KENYA AIRWAYS GETS COURT CLEARANCE TO ADVANCE STAFF RESTRUCTURING
Reports about Kenya Airways sacking staff are outrageous and a product of fiction by sections of the media, aimed to cause industrial unrest. None of this is true. What is true is that the airline intends to outsource certain aspects of the operation, and that means a transfer of staff to partners, besides which voluntary early retirement packages are on offer. Some aspects of the operation may find a shift in staff, a shift in emphasis and some streamlining where overlapping functions can be rationalized but there is no truth in the airline planning widespread redundancies at a time when they get more aircraft delivered and are expanding their network said a regular source with close links to KQ.
Kenya Airways is this weekend expecting another Embraer 190 to join their fleet in Nairobi and has been recruiting expatriate cockpit crews in order to have enough experienced pilots to fly new aircraft, while at the same time also accelerating pilot training programmes both at the Pride Centre, in South Africa and further abroad.
The airline has since last year been hit by a sharp rise in fuel cost on a year by year basis, causing a significant downturn in pre tax profits, but also had to sustain a sharp rise in the cost of labour following illegal strike action the union had disregarded a court order at the time which caused a new contract offer to be agreed to well nearly under duress, and way beyond forecast percentages.
The Transport and Allied Workers Union, predictably, rushed to court to prevent Kenya Airways to go ahead with their programme of adjustments but an initial order to halt all action by Kenya Airways was now lifted by the Industrial Court, with caution attached that no victimization of the any staff having been part of incitement and other negative activities, should be penalized. Be that as it may, word from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is that union hardliners and radicals are scheming up a possible wildcat strike action as they have done before, and it is hoped that there will be no disruption of services as a result of the Union once more resorting to a policy of Njet.
Watch this space as another hearing before the Industrial Court is due on September 10th.
Archive for August, 2012
KENYA AIRWAYS GETS COURT CLEARANCE TO ADVANCE STAFF RESTRUCTURING
KAMUNTU SHIFTED TO WATER WHILE MUTAGAMBE TAKES TOURISM
(Report filed from the Constance Ephelia Resort, Port Glaud, Mahe)
In what has been described as a game of musical chair shuffling has Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, since the formation of the government after the general elections in March last year Minister for Tourism, been moved to the Ministry of Water and Environment, while in a reverse move Maria Mutagamba took on the tourism portfolio.
While some regular observers were said to be baffled by this move, claiming tourism ought to have a longer serving minister in charge who can get acquainted and make an impact, others blame the quiet style of the Professor and his tendency to ponder decisions for over long on the move, saying they need a more active individual.
Neither portfolio, though important for the respective sectors, enjoys top recognition within the more established ministries and in cabinet, where education, health, transport, defense and agriculture are the key beneficiaries of the annual budget in terms of percentage allocation of resources.
Ministers are appointed by the President, who takes regional considerations as well as political allegiance and loyalty into account when making his choices but the fact that a so called Presidential Initiative on Tourism is located under State House and has not been shifted to either the tourist board or the ministry itself has had tongues wagging about funding as well as true intent and purpose, with no clear answers available from any reliable source, all tongue tied apparently over upsetting the equilibrium or the boss or both.
In the past have such initiatives been advanced and operated under the office of the Vice President, but then no clear outcomes were defined nor an action plan established along which to implement a range of proposed measures to make the tourism sector more attractive to investments and more important, how to enable the Uganda Tourist Board to market the country, impossible right now with the resource allocation they have been getting.
Figures presented by the outgoing Minister Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu on the occasion of handing over his office earlier today to Maria Mutagamba, where therefore taken with a grain of doubt, as there is also a glaring lack of data from the official government statistics offices, correlated with arrivals at land borders and airports and recorded park entrances of foreign nonresident visitors, all factors to be taken into account when speaking of tourists rather than cross border travelers who come for a bit of trade. Here opinions about real tourists and their spending therefore vary greatly amongst the who is who in the tourism industry in Uganda and it can only be hoped that better data collection, processing and interpretation, hand in hand with the Bank of Ugandas statistics on the flow of funds from direct exchanges at forex bureaus to transfers of funds to the local tourism industry, will one day provide the correct details. Tourism Satellite Accounting as per UNWTO recommendations comes to mind, something long suggested, urgently asked but never seriously implemented. Watch this space and best wishes of course go to Maria Mutagamba, Ugandas new Minister of Tourism and a fond farewell to Prof. Ephraim and best of luck in his new portfolio at Water and Environment.
NOW AIR BERLIN CANCELS SUMMER SERIES TO MOMBASA
The bad news about coast tourism seem to chase each other as the latest blow was just delivered when Air Berlin announced their plans to shelve Mombasa from their summer 2013 programme.
Sources close to the heart of the Kenyan tourism industry now blame their minister and the government at large for failing to listen to them and fund tourism marketing to tap into alternate markets while at the same time running good will missions to the existing markets in Europe where reassurance would be on top of the agenda, something not possible now due to lack of funds for KTB.
Our government is preoccupied with elections, electioneering and other issues and tourism is being hammered from so many sides now. Cost increases, plans for VAT which our minister failed to stop and then the issue with Qatar Airways. They wanted to come to Mombasa on a daily basis, supporting tourism and trade, and because someone in government failed to get what they were looking for, like in a golden handshake, they pulled the plug last moment on traffic rights between Nairobi and Kilimanjaro and between Dar es Salaam and Mombasa.
You think that airline NEEDS to fly to Mombasa? They want to but it has to be financially viable and sector traffic rights will help, like you have it between Entebbe and Kigali. First you broke the news on 1Time pulling out and that was confirmed and now Air Berlin too? At a time when we need more airlines, more seats we now get less. It is a big blow and my colleagues are wondering which one will pull next. This is nearing the 2008 proportions at the coast and if the ministry says Mombasa is doing so well, they are plainly not telling the truth.
Occupancies are down, revenues are down, discretionary spending is down. Thank you for your positive comments about visiting Mombasa on Facebook, it was seen and appreciated very much that someone like you stands by us more than our own government. Please tell the world Mombasas resorts are safe and sound and ready to receive visitors said a regular source in a mail just received when asking for a comment on this piece of breaking news. Other sources appeared shocked into silence though as no added feedback from regular contributors could be obtained, probably still trying to work out if indeed the news are correct, which assuredly and sadly it is, or else first taking a deep breath before hitting the panic buttons.
By the end of June Mombasa had a year on year downturn of over 20 percent and from all indications this trend appears to hold steady, as the country moves towards the March 2013 elections. That is another issue for us, because those elections are ahead of Easter which is normally quite full and for next year we are making provisions to start the low season before Easter around election time and put special offers on the market for residents and East Africans, because no one knows what is going to happen if there is no clear winner in the first round did the source then add on the follow up, before saying that he and his colleagues would meet soon to strategize and give government an action list of key demands to be met, to help boost occupancies and promote the Kenya coast across the world. Watch this space.
PRECISION AIR JOINS HANDS WITH VODACOM FOR ADDED PAYMENT OPTION
(Filed from the Constance Ephelia Resort, Port Glaud, Mahe)
Paying by phone and getting a 20 percent rebate on top of it will make travel with Precision Air a financial windfall, when using ones Vodacom connection in Tanzania to make electronic payment with for a ticket.
Partner airline Kenya Airways had broken regional ground when they introduced payment via M-Pesa by mobile phone a while ago and the success of this feature, which spares clients the time consuming trip to the airline office to pay, after booking on the net, has encouraged Precision Air to try the same in Tanzania.
Well on the way to carry one million passengers this year for the first time ever, an industry source close to Precision Air said: The airline is doing a lot these days to capture the domestic market after Air Tanzania failed the nation once again. They are shifting capacity into domestic flights with an added B737 and now they are making sales and payments easier. Book online and pay by phone is a good combination which is cost effective for both the airline and the passengers and the 20 percent rebate reflects this. For me I just wonder why our own government does not recognize the contributions Precision makes to our economy and make them a national airline, they would do us proud and promote us as a tourism and business destination even better.
Precision Air is Tanzanias premier airline, quoted on the Dar es Salaam stock exchange and has several additional ATR 72-600 aircraft on order, to join the fleet from next year onwards, allowing the carrier to widen their domestic network and flying to key secondary and tertiary airfields in the sprawling East African country.
The planned arrival of more jets of B737-300 make will further enhance the airlines ability to fly on longer routes across the African continent as well as beyond, giving Tanzanians wider choices to travel with a flag carrier than ever before. Watch this space.
Report filed from the Constance Ephelia Resort, Port Glaud, Mahe
Events in recent days overtook each other and developments came in thick and fast about the saga of the Greenfield Project, which is set to make or break the future of Kenyas aviation sector and will have huge consequences for national airline Kenya Airways.
The building of a second runway at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, by common consensus long overdue, and the construction of another dedicated new terminal facility, which according to projections will be overwhelmingly used by Kenya Airways and the airlines international Sky Team partners and airlines they will code share with on certain route. The 55 billion Kenya Shilling project had run into stormy waters, when Transport Minister Amos Kimunya in January demanded the tender award of 16th December 2011 to be cancelled, inspite of the Attorney Generals legal opinion that such a move could cost Kenya huge in compensation as there was no legal basis for the move other than the ministers personal opinion. The tender award, scrutinized by the countrys procurement oversight watchdog agency, was cleared and had been duly sanctioned on several levels but information now coming to light speaks of a million dollar bribe to intervene on behalf of a failed bidder, which by the looks of it missed the deadline of document submission by a crucial half hour, perhaps fallen victim to Nairobis notorious traffic jams or else having their watches wrongly set.
In a tit for tat wrangle did the board of KAA then attempt do the ministers dirty work, who had failed to bully Gichuku out of office, and attempted to suspend the KAA CEO Stephen Gichuki. He however was no walkover and not only challenged this blatant attempt to remove him from office on procedural grounds but in addition obtained a court order to resume his duties, only to find his offices padlocked upon his return.
It is now an open secret in the political corridors of Nairobi, that the controversial minister, at the centre of yet another major dispute, will very likely not survive in office as parliament is reportedly preparing to censor him and have him once again kicked out of the cabinet. Should that happen his stooges on the board of the KAA, who locked horns with the CEO on their masters behalf, will also stare at an uncertain future, as they will either have to eat humble pie galore or else succumb to pressure and quit if not be fired for the role they were playing in this murky saga.
The case of the KAA management was in fact further strengthened when the procurement appeals board earlier this week once again cleared the contracts entered into between the KAA and the main contractors from China, in fact ordering KAA to proceed without further delay, but one thing seems certain in this longstanding saga, that there will be another twist in the tail and another fork in the road ahead. Watch this space.
(Filed from the Constance Ephelia Resort, Port Glaud, Mahe)
The Creole island paradise of the Seychelles is providing a befitting background for delegates from 54 African nations, who have come to Mahe to hold their annual meetings of Standing Committees, the Executive Committee and the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Confederation Africaine de Football or in short CAF during the period August 30th to September 04th.
The standing committees will deal with issues of Sports Medicine, discuss Womens Football on the African continent, hold a dedicated session dealing with Referees much needed in the opinion of this correspondent to deal with some of the grotesque rulings made by refs during the last African Cup of Nations attend to issues on the agenda of the Technical and Development Committees and discuss audit and finance issues. Most of the committee meetings are taking place at the La Meridien Barbarons Resort, while the main Executive Committee meetings, held over two sessions and the Extraordinary General Assembly will be held at the Constance Ephelia Resort, where also the CAF Secretariat staff have made camp for the duration.
The Seychelles are hosting this continental meeting for the first time ever, a sign of the growing popularity of the country amongst fellow African nations, where the holistic efforts of the Seychelles Tourist Board to promote Brand Seychelles have not gone unnoticed, and aided by the No Visa policy, which comes as a great relief to delegates able to travel without bureaucratic hurdles.
The Seychelles efforts to speak up on critical issues on behalf of the continent in matters of climate change, protection of biodiversity but also the countys willingness to repeatedly host talks on the future of Madagascar and most notably to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean have catapulted the archipelago into the heart of African affairs, winning it many friends on the African mainland.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter will be attending the Extraordinary General Assembly, showing solidarity to the African continent in line with his past efforts to put African football on the map and increase the FIFA World Cup slots for African teams.
While the delegates will all enjoy a Sunday morning outing into the marine national park, which expands from the Ephelia shores, some have in fact arrived early while others will depart well after the event has ended to enjoy the magic of the islands to the fullest.
Seychelles, truly Another World.
AIR SEYCHELLES SET TO GO TO HONG KONG RATHER THAN BEIJING
While in the Seychelles it was learned, that national carrier Air Seychelles, now flying in partnership with Etihad, the national airline of Abu Dhabi, will very likely fly to Hong Kong come February 2013, when the delivery of the airlines second Airbus A330 has been completed. Initially thought to be destination Beijing, Chinas capital city, the planned three flights per week will according to a regular aviation source in Victoria be shifted to Hong Kong where a greater tourism potential exists with a huge catchment area on the mainland and easy connections then via HKG. This change is also supported by the Seychelles Tourist Board, which has been working the Hong Kong market relentlessly as part of developing the Chinese market, which has in recent years doubled literally on a year by year basis as a result of showcasing the archipelago.
The same source also intimated that the flights might route via Abu Dhabi, which at least for the period of the route development towards anticipated loadfactors would add a level of added viability to the new service, financially hugely important of course for the airline, which seems set to meet budgetary targets following a sharpish restructuring over the past year before Etihad came on board as a 40 percent shareholder. Flying the Creole Spirit into the wide world to bring the world to the Seychelles.
While in Victoria it could also be established that the wetleased Etihad A320 will for the time being continue to serve the route to Mauritius, although considerations are clearly underway to seek out additional African mainland and even Indian Ocean island destinations to connect the Seychelles yet better to her neighbours. Watch this space.
(Mrs. Margaret Pillay, CEO of the Seychelles National Human Resource Development Council hands over an airticket to Dublin to one of the 14 students selected to study for a hospitality graduate degree)
The Seychelles Tourism Academy, in conjunction with NHRDC, has yesterday held a ceremony in Victoria, to hand over 14 Air Seychelles / Etihad airtickets from Mahe via Abu Dhabi to Dublin, where the selected students, all of whom went through a vigorous selection process, will proceed in a few days to begin a 10 months intensive course towards attaining a Bachelor Degree in hospitality management. This will be followed by an 18 months long industrial attachment, either at home in the Seychelles, or else in Ireland, the UK, mainland Europe or in Dubai, where participating private sector partners have already offered such opportunities.
Costly by any standards, the initiative is a result of the Seychelles government drive to develop indigenous human resource capacity and create an upcoming pool of well trained young individuals out to make a career in the hospitality industry, entering at managerial level.
STA has in recent years, as regularly reported here, stepped up their cooperation with Shannon University through lecturer exchange programmes, training of trainers and in particular the opportunity for students to complete their degree programme in Ireland.
STA was represented at the function by Mr. Moncherry, who had prior to the event conducted a guided tour for this correspondent to show the progress made on site at La Misere, where several building have gone up since the last site visit in March. Completion of phase one of the modernization of STA is due to be completed by March next year, at which stage phase two will commence, before by 2014/15 the entire remodeling of STA will have been completed.
The students during the 2 hour function were given extensive briefings, including by a former student, before signing the respective Bonding Agreements in the presence of their guarantors, who equally committed themselves to the Seychelles government towards the cost of nearly 380.000 Seychelles Rupees.
Tourism is one of the Seychelles key economic pillars and in recent years the government of President Michel has embarked on a deliberate cause of action to bring more Seychellois into the game with a range of incentives to start businesses but also with offers of training, at STA and abroad, for those with the brightest prospects, a move fully supported by the countrys hospitality private sector which is represented at the board level of STA but also greatly involved in providing placements for practicals and industrial attachment.
In a related development it was also learned that the recently reported effort by the University of Seychelles, to enter into a well near competitive offering of hospitality courses, has hit a dead end when the University of Shannon reportedly declined to join hands, preferring to stick to proven partner STA, in which by opinion of a half dozen experts consulted yesterday the hospitality and tourism training should remain vested in, as they are the only tertiary institution in the Seychelles with the facilities for demonstration kitchen, an application hotel and those key links to the private sector. Watch this space as STA emerges in coming months as the leading institution of hospitality training in the Indian Ocean island region.
DRIVE BY ASSASSINATION ROCKS MOMBASA
The assassination of what is largely considered a radical Islamic preacher with suspected links to Al Shabab and other terrorist groups, has left Mombasa reeling from an immediate outbreak of violence, which left one more person dead in its wake as marauding youths stoned an innocent bystander to death. The shooting happened yesterday along the main road leading into the city of Mombasa at Bamburi and almost if choreographed youths formed mobs attacking cars and notably churches, turning their anger against another religion similar to the riots which swept Zanzibar a few months ago. There, as was the case in Mombasa where religious tolerance was long a hallmark, it appears that radical elements within the Muslim community were prepped and let loose as on command, since the church storming appeared to be well coordinated.
The targeted shooting of Sheikh Aboud Rogo was immediately condemned by community leaders in Mombasa from all walks of life, and in particular the fact that Rogo was enroute to hospital where he was taking his wife, who sustained gunshot wounds herself. The father of Mrs. Rogo and her young daughter thankfully escaped without injuries, a miracle considering that their car was sprayed with bullets from an automatic weapon.
Rogo was facing a court case on terrorism charges but was out on bail. No stranger to such allegations, he was also charged in connection with the bombing of a beach resort in Kikambala and attempted shooting down of an Israeli jetliner flying out of Mombasa but was eventually acquitted for lack of evidence.
The coast tourism fraternity, as well as top government officials including President Kibaki, appealed for calm and the massive deployment of security personnel following the revenge attacks appears to have served the purpose as Mombasa and its environs was reported to be calm, though few people were out and traffic was notably almost nil.
Tourism arrivals at the coast, compared to a year ago, are down by about 20 percent and this incident will do little to restore market confidence overseas, where the sudden alarmist withdrawal of US personnel from the coast a few weeks ago already rocked the tourism trade, before the order was reversed a week later.
Said a regular source from Mombasa: This incident was uncalled for. The man was facing charges in court and in a civilized society there should be no place for such extra judicial killings. The same applies for the mobs which then formed to attack churches and burn cars. If they want to destroy the livelihood of coast people, all of whom depend on tourism, that is the way to go. This will make bad headlines and though calm was restored very quickly, unlike in Zanzibar where it took days to sort out the violence, the damage was done. Mombasa was NOT on fire as international media have claimed. There was a geographically limited situation, and while that was bad and regrettable, it was swiftly contained when security moved in. So please let everyone know that Mombasa is calm as I write this mail to you, and that no tourists were anywhere near the mobs.
Other sources too confirmed that while most people stayed indoors, no rowdy scenes were seen late in the day yesterday in Mombasa itself and traffic was low but normal. Watch this space.
RWENZORI VISITOR CENTRE OPENS ITS DOORS
The USAID funded STAR programme, short for Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift has now handed over their arguably last project component to the Uganda Wildlife Authority, when the new Rwenzori Mountains National Park visitor centre was formally launched earlier today.
Built adjoining to the latest lodge addition to the Ugandan safari circuit, Equator Snows by GeoLodges Africa which also owns and operates the Nile Safari Lodge, the Jacana Safari Lodge and the award winning RainForest Lodge in Mabira Forest the new visitor centre will offer comprehensive information to visitors to the park as well as facilities like a small restaurant, briefing rooms where the guides can meet hikers and pass on important information and a small shop offering local crafts in support of nearby communities.
The Mountains of the Moon, as the range along the common border between Uganda and the Congo DR is known, have for long attracted the attention of the global mountaineering community, and a new trail network baptized as the Mahoma Trail, also prepared by the USAID STAR project in conjunction with the US Forest Service, will go a long way to opening up the park to hikers, not just climbers, in an effort to increase overall visitor numbers.
The new 28 kilometre long trail offer hikes between 1 and 3 days and has opened new territory for visitors on the lower slopes of the mountain range, hitherto not accessible but for the most hardened hikers. The new loop reaches Lake Mahoma where it joins the existing Central Circuit from where hikers can return to the visitor centre.
Established in 1991 as a protected area, the Rwenzori Mountain National Park was recognized by UNESCO in 1994 as a World Heritage Site and in 2008 given Ramsar site status, affording it additional resources and attention.