Rwanda’s planned Visa waiver for Africans aimed to support tourism industry


(Posted 29th May 2016)

When Rwanda broke ranks with other African countries two years ago and implemented their decision to grant Visa on arrival for citizens of African Union memberstates, did many other African countries either dismiss the new reality as a publicity stunt or else ignored it altogether.
Norm in Africa still is that African travelers, unlike many Western passport holders, must apply for Visa in advance, often producing a mountain of paperwork including invitation letters et al, before, fingers crossed, eventually being granted access to the country they want to visit.
UNWTO research suggests, as does national research across the continent, that countries which reduce or remove Visa restrictions and cut down on red tape, will reap enormous economic benefits from increased travel, by Africans across the continent.
Clearly encouraged by their move taken two years ago, and probably cognizant of the fact that RwandAir is soon going intercontinental and needs more transit passengers via Kigali – passengers who will hopefully stop over in Rwanda for a visit – has Rwanda now announced that by 2018 they will remove all Visa requirements for AU citizens wishing to visit the Land of a Thousand Hills.
When Rwanda played host to a major African continental football tournament a few months ago, did the country already waive Visa requirements for the teams and team officials and this latest move will put Rwanda into pole position to become, besides the Seychelles, the first country on the African mainland to open the doors to African visitors with no ifs and buts.
Comments received from Kigali also dismissed the broad fear over illegal immigration and for allowing ‘unwanted‘ individuals into the country, fears regularly cited by other African countries.
It is obvious to informed observers that Rwanda will put mechanisms into place, similar no doubt to what the Seychelles already does, to keep track of visitors by requiring hotels and hospitality businesses to reflect the immigration number stamped into the passport, so that there is a trail of travel wherever visitors go.
That said, will the move no doubt generate additional conferences to come to Rwanda, as delegates from Africa are from 2018 onwards assured of a no Visa policy, important for conference organizers as well as regular travelers who have come to detest the bureaucrazy – pun intended – of having to get Visa applications filled, processed and yet not guaranteed to be granted.
While there is an AU policy decision in place to reduce and remove Visa requirement, are only 13 of 55 member states presently on course to accomplish this goal by 2018, and no surprise there, Rwanda will no doubt be among the first to fully comply and remove travel barriers.
For information about Destination Rwanda click on

Coastal Kenya roots for Honey moon showcase

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, the Hon. Najib Balala, while officially opening the new Hill Park Resort in Diani, reminds the hospitality industry of a range of incentives put into place for the duty free importation of hotel equipment to aid the sector with modernization and to make refurbishments more affordable. This goes hand in hand with other recent reports that the Kenyan government will make available low interest loans costing less than half of what the present market interest rates for commercial bank loans are, again aimed to spur a wave of refurbishments among coastal resorts now that the tourism industry is on a growth curve again.
The funding has been made available by both the World Bank and the French Government and will be handled by a yet to be announced commercial bank on behalf of the lenders.


Officially Opened : Tourism CS Najib Balala officially opens Hill Park Amare Resort in Diani , Kwale with him (second right) is the proprietor Dr. Joe WanjuiOfficially Opened : Tourism CS Najib Balala officially opens Hill Park Amare Resort in Diani , Kwale with him (second right) is the proprietor Dr. Joe Wanjui

Hoteliers have been advised to take advantage of duty free importation of hotel refurbishment materials to give a facelift to their properties.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala says regular improvement of accommodation facilities was a global acceptable trend that will put hospitality sector on the expected standards.

The CS made the remarks yesterday evening when he presided over the official opening of Hill Park Amare Resort in Diani, Kwale County.

The Kshs 200 million facility is targeting honeymooners and is billed as one of the new tourism products to spice up the beach product known for the coastal region.

While lauding the proprietors of the facility, Balala termed the investment as an indication of local investors’ confidence on the growth of the tourism…

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Tone your violent politics, Balala advises politicians

Kenya’s Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, while opening a new resort – Hill Park Amare in Diani – did not mince words when he reminded the opposition to tone down their rhetoric and refrain from what he called violent politics. He warned that political chaos introduced by the opposition into the streets of the Kenyan capital and other major urban centres, could bring to a crashing halt the tourism recovery, which has gained momentum since he returned to this portfolio in late 2015.
He himself of course is no stranger to the way the opposition does business. When in 2012 he stood up to his party leader, one Raila Odinga, and reminded him to respect party regulations and procedures and not act like a village chief dictator, he found himself sacked from the then coalition government and replaced in the tourism ministry by a hapless party sycophant, who did more harm than good in the tourism ministry when the downturn in fortunes for Kenya was written on the walls for all to see but him.
Balala, no wonder, eventually left that party and found a new home with the present Jubilee government of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.
Hence are his words to the opposition of greater weight and relevance than those of many others and it can only be hoped that opposition leaders finally see what their actions could cost the entire country, before the global tourism fraternity once again begins to cut Kenya off at the knees and divert traffic, especially ahead of the 2017 elections.
Will Odinga and Co heed the warnings? Probably not as he did not heed Balala’s clarion call back in 2012 either. While street protests presently stand suspended, following growing violence by protesters and very harsh reactions from the Kenyan security forces, this needs to be made permanent, unless the opposition is intent to kill off the tourism sector’s recovery presently underway.
For now though it is watch and see, after Balala sounded the warning with his courageous words.


Tourism CS during the opening of Hill Park Amare Resort . He called on the politicians to  tone down violent demonstrations that were impacting negatively on the destinationTourism CS during the opening of Hill Park Amare Resort . He called on the politicians to tone down violent demonstrations that were impacting negatively on the destinationTourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala wants politicians to tone down disruptive and violent political activities that are tainting the image of the country.

The recent violent street demonstrations against the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) championed by the politicians, lamented the CS, has projected the image of the country on a bad light.

“Not that we are opposed to demonstrations. It is the way it is done with politicians igniting violence on the streets and fanning hatred among peace loving Kenyan,” posed Balala.

The Secretary made the remarks yesterday evening after officially opening Hill Park Amare Resort in Daini, Kwale County.

He regretted both the local and international media have extensively given coverage to the recent violent demos against IEBC at…

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RwandAir’s A330 interior is beginning to take shape


(Posted 28th May 2016)

When RwandAir takes delivery of the first of two Airbus A330 long haul aircraft in September this year, will a new era begin for Rwanda’s national airline.
For the first time will long haul flights be launched, to Mumbai in India and to Guangzhou in China, just as soon as the first aircraft has been received in Kigali and been readied for commercial service.
Novel for the entire Eastern African region will be a three class configuration of Business Class, Premium Economy Class and Economy Class, to meet the market demands for greater inflight comfort, a reason why for instance both Bombardier Q400NextGen aircraft are also fitted with a Business Class cabin.
The flights to India and China, while no firm time table has yet been released, will link passengers from other African RwandAir destinations to the long haul flights, giving them the option of using RwandAir for their journeys to Mumbai and Guangzhou, no doubt at fares which will compete most favourably with those of other airlines offering flights to the same destinations.
The picture above was received earlier today from RwandAir to show what the seats in Business Class will look like, folding down to a full flatbed to allow passengers a comfortable sleep while jetting towards their destination.
Once pictures of the proposed Premium Economy Class seats are available, be sure to find the details here just as soon as the airline has provided the relevant information.

Kigali prepares for first ever car free Sunday


(Posted 28th May 2016)

(Courtesy Kigali City Council)

From 07.00 am to noon tomorrow will large parts of Kigali’s Central Business District and key access avenues be car free, to allow residents of Rwanda’s capital to use the roads to walk, bike, skate without having to watch out for traffic.

During the Car-Free Day, no vehicles will be allowed along the following main roads during the closure period: KN4 Avenue, KN3 Road, KN5 Road, KG11 Avenue, and KG17 Avenue.

The plan is that all those interested to take part in the mass exercise should be at the venues by 6am, for us to be able to manage time‘ did Mr. Jean Claude Ruzindana, the Social Development Director at the Kigali City Council say. Groups intending to take part in cycling, walks or runs have therefore been invited to be as early as 06.00 am at their chosen venue to allow city council personnel to prepare for the various activities without causing congestion.

Alternate routes for motorists have been provided for, however necessitating detours during the closure time.

Ecotourism Kenya certifies third Serena property as ‘Gold Level’


(Posted 28th May 2016)

Following the latest audit carried out by Ecotourism Kenya did news emerge that Serena Hotels now holds three Gold Level rankings for their Kenyan properties.
The green label, regionally recognized as the leading such home grown platform but not yet adopted by other countries in the East African Community, is the benchmark provider for sustainable business practices and the most sought after accreditation when it comes to going green and staying green.
The Serena Beach Resort & Spa, Mombasa has for the first time now attained the Gold Level Eco-rating Certification after an assessment carried out by Ecotourism Kenya and the Eco-rating Technical Committee. This is the third Serena property in Kenya to be so classified. Through added injection of green technology and best environmental practices has the Ol Pejeta based Sweetwaters Serena Camp for its second consecutive year retained its Gold level Eco-rating certification. Serena’s third Gold Label certified property, the Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp still holds this current certification until the next audit is due.

2016 has so far turned out to be very rewarding for Serena Hotels as it has not been even a month since Serena Hotels received the Africa’s Leading Green Hotel 2016 Award recognizing the Nairobi Serena Hotel at the World Travel Awards 2016.

Ecotourism, as with sustainable development and business practices is dynamic and must respond to the changing environmental, socio and economic trends. Serena Hotels, according to the group’s business philosophy, believes that irresponsible tourism must be consigned to the past as the discerning traveler of today is committed to ensuring that the hotels they stay at contribute in a sustainable and sensitive manner towards the eco-system, culture and national heritage of the destination. Mr. Mahmud Jan Mohamed, Managing Director of Serena Hotels said: ‘At Serena Hotels, Ecotourism and Corporate Social Responsibility means corporate culture, a culture which holds the Company’s responsibility not only for making profit, but also for the conditions under which profits are made. Finding a balance between financial success, social responsibility and protecting the environment is a fundamental approach that lies at the heart of Serena Hotels corporate culture and is reflected in our corporate values’.

The Ecotourism Kenya certification is awarded through an annual assessment exercise which rates the facilities compliance to ecotourism principles and best practices. The monitoring is carried out annually to ensure continued improvement. Serena Hotels CEO was swift to thank each member of the Serena team for the support and exemplary dedication on the ecotourism and sustainable business practices front which has enabled the company, the only hospitality group in East Africa listed on all three main stock exchanges, to continue to receive recognition in the form of awards and accolades over the past few decades.

Could there be a new lizard species in Uganda


(Posted 27th May 2016)

It is not only big game which visitors to Uganda can discover. Over 1.000 species of birds await to be seen, many of them endemic and some extremely rare like the ancient looking shoebill stork. Across Uganda’s ten national parks ( does the country showcase its rich biodiversity, amongst the global hotspots in fact, and yet, there seems to be always something else which can be spotted.
One of the owners of the Bwana Tembo Safari Camp near the town of Pakwach very recently discovered a lizard, not seen in or near the camp before.
This lizard therefore caught his attention in the sprawling wilderness grounds of the camp and when he photographed it and posted it on the Facebook page for East African Snakes and Reptiles suggestions were made by more knowledgeable members of that page fraternity, which, if found correct, might add yet another previously absent species to the record book of Uganda. (
One source suggested it might be the ‘Heliobolus Spekii‘, a species not found to be resident in Uganda until now, while another thought that perhaps it was a ‘Heliobolus Nitidus‘ but then requested more close up pictures of head and underbody.
While the scientific discussion is ongoing, no firm identification has been made as yet, does the find show that Uganda can hold her own when it comes to making a choice of a safari destination in Eastern Africa. The common tourist Visa, which covers at a cost of 100 US Dollars per person visits to not just Uganda but also Rwanda and Kenya, makes it attractive to visit more than one country when in the region, and then, while in Uganda, look out for some of the 14 primate species, the over 1.000 bird species and, as shown here, perhaps for new lizard species too.

Anyone with specific knowledge about this particular lizard is welcome to revert here or else ask for the contact of Francesco or Davide Dal Lago to confirm the particulars of this reptile.
For more information about Destination Uganda click on


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