NARROWBODY VERSUS WIDEBODY, DOHA VERSUS DUBAI VERSUS THE REST OF THEM
With the start of flights by Qatar Airways, connecting Doha daily with Entebbe with an Airbus A320, the question is now arising which way the loyalty of regular travelers will go. Emirates, already offering daily flights between Dubai and Entebbe, serves the route with a more comfortable wide bodied aircraft in a classic three class configuration of First, Business and Economy, but operates their flight via Addis Ababa, which adds considerably to the travelling time. Qatar Airways in contrast will use a single aisle aircraft in two class configuration of First and Economy, with Business sadly absent, but go nonstop to Doha, from where a growing network of global destinations by the self acclaimed 5star airline offers swift connections.
Emirates, without doubt the most senior of the Gulfs airline cousins, is the best known and best connected in terms of destinations and frequencies, and their frequent flyer programme and stop over options are second to none.
Yet, complacency kills the cat and the arrival of Qatar Airways is adding more options for Ugandan travelers, already being lured by very low fares when Turkish commenced operations to Entebbe. Like THY is Qatar expanding their destinations in Africa and across the globe with the aim to tap into the growing traffic potential both to as well as from the African continent, connecting passengers via their hub in Doha, where a brand new airport is also being constructed, expected to offer the very best services for connecting passengers with a Duty Free shopping array being created ready to rival Dubai.
Ugandans are now spoilt for choice when travelling abroad. Connecting via Nairobi with Kenya Airways, for many still is a choice option, and by nonstop and direct flights with key European carriers like Brussels Airlines, KLM, British Airways are now complemented by daily flights via Addis Ababa with Ethiopian, Turkish via Istanbul, Egypt Air via Cairo, the daily South African Airways flights via Johannesburg and of course the daily services by Emirates via Dubai.
The lastest new kid on the block Qatar Airways, renowned for their award winning inflight services, will have to pull something special out of the hat in terms of fares to break into this phalanx of established airlines and make their mark, but a strong team of staff has been assembled in Kampala and Entebbe to sell seats and handle passengers, all of them with long good standing in the industry, something which will surely help to make an immediate impact on Ugandan travelers.
Adds this correspondent in closing: Cant wait for the inaugural flight to touch down in Entebbe, helping to put Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, on the world map some more.
Archive for September, 2011
NARROWBODY VERSUS WIDEBODY, DOHA VERSUS DUBAI VERSUS THE REST OF THEM
TAX RISE SET TO ENDANGER TOURISM GROWTH
The Seychelles tourism private sector has once again warned of the potential impact of the planned GST (Goods and Services) tax rise from 12 to 15 percent on tourism services.
Introduced some years ago under an economic structural adjustment programme the GST is due to be replaced by a fully fledged VAT regime next year.
The increase will apply to eating out in restaurants, excursions and tours and other services tourists ordinarily enjoy during their stay on the islands, making everything more expensive by 3 percent a source from Mahe confirmed. Louis DOffay, the Chairman of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, had warned earlier in the year of the consequences of outpricing the destination but apparently to little avail, as the tax rise now seems just weeks away from implementation.
Said another regular contributor to this correspondents articles: SHTA has a point here. The global economy is again getting very fragile, the Eurozone problems and economic performance in the US are factors we should not overlook. Our traditional big markets are in Europe and although we have made a lot of progress in other new and emerging markets, if Europe has problems this will spread rapidly. We need to be mindful of global developments and should be careful on taxes and other charges put on tourism products. Our economy depends on tourism and we should stay competitive, see what our nearest rivals do in terms of pricing, taxation and so on. Our success in marketing cannot be taken for granted and we should avoid making this harder and more difficult.
Meanwhile are general elections underway in the Seychelles, yesterday on opening day 29th of September for essential personnel who are required to be on duty on the main election day 01st of October in Mahe, Praslin and La Digue and today, 30th September on the outlying islands where special logistics have been arranged to fly elections officials and materials to the more remote islands or else land them by boat to ensure that all Seychellois citizens entitled to vote have an opportunity to participate in the democratic process and shape the future of the country.
BALALA BLASTS PARTNERS OVER FEAR AND SUSPICION
The meeting of the East African Communitys sectoral council on tourism and wildlife in Mombasa ended with calls to fast track the long overdue introduction of a common tourist Visa for the entire EAC, to stimulate travel across national borders to neighbouring countries by tourists already in the region, without having to pay multiple Visa fees every time. At a cost of 50 US Dollars a person, a family of four travelling from Kenya to Uganda to Rwanda to Tanzania can easily spend several hundred dollars in such fees, a factor often seen as a deterrent to cross border travel.
Expatriates in the region have also sharply critizised that although they are duly registered in their country of residence, they too are required to obtain tourist Visa when visiting a neighbouring country, and many have as a result opted to go for their holidays to South Africa or as far as Dubai, where most expatriate nationals do not need Visa but are giving free entry.
Kenyas tourism minister Najib Balala hit the nail on the head when he said: Fear of the unknown and unfounded suspicions harboured by some partner states is holding back efforts to take the community to the next level of integration before echoing growing calls for the completion of ongoing preparations and consultations and finally launch the common tourist Visa the industry has been demanding for a decade now.
It could not be established if this issue will be put on the agenda of the next head of state meeting in November or if it will wait for the next sectoral council meeting due in April next year. Watch this space.
IT IS BIG BIRDWATCHING DAY IN UGANDA
The tourism and conservation fraternity is today, in fact since midnight, listening for bird voices and recording sightings for a 24 hour period, with birding enthusiasts given free entrance to the national parks and national forest reserves by UWA and the NFA. Uganda has nearly 10 percent of the global bird population with both resident and migratory species and for instance Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the worlds richest bird watching destinations with over 600 species recorded there alone.
GeoLodges Uganda and GeoSafari have taken the publicity campaign for this event to the social media through regular twitter updates, where twitchers can tweet in results of sightings, allowing the wider world to follow our national bird watching day from anywhere on the globe.
This correspondent shortly after midnight already reported the sound of Ibis and Crested Cranes from his gardens at the lake shores, arguably kicking off the event as a first reporter but hundreds of birding enthusiasts will be out and about at daylight across the country trying to find as many birds as they can possibly spot. Results will be available here in coming days, where else, so watch this space.
OPPOSITION TAKES ENTEBBE SEAT IN BY ELECTION
In what can only be described as a resounding victory has the opposition Democratic Party candidate taken the Entebbe municipality seat for parliament, after the High Court had declared the election results of the February general election as null and void due to the omission by the Electoral Commission of a number of polling stations when declaring those results at the time.
Muhammed Kawuma beat the ruling NRM party candidate by a margin of more than 2 to 1 with other candidates hardly registering on the percentage scale. Political observers felt that this election victory for one of the opposition parties was also a vote against what has largely been perceived as indifference by government over the continued challenges of inflation, devaluation of the Uganda Shilling, the Mabira saga and a range of other controversial decisions by government since the elections earlier this year. Said a regular contributor and staunch NRM supporter to this correspondent last night when the results were officially confirmed: We at NRM need to redouble our efforts now. We won the last elections by a very large margin but it seems we are now seen by many as too removed from the problem of ordinary Ugandans, as not caring enough about inflation, sugar prices, fuel cost, electricity shortages and so forth. We need an open internal party debate on policy priorities to restore our popularity. Lets not fool ourselves, our big guns were all campaigning in Entebbe for our candidate and yet opposition ran away with a big victory. We have to convince the electorate again that we care and we are taking the plight of our people very seriously. We must not be seen like acting in isolation of public opinion and be aloof of all the problems people have in their daily life. And we should really feel bad now as a party that Entebbe, where our State House is and our President lives, has fallen to the opposition again, let it be a lesson for us. Watch this space.
RWANDA TOURISM EXPRESSES INTEREST IN JOINING ICTP
The International Council of Tourism Partners has received an expression of interest by the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation Division to join the ICTP alliance of global quality destinations, which provides members according to information published by them with Cooperative marketing / promotion / branding that helps members improve business, extend limited budgets and deliver quality and Sustainable development support to help members towards low carbon Green Growth. Founded and chaired by eTNs publisher Thomas J. Steinmetz, ICTPs president is internationally well known Professor Geoffrey Lipman, ably supported by a board of directors composed of leading tourism and conservation figures from around the world.
Rwanda is a leading high value and high profile tourism destination in Eastern Africa, where conservation of nature and the protection of flora and fauna is a key principle of government policy for instance all plastic shopping bag importation, manufacture and use in the country are completely banned and joining ICTP will undoubtedly widen their global reach to new and emerging markets alongside such other high profile destinations like the Seychelles.
Rwanda, breaking new ground once again as leaders and not as followers. Visit the respective web sites via www.rwandatourism.com and www.tourismpartners.org for more information on Destination Rwanda and the ICTP.
ULTRALIGHT AIRCRAFT CRASHES KILLING PASSENGER
News have emerged from the Kenyan coast that an ultralight aircraft, apparently used for a leisure flight at the South Coast of Mombasa, had crashed upon take off yesterday morning, injuring the pilot and killing the single passenger. It is understood from a source in Mombasa that the airstrip at Kinondo / Kwale District is mainly used for ultralight aircraft operations, allowing tourists to see their hotel from above during the short flights and get an aerial view of the coastline and the resorts along the beaches. In a report by Philip Mwakio of the Standard in Mombasa it was mentioned that the ultralight, supposed to take off after a short distance, apparently struggled to leave the ground, using the entire length of the strip before eventually crashing back to the ground.
The Kenya Civil Aviation authority is now investigating the air accident to establish the exact cause of the crash and vital information is expected to come from the surviving pilot of the craft when he has suitable recovered from his injuries. Added details and statements are expected also from eyewitnesses at the airstrip and the companys records on maintenance, training and other data kept.
SERENA COMES TO DAR ES SALAAM AT LAST
East Africas premier hotel, resort and safari lodge company Serena Hotels, is finally closing a glaring gap in their portfolio with the reported taking over of what used to be, amongst other brand names before, the Moevenpick Dar es Salaam, aka Royal Palm and previously the Sheraton Dar es Salaam. With flagship hotels in Nairobi, Kampala and Kigali it was long hoped for by Serenas faithful clientele, that Dar es Salaam too would come on line sooner rather than later, and their wish will soon be reality now as an announcement is thought to be quite imminent.
The Serena hotel group, established in Kenya in the 1970s with a hotel in Nairobi, two safari lodges in the Masai Mara and Amboseli and a beach resort north of Mombasa, has since graduated in to the big league and is the undisputed market leader in terms of quality and location reach not just in Kenya but also in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Mozambique. Their city hotels, all members of Leading Hotels of the World are competing in their respective locations with such global brand giants as InterContinental Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Fairmont, Hyatt, Sheraton and in Kigali soon with Marriott, due to open a hotel there in 2012. Yet, Serena has become an African brand par excellence over the years in their own right and ably holds its own and then some more in comparison with the big league players. Quoted on the Nairobi Stock Exchange the company has persistently outperformed their local rivals and is considered as one of East Africas Blue Chip companies, their shares being held in institutional investment portfolios as well as private ones.
The takeover of a hotel in Dar es Salaam, to be rebranded the Dar es Salaam Serena Hotel also reaffirms Serenas confidence into the future market development of business and tourism travel in the region and makes it the only hotel group with a significant presence in all the 5 East African Community member states. Success begets success comes to mind and a hearty congrats it is to the Serena family and its latest member joining the collection. Visit www.serenahotels.com for more information on the groups diverse locations and properties but also for rates and bookings.
BUJUMBURA HERE WE COME?!?
Usually well informed sources within Ugandas aviation fraternity have given the clearest indication yet that Air Uganda will widen their reach, true to their slogan We are the Wings that connect East Africa and offer flights, initially three times a week, between Entebbe and Bujumbura. From apparently the end of October will U7 operate a 09.00 a.m. departure every Monday and Wednesday from Entebbe to Bujumbura via Kigali, using their CRJ 200 aircraft, before returning nonstop to Entebbe. On Fridays the order will be reversed, when a 14.30 hrs departure will fly nonstop to Bujumbura, before later in the afternoon coming back via Kigali.
The same source also confirmed that come end November additional changes on the Air Uganda network will come into effect. First will be a truly daily flight between Entebbe and Dar es Salaam, where the present gap on Saturdays will be closed while from December onwards Juba will see a second flight come on line, initially on Fridays only, before upping frequencies on that route by February 2012 on two more traffic days, to be advised nearer to the time.
Considering the recent momentum in Eastern Africas aviation industry, where Kenya Airways, RwandAir and Precision Air have made all the positive headlines, it is now Air Ugandas turn to have aviation observers and analysts sit up and take notice.
Air Uganda is operating two CRJ 200 aircraft leased from GECAS and one MD87 as back up aircraft, which is however regularly deployed on the route to Juba where loadfactors remain high, necessitating the use of the much larger MD 87.
Owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, under the Aga Khan Development Network, the airline commenced operations towards the end of 2007. Initially troubled by management turbulences the airline finally found its footing when former Kenya Airways Commercial Director Hugh Fraser took the helm, replacing the hapless Italian management seconded to U7 by Meridiana at the time of startup, which was thought to have been largely responsible for the initial losses the airline incurred before the turnaround was accomplished by reverting to the initially outlined strategy of using smaller and more economical jets.
Additional news on Air Uganda will be released right here in coming days, so keep watching this space for the most current aviation news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
AIR UGANDA UNDERGOES IOSA AUDIT
Information was received this morning that Ugandas quasi national airline Air Uganda is presently hosting an international audit team, which is in country to assess the state of preparations of U7 towards final certification under IATAs operational safety audits.
IOSA is arguably the gold standard for airlines as far as safety is concerned and international cooperation with other airlines, including code share arrangements, are now often made contingent of IOSA certification by the global aviation giants, before letting their passengers fly with third party airlines beyond their own hubs and destinations. This is a global development but particularly pertinent in Africa, where aviation has an unenviable safety record in countries like Congo Dr and the Republic of the Sudan, affecting the standing and reputation of aviation in general, justified or not.
Details ascertained from a regular source in Entebbe also confirmed that the audit team has been on site since Monday this week, and is due to finalise their reviews and interviews by Friday end of business. The result of the audit will then be communicated to IATAs relevant department which will in turn formally advise applicant Air Uganda of any measures required to be addressed and the time frames given, before a final audit will then establish when, rather than if IOSA certification can be granted to U7. This is expected to be achieved by sometime in 2012 according to other usually well informed sources close to the airline.
This development is a major step by Air Uganda to enter the big league, and while not by the size of their fleet at least by the level of quality matching that of already certified and re-certified other airlines flying in the East African region. Happy Landings!