FEE ISSUE ON TANZANIA KENYA BORDER CONTINUES TO INFLAME EMOTIONS
As reported here a while ago, the contentious issue of having to pay a US Dollar 200 fee per vehicle to cross into Tanzania has caused border post blockages not too long ago, bringing about some diplomatic intervention with ministers responsible for East African Community affairs meeting to discuss the problems.
At the time the Tanzanian minister denounced the fee, saying it was not sanctioned, only to be now hang out to dry by a deputy minister for EAC affairs who proclaimed earlier in the week that the fees were there to stay until 2015.
Predictably did the noise levels amongst traders and the business community in Kenya rise to crescendo once more, depicting the Tanzanian government as unreliable, internally confused and contradicting each other and generally being anti EAC and anti Kenya.
Citing the protocol for the establishment of a free market, the zero duty internally across the East African Community and other related protocols on the freedom of movement by EAC citizens, the Tanzanian demands for fees are seen as counterproductive to these goals, in violation of certain treaty aspects and have been described as yet another non tariff barrier erected to keep Kenyans in particular out of Tanzania or else make them pay through the proverbial nose. The woes increase when one considers the dual membership of Tanzania in SADC, the only East African Community member state to belong to the South African led group, while Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi belong to competing block COMESA, something often seen as partly responsible for the different sizes of the respective goals to start with, before the shifting of goal posts even began.
Adding salt into the wounds the deputy minister was also quoted that the Tanzanian governments requirements for work permits for anyone wanting to do business inside Tanzania would also remain in place, prompting Kenyan traders in Taveta to in turn ask the Kenyan government to arrest and prosecute Tanzanian traders crossing the border into Kenya freely and trading without licenses and permits, bringing the scenario of a fully fledged retaliation into play, causing diplomatic efforts behind the scenes by other EAC members to defuse the situation between Kenya and Tanzania before it was spiraling out of control.
Tourism stakeholders in both countries have also long been opposed to their different goals of either opening up or keeping market access in lock down, with the contentious question of the border at Bologonja between the Masai Mara and the Serengeti remaining closed for commercial traffic, compelling tour companies from each country to cross at other border points, mostly in Namanga, where passengers have to change vehicles or at best being able to reach Arusha or Nairobi respectively before having to shift.
Air operators too blame Tanzania as the most restrictive country to fly into, with few options open for flights from Uganda or Kenya carrying tourists destined to the parks, as they too have to be dropped, normally at Kilimanjaro International Airport instead of being dropped straight at an airstrip near the camp or lodge they are heading for. Said an aviation source from Nairobis Wilson Airport recently when discussing cross border traffic with light aircraft: I think it is now fairly easy to get landing permits when flying to Uganda or vice versa. Yes, there are still a few issues but those are being addressed on a bilateral basis. In Uganda we can even drop passengers to the parks and some of the airfields have been designated as entry and exit points, which is where we in Kenya still have some work to do. Right now you have to clear customs and immigration in say Kisumu or Eldoret or Nairobi but there is movement. Rwanda is the same in fact, getting easier but our brothers across our Southern border in Tanzania, that seems stuck in a time warp. They sign protocols and agreements but the minds are apparently not inside the EAC, not in spirit and not in reality and only when official speeches demand saying something nice.
EAC officials known to this correspondent also remain tightlipped over where the main obstacles remain in the introduction of a common tourist Visa for East Africa, but as Uganda has expressed the desire to fast track this, as has Rwanda, and with Kenyas tourism minister Najib Balala repeatedly demanding immediate action over the past 12 18 months while lamenting about unnamed opposition to the scheme, it can only be assumed where the njet is coming from.
Said another source from Nairobi last week when chatting over coffee about this issue, amongst many others: It feels like needle pricks. One or two can be absorbed, but when there is a barrage of them it starts to seriously hurt and cooperation is doubted, suffers. By now we should have one common stand at ITB for instance featuring all the East African Community member states but still we are separate. We were hoping for a joint promotion of one region with many attractions and that has not taken off either. Selling East Africa as one destination is bound to increase our reach across the world, offer more options to travelers and draw in more tourists. Airlines like Qatar Airways now start to fly not only to the main centres but are adding Mombasa, Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro. There is the option of open jaw travel that a tourist flies into one airport and then has road transport or even regional flights and then leaves the region from another airport. We should capitalize on such opportunities and not continue to create fresh obstacles for each other. Cooperation is needed instead of confrontation, equitable sharing instead of proprietary attitudes. When I hear utterances like Kenya is stealing Kilimanjaro I just wonder what that is all about. That mountain is in Tanzania like Mt. Kenya is in Kenya. Such talk is just to stir up sentiments, emotions and are lacking all substance but to serve shortsighted goals of a few.
As talks on a common currency are also seemingly stuck in a rut, inspite of an initial goal to finalise all prerequisite arrangements, the question surely can be asked, Quo Vadis East African Community. Watch this space.
Archive for March 14th, 2012
FEE ISSUE ON TANZANIA KENYA BORDER CONTINUES TO INFLAME EMOTIONS
E-TOURISM CONFERENCE SET FOR NAIROBIS INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL
The upcoming e-Tourism Conference in Kenyas capital Nairobi is taking place at the InterContinental Hotel in Nairobi where over 300 particpants from Africa and beyond are expected to gather to discuss how to push the tourism industry into the 21st century by using not only the social media but also e-Commerce solutions to transact future business. Organised by e-Tourism guru Damian Cook, the meeting is expected to be a sell out as all his previous seminars in Kenya and the wider region were regularly oversubscribed. This correspondent expects to be in Kenya on other business over this period of time and hopes to file some live reports from the conference. The attached details were kindly provided by Kenya Buzzs mailing (www.KenyaBuzz.com)
Bigger Better and more Affordable than ever!!
Following our sold out East African seminars comes a two-day conference packed with International Speakers, practical demonstrations and solutions for social media in tourism.
With online travel revenues set to double in 2012, anyone in the Tourism and Travel and related marketing and media should not miss this world class event.
Special Focus on Facebook Session
By August there will be ONE BILLION people on Facebook. Welcome to your largest source market for business- but how do you best access them? Justin Reid was the former Digital Head for Visit Britain whose innovative work saw them named the Most Influential Destination Online. Now he works with a leading Facebook developer creating strategic creative campaigns for the travel trade. In a full afternoon session he will take you through the steps to create, build and manage a Facebook campaign for Tourism.
East Africa’s largest Online Travel and Tourism Event will be held at the Intercontinental Hotel Nairobi on the 29th and 30th of March 2012.
The conference is packed with international speakers and presentations from some of the world’s leading online travel companies- including Trip Advisor, Expedia, Trave
lstart. A special training session on facebook and its new applications will also be included in the conference programme.
Plus MANY MORE from the E-Commerce, Mobile and Mapping sectors.
The cost is $300 plus VAT for the two-day conference.
Special Price if you book two tickets – it will be US $200 each plus VAT.
All delegates will also receive the Textbook – E-Tourism Frontiers: A Practical Guide to Online Tourism.
CNN FOUNDER TURNER SUPPORTS GORILLA CONSERVATION WITH A MILLION DOLLARS
Ted Turner has according to information received from Kigali overnight donated a million US Dollars to the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund. The donation is aimed to allow the Ruhengeri / Musanze based Karisoke Research Centre to widen its reach and set up an outstation in Congo where the lowland gorillas are said to be under intense threat, unlike their cousins the Eastern African mountain gorillas which have for years now enjoyed increased protection.
While mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Congo DR and Uganda have become a major economic factor for the tourism sectors, lowland gorillas have in turn not been habituated, foregoing a source of revenue which can be used to keep the species protected and farmers compensated for loss of crops via the permit fees charged to tourists.
The Karisoke Research Centres focus will therefore, according to a source in Kigali, be centred on the getting crucial information on the habitat and spread of the lowland gorillas, and get relevant data which can then be used to setting up protective measures while tapping into the dormant tourism resource at the same time.
Gorilla tracking is still Rwandas number one tourism activity although the country has diversified the sector with the introduction of new products in recent years, unlike Congo which suffers of negative publicity and keeps mainstream tourism receipts well below the income generated by Rwanda for instance.
Ted Turners generosity has been applauded by conservation circles in Rwanda and there is speculation he may be invited either this year or for next years 10th anniversary of Kwita Izina as one of the namers of recently born young mountain gorilla babies in recognition of his support for gorilla conservation. Watch this space.
Mauritius news update – Seychelles’ president Michel guest of honour at 44th Independence Day celebrations
44TH INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION GRACED BY PRESENCE OF SEYCHELLES PRESIDENT
President James Michel of the Seychelles was Guest of Honour earlier in the week as Mauritius celebrated their 44th anniversary of Independence. The entire island thrilled its tourist visitors with displays of cultural performances and the evening fireworks were according to a regular source a sight to behold.
The parade on the occasion of the celebrations was made livelier by a fly past of helicopters from the Police Helicopter Squadron and of aircraft from the National Coast Guard, before a precision jump by parachutists from the Mauritius defence forces parachute regiment.
The presence of President Michel was also used to enhance bilateral relations with the signing of two major agreements, one for the joint administration and exploration of the nearly 400.000 square kilometres continental shelf of the Mascarene Islands, last year handed to the two countries by a UN panel and a second treaty over joint measures to protect the biodiversity of the ocean while regulating exploitation and use of marine resources.
Notably have during the recently concluded ITB in Berlin the two countries tourism ministers Alain St. Ange from the Seychelles and his Mauritius counterpart Michael Yuen met too to discuss matter of mutual interest and concern. The two will again meet later in March when RETOSA, SADCs tourism body, will bring the ministers of member states together in Port Louis for their regular meeting. Watch this space, but for now it is congratulations to the government and people of Mauritius on the occasion of their 44th Independence Day.
Kenya tourism news – Coast tour operators demand a ‘pay as you use’ fee for preferential ferry services
COAST TOUR OPERATORS DEMAND FERRY VIP SERVICES ON PAY AS YOU GO BASIS
The recent introduction of VIP services for tourist vehicles, to obtain priority boarding for vehicles for instance on transfers from or to the airport or on a tight schedule leaving for safaris, has been widely hailed as progress and a step long overdue by sections of coasts tourism stakeholders.
However, the demand by the ferry operators for a three month upfront payment of Kenya Shillings 166.000 or about 2.000 US Dollars is now seen as an obstacle to in particular smaller tour companies, which would prefer a pay as you use fee to be paid on the spot rather than having to fork out major money upfront. A fee of 1.200 Kenya Shillings or about 15 US Dollars per trip has been proposed by tour operators representatives but was rejected by Kenya Ferry Services, prompting an appeal to government to compel the ferry operators to review their stand and make the fast track option more user friendly. The Kenya Ferry Services CEO claimed to have been surprised by the request for fees per use as in his words, quoted in local Kenyan media, the company had only recently reduced the prepayment requirements from 6 months to 3 months and no further reduction would or could be considered for VIP treatment in a point blank pay or get lost attitude common for parastatal monopolists. This prompted safari operators to protest even more, saying that they have no issue with paying for extra services but only questioned the need to prepay several months in advance, when an on the spot payment could just as well meet the financial requirements of preferential service levels. In fact, added comments attributed to the ferry CEO that normal services would suffice just as well as all ferry users were served without delay caused a string of comments from safari operators and other ferry users, most of them unfit for reproduction.
The ferry service has in the past attracted severe criticism over docking accidents and stalled ferries mid stream, when crossing from the island of Mombasa to the southern coast and planning for a highway bypass from the international airport is at an advanced stage, bringing relief in the future to in particular the tourism sector, which can then avoid the bottle neck of the Likoni ferry and leave the service to local commuters or else use it only for the sightseeing purposes. Until that bypass however is ready, anyone who needs to go south of Mombasa will continue to depend on the ferry service and is subject to their terms and conditions, but also their failures as and when those happen.