that some EAC members are trying to sabotage efforts to have a common Visa for foreign tourists when coming to the region, but even SADC is now moving fast towards it. The Caribbean has a similar joint Visa regime and other regions have also introduced such schemes, all aiming to bring more tourists to a specific country and then also visit the neighbours. So at last we had to face up to this and decided that from midyear, when the high season starts again, we must return to also charging 50 dollars. We hope that the growing demand for Kenya can help us to see potential visitors ready to absorb this added cost and we will assess the impact after some months’.
Kenya, assisted by such measures, has experienced the best year ever in tourism arrivals and revenues in 2010 and hopes to set a new record in 2011. Watch this space.
DEAD ELEPHANTS FOUND IN FOREST RESERVE OUTSIDE QENP
Unsettling news came to light overnight that several dead and apparently poached elephant had been found in a national forest reserve outside the Queen Elizabeth National Park, although staff from the National Forest Authority and the Uganda Wildlife Authority appear to differ on the number. Be it as it may, whether there were 8 as claimed by NFA rangers or only 4 as claimed by UWA, the fact that poaching is happening even on that scale is alarming and unsettling, and if left unchecked could pose a growing threat to wildlife based tourism in the country.
Across Africa’s safari destinations have reports emerged that poaching of elephant, rhino and other species for ivory, trophies and skins, but even bones have hugely increased in the recent past, ostensibly driven by the greed and hunger in the Far East and South Asia, where governments do little to stop the trade by imposing new legislation on possession of illegally poached wildlife items from Africa.
Parts of Northern Uganda have of late been in the spotlight when information emerged on the soaring trade in ‘bush meat’ and thankfully the security organs working hand in hand with UWA enforcement and intelligence units made a number of arrests, but such news coming from the tourism hubs in the South West of the country must be ringing the alarm bells.
Several suspected poachers have been arrested by various security forces and are in custody while other cases are now pending in court undergoing prosecution or awaiting verdicts.
Watch this space.
NEW TOURISM MASTER PLAN IN THE OFFING
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Ambassador Onen, has spoken out on the sectoral development, which in the recent past was marred by discontent and squabbles between public and private sector. While admitting that lack of sufficient funding was to blame for much of the woes of the Uganda Tourist Board, he nevertheless focused on the future and promised to have a new edition of the country’s tourism master plan launched later this year, addressing key and long overdue issues like marketing, human resource development – notably here there is still no covering law for the country’s sole public sector hotel and tourism training institute since being suddenly removed from the education ministry in 2008 – and also product development and refinement. While speaking to the media the PS admitted that while tourism earned an estimated 660 million US Dollars last year, services should be improved which however depended on training of staff working in the industry.
A recent global tourism report had stated that Uganda’s ranking had slipped further, with Rwanda being on top of the leader board in the region, and this was attributed to government’s failure to go beyond lip service to the tourism industry, make it a priority sector of the economy, allocated sufficient funds and ‘protect’ them similar to other key ministries, when cuts are affected. While the tourism sector for the current financial year was ‘officially’ allocated some 1.2 billion Uganda Shillings, the ‘real’ disbursement of funds is thought to be considerably less, leaving key institutions struggling to even meet recurrent expenditure and leaving little if anything for marketing, product development or the upgrade of the HTTI at the Crested Crane Hotel in Jinja.
In a related conversation yesterday with a former trade association head mention was also made about the sorry state of tourism trade associations and the apparent need – in his own words – to fundamentally overhaul both the private and public sector institutional framework to lay a new foundation on which tourism in Uganda could finally thrive. He, though wishing to be unnamed, also called for the immediate operationalisation of the tourism development fund levy and to ensure that the funds are remitted directly to a body independent from the finance ministry’s general fund, so that the sector can have the full amount collected available to run the industry. Watch this space.