TOURISM ENDS TOP EARNER FOR 2011 IN RWANDA
Preliminary figures availed over the weekend from usually well informed sources indicate that the tourism sector has overtaken coffee and tea to become Rwandas top foreign exchange earner, during a year which also saw new arrival records being established.
The widening network and increased flight frequencies by national airline RwandAir, now for instance flying 6 times a week to Dubai, the coming to Kigali by KLM, now operating 5 times a week from Amsterdam to Rwanda in conjunction with a stop in Entebbe / Uganda have translated to more and more tourists being able to connect with ease to the land of a thousand hills as Rwanda is also known, and combined with uncanny PR and marketing skills by a coalition of private and public sector promoters, Rwanda again had it all going up, up and then up some more. Presence at all key international tourism trade fairs and joining the International Council of Tourism Partners all added to give Rwanda an edge and resulting in record earnings and arrivals full date to be published here just as soon as the statisticians at RDB officially release the results.
The trend was also supported by adding more beds, in the capital Kigali as well as in key upcountry locations, easing the pressure of previous years when fully booked prevented clients from being able to actually come to the country in the absence of confirmed accommodation.
On condition of anonymity, considering that no final figures had been tallied so early in the new year, a regular source said: and I think our internal target of US Dollars 216 million can be exceeded for 2011. Conference tourism and the opening of new attractions like the bird trails outside the national parks and the launch of the Congo Nile Trail have all contributed. CNT will really only come fully into play next year after the big PR campaign which gave it a lot of exposure but otherwise, we are happy with 2011.
Congratulations to the tourism stakeholders in Rwanda, who stand united when promoting and marketing and yet reap individually as well as collectively. Will 2012 bring yet more records, considering that Qatar Airways will commence flights by 21st of March and Turkish Airlines will join the throng from early April? Watch this space !
Archive for January 2nd, 2012
TOURISM ENDS TOP EARNER FOR 2011 IN RWANDA
PUBLIC HULLABALLOO OVER WILDLIFE SMUGGLING DOES NOT TRANSLATE INTO ACTION
Conservationists keen to find out more about the allegations made last year, that a Qatari air force plane was flying wildlife out of Kilimanjaro International Airport under the eyes of the authorities, will need to wait longer it seems. The committee put into place to hold an enquiry into the matter has delayed, according to media reports in Tanzania and also according to regular sources from Arusha, their work so that it would not interfere with their long end of year holidays, a notion immediately dismissed by conservationists. After all the outcries back then, and having officials sidelined, transferred and suspended, these politicians did what now? The wanted to enjoy, since 24th November, a break from their work? Do they even know how Tanzanian wananchi struggle every day to make ends meet and they take a break? This is pathetic but also exposed what is wrong with our country. They make a lot of noise in parliament and then do little about it. Poaching and trafficking are ongoing. Illegal logging is ongoing. Government plans to encroach into game reserves and national parks under pretext of development is ongoing. After 50 years of mainland independence some still blame our former colonial masters but the truth is, we need a change. We need to get back to the principles of Nyerere or else need a new government which still remembers what he stood for. We needed to know about the godfathers of that flight, if there were more, and the longer it takes the more will the evidence be moved and destroyed, people transferred or told not to talk. This enquiry is in fact now a cover up of the highest order a regular source from Tanzania told this correspondent on the phone when responding to questions why it became only now known that the committee never started their work.
Other sources claim that there are fundamental issues unresolved over the mandate and terms of reference, with some attempting to add other controversies to the agenda, which led to the inordinate delay of now nearly 7 weeks. One designated member is reported to have dropped out already over conflict of interest claims, again opening that door to more allegations that not all is well within the establishment tasked to unearth who 116 animals, birds and reptiles could be taken to Kilimanjaro International Airport, loaded into a foreign air force plane and taken out of country, especially considering that giraffes were amongst the animals being off loaded from trucks and put on the plane. Watch this space as yet another saga evolves over wildlife in Tanzania and the official protection it is supposed to enjoy!
Libyan assets in East Africa – still awaiting the African Union’s green light to be returned to their owners?
LIBYAN INVESTMENTS IN EAST AFRICA TO BE DECIDED BY AU SUMMIT
Reports are emerging that the forthcoming African Union Summit in Addis Ababa later in January will have Libyas frozen investments on the agenda, as according to findings countries which imposed the freeze have been equally slow to let go of them and return them to the rightful owners, the Libyan people represented by their new government.
In Uganda, it is understood that following a high level mission from Tripoli to Kampala towards the end of December, all systems are now go again and that in fact companies partly or fully owned by Libya have already received new nominations for board members and chairpersons, including the Laico Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe, which like the Tropical Africa Bank and Uganda Telecom had come under statutory management by Bank of Uganda or was kept in caretaker mode like UTL, National Housing and a range of other key investments.
Across the border in Kenya Libyan assets in fact never were frozen and remain fully under the control of the owners, including the controversially sold Laico Grand Regency Hotel in the heart of the Nairobi Central Business District.
Notably though, in Rwanda were the Libyan holdings taken down as one source put it, showing the determination of the Rwandan government at the time to help end the cruel regime of Gadaffi when the uprising began to spread, and one of Libyas investments in the tourism industry, the Umumbano Hotel, was in fact put up for sale by Rwanda following an evaluation of the value of the asset. It was therefore no surprise that last week, when the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation Department held the first ever Star Rating Award Ceremony for hotels and lodges graded and rated, the Umumbano Hotel was absent from the list altogether.
The United Nations and the European Union have now largely unfrozen Libyas assets and handed them back to what is now a transitional government until elections can be organized and held, and it is understood from comments made in Kampala by Libyas representative that they fully intend to maintain investments across the continent while in fact boosting key sectors with additional funding to get the companies frozen last year back into gear. Questions however remain on the AUs attitude over the entire developments in Libya as the continental block first tried to shield and defend Gadaffi and his murderous goons, then was last to accord recognition to the new government and now drags its feet in returning assets to them. Watch this space.
GOVERNMENT ACCUSED TO TURN A BLIND EYE ON ILLEGAL MABIRA LOGGING
Information came to light that sections of the prized Mabira Forest, a crucial national water tower and green lung for the capital Kampala and its growing metropolitan area, are being indiscriminately logged by unknown individuals, with the National Forest Authority apparently helpless or toothless to do something about it. Last year did President Museveni once again bring up a misguided notion that a quarter of the prime rain forest be converted to a sugar cane plantation, ostensibly to boost the flagging fortunes of the Mehta sugar barons, but a swift and almost Tsunami like reaction swept the plans aside, for now, when politicians, the business community, the conservation and tourism fraternities and civil society at large made it clear that this was a no go area.
It therefore comes as no surprise to many conservationists that other means are now being employed, such as increased illegal logging in sections of the forest previously earmarked for the giveaway, and the absence of any visible reaction by the National Forest Authority sheds also new light on the highly political appointment of a new Executive Director, who is generally perceived to be an ideal man to do his political masters bidding instead of executing his mandate without fear and favour. While he is in all fairness only in office now for a few weeks, this should however not impact on using countermeasures to prevent such widely known activities in sections of Mabira, which should be routine operations not requiring special sanction by the Executive Directors office, unless there is a covert hidden agenda in place as some have swiftly suggested already to this correspondent, when discussing the matter.
Further reports now emerging in the local media also suggest that the illegal encroachers and loggers are well protected by armed guards, raising yet more questions of who is behind the racket and is attempting to create facts on the ground to raze the forest before re-allocating the land.
In the past allegations were made against well connected local politicians, but not without asking whom they were fronting for as they would as best be considered foot soldiers for the real brains behind the criminal activities. A source close to the NFA in fact confirmed that we cannot give anyone permission to log from Mabira because that is a protected national forest reserve. We have in fact been helping areas with some degradation in the past to plant new hard wood trees so as far as I know, no one can legally take timber out of Mabira before insisting on anonymity for fears over keeping the job.
Tourism stakeholders are said to be increasingly worried, considering that Mabiras acclaimed Rain Forest Lodge is now playing a crucial role in the tourism circuits across Uganda and if tourists are confronted with the sorry sights of totally razed areas the negative publicity could seriously impact on the countrys standing as a green destination. The year 2012 is supposed to be Ugandas year, according to the Lonely Planet guide book publishers who have crowned Uganda as THE destination for this year, making the illegal loggers arguably the greatest enemy if not outright economic saboteurs of this dream become reality.
Watch this space in coming weeks to see if the NFA will now, that the matter is going into the public domain, react and how that reaction will unfold.
Update: Red Cross Kenya says 25 survivors found alive, some in need of treatment, 9 bodies found so far, total number of passengers thought to have been 82.
BOAT TRAGEDY HITS LAMU
2011 was a year tourism stakeholders in Lamu will be swift to forget, considering the two abductions from nearby Kiwayu and Manda Island of foreign visitors and the subsequent near total drop of tourist arrivals. While the annual Lamu Festival in November brought back some numbers and reassured locals and visitors alike that the Kenyan government had finally taken their own assurances of providing safety and security seriously and beefed up deployment of troops, foreign media and in particular embassies through their travel advisories remained skeptical and careful in opening up the destination once again.
With the New Year Eves fireworks smoke hardly settled however fresh bad news have come in from Lamu, where last night a boat, reportedly carrying as many as 80 people, has sunk. Many Kenyans had travelled to Lamu for the holiday period, to either visit relatives or else for a vacation and the ferry boat, according to a source in Mombasa, was allegedly substantially overloaded as passengers tried to make it back to the mainland to catch their busses home in time to resume work on the 03rd of January, after the 02nd of January was declared a public holiday in Kenya.
The Kenya Red Cross, the countrys primary private sector emergency and disaster response agency, has also confirmed through their Twitter account @KenyaRedCross that at present some 20 passengers have been recovered from the waters alive while at least 9 bodies have been found. The large number of unaccounted accident victims leaves the question open just how many will have survived by finding a way to shore somewhere in darkness, waiting for daylight to be discovered. The Kenya Red Cross has in the meantime put up an emergency treatment centre in a tent to be able to attend to anyone found alive when rescue operations resume at 5 a.m. local time to be out at sea searching for survivors and bodies when light breaks in the morning. Watch this space for updates later in the day.