Get daily breaking news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthome or read the daily postings on my blog via: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com Many of these articles then also appear on the Africa Travel Association web magazine and of course via global industry leaders eTN on www.eturbonews.com/africa
Fourth edition October 2011
AIRLINE EXPANSION AND GROWTH LIMITED BY POOR AIRPORT INFRASTRUCTURE
Major airlines in Europe and North America have for many years now watched new global players emerge, eating deep into the cake of market dominance previously shared by only those few which have survived globalization and either grew smartly through acquisitions or as often the case in the United States hiding behind the cover of Chapter 11 to weather the various storms of the last decades.
Angry periodic outbursts from airline CEOs speaking at international aviation forums, were swiftly countered by their counterparts from Gulf based airlines, which have enjoyed phenomenal success rates at a time when other airlines balance sheets were inked in deep red. Admittedly, most of these airlines are in government hands, benefitted from liberal open air policies, generous bilateral air services agreements signed long before this trend became public knowledge, substantially lower fuel costs in their home hubs and a broadly lower cost base compared to the rigidly structured and unionized European or American carriers. But there is more to their successes in capturing a significant share of the global traffic, not just through excellent service on the ground and in the air, their often sprawling luxurious Business and First Class lounges, than the eye of the uninformed one off observer may immediately see.
European airports, the brand new Berlin International Airport is a case in point, are often restricted in regard of night time operations, giving the airlines in the desert sand as a previous alliance chief put it to this correspondent during an interview, a competitive advantage they use to the fullest, with the cooler night hours being the busiest connection times all day. Well developed schedules bring passengers via Dubai or Doha into the respective hub for a single transit and then to their final destination without wasting much time. And it does not end with operating hours, airport capacity too is an issue and of growing importance in the fight for market domination.
Heathrow was told by its political masters that there will be no added runway and Frankfurts 4th runway, when eventually ready, will be subject to night time restrictions, something residents living near the airport will appreciate but which neither the airport company nor airlines flying or based there like Lufthansa really fancy very much as it eats into their revenue potential and prevents the optimal use of their fleet.
And so are the Gulf giants like Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad and a variety of others marching on, several of them getting new mega hub airports built which can facilitate larger fleets, process ever more passengers and siphon off more and more traffic from the traditional aviation powers of yesteryear. Connecting the world via Dubai, Doha or Abu Dhabi is reality today, as the most modern of aircraft can literally reach any point on the globe without a stop from the Gulf, unlike the old days when stops were needed for instance in Iceland to reach the New World.
Then the concept of hub and spoke developed, first in the United States and then copied in Europe and beyond and it had its place to connect millions upon millions of passengers to onward flights. But like the battle ships of old outlived their usefulness and the carrier groups of today will soon need all their might to defend themselves rather than being the offensive tools of yesterday, tomorrow belongs to the long Gulfs haul giants able to fly the most modern fleets and connect the world via their brand new super mega airports.
In Dubais Jebel Ali region a new such giant airport has already opened and will eventually have 6 runways, terminal space for up to 150 million passengers a year and a high speed train to the city itself, and there are constant rumours that the present Dubai International Airport will eventually become a sole base for Emirates, something which in good time will either be confirmed or discounted.
In Doha, Qatar Airways, the worlds 5Star Airline, expects their equally fast growing fleet to operate from a brand new super airport just a few klicks away from the present international airport by mid of next year and across the Arabian Peninsula are airports being upgraded, enlarged or built afresh to provide the infrastructure these mega carriers require.
This can only mean that faced with infrastructure constraints and legally imposed operating caps on their own airports back home, the European and American airlines will see aviation developments move yet further and faster away from them with few options left to hold against the trend.
But there are other expanding airlines on my mind, maybe not on the scale of the Gulf giants but nevertheless significant for Africa. Nairobis Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is seen as the single biggest constraint for faster growth by Kenya Airways and until a second runway has been constructed and significantly larger terminals been opened all efforts by The Pride of Africa will be in semi-vain as JKIA is way beyond its operational capacity already. The single runway, when closed by an incident, has repeatedly forced airlines to divert or delay flights when the runway was blocked and other operational mishaps by KCAA, like successive power outages this year and last year, have also had the same effect. Kenya Airways will over the coming decade double if not triple its fleet and while small compared with the Gulf trio is nevertheless one of Africas leading airlines and a vital link for East Africa to the world. Yet, their contribution to the national economy was long overlooked if not ignored and the Kenya Airport Authority is clearly at fault over failing to cater for their national airlines growth plans by having new facilities and structures ready now instead of in a few years time.
In neighbouring Rwanda the government, aware of the importance of aviation for a land locked country, is busy finalizing the planning for the new Bugesera International Airport as RwandAirs present hub, Kanombe International, while closer to the city, will in a few years no longer be able to accommodate the national airlines growing fleet of aircraft and flight movements. RwandAir, presently awaiting delivery of their 7th aircraft, is due to double that number in 5 years time and plans to nearly triple it by 2020, flying to a number of intercontinental destinations at that time which need a longer runway, more terminal spaces and a fully fledged air cargo centre.
Similar circumstances apply to Turkish Airlines, another airline with a phenomenal growth factor in recent years and connecting East Africa via Istanbul to their global network. With some 175 aircraft and flying nearly 30 million passengers a year, Turkish will need a new airport soon, considering the additional aircraft on order already and the new destinations the airline has announced for coming years, but the congested Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul will remain THYs hub for at least another 5 years, as a site for a new airport has not even been chosen yet nor has any detailed planning began in earnest. Like in Nairobi with KQ, THY has the same growing problem of congestion, which impacts on the travel experience of passengers who have plenty of airlines to choose from when leaving from Africa for overseas and, courtesy of advertising and PR campaigns, and the easy access to web based information, know what transit should be like as opposed to what it is like and many choose accordingly and switch loyalty once having a single negative experience.
And herein lies the crux of the matter: Countries with good planning and foresight have expanded and modernized their aviation hubs to cater for present and future expansion by their national airlines, giving them space to grow into and facilitate it. That will give those carriers a competitive advantage, capture passenger and cargo traffic and leave others trailing in their wake, as they face congested airports, lack of landing slots and overcrowded terminals.
Finally in closing and to make matters rather worse for European and American airlines, aviation has become the punching bag for many Western governments which slapped them with eco taxes left right and centre, while allowing the playing fields to be tilted by restrictions on operating hours and a range of restrictive regulatory demands. These extra added cost for carriers in Europe and America without getting much back from their governments, combined with the outlined other factors, put the proverbial smiles on the face of Gulf airline executives and as I a while ago said in a related article here, they are right to tell their envious competitors to pull up or shut up and your guess is as good as mine which way that challenge will go and who will take the spoils in the battle of the skies.
AFRICAN AVIATION OBSERVERS BRACE FOR MORE DUMPING
News from Russia that two major privately owned airlines, Ural Airlines and Kuban Airlines announced earlier in the week that they would phase out their ancient Soviet built aircraft will send shivers down the spines of regular observers of the African aviation scene. In the past Africa has been a dumping ground for in particular cargo planes of Antonov and Iljushin make, which were cheap to acquire but fuel guzzlers of the highest order and the proverbial bitch to maintain.
The many aviation accidents witnessed across the continent, in the Congo DR, the Sudan and elsewhere, Soviet era built aircraft regularly featured, taking hundreds of lives in the process over poor or absent maintenance and lack of prescribed crew training.
While the more foresighted aviation regulators have meanwhile joined the technologically advanced rest of the world in banning these flying monsters, several countries appear still willing to have these types of aircraft registered, giving them certificates of airworthiness and permitting airlines to use them. Subsequently, many of those aircraft now phased out in Russia, following a government directive after a few more fatal accidents, will not go on the scrap heap and be chopped up but likely be sold to African operators and airline owners who know full well what they are getting into, for profit considerations and little else, as if African lives count less than those in Russia. It remains to be seen if the latest wave of decommissioning Soviet era aircraft will once again see Africa become a dumping ground for derelict and very likely very dangerous flying machines often here described as flying coffins. Watch this space.
QUO VADIS WILDERNESS AS POPULATION HITS 7 BILLION
The annual World Habitat Day this year is celebrated at a time when the global population is expected to cross the threshold of 7 billion inhabitants, all in need of shelter, clothing, food and water, education and jobs, and of course ever more land to live and grow food on. Population growth, particularly intense in Africa, is bringing to the forefront the challenges the next generations have to master and to untie the Gordian Knot, which presently threatens wildlife conservation and the future foundation of wildlife based tourism people versus the original flora and fauna, outcries by people for food versus the survival of the big herds.
In East Africa conservationists are wondering just how long they can stem the tide, with crucial migration routes, imprinted on the animals for eons, being fenced off for farming, built over and blocked by industrial developments, highways, roads and residential estates. In the news of late were such issues focusing on the potentially devastating hemming in of the Nairobi National Park, the Amboseli National Parks in and out migration routes but also further north where the ancient elephant routes to and from Mt. Kenya, the Aberdare mountains, the Laikipia plains, and via the Lewa Down conservancy all the way to the Matthews range and to Marsabit are being increasingly fragmented and parceled off.
In Uganda is the previous game corridor between the Pian Upe Game Reserve all the way to Kidepo Valley National Park and further into the now independent South Sudan being broken up and under growing threat of further alternate land use, condemning wildlife to mere pockets of still protected land but very likely amongst the first to be hived off in a part of the country rich in minerals. And in Tanzania an entire series of previous articles published here about the Corridor of Destruction have explained all of the threats that countrys protected areas are experiencing as development and progress carve out ever more land for the purpose of industrial and infrastructural projects, previously set aside for conservation and to preserve the unique wilderness tourists come to expect when visiting on a safari holiday. [This article is
available via this link and others can be found through a search on the
blog site itself:
Some more pessimistic conservationists say the days of the big game safari, as we grew up to know it, are numbered, and be it a decade or two or three, the open wilderness parks will have to be fenced off, game numbers strictly controlled to avoid overgrazing and fatal land degradation, and during drought periods the game may need to be watered and fed as they can no longer migrate out of their enclosed reservations in search of pasture. Some of Kenyas parks are already fenced, partly or fully and across the region are voices getting louder to claim for compensation for loss of crops and property when the animals go and eat in parts of the country which up to yesterday was theirs, before population pressure forced people to move on to land previously thought unfit for farming due to poor soils.
The more optimistic conservationists amongst us, and I often feel they, or at least some of them deliberately project confidence to maintain their rich funding sources, claim that co-existence of wildlife and humankind are assured long term, but few would go into specifics of how this scenario will in the future compare with the wide open spaces of yesteryear, or of what is left of those good old days today.
What they all agree on, in private at least, is that their challenges are getting more and taller and that the projections for population growth in coming years and decades will radically alter the concept of conservation. Todays approaches, tested as they might be, will undergo fundamental change and many parks will be fenced and ringed by trenches to keep the animals inside, while farm and ranching land will come right to the doorsteps of such protected areas. Private conservancies are likely to thrive, following the examples set by such pioneers like Ol Pejeta ( www.olpejetaconservancy.org) which has succeeded to have ranched cattle and wildlife co-exist, generating greater returns and therefore being financially more viable than a strict either or operation and making this type of conservation more attractive to investors.
The lack of migration, for both public national parks and private conservancies and reserves, may in the future have to be dealt with by more extensive trucking of animals to ensure the injection of fresh DNA, as for all practical purposes migration, at least outside the Serengeti Masai Mara axis, will become a thing of the past. Why, because humans claim ever more land, much of it former wilderness and wildlife corridors but claimed nevertheless, and no politician will be able to survive the next election when humans cast their votes while wildlife does not if he or she does not reflect the wishes and demands of their constituents, human constituents of voting age in particular.
Mitigation at best if not mere rearguard action seems to be the one remaining answer to all such unsavory developments, unsavory for the conservation fraternity at least, which when push comes to shove, legislation and regulations notwithstanding, will not be able to stem the tide of a population explosion. The worlds population, from this months new record 7 billion will continue to rise to 8, then 9, then 10 and beyond, relentlessly it seems with the trend going faster rather than slowing down, and while conservationists talk about carrying capacity of protected areas, no one dares to talk of the carrying capacity of our planet, at least not our politicians with eyes on the next election cycle, or at least not in public though behind closed doors this topic is gathering momentum and gaining importance as we cross the 7 billion threshold.
One thing is for certain though, that if mankind cannot protect our earths biodiversity in free and open nature, not in zoos or biolabs, then it will eventually not be able to protect itself either. And when that doomsday comes, my remains will probably turn in the grave, if that has not been dug up and built over too by that time, making that turning all but impossible.
East Africa News
IVORY BURN OR SELL, THE CONTROVERSY RAGES ON
The white gold as ivory is also known, is living up to its billing as the price of the contraband commodity has shot through the proverbial roof in recent years, and keeps climbing. This development has fueled the greed of potential sellers of ivory just as the economic boom in China and other tiger economies has fueled the greed for blood ivory to be turned into intricate carvings, ornaments and even such mundane items like seals, chops sticks and serviette rings. Subsequently have applications for one off sales come to CITES, at times granted and at times refused, inevitably drawing emotional reactions by the conservation fraternity. One off sales of so called legal ivory only fuels poaching claims a regular conservation source from Tanzania, a claim supported by poaching trends whenever such authorization had been granted in the past, but gone out of control now as the supply of legal ivory, held by governments has literally dried up.
Hundreds of tons of such ivory are kept in strong-rooms from Eastern Africa to Southern Africa and as more and more accumulates, pressure is growing on CITES to permit regulated sales. Legal ivory consists of tusks found in the wild from elephant which died of old age or disease but this has been supplemented by ivory confiscated from poachers or seized while in transit or at ports and airports and here lies the contentious issue. Conservationists do not want such ivory to end up being sold, as it would ultimately reward those wishing to buy the white gold with their demand causing the poaching in the first place. A sale, it has been said, would give those unscrupulous buyers the wanted result, either by illegal shipment of blood ivory getting through all the controls or else when eventually legally buying it from governments which obtain clearance from CITES.
The last CITES General Assembly in Doha in March last year turned down requests by Zambia and Tanzania for one off permissions, leaving about 20 and 90 tons of ivory respectively gathering more dust, and costing money in the process to keep it safe, more than enough reason for Tanzania to have already declared their intention to re-apply ahead of the next CITES meeting. Tanzanias natural resources and tourism minister Ezekiel Maige, already on record of denouncing Kenyas recent ivory burning, and who was soon afterwards claiming that burning ivory will not stop the poaching, has since drafted in academics from the university of Dar es Salaam to strengthen his case. At least two are on record now giving their expert opinion and supporting the ministers rationale of burning being bad and selling being good, all of course entirely focused on the amount of money which can be made and at the very least a thinly concealed attempt to garner favour with a politician rather than offering new insights or solutions to the rampage amongst elephant and rhinos caused by poachers. Conservationists have subsequently dismissed the experts for a lack of understanding the complex issues surrounding the unprecedented upsurge in poaching on the continent and how best to combat the demand for ivory in the consumer markets through stricter legislation and robust enforcement measures, and not by feeding the frenzy through selling ivory which in the words of a well respected conservation guru was like pouring blood into shark filled waters. The emphasis must be fourfold, to reduce and eliminate demand in the key consumer countries like China, to disrupt and dismantle the transportation pipeline through which ivory and rhino horn are smuggled and to step up anti poaching operations in the affected areas. Let the poachers know that they are met with overwhelming force and risk their own life if they choose to go after elephant, rhinos and other game. Finally, fines must be so stiff that it bankrupts the culprits and prison terms to long that it serves as a deterrent, applicable to not just poachers but those who finance them and buy from them too. If those four measures, and there are others of course, are implemented we stand a chance to reverse the trend, otherwise we lose the war on poaching and our tourism industry will be lacking the attractions of wildlife based tourism sooner than later.
True enough adds this correspondent in closing, but will the two positions reconcile somewhere, meet in the middle and find common ground when there is so much money at stake and when those who so relentlessly push for the legalization of the sale of ivory can make quite a bit on the side for advocacy and consulting. Time will tell, so watch this space for the next chapter on this long running saga.
ANTI TRAVEL ADVISORIES SETTLING OLD SCORES OR NEW SCORES OR WHAT
Reactions from Nairobi were swift and mostly acid over the warning issued by the US Embassy to their nationals living in Kenya over the increased if not imminent risk of a terror attack, and none was complimentary as could be expected: A case for increased vigilance, absolutely yes, a case for this type of paranoia knee jerk reaction, absolutely no. We take exception that a self professed friendly nation could sensationalize a warning like they did, it is disrespectful for our country and what does it achieve, as if we would live in a vacuum and not know. We are at war with Somalias militants, where the US is also directly involved with drones and by other means. They wanted us to do that for a long time and now that we are engaging the militants it is almost as if the US Embassy has stabbed us in the back. Why this format when they know it leaks, maybe it was meant to leak? We are all aware of the need for extra security now and government and private sector have really stepped this up so what is it the US Embassy tries to accomplish other than hurting us economically when we need every shilling we can earn, every job we can create or maintain? For me I can only say who needs friends like those? was the sentiment of a regular contributor of information and background from Nairobi echoed across the entire spectrum of contacts in Kenya. It is becoming like a fortress now wherever one goes to prevent Al Shabab doing in Kenya what they did to you in Uganda last year. They are facing a military defeat on the ground where they are now fighting on several fronts. When Kismayu falls they will have lost their biggest stronghold and because they are animals with no respect for the Geneva Convention they will try to commit terror acts. It is important to capture or destroy their leadership and cut off the head of that snake because when Somalia is at peace all the risks for neighbouring countries will reduce. The militants will run back to other hideouts and have to be pursued to the end said another.
Official sources from the tourism sector declined to comment on record but did express in private their disappointment with this latest US advisorys format and timing. Sources from the Kenyan coast also impressed upon this correspondent that beach resorts from Malindi to the border with Tanzania at Shimoni have all stepped up entrance and perimeter controls and surveillance and the beaches were now being patrolled by both uniformed and plain cloth security operatives day and night. Said a former senior stakeholder representative on condition of anonymity: All possible is being done to ensure the safety and security of our visitors and of our fellow Kenyans. Advisories like this one, which made its way like wildfire around the globe, are not really very helpful and we would expect them to emphasize on the practical assistance and security cooperation we have with the US rather than the negative side all the time.
This correspondent also feels that ally bashing is not the best way forward and only opens the door for suspicions and allegations about ulterior motives, as was the case when the US government only hours before the Delta inaugural flight to Nairobi withdrew permission for the service, citing security concerns, which notably did not affect any other of the global airlines flying to Nairobi. Watch this space.
AFRICAN VOICES BLOG AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
A blogathon has been organized for the period between October 24th and 31st to draw attention to the impact of climate change on the African continent. The Connect4Climate team is drawing in important bloggers and journalist with influence and deep reach from Africa to the rest of the world, to give our continent a voice and platform to present their views and facts on how climate change is already impacting on their own country and neighbourhood.
Topics for discussion and contributions are Agriculture, Energy, Forests, Gender, Health and Water with tourism and aviation notably absent, a sector ever present but often off peoples minds.
The Connect4Climate campaign can be followed on the main social media networks, i.e. Facebook via www.facebook.com/connect4climate or on the direct twitter feed from @connect4climate
Hash tags have been created already for twitter users and should be inserted into a tweet as follows: #avcc and #c4climate to trigger of a trending campaign which ultimately will provide greater visibility and make following via global web search engines easier too.
The campaign is amongst others sponsored and supported by the World Bank and the Global Environmental Facility GEF, and a full list of partners can be found via http://connect4climate.com/blog/african-bloggers-on-climate-change-week-october-24th-october-31
Adds this correspondent in closing: Participate and blog your heart out in support of anti climate change measures and activities.
GULF AIR STRUGGLING TO MAKE IMPACT IN UGANDAN MARKET
The imminent launch of daily flights by Qatar Airways and the flurry of media and agency focused activities have prompted lesser cousin Gulf Air to at least try and put on a brave face and finally do some drum beating themselves. Early bird news about Gulf Airs intention to fly a few times a week from Bahrain to both Entebbe and Juba were published here within hours of the formal announcement but have since been overshadowed by news of ongoing unrest in Bahrain, where the reaction to pro-democracy protests by the countrys despotic rulers have drawn global condemnation. The cancellation of the Formula 1 season opening race was just one high profile result of the brutal crackdown on protesters and recent draconian court rulings from a sycophantic judiciary not worth its name have only added to the negative publicity.
Here in Uganda has it also not gone unnoticed that Gulf Air had several years ago withdrawn from the Entebbe route in a rather unceremonious way, leaving negative feelings to fester on, and flying only 4 times a week, instead like senior rivals Emirates and Qatar which are operating daily, has also disappointed travel agents. Said one of them specialized in deals to this correspondent: Regular business travelers will find it a bit difficult to chose Gulf because they only come here 4 times a week. They normally want to fly with airlines offering daily connections to be flexible. To make it worse, Bahrain has bad press everywhere because of their internal politics and our people here have learned lessons when Egypt went into revolution and Egypt Air suddenly had to stop flying because of turmoil at their airport in Cairo. Gulf will therefore have a bit of a problem selling except if they come up with extra special low fares for people connecting to somewhere. I see few Ugandans going to Bahrain under the circumstances there but most will use Gulf to connect somewhere, maybe to Dubai or to Europe or somewhere. So if the fares are very low we can sell them on the aspect of pricing only. Such sentiments were also voiced by other agents, some of whom were also pointing out that Qatars launch in early November, as oppose to Gulfs launch in early December, would impact as the market could only absorb added capacity gradually.
Nevertheless, it was positive to see that Gulf Air in Kampala has finally woken up to the reality of having to do something or else risk going almost unnoticed before their inaugural flight on 05th December. Watch the ticket prices for that one as Christmas may indeed come early for bargain hunters.
IT IS MONEY BACK FOR AIRTELS BLACKBERRY SUBSCRIBERS
Airtel Uganda has just announced that they will give all their subscribers for the BlackBerry service three days credit or an extension of service by three days for prepaid customers, as a result of the global outage caused recently by a major hardware and back up failure.
BlackBerrys owners Research in Motion inexplicably remained shtumm for several days, becoming THE JOKE in the global Twitter and Facebook community before eventually their CEO had to eat public humblepie and apologized belatedly, but not before the reputation of the service had gone down the proverbial drain.
Jokes from Apple aficionados like iWork or iDontFail jammed the cyber air waves and Airtels step certainly will to some extend appease their Ugandan users, though business lost or messages missed will for some time remain the topic of legal experts, some of whom expect a class action suit to be brought in the United States against RiM / BlackBerry. Airtel, according to information available, is the first of the mobile phone companies in Uganda offering BlackBerry services to make this offer though others may now be compelled to follow suit, less they wish to risk their clientele get even more upset than they already were.
Airtel has in Uganda now secured second spot in terms of market share behind runaway leaders MTN and ahead of UTL which continues to be dogged by their inability to advertise as a result of a media ban for alleged nonpayment and remains tied up in court with competitors over disputed interconnection charges, aggravated by key shareholder Gadaffi Libya being sidelined when the UN passed sanctions back in April against the regime. Ugandas airwaves are occupied by five main mobile operators, MTN, Airtel formerly Zain formerly Celtel, Uganda Telecom, Orange and Warid, though some smaller companies offering CDMA mobile technology for wireless fixed lines are also still active in the market. Visitors to the Pearl of Africa can buy Sim cards at the airport already or else literally at street corners, a still cheaper option to call home from Uganda than suffering often astronomic roaming surcharges, inspite of the recent doubling of tariffs by all telecom companies.
AIR CARGO OPERATORS OPPOSE NEW KAA CHARGES
Attempts by the Kenya Airport Authority to milk operators as an aviation source put it, follow hot on the heels of similar attempts by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority to raise fees and charges.
If KAA could produce a good product, if they had kept pace with demand by creating more facilities and not lagging behind by years we could discuss this but they are incompetent and greedy. Our airport is overcrowded and KAA should show us operators what they do with the money they already get. It is like a stable full of manure and has to be cleansed of bad characters and deadwood. But like KCAA they also cannot appreciate economic pressures operators are faced with and if at all there are consultations we are expected to listen to them like pupils in a class room, there is no genuine dialogue and they never take any of our points on board said a regular aviation source from Nairobis Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. We uplift cargo on our regular passenger flights and it will drive the cost of shipments up, and for cargo airlines even more so. They should take a leaf from what is happening in the Gulf where governments attract airlines by giving excellent facilities and attractive fee levels. But here it just seems aviation is a cash cow they can milk but never feed the same source then added, claiming that the entire aviation fraternity was opposed to the proposed new charges by the KAA but also of the KCAA and that every legal avenue will be exhausted to stop them from unilaterally imposing higher fees and charges on the industry.
Kenya Airways will be affected by the move as it is in its final stage to officially launch a dedicated B747-400F soon to be followed by at least two B737F aircraft, as higher cost of air cargo out of Nairobi will have an impact on demand as it increases the landed cost of air cargo at the final destination, driving prices up at a time when the global economy is showing signs of slowing and potentially returning into recession.
Official explanation by both KAA and KCAA are rising cost, a widening gap between income and expenses and the very long time since charges were last revised, dating back in some cases to the mid and late 1990s. Watch this space for regular updates from the East African and Indian Ocean aviation scenes.
SECOND BLAST IN NAIROBI KILLS ONE, INJURES MANY
Nairobi was stunned by a second attack yesterday evening, this time taking at least one life and injuring at least 13 other innocent bystanders following an attack at a bus terminal. A major security crackdown was already underway following a similar incident in the early hours of the same day, focusing on illegal Somali and other immigrants and suspects, prompting fears amongst the legal Somali community of a witch-hunt.
The implications of a second such attack in less than 24 hours are sending chills down the spines of the Kenyan establishment and its tourism fraternity and security meetings and stakeholder meetings are underway discussing further measures to ensure safety and security of Kenyans and visitors alike and restore a sense of calm.
Understandably not one single source wanted to go on record but several at least gave their own views to this correspondent, including a former well placed politician who said: Going into Somalia on our mission to create a buffer was forced on us by Al Shabab and other militants and these pirates. They operated with impunity thinking they were safe just a few steps across the border. Kenya has a right for self defense and the militants are not speaking for Somalia, they are an enemy of Somalia. The government in Mogadishu is in joint operations with us and so is the AU force. Our troops must finish their job and we cannot give way now because some of them are throwing grenades in Nairobi. If we stop before the job is finished in Kismayu we will pay a very heavy price afterwards. We are at war. Legal residents and citiziens of Somali descent should not fear, they should be helping police and security to identify illegals, those with a bad agenda, the militants, the conduits for the pirates, that should be reported now immediately. The more the Somali community in Kenya cooperates on this the better and quicker our police can nab the culprits and bring them to justice. Those caught will face charges in court and will hang when found guilty. We are all very saddened by the loss of life and pray for those injured but we cannot stop now, this must be finished once and for all to secure Kenyas future. A senior tourism stakeholder in contrast was in near panic and a message from him read as follows: Whoever is behind this and Al Shabab is the main suspect organization, knows what effect such random attacks have. Kenyans will be scared to go places, use busses, go shopping, send kids to school. These terrorists have no mercy on kids and innocent people. They are now targeting us in revenge but they started it with abductions. Our tourism industry is at cross roads now. If our security cannot stop this right now we will see travel advisories left right and centre warning visitors off. This could mean ruin for our sector and for our economy. To be honest, right now everyone is just looking over our shoulders and with suspicion at the person next to us. It is almost like it must have been in America after 9/11, we know there are enemies amongst us but dont know who they are and what they look like. This is very very bad.
Meanwhile are arrests of dozens of illegal immigrants, not just Somalis but from other nationalities too, being reported from all major cities and towns as a combined crackdown by all security organs is underway. Alongside Kenyas military intervention in a cross border operation did an internal security operation unfold, now even more intensified after the two grenade blasts. Restaurants, shopping malls and supermarkets, office buildings and government offices are now all responding to the new threats by installing additional screening points and beefing up security already in existence, where individuals and vehicles are being thoroughly checked, a situation common already in Uganda which suffered a retaliatory terror strike by Al Shabab on the eve of the FIFA World Cup final last year. It is also understood from Ugandan sources that security cooperation within the East African Community has been stepped up along the events in Kenya and that the dragnet on illegal immigrants and suspect individuals has been expanded into the wider region. International support by leading global anti terrorism units has apparently also been offered and accepted, providing extra intelligence to East African governments which themselves are not always able to eavesdrop on communications, lack sophisticated surveillance equipment and the interpretive capacities needed to establish the where, when and how.
In a related development, across Kenya, have many political, administrative and community leaders of Somali origin come out strongly in favour of Kenyas military operation and asked their own ethnic community to cooperate with the authorities and by doing so show their loyalty to their own country. Right now though it is prayers and good wishes to peace-loving Kenyans of all ethnic backgrounds as the rest of us across East Africa stand with you and by you.
AT LEAST 14 INJURED FOLLOWING A GRENADE EXPLOSION AT MWAURAS BAR
Kenyans will be waking up to shock news that an apparent grenade attack on a local bar in Nairobi has left at least 14 injured, some of them seriously. The attack occurred around 3 a.m. when the bar was already closed but patrons inside continued to drink. Only recently was a controversial law passed in Kenya which prohibits after hour drinking and private club and bar owners have resorted to private parties to circumvent arrests, closures and license forfeitures.
While at this time of the night no one was available to give any official comment, other scribes on duty speculated openly on Twitter and other social media over both motive and perpetrators of the attack.
Al Shabab, Somalias best known Islamist terror and militia group, had threatened reprisals and revenge attacks in Kenya following the TGF sanctioned cross border operation by the Kenyan army, navy and air force and while security was visibly stepped up in rated hotels and resorts, businesses and office buildings, public places and restaurants, some of the smaller local establishments may have been slow in following recommendations by Kenyas security organs of how to improve safety. Last weekend had the American Embassy warned their citizens of an imminent and credible terror threat in Kenya, but the way these news were broken left official Kenya upset over the format though government was not denying that increased vigilance and surveillance was needed to prevent any incident.
Sketchy reports from Nairobi suggest that someone tried to enter the bar and when not successful threw the grenade inside before fleeing the scene. It is presently unknown if this was a simple criminal attack, based on business rivalries as has been the case before or else a terror attack carried out by Al Shabab sympathizers, although the haphazard way it was carried out could suggest that it was not done by a trained terrorist. Watch this space for updates.
First feedback from Nairobi tells the story of the tourism industrys delight with the KTB brainchild Magical Kenya Travel Show which showcased the countrys tourism attractions from the coast to the lake and all the national parks, game reserves and monuments in between. Aimed at the regional and international tourism trade Magical Kenya is the inaugural edition of what is expected to become an annual event where buyers and sellers can meet and do business, while the open day will showcase the countrys highlights and lesser known attractions to Kenyans at large. Here it is notable that KTB has launched a twitter campaign hashtagged #TembeaKenya, loosely translated into Travel across Kenya where special domestic tourism packages are attracting locals to see the country and tweet in their experience for all to follow, retweeted of course in full by @MagicalKenya.
The country is still on course to reach new record arrivals and revenues in 2011, inspite of a slowing of the world economy and recent events near the border with Somalia and it is expected that the tourism industry will reclaim the top spot as the economys foreign exchange earner from the tea sector.
Kenya Airways and a large number of international airlines are connecting visitors from the region, the continent and the big wide world to Nairobi and domestic flights to the coast resorts of Malindi and Mombasa, as well as to the national parks make visits easy and hassle free. Adds this correspondent in closing: Come and enjoy #TembeaKenya, be it Kenyans, East Africans or the proverbial wagenis which is a Kiswahili expression for foreign tourists. Find more information on the Kenya Tourist Board website via www.magicalkenya.com
The classic version of the Safari Rally will take off from underneath the world famous tusks along Moi Avenue in Mombasa on the 19th November at 3 p.m. in a ceremonial start aimed to attract local and global media attention while the start proper will follow the next morning from the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort and Spa at 6 a.m. when the cars will be flagged off from the parking area of the resort.
This years edition will end on the 28th November, again at the Sarova Whitesands from around mid day onwards, when the winners will roar back to the finishing line while others may just about limp over it.
The classic edition once again brings together winning rally car models from those great days in the 70s when The Safari was the most grueling event of the annual rallying calendar, which tested the mettles of drivers and the durability of the machines they drove. Held in those days over the Easter weekend it permitted motor sports fans to be part of a team by helping in various capacities and such volunteers really made the world championship rally happen, and had their tales to tell in the process as this correspondent well remembers.
The 10 day event is bringing 52 entries to Kenya, led by former World Champion Bjorn Waldegaard in a Porsche 911 and local legend Ian Duncan who has entered in a Ford Capri, amongst many other well known rallying and motorsport names and car types. The route this year again leaves out Uganda, which was on the route map of the inaugural version of the Classic Safari Rally but will again traverse scenic parts in Tanzania during race days two, three and four, before after the day 5 rest day moving into the Great African Rift Valley along the UNESCO World Heritage Site lakes between Naivasha and Baringo. Some of the most scenic night stops along the route will be at Amboseli National Park at Kilima, Kibo and Sentrim safari camps but also the Amboseli Serena and Ol Tukai safari lodges, with the back drop of Mt. Kilimanjaro, then in Arusha in the shadow of Mt. Meru at the Mt. Meru Hotel and later at Lake Naivashas Sopa and Simba lodges before making the penultimate night stop at the doorsteps of Tsavo East National Park at the Voi Wildlife Lodge.
Key sponsor is once more Kenya Airways, The Pride of Africa, doing Kenya proud by being at the forefront to promote such an eye catching sporting event and promoting the country as a sporting and tourism destination. Extensive television reporting is expected and footage will be aired around the world with fans who cannot make it to Kenya being able to watch the 2011 Classic Safari Rally from the comfort of their armchairs. Vrooom, Vrooom time to floor those pedals again in Kenya and Tanzania.
NAIROBI PLANE CRASH LEAVES TWO DEAD AND ONE SERIOUSLY INJURED
A mid afternoon plane crash outside the city of Nairobi, reportedly in the distant suburb of Karen at the foot of the Ngong Hills, has taken the lives of two of three occupants of the stricken craft. The plane of still unspecified make had reportedly left Wilson Airport earlier in the day to deliver school examination papers to Marsabit and Lodwar in the North of the country and was approaching Nairobi again when something went wrong. Eyewitnesses are quoted that the plane spun out of control while still in the air and crashed nose down to the ground. Three occupants were pulled from the wreckage and taken to a nearby hospital from where soon after the sad news emerged that at least two had succumbed to their serious injuries while a third occupant was still in very critical condition, fighting for his life.
A school near the crash site was miraculously spared destruction as the plan went down a short distance away from the buildings in an open ground area. Investigations are now underway led by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority to establish the cause of the accident. Condolences are expressed by the eTN East Africa team to the families and friends of the victims while best wishes are extended to the now sole survivor of the crash.
ANNUAL LAMU CULTURAL FESTIVAL VERY MUCH ON
Tourism minister Najib Balala has rushed to reaffirm in public that the annual and much acclaimed Lamu Cultural Festival will be held as scheduled in November this year, casting aside doubts that recent events and the countrys cross border pursuit of Al Shabab militants would have stopped this showpiece of Swahili culture. The annual Lamu festival has made an impact on the culture scene as it offers a platform for the unique Swahili music, poetry and performances and is thought only second in importance after Zanzibars Sauti Za Busara. An annual highlight for Lamu the festival this year will be subject to added security measures to ensure the safety of visitors and reaffirming the event will also hopefully break the embargo slapped on travel to Lamu by embassies and High Commissions in Nairobi following the fateful abduction of a French woman from Manda Island a few weeks at the end of September.
Naval patrols are already saturating the waters between Lamu and the border with Somalia and the open pursuit by Kenyan ground and airforce units of Al Shabab militants has created a buffer zone of relative safety into which mopping up operations have also commenced. Make a date with Lamu then for the big festival in a few weeks and expect to read updates about it right here.
COAST TOURISM SEES NO IMPACT ON BOOKINGS AS KENYA HUNTS MILITANTS
Reports from Mombasa tell a story different from what many global media organizations would want their readers to believe as occupancies remain high and forward bookings have remained steady, while Kenya has with the consent of the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu crossed into Somalia to hunt down Al Shabab militants. The mood amongst the polled hoteliers was cautiously optimistic, attributing the present booking situation to continued marketing and telling the truth about Kenya abroad. They also conceded that security measures in and around tourist resorts had been significantly stepped up to ensure the safety and security of visitors, while in the resort or while strolling along the beaches. Patrols, it is understood, have been stepped up by plain clothes security operatives and police, extending from the capital Nairobi to key urban centres to the beaches between Malindi and Mombasa.
The ongoing military operation is now targeting the pirate and militant stronghold of Kismayu after earlier reports that Ras Kamboni, another pirate safe haven so far, has fallen to the onslaught of Kenyan ground troops and air attacks while TFG troops are on an offensive from the other side to hunt down Al Shabab militants on the run after being driven out of the capital. Kenyas move, already sanctioned by the African Union which has expressed support and reiterated the right to self defense, is also due to be coming before the United Nations Security Council where it is hoped that additional measures are agreed upon to block sea- and airborne supplies reaching the militant strongholds.
KTN TO LAUNCH TRAVEL DIARY SERIES TO PROMOTE DOMESTIC TOURISM
Kenyas premier private television channel KTN has signed on to a Standard Group sponsored deal to air regular features promoting Kenyas tourism attractions across the country, including some of the lesser known gems which get little exposure so far.
On the occasion did Najib Balala, Minister of Tourism in the Kenya government, announce his ministrys plans to have 3 million foreign tourists visit the country by 2015 while at the same time aiming at increasing domestic tourism numbers threefold to 1.5 million, up from the current 500.000 Kenyans spending a holiday in their own country. The tourism sector is a cornerstone in the economic development of the country and depends heavily on foreign exchange earnings from the industry, which last year came second only to tea but is expected to resume top position in 2011, as a new arrival and revenue record is shaping up.
Meanwhile has a Twitter campaign unfolded in Kenya, hashtagged #TembeaKenya where Kenyans travel Kenya and tweet their experiences as they criss cross the country, with more detailed accounts of their individual experiences then being published in personal blogs, pictures and all of course, retweeted widely by @Magicalkenya which is the Kenya Tourism Boards twitter address and @kwskenya which is the KWA official twitter address, in support of domestic travel initiatives. One of those blogs which caught this correspondents eye is Ahenda Anjichis blog: http://www.kamakipepeo.wordpress.com where she tells the story of her safari experiences. Well done and watch out for copycats.
KENYA AIRWAYS INTRODUCES DOLLAR CHARGES FOR DOMESTIC FLIGHTS
Regular travelers on regional and international flights are used to paying for their tickets in US Dollars, or at least the equivalent in local currency according to the bank rates on the day of the transaction, but following the wild fluctuations of the Kenya Shilling in recent weeks the currency risk of fixed Shilling fares for at least some airlines has become a gamble.
Kenya Airways, trendsetting once again, has announced that the fares on the domestic network between Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi and Kisumu will now be set in US Dollars, cushioning the airline against the substantial exchange risk which has eaten deep into the profitability of the airline, which has to service loans for its fleet in US Dollars as well as pay for fuel in hard currency. October 24th has been named as the day when travelers will therefore have to start converting their Shillings into Dollars, something other sectors of the economy have introduced also of late, a result of the relentless slide of the Kenya Shilling from the low 70 range to a low of 107 last week before now as this article goes to press trading in the low 100 range again.
Other airlines, trying to exploit a possible market reaction, have indicated they would continue to charge in Shillings but might well adjust their fares on a more regular basis, though of course running the risk of losing money in the exchange game for which, unlike with fuel, there are little hedging options available.
It is in any case expected that Kenya Airways would swiftly react to a shift in market share caused by their move and introduce countermeasures to keep their own planes full and others once again to rue having gone head to head with the biggest fish in the aviation pond of East Africa.
KENYA STEPS UP INTERNAL SECURITY MEASURES
Information from Nairobi and Mombasa seems to indicate that following the countrys decision to go after the Al Shabab militants inside Somalia, which followed a series of hit and run attacks and abductions by the terrorist organization, internal security was stepped up and companies have been alerted to take added safeguards to protect their customers and staff. Al Shabab has already threatened retaliation against Kenya, similar to what they had threatened Uganda with last year for playing a major role in combating this devils brood in Mogadishu, and the twin bombing during last years FIFA World Cup final in Kampala show that there is only sharply increased vigilance and stepped up surveillance and counterintelligence which can prevent a repeat of such unspeakable crimes.
Kenyan troops are deep inside Somalia at present, creating not only a buffer zone between the main militia strongholds and the border, but also to mop up resistance, and overnight reports talk of up to 75 militants killed, though there is no word on any captures which could aid intelligence gathering on locations and enemy strength and assets.
Kenyas so called invasion has meanwhile been sanctioned by the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, an added political bonus for Nairobi inspite of the hot pursuit being already legal under the UN Charter, which permits any country the right of self defense when being attacked.
It is expected that the African Union mission based in Mogadishu will also sooner rather than later get marching orders to pursue the militants and open up a second front on them, which will divide Al Shababs resources and open them up for airstrikes when they are forced into the open and onto the move.
Restaurants, hotels and resorts across Kenya, but also public places and leading companies have all stepped up entrance security now and large gatherings are being carefully monitored by security organs to assure the wananchi that all possible is being done to protect the general public, now that the country is at war. Gods speed and blessings to the Kenyan troops now in combat inside Somalia.
TIME FRAME FOR KENYA AIRWAYS CARGO OPERATIONS CONFIRMED
The Kenyan national airline has now given a clear indication that their recently leased B747-400F will arrive over the next two weeks in Nairobi and then be immediately available for cargo operations. The aircraft has been wetleased as presently no Kenya Airways pilots hold qualifications for this type of aircraft.
Two B737-400F will then join the fleet in early 2012 to complete the lineup of aircraft which will see Kenya Airways cargo division take off in earnest. The smaller B737s will feed and de-feed palletized cargo to airports where the use of the larger B747 is not viable and where Kenya Airways wide body fleet does not fly to, mainly to the nearer and more distant regional airports where cargo demand nevertheless exists for exports and imports but not in quantities to make it interesting for international air cargo haulers.
Nairobi has become Africas most in demand air cargo centre and a number of international cargo airlines, including Martinair of Holland, Lufthansa Cargo from Germany and of late even British Airways Cargo are flying almost scheduled services, often combined with Johannesburg, to deliver perishable goods to the consumer markets of Europe and carry urgent deliveries south bound. Emirates Cargo too is a regular visitor to Nairobi, a sign of confidence in the air cargo market on which much of Africa depends in the absence of reliable road or rail delivery. Watch this space.
ARUSHA CRASH BLAMED ON INEPT AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL MECHANISM
The crash outside Kilimanjaro International Airport last Thursday night, in which the pilot was seriously injured and one apparent trainee pilot killed, has been attributed by aviation sources to inept air traffic control mechanisms, after the Seneca 3 apparently ran out of fuel.
A regular aviation source in Dar es Salaam, when discussing the accident with this correspondent, had this to say: While it may be a bit premature to speculate over the precise cause of the accident, the fact that the pilot survived the crash will help investigators to narrow this down and find out exactly what happened, if she makes it through. From my own experience as a pilot however I am tempted to jump that process a little. We know that the plane was due to fly to the Arusha municipal airfield from Dar es Salaam. It seems that the pilot, when approaching the Arusha field, realized that there were no lights and decided to head back towards Kilimanjaro International. From all we have learned when requesting landing permission she was told to hold to allow for other traffic to clear first. Now if she was running short of fuel, maybe she told that to ATC and the tapes will ascertain to that when the investigation looks into this aspect. In fact, if she realized that fuel was running critically short she would have even declared an emergency at which point ATC would have had to clear all other traffic out of the way immediately to give this flight top priority. But the one thing most puzzling, if this flight was cleared from Dar to land at the Arusha field, the operations staff there should have known and should have advised of any time limits to land or else to announce to them in case lights were not working. That information should have been relayed by ATC to the pilot, should have been mentioned when the flight plan was filed, before takeoff permission for Arusha was given. The next chance to relate this information was in the air, because for sure they were in radio contact when the aircraft was in the vicinity of JRO [three letter
designator for Kilimanjaro International Airport] and making the approach to the Arusha municipal field. Now if that information was not passed to the pilot in command, it would have been a serious omission and could have contributed to the plane running short of fuel. The final report will have to reflect all these issues.
The newly imported plane, owned by an Arusha based tour company, was on a ferry flight from Dar es Salaam and due to enter service in coming days for air charters to bring tourists to the national parks. The deceased trainee pilot had only recently returned from the United States where he reportedly had done his training for a CPL, short for Commercial Pilots License before returning to Tanzania. The Kenyan lady pilot in command has since first aid and initial treatment in a local hospital been flown to Nairobi for further treatment but was still unconscious while taken there and her present status could not be ascertained at the time of going to press.
The plane, a Piper Seneca 3 registered 5H QTE, is reportedly a complete write off due to the extensive damage suffered during the crash. No official comments could be obtained either from known contacts with in the TCAA, as those approached cited ongoing investigations which could be prejudiced.
(Picture courtesy of RDB Tourism and Conservation)
The latest kid on the block by Rwanda Tourism, the Congo Nile Trail, is set to be formally launched on the 04th of November in the resort town of Gisenyi on Lake Kivu where the Rwanda Development Board Tourism and Conservation will make detailed announcements as to the countrys latest tourism attraction. Located across from Goma, the border city in the Congo DR, Gisenyi has become a springboard to explore the lake through launch trips along the shores for bird watching and to see the awesome scenery unfold in front of a visitors eyes. Nearby forests are now earmarked for bird watching routes tourists can take and first class accommodation, like the Lake Kivu Serena, have attracted a great deal of more attention to the destination than has been the case before. Overshadowed by Mt. Nyiragongo, an active volcano across the border in the Congo DR, the lake side location makes for a stunning back drop and setting.
Located just over an hours drive from the countrys best known national park, the Parc de Volcanoes, a visit to Gisenyi makes a vacation and safari in Rwanda complete and tourists can now easily fly back on RwandAirs daily domestic flights from Gisenyi to Kigali, allowing for more time on the ground to explore The Land of a Thousand Hills. Watch this space for live updates from Gisenyi on the day of the trail launch or follow the author on Twitter via @whthome for regular tweets sent from location.
RWANDA GETS TOP MARKS FOR DOING BUSINESS WITH
The World Banks report on Doing Business has confirmed what is an open secret across Eastern Africa, namely that Rwanda is the country to do business with, now ranked top across the Eastern African region and in third position in Africa, only trailing second placed South Africa and top rated Mauritius.
Rwanda has also been singled out as the fastest riser in the annual scale together with Georgia, a clear sign that Rwanda Incorporated as this correspondent fondly phrases it, is actually working and producing stunning results in the process. Rwandas success also puts to rest that Africa cannot do it and is a sharp reminder that shortcomings seen elsewhere, in the region and on the continent, are largely due to poor or failed leadership rather than being located on the continent per se.
Other top performers like South Africa, Mauritius or the Seychelles will be glad to see Rwanda join their ranks of the excellent performers as it will also signal the rest of the world that one can do business with Africa, it is just to know whom with. .
Visitors to Rwanda, when arriving at the Kanombe International Airport in Kigali, are greeted with smiles and fast processing and then see when leaving the airport big billboards indicating that they have entered a corruption free zone, another key achievement in Rwanda which deals harshly with this cancer which has befallen so many countries on the continent. Another outstanding feature is Rwandas one stop centre for investors at the Rwanda Development Board, under which incidentally also the public tourism and conservation sector falls, where applications for investments are fast tracked and genuine investors facilitated through the entire process. The Land of a Thousand Hills, risen like the proverbial Phoenix over the past 17 years, a shining example for Africa and a beacon of hope for better governance and greater transparency for our continent.
(RwandAirs second brand new B737-800 in the Boeing paint shop in Everett)
Following the completion of the assembly of RwandAirs new aircraft were a series of test flights performed to establish that all was well up in the skies, before returning the bird to the ground to get its distinct livery painted on. It is understood from a reliable source at the airlines headoffice at Kanombe International Airport in Kigali that a handover ceremony is planned now for the 26th of October before the aircraft will commence its journey home to Africa with an expected routing from Seattle via Icelands Keflavik airport to Istanbul, before making the final leg on the 28th of October to Kigali where a welcome party is planned. Remarkably RwandAir is only the third airline in East Africa in the more recent past which has found the means and courage for that matter to purchase brand new aircraft, after market leader Kenya Airways and their partner Precision Air in Tanzania, while all other jet operators, national or quasi national airlines use pre owned aircraft, many of them relatively aged, more expensive to operate due to older engine technology and less reliable due to greater maintenance requirements.
When the new bird arrives in Kigali RwandAir will be claiming the 4th spot in terms of operator size in the wider East African region, going by jet aircraft, a development which comes as no surprise considering the ambitions of Rwanda Incorporated to establish the land locked country as a major hub in Eastern Africa and to use RwandAir as a key tool to achieve connectivity. Happy landings to the new Boeing, its crews and all the passengers who will soon enjoy Boeings Sky Interior experience while on board.
RWANDAIR ANNOUNCES SCHEDULE CHANGES AHEAD OF GETTING THEIR SECOND B737-800
Effective 21st of November will RwandAir launch a new flight schedule, which will reflect their newly acquired capabilities with having two long range B737-800 on their fleet by then. A second brand new -800 is due to be flown into Kigali on Tuesday 25th of October and will join her sistership on the routes to Johannesburg and Dubai. It is in fact on the Dubai route where a fourth weekly flight is due to be introduced every Monday due to growing demand, much of which has been generated from Mombasa, where the flight from Kigali stops over to exercise their traffic rights between Kenyas coastal city and the UAEs main aviation hub. While indications have been given already that this flight will gradually see more frequencies added until it operates daily, no dates for this have yet been released.
There is growing speculation now also that on arrival of the second new bird the RwandAir management will use the welcome party to announce their next destination, thought to be Lagos, which would join the airlines other West African destinations of Brazzaville and Libreville. It is also hoped that on that occasion the airline will volunteer more details on their planned fleet and destination expansion, which until now is shrouded in some secrecy, understandable though considering that the competition is keenly reading the latest breaking news right here to react as quickly as possible to RwandAirs objective to carve out a fair share of the traffic across and beyond the East African skies.
South Sudan News
UN CHARTERED RELIEF AIRCRAFT HAS LANDING INCIDENT IN BOR
A South African registered Pacific Aerospace 750XL, owned by National Airways Corporation, and leased to the United Nations for relief and humanitarian flights within South Sudan, has yesterday suffered a landing incident in Bor, from where the flight was routed, originating in Juba.
According to reports from Juba the single engined plane suffered a tyre problem as it touched down, which caused the aircraft to uncontrollably swerve and tear off a wheel before coming to a stop on the airstrip. The passengers, reportedly six of them and the two crew members on board escaped unharmed. An investigation by the Department of Civil Aviation is now going underway to establish the cause of the accident. By the time of going to press it was not possible to establish the extent of damage to the plane and if the hull has been punctured or suffered of any structural damage. Lucky escape!
CCTV CAMERAS TO MAKE PORT LOUIS AND GRAND BAIE SAFER FOR TOURISTS
None other than the Mauritius Prime Minister Dr. Navin Ramgoolan launched the islands latest innovation of CCTV surveillance yesterday, which will considerably improve safety and security for both locals but also for tourists visiting the island. The capital Port Louis will have 272 cameras, stationary and rotating while the tourist resort of Grand Baie will have 68 cameras operating on a 24 / 7 basis, covering the most popular areas and roads leading to the tourist resorts, all feeding into the respective police control rooms.
The security drive is supported by the tourism industry of Mauritius as well as local communities set to benefit from this crime watch facility and is expected to expand further across the island to cover other crucial traffic spots, installations and areas frequented by tourist visitors. Well done indeed.
DIWALI FIREWORKS TO LIGHT UP SKIES OVER MAURITIUS
Tourists coming to Mauritius over the coming days are in for a treat as large Diwali fireworks are planned to celebrate this very important Indian holiday on the island.
Shows and performances are also on the calendar of events, many of which are local but open to tourist visitors on the island over the festival days. Hotels and resorts have laid on special shows for their guests, bringing the cultural background of Mauritius to the stages for visitors to see and learn about.
Involved in the activities are both the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure and the Ministry of Arts and Culture, using the opportunity to show the rich cultural variety and history of Mauritius.
A tip from this correspondent for those on vacationing on the island: Watch the skies over Mauritius on the evening of the 23rd to see the promised magnificent fireworks. Enjoy!
It was learned overnight that the 4 star, 298 room and suite Ambre Resort & Spa, owned by Apavou Hotels, has been leased with immediate effect to Sun Resorts of Mauritius. The 20 year deal will see Sun Resorts embark on a major refurbishment of the hotel, due to commence in January next year after the end of the Christmas and New Year highs season. The new Ambre is then set to reopen in October 2012 after a 10 million Euro budget will have been spent on giving the resort a fresh new look.
The Ambre Resort & Spa is located at Belle Mare and will become Sun Resorts fifth property on Mauritius after the renowned 5 star luxury Le Touessrok, a member of Leading Hotels of the World, the Long Beach, the Sugar Beach and La Pirogue, besides their single property in the Maldives, the Kanuhura. The acquisition on lease will strengthen Sun Resorts market position on Mauritius and more information about this leading hotel and resort group can be found via www.sunresortshotels.com where links are available to the individual resorts on Mauritius and the Maledives.