RWANDA DEVELOPMENT BOARD RESPONDS WITH BETTER SERVICE CAMPAIGN
Hot on the heels of growing demands by the private sector stakeholders that Rwanda needs more training for staff working in the hospitality industry, has the Rwanda Development Board Tourism and Conservation responded with a dedicated campaign launched yesterday in Kigali, promoting quality services at all levels.
Clare Akamanzi, COO of the RDB was on stage with Rica Rwigamba, Head of Tourism and Conservation, at the launch of the initiative called Na Yombi or loosely translated into English to receive clients with courtesy.
RDB has been at the forefront to support and facilitate more training in the tourism industry, not just for hotel personnel but also for guides, but has also acknowledged that capacity constraints must be overcome and more training opportunities be made available for more newcomers to the sector as well as for those already in the workplace. Towards that end RDB is working hand in hand with the private sector, the Workplace Development Authority and the Ministry of Labour to adequately address the growing need for qualified and well trained staff deployed in positions where they encounter local and foreign customers. Better service levels translater into better yields for the sector. The country has plenty of top rate attractions and while we develop more under diversification plans we also have to train competent and well spoken staff. Then we can fully exploit the earning potential from tourism because foreign visitors expect good services and are ready to pay for them a leading stakeholder said on condition of anonymity, not apparently wanting to take the attention and spotlight away from the two lead ladies from RDB. Only last week did Ms. Rwigamba say to this correspondent during a lengthy meeting on the future of tourism to Rwanda: We work with the private sector associations on all issues which can improve performance. We encouraged the private sector to get organized, speak through an association because it makes dialogue easier. In fact we meet with many of them several times a month when needed to resolve matters arising before they become problems. In the same conversation Ms. Rwigamba also stressed the boards commitment to support training and use monitoring mechanisms to establish, maintain and improve quality standards in Kigali and upcountry at the key tourism destinations of Volcanoes, Nyungwe and Akagera national parks but also along the birding trails outside the parks and along the Congo Nile Trail which was launched in December last year. Watch this space.
Archive for March 28th, 2012
RWANDA DEVELOPMENT BOARD RESPONDS WITH BETTER SERVICE CAMPAIGN
TRAVEL AGENTS RAISE SERVICE FEES
The Kenya Association of Travel Agents has just announced that their members will from 01st of April charge their clients an extra US Dollar 15 equivalent for consultations and bookings made on their behalf, a practice which goes back to around 2007 when airlines on a broad basis discontinued commissions paid for tickets sold via travel agents.
An association spokesperson attributed the rise to added costs incurred, inflationary trends and the need to remain state of the art with technology requiring ever more competent staff to compete with online booking offers made by airlines, hotels and other service providers. It was also learned that companies making use of travel agents for their various need when putting business trips for executives together, can expect higher charges if the traveler uses business or first class, as according to the same source from Nairobi a lot more input and experience is required for frequent travelers to meet their every needs when in the air or on the road.
Airlines, hotels and car hire companies have in recent years aggressively promoted direct bookings to cut out any commissions or rebates but often resorted to then offering discounts anyway for bookings made on their websites. The main prerequisite, having a credit or debit card, is now also more widely seen amongst Kenyans and East Africans and the increase in internet usage and easy access to the web via USB modems at acceptable costs all over East Africa has driven internet based direct bookings to new heights and yet do in particular first time travelers often opt for the advice from experienced travel agents while companies like to have a competent and liable counterpart nearby when doing their transactions through conventional travel agencies, which are the ideal partners of course in case of sudden itinerary changes or to deal with periodic complaints when service providers along the way have messed up. I such cases the travel agency is a call away while more often than not one finds at the time of need that the help lines of hotels, airlines or car hire firms are either busy, or one has to brace for long waits, exhausting mobile phone batteries and testing nerves, while a travel agent will sort all that out after one call and then gets back to the client by phone or mail with results.
It is a question of almost philosophical dimensions, to use a travel agent or to go directly to a service provider like an airline, a hotel or a car hire firm or theatre ticket agency but my choice would be to use a travel agent any time, and yes, pay for the services rendered just as one does for auditors and lawyers too much? Not at all, lawyers win legal cases and auditors help to get the books sorted out and avoid taxation where possible, and travel agents get the best deals and get one out of trouble in case of flight cancellations or sudden changes. Watch this space.
The long wait to have a new competent board appointed, a year since the buddy appointment by former tourism minister Otafire of one Muballa and company came to a dramatic end when court declared him not competent enough to hold the position, is now finally over.
Former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Ben Otto, was formally unveiled as the new Chairman of the Board, injecting knowledge of the sector and expertise in all matters of wildlife and tourism on the strength of his long service as PS, where he did outstanding work and engaged successfully with the private sector.
Also appointed to the board was Mr. Mani Khan, Director of Tourism Operations of the Madhvani owned Marasa Africa company, which owns and operates three lodges in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchisons Falls National Park, representing the private sector. Mani Khan had previously served as a Director on the Uganda Tourist Board too, bringing with him decades of experience in the hospitality industry and intimate insights of serving on public boards previously.
Other notable appointees are John Emily Otekat, a former deputy CEO of Uganda National Parks and Ugandas link man to the East African Wildlife Society in Nairobi, Boniface Byamukama of Lake Kitandara Tours, Gladys Kalema of Conservation through Health and from the Ministry of Tourism the Commissioner Tourism Ms. Grace Aulo with Mr. Michael Aliyo added from the Ministry of Finance.
Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, Minister for Tourism, was quoted to have said at the inauguration of the new board: I challenge the new board to restore confidence in the authority [UWA] and the new board to be fair to all Ugandans as a public trustee before adding that the public had lost confidence in the past over allegations of mismanagement and misappropriation of funds between October 2010 and now. This was seen as a thinly veiled reference to the misguided if not often outright vengeful actions of his predecessor in office Kahinda Otafire, aka the self declared minister of crocodiles and widely seen as a total disgrace while holding the tourism portfolio.
This brings a long standing saga to a preliminary end, as it is for the new board to get down to business, appoint a new permanent Executive Director and help reshape the future of UWA as a respected and forward looking conservation management body. Best of luck to the appointees and more important all the best to the Uganda Wildlife Authority management and staff as they return now to calmer waters and can finally concentrate once again on their mandate instead of fighting constant rear guard action with kangaroo courts, gone bonkers commission of enquiry chairs and politicians perceived to putting their own vested interests before conservation.
A regular source from the Emirates Kampala office broke the news overnight that their new dedicated A380 terminal will be opened officially on the 01st of January 2013, taking the midnight fireworks Dubai has become famous for further into the New Year.
Built exclusively for Emirates as part of the ongoing airport expansion at a cost of over 3.5 billion US Dollars, a very significant figure considering the parallel development by Dubai of their new mega airport in Jebel Ali Al Maktoum International Airport, aka Dubai World International which when complete will be the worlds largest airport, it also goes to show that providing crucial infrastructure on the ground goes hand in hand with giving the airline the facilities it needs to continue their aggressive expansion drive. This year alone will see the airline add 11 more A380 and 20 more B777 aircraft to their fleet.
Dubai in 2011 processed nearly 51 million passengers, a figure expected to rise again in 2012 alongside more destinations coming on line for Emirates and the ongoing expansion of the airport will catapult Dubai International into the top slot for international airports by next year, overtaking such rivals as Heathrow.
These developments of aviation infrastructure on a hitherto unprecedented scale in the Gulf region, from Dubai over Abu Dhabi to Doha, is shaping a new world order of aviation where the traditional powers of North America and Europe are left trailing in the wake of a massive expansion in the Gulf of fleets and airport infrastructure as a result of being unable to match the growing demand for flights around the globe with an expanded infrastructure at their own home hubs while at the same time also failing to match the cost structure of the Gulf airlines. This is a sore point between Europes and Americas large airlines and something which in the recent past led to some heated and at times unprecedented tit for tat exchanges on several platforms which bring the global aviation fraternity together. Fodder for thought for future articles but for now, we are just barely 9 months away from the official opening of the new A380 terminal and passengers from Eastern Africa will be able to then connect to the rest of the world with the largest passenger aircraft in operation in comfort previously unknown, especially when flying First or Business class. Watch this space.
PORT LOUIS SET TO ADD MORE PERIPHERAL CAR PARKS TO CREATE PEDESTRIAN ZONES
(Map courtesy of Google)
Information was received from a source in Mauritius that plans are underway by the city council of the islands capital to create two more peripheral multi storey car parks as part of their efforts to create pedestrian only zones. Some of the areas and streets named are Sir William Newton, La Corderie, La Reine and Remy Ollier though more are apparently targeted by the city fathers for conversion. Although it could not be established immediately how extensive such car free zones will eventually be or if eventually much of the city centre will become pedestrian only, it will undoubtedly be a bonus for Mauritians as well as for tourist visitors to be able to stroll about, window shop or simply sightsee without having to watch out for vehicular traffic all the time.
Similar plans are being looked at in Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, where a pedestrian only zone would make sightseeing and shopping by tourists a lot more attractive while also relieving the local population from having to dodge traffic while crossing streets. Watch this space.
Tanzania conservation news – Marine park extension on to dry land prompts accusations against TANAPA of land grabbing
Locals between Tanga, via Mwambani to Pangani are up in arms since it became known that TANAPA is clandestinely scheming for the expansion of the Tanga Marine National Park right into the heart of Tanga before then incorporating swathes of inland locations, including villas and existing properties into a revised geographical area aimed to extort park entrance fees for anybody entering villages or residences or restaurants / resorts, be it family members, friends or acquaintances.
Intriguingly this is happening at a time when the Tanzanian government seems hellbent to construct a new port inside the same marine national park, where the Coelacanth prehistoric fish has its habitat. No amount of logical argument has yet moved the cast in concrete position by government, which insists that the new port must be built inside the marine park, instead of expanding the existing port in Tanga, reportedly much underutilized. The new traffic axis between Tanga to Uganda the two countries have signed an MoU just before Christmas last year to develop a rail corridor from Tanga to the Lake Victoria town of Musoma from where rail ferries would take the wagons across to Uganda is to develop two ports, one in Mwambani / Indian Ocean and another in Musoma / Lake Victoria, linked by a standard gauge railway and a vaguely mentioned routing which could see the railway take the most direct route across the most sensitive and fragile part of the Serengeti, after also linking Lake Natron where a soda ash factory is planned.
Looking at the two developments side by side it would appear that the various organs of government are clearly either NOT talking to each other, or in a worst case scenario attempting to dupe the public into believing that a protected area exists while major construction would be planned inside the marine park with very likely devastating consequences. While that is more distant in the future, though going by government mouthpieces about to happen any time from now, the threat to the locals by TANAPAs imperial ambitions to incorporate extra territorial land claims into their off shore marine park, is much more real. Said a regular reader and commenter in a direct message: We have been told to apply in advance for any relatives, friends or acquaintances wishing to visit us or else they have to pay park entrance, even though they may not have the least interest of going down to the ocean itself or enter the present marina park. It smacks of desperation by TANAPA to extort money from the public. They claim there are not enough visitors to the marine park but that is all due to the constant rumours about a port being built right in the middle of it. In fact that is why no further tourist investments have come so far because if the area is spoiled by a harbour, there is no way tourists want to visit a national park here and therefore no big hotel groups will invest. But for now we are battling with a TANAPA gone wild, like they did last year when they held tourists and vehicles hostage at the northern parks trying to extort camp concession fees directly from tourists. It gave Tanzania a lot of very negative publicity and with Twitter and Facebook these days, tourists see something bad and it goes instantly on Twitter or they even take pictures of bad scenes and post them. There is no more hiding, it comes out like it or not. TANAPA has to sit down with stakeholders, not give 2 days notice of meetings and then try steamroll over everyone. They might do a lot of good about conservation somewhere else but here, they are the enemy number one now for trying to steal our land. Already the port area has displaced people with little or no adequate compensation, and now this? Where is it going to end, can government organs just decide behind closed doors about grabbing land rights and make our friends pay for visiting? This will go to court for sure and if the Tanzanian courts do not uphold the law, the East African Court of Justice will for sure.
The dramas in Tanzania surrounding terrestrial national parks and now even marine national parks just never seem to end and it explains why so many questions about the current governments commitment to uphold the principles of founding father Julius Mwalimu Nyerere are circulating in the international arena and have brought vocal opposition to life like the Stop the Serengeti Highway group on Facebook, which now is over 45.000 members strong, united in their desire to save the Serengeti from irreparable harm and destruction.
Watch this space as a new front is opening up in Tanzania, beyond the already known hotspots in the Serengeti, Lake Natron, the Selous, the Eastern Arc Mountains and now the Coelacanth habitat.