THE OBSTACLES TO SELF HANDLING ARE MANY AND DELIBERATE
Entebbe International Airport remains the regions highest priced handling location for airlines as dominant player ENHAS has to contend only with DAS Handling, which maintains itself through a handling contract from Kenya Airways but not much more, and that one courtesy of a major row a few years ago between KQ and some of ENHAS shareholders who had tried and ultimately failed miserably to establish a competing airline in Uganda.
A source close to the Civil Aviation Authority, when following up on earlier stories here, intimated that they would be happy to grant a concession for self handling to applicants who can show that they have the capacity, and the modern equipment required, to handle themselves, casting aside past assertions that there was no space to park the equipment of a third handler, even if it is a self handler.
For those with eyes to see, and the ability to analytically compare charges say effective in Nairobi with Entebbe, it is obvious that powerful interests are behind this situation, as was apparent when back in the 1990s. The single profitable unit of the then Uganda Airlines, its ground handling unit, was hived off in an exercise which lacked transparency and international bidding at the expense of a most favourite disposal method. QU soon afterwards went into a financial tailspin from which it never recovered and was ultimately wound up when bidders from abroad got cold feet over political influence peddling and financial viability of a major investment in what used to be Ugandas national airline.
Airlines since then have been paying the price for this and while undoubtedly ENHAS has the infrastructure and invested regularly in facilities and new equipment, they nevertheless did so at a cost to their users.
Said the source after frantically seeking a guarantee of not to expose the individuals identity for fear of repercussions and consequences: Some airlines have been applying for self handling for a long time now. I think that fundamentally we should not listen to or be pressured by what is essentially a competitor or at the very least someone maybe losing a customer. This issue has even been raised at the Investor Round Table the president hold every so often. I think it is time to take a decision and let some go on their own, times have changed and we cannot and should not be kept at ransom over political threats. Aviation is a major industry and Entebbe will have to follow the example of Nairobi. If we are to get a lot more traffic, handling must be costing similar like Nairobi and not twice as much in some cases we have been made aware of. We have to put our country, Entebbes benefit before individual benefit. Self handling by the way is not for free, the airline must pay concession fees to CAA, so it will not be a loss of income for CAA as has been falsely suggested to higher authorities.
Final decisions, it has been reliably learned, could be made within weeks now and as and when the near monopolistic handling regime in Entebbe will be tackled, you can be sure to read about it right here.
Archive for October 7th, 2011
Uganda aviation news – Contract handling or self handling, a yet to be answered question by the UCAA
THE OBSTACLES TO SELF HANDLING ARE MANY AND DELIBERATE
GISHWATI FOREST IS LINED UP AS RWANDAS NEXT NATIONAL PARK
Sources close to the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation Division have confirmed earlier in the week that Gishwati Forest, featured recently in RwandAirs inflight magazine INZOZI, has now been designated as a tourism attraction, confirming suggestions by this correspondent some months ago already that this unique forest could soon join the better known Nyungwe Forest as a national park, which would bring the total number in Rwanda to four.
Close cooperation with leading NGOs has steadily improved the knowledge in recent years about Gishwatis unique features and provided an inventory of flora and fauna helpful to make sound and well informed decisions about the forests future use.
The Iowa based Great Ape Earth Park Trust has been at the forefront of putting Gishwati forward as a candidate for parkship to be bestowed on the ecosystem, but the Rwanda government itself has alongside this earmarked Gishwati for further re-forestation, aimed to close the gaps towards both Nyungwe Forest as well as towards Lake Kivu. In this respect it is worth mentioning that the size of the forest now stands at just under 1.500 hectars, up by almost 2/3 in size from 2008, when the conservation measures were started, a glowing endorsement for Rwanda and an example for much of the region where the trend still goes into the opposite direction.
Just over a dozen chimpanzees, almost cut off from the rest of their kind in Nyungwe, have been found to reside in a section of Gishwati and growing the forests together again would allow them to migrate and interact with other groups, and importantly find fresh DNA injections into a hitherto rather isolated group now prone to inbreeding.
Should Gishwati, as this correspondent expects, become Rwandas fourth national park, it would open the doors to more tourist visitors, who at present on a trial basis are allowed into the park three times a week with guided tours. Although compared to Nyungwe the infrastructure with trails and for instance another canopy walk are not yet there, the intention is to establish such facilities together with a proper visitor centre in coming years. Gishwati, another rough jewel about to be polished up and shown off to the world. And remember, you read it first here as so often before!
USE QUALITY PURPOSE BUILT SAFARI VEHICLES SAYS BALALA
As part of Kenyas drive towards quality tourism and to further shed the image of being a cheap destination has the Minister for Tourism urged safari operators to move away from the use of the conventional mini busses and use purpose built 4×4 vehicles, which project the right image for safari tourism. In neighbouring Tanzania but also in Rwanda and Uganda is the use of mini busses shunned in favour of the sturdier and original safari vehicles, built on chassis of Landrover or Toyota Landcruiser make while in Kenya the use of the 9 seater mini vans of Nissan or Toyota make are more widespread and only classy upmarket operators are using the more expensive, but also more durable 4x4s.
The minister was speaking at the Annual General Meeting of KATO, the Kenya Association of Tour Operators last week, when he cited the provisions of the new tourism act giving his ministry the powers to regulate such changes.
In response did several tour company executives however get in touch with this correspondent, pointing out that in the words of one: it is fair and good what the minister says but let no one be fooled, this has to be a longish process, not to be done overnight and the cost of the 4x4s has to be reduced by scrapping import duties and taxes on them, otherwise they will be far too expensive for many tour companies. This has been promised for long and not happened, so let the minister fight for that in cabinet first and be implemented before he throws new demands at us. We have suggested that taxes and duties be fully removed from special safari vehicles and only come into effect when we sell the cars after their useful lifespan comes to an end after a few years use. Fair words and comments it must be said with a word of caution though, that such new regulations and plans must be broadly discussed and agreed and not dictated to the industry by a ministry looking only at one aspect and not considering logistics, financing and bottom lines.
WORLD WIDE FUND FOR NATURE TARGETS MARA RIVER BANKS FOR RE-FORESTATION
It was learned overnight that the Mara River, one of the key life arteries of the Masai Mara ecosystem, will get a welcome boost as some 25.000 tree seedlings will be planted from its catchment areas along the banks of the river and its key contributories. The initiative is a brainchild of WWF, which has also earmarked at least two contributory rivers flowing into the Mara River in Narok and neighbouring districts. Earlier in the week it was reported here that 62 elephant had been relocated from conflict critical areas of these districts into the Masai Mara Game Reserve, and the planting of trees is seen as a protective measure to ensure the future uninterrupted water flow in key rivers in the sub region bordering the conservancies around the Masai Mara and the game reserve itself.
Kenyas Mau forest has been in the news in recent years over governments half hearted attempt to restore the forests encroached areas but evictions have been slow in coming, inspite of the recognition that this forest, one of Kenyas most important water towers, needs restoration to its former size to avoid rivers drying outside the rainy seasons and to avoid major environmental degradations by soil erosion, often caused by flash floods which occur more and more due to the sharply reduced forest cover. Thank you WWF for doing what the Kenyan government appears unable to do themselves, or even unwilling maybe ahead of next years elections? Watch this space.
WATAMUS HEMINGWAYS GOES UPCOUNTRY
What was once upon a time the Seafarers Hotel, set on one of Kenyas best beaches in Watamu, has of course since those old days turned into the even more famous Hemingways, in this correspondents mind one of the top resorts along the Kenyan coast. The name was chosen as indeed Ernest Hemingway did frequently come to this place to go out for deep sea fishing, taking time out from his safaris which he immortalized with his book Snow on Kilimanjaro.
(Yours truly outside the old Seafarers in the company of then British Airways Holidays senior executive Mike Barnard [second from right] and a travel media team from the UK back in the 1970s)
Many visitors to Hemingways had in the past commented that such quality should be spread around the country and finally news were broken that the owners have indeed spread their wings to Nairobi and the Masai Mara. There Hemingways has already taken over the management and marketing of the Ol Seki safari camp, which is now renamed into Ol Seki Hemingways, located on the Naiboshi Conservancy, a fine property tailored for individuals rather than big groups, offering privacy with only 10 superior tents. Visit their dedicated website via www.olseki.com
In Nairobi, Kenyas capital city, Hemingways is set to open a new boutique property by probably mid 2012 in the forested suburb of Karen, where 45 suites will be offering guests sweeping views of the Ngong Hills, besides the already famous service levels Hemingways in Watamu has been known for the decades now. Watch this space for updates as more details become available. Meanwhile, visit www.hemingways.co.ke for more information about Hemingways as well as updates from their big game fishing expeditions.
KAMPALA DOWNPLAYS SNUB SCENARIO OVER TRANSPORT LINKS WITH TANZANIA
Political observers close to the seat of power in Kampala have downplayed the emerging talk in Kenyas media that Uganda was to shift its imports from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to Tanzanian ports, following a state visit by President Museveni to Tanzania last week. While agreements were inked to commit to the modernization of the railway link between the Lake Victoria port of Mwanza to the Tanzanian coast, distance and capacity at present are a crucial restraint for importers and exporters in Uganda, who mostly rely on rail and road links to Mombasa.
While Uganda has indeed lowered excise duties and taxes for fuels imported via Dar es Salaam, railed up to Mwanza and then shipped across Lake Victoria on a rail ferry, the lack of sufficient rolling stock and ferries presently prevents a sharp shift of volumes to the Tanzanian route, with the added distance also adding extra cost. However, in the long term it is Ugandas expressed desire to create redundancy and offer a viable alternative route, and the upgrading of rail tracks from the present narrow gauge lines to European standard gauge will in time to come offer better options from both the Kenyan and Tanzanian ports.
Rumours were also dispelled that the planned modernized and upgraded rail line would run through the Serengeti National Park. The present rail line to Mwanza does not run through that park but has a different routing. It is that line which needs upgrading. Our ferries dock in Mwanza and will continue to use Mwanza to connect to Port Bell [Kampalas
lake port suburb]. We need more ferries, more equipment and a modern rail line. This will take years to accomplish. Tanzania is also working on a rail link with Rwanda, Burundi and beyond to Congo. The entire East Africa must get better and more transport infrastructure and rail is the most cost effective way to transport goods and people, as long as it is efficient and fast. We are promoting our links to the Indian Ocean, which as a land locked country are crucial for us, to both Kenya and Tanzania as we also have borders with the latter. It is a strategic issue to have redundancies in such systems, so when one is temporarily disabled or has to reduce capacity we have a fall back. We in Uganda are not promoting to run a railway through the Serengeti and while the ultimate decision on a routing is Tanzanias internal affair we do not believe that they will move the present railway line into the park but simply upgrade it like Rift Valley Railways is proposing to do with the existing line from Mombasa to Kampala was the feedback from a usually well informed and well placed source when discussing the issue before adding: the Kenyan media have their own agenda and are often the cause of problems and misunderstandings. There is no way we in Uganda could snub Kenya as it is mischieviously being portrayed. We are partners and are equally working hand in hand to have the Mombasa to Uganda railway upgraded, so what are they talking about other than trying to be sensational.
Adds this correspondent in closing that this reflects a long term trend in Ugandan strategic thinking vis a vis infrastructure developments in the region, aimed to benefit the flow of goods and people and that there is indeed nothing more to it, and certainly nothing more sinister like has been alleged in recent media reports. Watch this space for the most current news updates and insight into national and regional issues.
TANZANIAS HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY BRACES FOR MORE POWER RATIONING
News emerged in Dar es Salaam yesterday about the further reduction of hydro electric power generation from at least two dams, reducing further the output of electricity available for consumers. It appears that the low level of water in the reservoirs behind the Mtera dam had lowered generating from the installed 80 MW capacity to only 30 MW while the Kidatu dams output had reduced from an installed capacity of 200 MW to a mere 40 MW as of now. While drought is largely blamed for the low water levels it is also known that the cutting down of large swathes of forest in water towers across Tanzania is responsible for the gradual degradation in the water flow of rivers, a situation worsened by the increased extraction of water for irrigation and other uses, leaving too little to reach the crucial water reservoirs of hydro electric power plants across the country.
One hotelier in Dar es Salaam, when asked about his reaction, had this to say: Electricity rationing in Tanzania is not new, but it has become a lot worse now. The use of thermal stand by plants has also affected the tariffs and our cost for the use of our own in house generators has increased a lot because diesel now costs a lot more than a year ago. Overall, our bottom lines are being affected greatly but we have no choice in the matter, we have to run our air conditioning, our cold rooms, elevators and all and that is what our guests expect and that is what we have to give them. There might be some relief in the future when the gas powered plants come on line and the gas pipeline from the field to Dar is ready, but until then we just have to bite the bullet and struggle on.
President Kikwete reportedly was briefed on the situation when he visited one of the power plants earlier in the week and has given assurances that alternatives for power production were being pursued on the fast track to reduce the often crippling power outages affecting industrial and domestic consumers.
FORMER TOURISM PS AND KTB CHIEF EXECUTIVE MUST STAND TRIAL
Behind the scenes maneuvering and legal tactics by defense teams seem to have failed for the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Rebecca Nabutola and the former Chief Executive of the Kenya Tourist Board Dr. Onggonga Achieng, as news emerged yesterday evening from Nairobi that both of them have been committed to stand trial by the anti corruption court for alleged abuse of office and alleged fraud. The case has been scheduled to go ahead from 13th December in Nairobi and is expected to be concluded within a week. The duo is alleged to have used the absence of a board of directors at KTB at the time to obtain nearly 9 million Kenya Shillings for a tour of Permanent Secretaries to a game park and handed the deal to a choice operator and first broke in 2009. The matter came to a head when Jake Grieves Cook was re-appointed as KTB chairman for a second term of office in early 2008 and the board investigated the rumours flying around at the time, subsequently suspending the CEO. While Dr. Achieng was subsequently sacked by the KTB board, the PS too had to leave office to facilitate investigations but the long delay of the case had tourism observers baffled, suspecting behind the scenes maneuvers. Both accused are presently free on bail and as the case goes underway in two months, read all the details, updates and eventual verdict right here.