The revamp of the Kampala Sheraton has over the past year, since Chris Pollard took over as General Manager in June 2011, shown some remarkable results with a face lift not only covering rooms and public areas but also extending to menus and service. The introduction of regular food festivals, hugely successful and popular with the young urban elites, has this week seen the addition of a Middle East Night every Friday, accompanied by the sounds of music from a live band. Authentic delicacies are on offer and at a cost of 65.000 Uganda Shillings, considering the variety of dishes, it is surely a bargain for those who fancy a night out on the town in elegant style.
A recent visit to the hotel and an in length talk with the Director of Sales and Marketing James Rattos also revealed the rejuvenated 10th floor Executive Club Lounge where hotel guests staying on floors 8 12, and those on the executive third floor, have access to wireless internet, three state of the art flat screen desk tops with printer facility, snack and meal options on the house around the clock, the lastest magazines and newspapers and a view across the city second to none.
On the day in question a range of breakfast cereals, fruits and juices, breads and pastries, a superior range of cold cuts and three select hot dishes made up a good range to choose from and freshly brewed espresso or a pick of fine teas rounded up the picture. Executive Chef Robert Knuckey did actually make a personal appearance to make sure that all the arrangements were as we say here Maridadi before returning to his kitchen lair. The meals on offer are on the house including for a visitor a hotel guest qualified to access the facility may bring along and talking of picture, the 10th floor view over the city centre and into the distance towards Lake Victoria is simply the best in town, at least for a club lounge cum restaurant cum meeting facility. Besides the set up of easy chairs and dining tables there is also a conference room, comfortable holding 8 if not 10 participants and this too is on the house for guests wishing to hold a quick meeting with business partners, as long as they stay in a suite or the executive rooms on one of the 5 executive floors. And water, juice, coffee, tea and snacks of course are available for the picking right there too, a valuable gesture for treasured guests, creating brand loyalty and ensuring repeat business for years to come.
The concept, though not new in the luxury hotel segment, is novel anyway for Kampala as none of the other hotels in the same range offers this level of service and such freebies, with lounges, though available for resident guests, ordinarily charging for tea and snacks, leave alone the more substantial snacks or meals one would order there from the menu.
With occupancies at the Sheraton back in the mid 70 percent region across the year it goes to show that an old favourite at times just needs a little nudge, perhaps in some cases a little kick as it happened here a year ago when Chris Pollard was installed as the new General Manager and swung into action immediately after analyzing what he found, charting out a course of revival which today bears rich fruits.
For sure the Sheraton Kampala Hotel, the Grand Old Dame of hospitality in Kampala since way back when it opened as the Apollo Hotel, is once again pulling in the crowds, and remains one of THE places to be, to go to and to be seen at when in Kampala. Watch this space.
Archive for July 6th, 2012
MORE WOES FOR THE SELOUS IN THE MAKING AS STIEGLERS GORGE POWER MOU SIGNED
Within days of news breaking that the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has approved the Tanzanian governments request to carve out a 200 square kilometres part of the worlds largest game reserve to establish a Uranium mining and processing facility, did news break overnight that the Rufiji Basin Development Authority had signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding with Brazils Odebrecht International, a company known to develop hydro electric power facilities, including building huge dams.
The Tanzanian tourism industry is now getting increasingly worried that the planned power station at the Stieglers Gorge will irrevocably alter the reserves core tourism area to the worse with a very extensive area beyond the dam subject to being flooded by the reservoir lake, displacing significant animal populations from their present habitat.
It has also been ascertained through a source in Paris that UNESCO apparently is not aware of any application for approval of such a dramatic intervention in this World Heritage Site, which was launched back in 1982, when the then governments commitment to conservation was more than mere lip service and misleading statements.
The conservation and green lobby is already incensed over claims made by Tanzanian government officials about the allegedly minimal problems with Uranium mining, accusing the government to not just downplay risks but to hoodwink the public into believing that the toxicity of the extraction of Uranium and the processing before shipment was negligible.
Experts have warned of dire consequences for the health of workers, nearby villages, the game population finding their water sources increasingly poisoned and eventually the ocean where the rivers empty into carrying their toxic cargo of poisons.
Said a regular contributor from Dar es Salaam in a mail overnight: The Selous Game Reserve could be opened up for tourism way beyond what is being done now. It is the biggest wilderness area right now in Africa if not the world and has space for many more tourist ventures. Those would all create employment, earn the government park entrance fees, taxes and more. That is a very sustainable income source and it is not poisonous like mining. I think we are not being told the truth about the fallout in years to come. I think we deserve to know that truth and we shall try find our own experts to outline the short and long haul dangers to the Selous if that mining goes ahead. The companies involved poisoned their own back yards like in Russia and now they want to do the same here to us? It is not right. We are losing credibility in the world about conservation. Poaching is very bad, illegal logging is very bad, and now this after the Serengeti highway problems and the soda ash factory and the marine national park near Tanga also being targeted. This has to stop.
Be sure to watch this space for future updates on such developments affecting Tanzanias national parks and game reserves and the ongoing debates and raging arguments being advance by the promoters of progress and development and the defenders of nature and the environment.
AIR SEYCHELLES WELCOMES THEIR FIRST NEW A330-200 AIRCRAFT
Yesterday saw the arrival of the national airlines first new A 330-200 aircraft, painted in the livery of Air Seychelles and welcomed by none other than President James Alix Michel, in the presence of the Minister of Home Affairs and Transport, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the airline Joel Morgan and a range of other government and business officials invited to the party.
HM 019 arrived from Abu Dhabi, the hub of Air Seychelles partner Etihad, where the aircraft had been readied for deployment, and operated by a Seychellois crew after they had all undergone type conversion courses from the previously used B767-300 to the new Airbus models.
The aircraft was baptized Aldabra after the remote atoll some 1.000 kilometres distant from the main island of Mahe and will now once again Fly the Creole Spirit between Mahe and Abu Dhabi as well as to Johannesburg. A second A330-200 is due to join the fleet by January 2013 latest at which time non-stop flights to Beijing will commence to serve the Chinese market for the archipelago, one of the fastest growing in recent years, with direct airlinks.
The new bird now offers the lastest in seat technology with flat beds in business class and individual entertainment system access from every seat in economy class, a new enhanced menu but still features the warm and genuine hospitality of the Seychelles from the moment one steps on board.
Cramer Bell, CEO of Air Seychelles, was quoted to have said as he stepped off the inaugural flight: Today marks a historic moment, a turning point towards a brighter future. The A330 aircraft is not only younger and more fuel-efficient, but it also boasts excellent new product and services never before seen at Air Seychelles. To see our pilots and cabin crew again working proudly in uniform also shows how far Air Seychelles has come in a relatively short time. With our colourful aircraft livery and world-class service, we will bring the Creole spirit to every destination we fly to.
Chairman of the Board and Minister of Home Affairs and Transport Joel Morgan added: To see the A330, emblazoned with Air Seychelles unique livery, touch down at Seychelles International Airport was a moment of patriotic pride for all Seychellois. Only three months ago, we announced that we would refresh the fleet by retiring our Boeing 767 and bringing in two Airbus A330s. We made a promise and it has been kept. I am thrilled to now welcome our first Airbus, Aldabra, to the Air Seychelles fleet and we look forward to watching it fly the Creole spirit for many years to come before then inviting President Michel to do the honour of cutting a symbolic tape to officially inaugurate the new aircraft and ring in a new beginning for the airline.
President Michel was hailed for his foresight, courage and vision in repositioning the national airline ahead of the great turmoil Indian Ocean airlines find themselves faced with by giving Air Seychelles a head start and finding it a strong and excellent strategic partner, being Etihad Airways, the worst is behind it. The company has in record time modernized its fleet and right-sized its operation and is now set to return to profitability, flying 8 times a week under a codeshared operation with Etihad to Abu Dhabi.
Watch this space for regular and breaking news updates from the Indian Ocean islands aviation scene.
When the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority’s Licensing Committee sat at the Imperial Royale Hotel in the centre of Kampala yesterday, a public event for which media and observers, aviation buffs and the public at large are invited besides the applicants, yesterday a small total of 7, there is always the potential of some excitement in the air, depending on just how well those requesting for new Air Service Licenses are prepared and how well those requesting for renewals have performed.
The 36th meeting again had its share of objections towards applications, with a public washing of apparently dirty aviation laundry between Almiron Aviation, seeking a new non scheduled cargo licence and proposing to introduce a non-modified aged L1011 no less. Objectors here were Uganda’s state corporation Uganda Air Cargo and the various spats in public were quite enough in the end for the chair of the licensing committee to move on to the next applicant, leaving Almiron to ponder what their fate will be, more so as they had apparently been licensed with an ASL back in 2006 only to then disappear before returning once more after Uganda had discovered significant quantities of crude oil.
Next up to defend their application was, in the order of arrival at the venue not in the order of what the public notice displayed, was Skyline Air and this was where the audience was treated to the rare spectacle of incompetence of the highest order by the company representatives, when after stuttering through a badly rehearsed presentation questions started to fly in. Having proposed to bring ancient Antonov and Iljushin aircraft into Uganda, ‘Just like that’ as was said verbatim, the applicants representative then mis-answered the question how old his various aircraft were by stating when the company was incorporated before then, when asked again by a member of the panel how old his birds were, answering ‘WOW’ stunning the entire room into momentary silence before continuing ‘ok, it is old but it can still be used in Uganda’.
Having attended all but a very few licensing hearings in Kampala since back in 1994 when the hearings had gone public after the establishment of the CAA, not once had an applicant put his hand into the proverbial hornets nest and predictably there was uproar on the panel and amongst us Ugandans. The chairman of the meeting, once the room had eventually quieted down, demanded an immediate withdrawal of that statement, making it clear that Uganda was ‘not a dumping ground for old aircraft’ and when no withdrawal was forthcoming by return then told the company representative to withdraw his application, also ‘Just like that’.
More objections came to the fore afterwards when Air Kenya’s Ugandan subsidiary AeroLink took centre stage, as they had committed the faux pas to turn their website on, advertising sales as of 15th of June, when the hearing for an Air Service License only was held on 05th of July, following which, once and if granted an ASL, a lengthy process of undergoing audits and meeting regulatory requirements to attain the coveted Air Operator Certificate, a hurdle which going by experience many of those given an ASL then fail to accomplish has to be completed before operations can actually start. The Uganda Association of Air Operators had therefore filed an objection for failing to observe due protocol and that fact appears not to have been lost on the panel too.
As had AeroLink applied for a license to fly scheduled services to the Ugandan national parks, so did Uganda’s own Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre, which had filed an application already in January but only coming up for hearing now. KAFTC is a company already licensed as a non scheduled airline with 13 fixed wing and one rotary aircraft, aka helicopter, besides which they are licensed by the UCAA as a maintenance organization as well as a flying school.
Last up was Kenyas Phoenix aviation which proposed to introduce an MD 83 aircraft for executive charters out of Entebbe, of course a well known name across the border at Wilson Airport where Phoenix has long become part of the inventory of established charter airlines.
Surely a morning of unexpected excitement but also once again an insight into the aviation scene in Uganda, smaller than in Kenya but nevertheless vibrant too. Watch this space.