Seychelles, where the environment is at the core of decision making

SEYCHELLES – ANOTHER WORLD … NOT JUST AN EMPTY SLOGAN

(Posted 05th March 2015)

The Seychelles archipelago, comprising 115 islands scattered over an area of nearly 1.4 million square kilometres of the Indian Ocean, has made waves in recent years on the international scene, not just in tourism terms but for many other reasons. President James Alix Michel has been at the forefront to voice the concerns of small island nations about global warming and the subsequent rise in ocean levels. He is also the one who successfully merged the concepts of the green and blue economies, as both tourism – which depends on a pristine intact environment – and the ocean resources form the backbone of the country’s economy.

It is therefore noteworthy indeed that the Seychelles will become the first country in the world to launch a comprehensive marine spatial plan covering her entire ocean territory.

While just over 50 percent of Seychelles’ territorial area is now classified as a protected area, does this not include the ocean. About one percent of the ocean area is presently under protection as marine national parks or reserves, but under the new plan this percentage is set to rise to at least 10 percent, and probably more than that when the final version of the plan has been approved by the authorities.

Under the plan are fishing exclusion zones planned to ensure the fish can reproduce and grow to maturity while other areas are set aside for commercial fishing, ocean bed exploration and of course tourism, here in particular around such hugely important conservation areas like the Aldabra Atoll.

The announcement comes hot on the heels of the ‘Debt for Nature Swap’ deal signed last week with the Paris Club group of creditor nations which underscored again the Seychelles’ commitment to be a world leader in conservation.

Seychelles, truly Another World and not just a marketing slogan.

If it is a first it almost certainly is about Qatar Airways

QATAR AIRWAYS – FIRST OUT OF THE BLOCKS AT ITB2015

(Posted 05th March 2015)

Qatar Airways yesterday upstaged all other airlines at ITB2015 when the airline was first out of the blocks in holding a press conference before a packed audience of German and international travel trade and aviation journalists. The event had a dual purpose, for one to celebrate 10 years of flights from Doha to Berlin and secondly of course to tell the world about the year it has been and the years to come.

2014 will be remembered by Qatar Airways’ and their passengers as the year when the airline took delivery of their first Airbus A380, followed in late December by a global first when the airline was the first in the world to receive the most advanced passenger jet todate, the Airbus A350 XWB.

Said Qatar Airways’ Group CEO Akbar Al Baker on the occasion yesterday: ‘The last 12 months have been characterised by significant fleet expansion for the airline, which is set to continue throughout 2015. This year we are pleased to be able to offer our passengers additional innovative new products within our broad destination network, most notably with the introduction of the world’s newest aircraft, the A350 XWB. It is fitting that we are back in Germany today, celebrating not only the recent launch of the A350 XWB on the Frankfurt route and the fact that this destination will soon be the recipient of the world’s second A350 XWB, but also acknowledging the 10-year anniversary of our Berlin route’.

Those attending the press conference were also updated on the latest amenities on board for First, Business and Economy Class passengers. First Class passengers will now enjoy luxurious male and female sleeper suits from Italian designer Missoni, complemented by amenity kits by Giorgio Armani. Business Class passengers will also enjoy Giorgio Armani amenity kits, tailored to male or female passengers and enjoy newly introduced Ladurée Parisian delicacies, available in both First and Business cabins, while Economy Class passengers will also benefit from a newly designed amenity kit.

Qatar Airways is also doubling its movie content on board this spring, with a selection of over 500 movies to enjoy, including the world’s latest premieres, while increasing its selection of TV programmes from 700 to over 1,500, including the latest box sets, complementing its range of over 200 CDs and 50 games, which cater for all ages.

As the global launch customer for the new Airbus A350 XWB, the first flight of the all-new family of wide-body aircraft took place on 15 January 2015 on the Frankfurt – Doha route, and it will soon be joined by Qatar Airways’ second A350 XWB, taking this service with the world’s newest aircraft to double-daily.

With a total of 80 A350 XWB aircraft on order, the airline is one of the world’s fastest growing and has one of the most modern fleets in the sky. Mr. Akbar Al Baker also announced that Qatar Airways will become the first airline to operate the A350 XWB to Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region from June this year, adding the airline’s third, fourth and fifth A350 XWB aircraft on the three daily flights to Singapore.

All this is good news of course for Qatar Airways’ passengers from East Africa, where the airline presently serves Nairobi and Dar es Salaam with two flights a day, while Entebbe, Kigali and Kilimanjaro receive a daily flight. Demand in particular on the Doha to Entebbe and on to Kigali route remains strong, giving hope for these two destinations to sooner rather than later getting additional frequencies to cater for the growing number of travelers wanting to connect via Doha’s sparkling new Hamad International Airport to the global Qatar Airways network.

For breaking and regular aviation news from Eastern Africa look no further than this space.

Updates from AFRAA, the African Airline Association

Conservation in Uganda, close up and personal

UGANDA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION – ACCOMPLISHMENTS TO BE PROUD OF

(Posted 05th March 2015)

The Uganda Conservation Foundation, one of Uganda’s leading conservation NGO’s works closely with the Uganda Wildlife Authority and has a particular affiliation with the national conservation body at Murchisons’ Falls National Park. Michael Keigwin, who is closely affiliated with UCF, yesterday shared some details with me when he wrote:

In 2011, UWA called upon UCF to respond to the unprecedented poaching level in Murchison Falls. Since then, UCF has responded with establishment of 5 ranger stations among other projects. Most recently UCF’s Patrick Agaba was in Murchison Falls National Park to hand over another 15 bicycles for use by rangers and 10 mattresses and beds for the recently completed Punu Rii Ranger Post’.

To give an even better impression for readers about the work of the Uganda Conservation Foundation has a short documentary been launched which Michael also shared and asked for it to be published here for a wider audience to learn about UCF’s work, appreciated the challenges of wildlife conservation and, just perhaps, become interested enough to support UCF’s work in the future. Wrote Michael in a FB message:

‘It shows just how much UCF and UWA have achieved in just 3 years. https://vimeo.com/118462523

Uganda Wildlife Authority – catching poachers in Murchison Falls

vimeo.com

Enjoy the show!

Meanwhile is the search for a new General Manager for the Uganda Conservation Foundation soon coming to an end. Dozens of applications were received and the initial short list of just 13 applicants has been reduced further, so an announcement of the new office holder is expected soon and as usual, watch this space for the breaking news.

Lillian Gaitho’s thoughts about the upcoming International Women’s Day

Lillian Gaitho, Jovago.com’s PR Manager, normally writes about destinations, travel or hotels … read on how she manages to combine today’s headline with those topics … and how she ‘Makes it Happen

Lilian Gaitho's profile photo

Celebrating the International Women’s Day: Five African Cities and Destinations Named after Women

Primarily set to celebrate women’s achievement in social, political and economic, observance of the International Women’s Day originated from the 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. This was a call for respect, recognition and appreciation of women. Its observance has since evolved to a globally acclaimed day set aside to celebrate as well as put into perspective challenges faced by women in different sectors. This year’s theme for IWD is – Make it Happen: a call to see to the advancement of women. Here is a list by Lillian Gaitho of Jovago, constituting African destinations named after historic women who have largely and in unique ways contributed to the recognition or advancement of the same.

Cleopatra’s Beach – Egypt

As wrote Plutarch the philosopher, “her own beauty was not in and itself completely incomparable, nor the sort to astound; but interaction with her was captivating and her character stimulating”. And so would every woman want to be defined! Cleopatra was the last queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty who ruled Egypt nearly 300 hundred years ago, and is said to be the last true Pharaoh. Although recognized for her willpower and strength in leadership, most artworks depict her as a feminine goddess, one whose charming demeanor and physical beauty would prove useful in liaisons and mergers.

Named after this true queen of femme fatale, Cleopatra’s beach located opposite Marsa Matrouh (a seaport off the Mediterranean in Egypt) exudes the same bewitching beauty and wonder. Marked by strange looking rock crops and strong waves, the waters here are not very friendly for swimmers but tourists can relax in the pool where Cleopatra is said to have bathed with her lover Mark Anthony. The beach is popular for sunbathes and exploration of the queen’s palace ruins.

Victoria Falls City – Zimbabwe

Borrowing its name from the world famous, “Victoria Falls”, this town carries on the legend of Queen Victoria who still holds record as the longest serving monarch. Located on the western end of the falls, the thundering sounds of the falls and the mysterious mist of the plummeting waters can be vividly witnessed from the town. Victoria Falls City has been in existence since the exploration of hydroelectric power in 1901. The falls however had been discovered about 50 years earlier[T1] by Dr. David Livingstone who named them in honor of the Queen of Great Britain. Queen Victoria displayed a great understanding of constitutional principles and governance as well as the rights and gender equality. Victoria’s reign saw great expansion and advances in communication, transportation and industrialization, thus distinguishing her contribution to the Britain we know today.

Zaria –Kaduma State, Nigeria

Zaria, a major city of Kaduna state in Northern Nigeria inherited this now popular feminine name from Queen Amina’s youngest sister. The Queen reigned over the medieval kingdom and several scholars writing on the rule of Queen Amina have described her as one to ‘step where no man dared’. Throughout her reign, Amina is said to have expanded the Zazzau Kingdom through waging wars on her neighbors and conquering surrounding cities. Today, Zaria is a well-recognized destination which indulges her touring visitors in the state’s attractions such as the ancient Nok culture center – a significant cultural center for one of the best-known African culture, the scenic Kagoro Hills, Kamuku National Park and the famous Zaria City walls. Accommodation in Zaria is quite developed with hotels such as Rila Mu’am Castle Hotel and Hotel 7teen Limited available online on Jovago.com as well as other leading websites.

Lady Grey – Free State, South Africa

Lady Grey, a small quaint town tucked in the Wittenberg Mountains of Eastern Cape-South Africa is said to be a perfect get-away for urbanites looking for vintage village living. The village is named after the wife of former Cape Governor Sir George Grey, a recognized leader and scholar. The township is made up of magnificent Edwardian rest houses and antique cottages and homes. There is a 1925-built dam which is great for swims and hikers can use the route through the Jouberg’s Pass, South Africa’s third longest mountain pass. Other tourist activities include San rock art, star gazing, nature trails, mountain biking, birding and fly fishing.

Queen Elizabeth Park – Uganda

Queen Elizabeth National Park held several different names before finally settling on the royal bequest. This park is highly ranked as one of the most bio-diversified ecosystem in the world and hosts about 100 mammal species and over 500 bird species. The park was set up in 1952 under the local name Kazinga National Park before changing in honor of the Queen’s state visit in 1954. It would later adopt the name Ruwenzori in relation to the very scenic volcanic mountains before going back to QENP, the name it holds to date. The most attractive feature in the park are the tree climbing lions found in Ishasha area of the park, the beasts which are quite rare to find also have a unique black mane on the males. A number of lodges including award winning Mweya Safari Lodge as well as popular camps such as Ishasha Wilderness Camp are available.

No 348 Wildlife Trade News 4th March 2015

Your daily dose of bad news … Poaching! Wildlife Crimes! Environmental Crimes!
The never ending story …

in the spotlight today ……………………

Chinese ivory traders find haven online

extract: China‘s booming e-commerce websites have carried thousands of advertisements for illegal wildlife products including ivory, rhino horn and tiger bone, a wildlife trade monitoring network said on Tuesday.

More than half of such products offered online in recent months are ivory, the British group TRAFFIC found in a survey of 15 Chinese retail websites over a two year period.

Conservationists say China is the world’s largest consumer of illegal ivory, with skyrocketing demand fuelling the slaughter of tens of thousands of African elephants each year.

TRAFFIC found that surveyed websites were hosting thousands of advertisements for illegal wildlife products as of the end of 2014.

It had consistently found "around 1,500" new advertisements for such items every month for the last two years, it said in a report.

As well as ivory, it tracked offers of rhino horn, leopard and tiger bones, hawksbill turtle shells, pangolin scales, hornbill casques and the horns of the saiga, a critically endangered antelope. https://uk.news.yahoo.com/chinese-ivory-traders-haven-online-075831805.html#132ToZ5 (If Traffic with its very limited resources can find this, why cannot the Chinese government with unlimited resources do the same?)

New evidence proves China’s illegal trade in ivory and tiger boneRead more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/new-evidence-proves-china-s-illegal-trade-in-ivory-and-tiger-bone/article/427405#ixzz3TOZjyv7U

No 348 Wildlife Trade News 4th March 2015

CITES ISN’T WORKING – IS IT?

DO YOU WISH CITES OFFICIALS WOULD STOP SUCKING UP TO CHINA?

Are China’s Zoos Really ‘Acceptable’ Places for Zimbabwe’s Wild Baby Elephants? (NA comment: We have written and asked the CITES MA in both China and Thailand to confirm or deny if their countries are importing these elephants. We have heard from neither. We ddin’t expect to hear from China as the MA there are well known for being economical with the truth. Thailand, however, already with more elephants in captivity than it knows what to do with, we are hoping will reply. This illustrates just how secretive the CITES ‘club’ really is.)

Lead image source: Chantal Lyons/Flickr http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/are-chinas-zoos-really-acceptable-places-for-zimbabwes-wild-baby-elephants/

Pangolin: Battle To Save Most Hunted Animal (NA comment: being eaten to extinction by the Chinese and Vietnamese. Sky News are showing a new report where journalists are easily able to but Pangolin meet in a Chinese restaurant – with a photo of the animals on the menu. Illegal, but local police bribed.) http://www.klfm967.co.uk/news/world-news/1545266/battle-to-save-worlds-most-hunted-animal/

Chinese nationals involved in 46 illegal tusks export arrested. SOUTH AFRICA (NA COMMENT: Look at the PATHETIC PUNISHMENT one of them got. Why so paltry? http://customstoday.com.pk/chinese-nationals-involved-in-46-illegal-tusks-export-arrested/

DO YOU BELIEVE CITES OFFICIALS ARE LISTENING?

OR, MIGHT THEY SUFFER FROM SELECTIVE DEAFNESS?

OH LOOK. ANOTHER TALKING SHOP. IT’S ONE A DAY LATELY.

THE GRAVY TRAIN ROLLS ON – JUST A SHAME ABOUT THE WILDLIFE BEING KILLED

WHILE THESE FREELOADERS SIT AROUND ENDLESSLY TALKING. IN THE COMMERCIAL WORLD

MANY WOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED LONG AGO FOR A LACK OF RESULTS AND ACCOUNTABILITY .

UN urges ASEAN governments to step up efforts to tackle wildlife trafficking

In this October 31, 2014 hand out picture provided by the South African Police Services a large cache of 41kilos of smuggled rhino horns are seen at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg after they were confiscated from two Vietnamese passengers leaving the country on a flight to Hanoi which originated from Mozambique – See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/un-urges-asean-governments-step-efforts-tackle-wildlife-trafficking#sthash.NnCwNLn1.dpuf

TAKE A LOOK AT AN ‘INDUSTRY’ CONDONED BY CORRUPT OFFICIALS IN VIETNAM, CHINA AND LAOS. ALL OF WHOM HAVE SOMEHOW MANAGED TO ESCAPE CITES SANCTIONS FOR MANY YEARS – WHICH IS WHY THINGS HAVE GONE FROM BAD TO WORSE – ISN’T IT?

When it comes to CITES and its leadership

isn’t the biggest mistake you can make would be to judge either by its intentions, or number of meetings it holds, and not by its results?

Forced to fight to the death: The cruel dogfights in northern China that organisers insist are just ‘entertainment’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2977841/Forced-fight-death-cruel-dogfights-northern-China-organisers-insist-just-entertainment.html#ixzz3TOhJpabf

Kenya leads the way as UK and Tanzania lag behind. (NA comment: Not forgetting MALAYSIA – if all the confiscated ivory hasn’t already been sold off illegally.) http://wildlifenews.co.uk/2015/03/kenya-leads-the-way-as-uk-and-tanzania-lag-behind/

Pictures: 8 Amazing Animals at Risk From Wildlife Crimes http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/03/pictures/150303-tiger-whale-bear-bile-poaching-wildlife-animal-conservation/

Call To Save Nambia’s Rhinos http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/v8/wn/newsworld.php?id=1113467

Africa: Organized Crime Threat to Wild Species On the Increase, Says UN On Wildlife Day http://allafrica.com/stories/201503030546.html

An alliance against wildlife trafficking The Wildlife Alliance is making big strides in fighting the booming illegal animal trade in Cambodia with its conservationists and special forces successfully taking on the organized mafia-style business. http://www.dw.de/global-ideas-cambodia-conservation-shelter-illegal-trade/a-18290608

Indigenous Peoples destroyed for misguided ‘conservation’ http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2776725/indigenous_peoples_destroyed_for_misguided_conservation.html

PH most lacking in funds, staff for conservation in ASEAN Protected areas in the Philippines are underfunded and understaffed by 324% and 540%, respectively, says a new study http://www.rappler.com/world/specials/southeast-asia/asean-journey/85646-asean-protected-areas-funds-staff

78 tigers died in 2014: Prakash Javadekar http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/environment/flora-fauna/78-tigers-died-in-2014-prakash-javadekar/articleshow/46443788.cms

Rhinos to macaws seen at risk in $10 billion wildlife trade http://www.thanhniennews.com/education-youth/rhinos-to-macaws-seen-at-risk-in-10-billion-wildlife-trade-39344.html

Kenya burns 15 tonnes of ivory worth £19.4m – video

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2015/mar/03/kenya-burns-15-tonnes-ivory-worth-19-4m-video

Illegal elephant tusk vendor convicted with help of radiocarbon dating CANADA http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/illegal-elephant-tusk-vendor-convicted-with-help-of-radiocarbon-dating-1.2980338

Dubai Rainforest gets eco alarm bells ringing http://www.khaleejtimes.com/kt-article-display-1.asp?xfile=data/nationgeneral/2015/March/nationgeneral_March38.xml&section=nationgeneral

APP-linked guards surrender after murder http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/03/04/app-linked-guards-surrender-after-murder.html

Notorious poacher Kuttu nabbed from Katni, 2 others escape. INDIA http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Notorious-poacher-Kuttu-nabbed-from-Katni-2-others-escape/articleshow/46452085.cms

Act firmly to protect wildlife – Park Manager. GHANA http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/regional/artikel.php?ID=348966

Uganda microchips rhinos to fight poaching http://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/03/africa/uganda-rhino-tracking/

CBI arrests notorious tiger poacher from Katni in Madhya Pradesh http://www.hindustantimes.com/bhopal/cbi-arrests-notorious-tiger-poacher-from-katni-in-madhya-pradesh/article1-1322764.aspx

Indonesia to Partner With Interpol in Tackling Illegal Fishing http://thejakartaglobe.beritasatu.com/news/indonesia-partner-interpol-tackling-illegal-fishing/

Now, Interpol to track wildlife crime involving lesser known species http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/wildlife-crime-interpol-environment-ministry-poaching-illegal-trade/1/422112.html

DENR appeals case vs researchers who killed Cebu rare birds

http://www.rappler.com/nation/85665-denr-case-researchers-cebu-birds

Safari threat returns to haunt Gir lions after pressure from Gujarat tourism department Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2978024/Safari-threat-returns-haunt-Gir-lions-pressure-Gujarat-tourism-department.html#ixzz3TObK0y6Q

Sea Shepherd Establishes Legal Practice http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/sea-shepherd-establishes-legal-practice

Kelantan worst state for forest preservation. MALAYSIA http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2015/03/04/kelantan-worst-state-for-forest-preservation/

Employing shame for environmental change http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0303-hance-jacquet-interview.html

Wildlife Smuggling Foiled at Surabaya Seaport

http://www.profauna.net/en/content/wildlife-smuggling-foiled-surabaya-seaport#.VPYSD38gGSN

INTERPOL encourages global action on World Wildlife Day

INTERPOL is backing World Wildlife Day as part of the Organization’s ongoing efforts to support law enforcement around the globe in promoting environmental security.

With the theme ‘Wildlife crime is serious’, World Wildlife Day 2015 aims to raise awareness of the positive role which local communities can also play in helping curb this illegal trade, which is often linked to other forms of crime, including corruption and drug trafficking.

INTERPOL’s Environmental Security unit works with all 190 member countries to protect and conserve the world’s natural resources from exploitation by criminals.

“The criminal networks behind wildlife crime make large illicit profits while their actions damage the environment and the economies of affected countries. Ultimately we are all poorer as our iconic wildlife and biodiversity are damaged irreparably,” said Glyn Lewis, INTERPOL’s Director of Specialized Crime and Analysis.

“Effectively combating environmental crime requires a collective effort and World Wildlife Day provides us with an opportunity to show our unity in this fight,” added Mr Lewis.

As a member of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime which includes the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank and World Customs Organization (WCO), INTERPOL strongly supports this powerful alliance to fight wildlife crime.

In 2014, a five-month-long INTERPOL-coordinated operation involving 13 countries targeting wildlife trafficking in tigers and other big cats across Asia resulted in the seizure of hundreds of animals and more than 160 arrests.

Last year also saw the launch of the first INTERPOL operation focusing on environmental crime fugitives, targeting more than 130 suspects wanted by 36 countries for crimes including illegal fishing, wildlife trafficking, illegal trade and disposal of waste, illegal logging and trading in illicit ivory.

Operation Infra (International Fugitive Round Up and Arrest) Terra, coordinated by INTERPOL’s Fugitive Investigative Support unit, has already led to several high-profile arrests including Feisal Ali, a Kenyan national suspected of leading an international ivory smuggling syndicate, and Rajkumar Praja, the ringleader of a rhino poaching network in Nepal.

One of the aims of INTERPOL’s Turn Back Crime campaign is to raise public awareness of the connection between organized crime and the illicit wildlife trade, encouraging people not to buy items which come from threatened species.

The campaign also encourages the private sector and the public to join forces and take an active role in supporting police activities to form a global alliance against organized crime.

Burundi’s tourism future hangs by a thread

BURUNDI’S TOURISM FUTURE HANGS IN THE BALANCE

(Posted 04th March 2015)

As ITB 2015 kicks off today in Berlin, will regular visitors to the Africa halls notice that Burundi, the smallest economy in East Africa and the least developed tourism country in the region, will be absent.

Efforts to have individuals go on record about the recent introduction of Visa in Advance and the anticipated fallout vis a vis tourist numbers coming in from say Nairobi, Entebbe or Kigali on an add on package, have failed to produce any tangible results. There were many rants and outbursts of anger but no one in authority has since the announcement spoken up, not on the record anyway.

It is therefore with some satisfaction that the immediate former Director General of the Burundi Tourism Office, Ms. Carmen Nibigira, has now gone on record to share her thoughts about tourism to Burundi in general and the Visa issue in particular.

Here are her thoughts:

Start quote:

Wildlife Conservation and Tourism Matter in Burundi

In Febuary 2015, Dr Jane Goodall once again visited Burundi. Her work over the past five decades in the conservation of chimpanzees in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania is remarkable. She has been visiting Burundi since 2013.

And I pose the question. Why does her visit matter to Burundi, specifically for our wildlife conservation and tourism sectors?

I had the privilege to travel with her on a visit to Kibira National Park last year and witnessed first-hand her passion and commitment to protect wildlife. She taught me that conservation of our heritage and wildlife is everyone’s responsibility. Together, we visited the Batwa community living around the park. They know the secret of the park more than anyone, and they still depend on the forest for their survival. We discussed the dilemma of maintaining the ecosystem’s health and human well-being in developing countries and how tourism can be used as a mechanism to achieve development and conservation goals.

There are many challenges we are facing in Burundi, and conservation of wildlife is a very complex issue that demands our attention. We cannot talk about tourism and wildlife conservation in a country where most of our protected areas are still threatened by forest resource dependent human livelihoods. In addition, the demographic pressures of overpopulation are having an equally devastating effect on these resources. We need to grasp that if we continue at this rate of deforestation, we will continue to loose our important heritage. This is of grave concern because our future is at risk. For example, the capacity for our forests to generate rain helps to produce energy at Rwegura hydropower center in Kibira National Park. Without the rain we can forget about energy and expect dire consequences to other productive systems that can plunge our entire economy.

We need to look at the intrinsic value of our parks and manage the challenges they face each day. Is this the role of the government? I say yes. However, as citizens, and borrowing from Dr. Goodall’s experience, we have individual responsibility as citizens to act as agents of change. The time to act is NOW!

Tourism provides us with unique opportunities and possibilities to maintain the ecosystem health and the wellbeing of our citizens. For example, tourism has potential to enable local communities around the park in creating jobs and have alternative livelihoods. This is not an untested formula because it has worked elsewhere.

Visa on arrival, a more progressive approach!

This month the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) stated that governments should do more to improve visa facilitation of tourist visas. In the past four years, many East African countries moved forward to review and/or harmonize their tourist visa policies. Tourist visa facilitation has potential to stimulate economic growth and job creation through growth of tourist arrivals.

According to Taleb Rifai, the UNWTO Secretary-General, there is much room for improvement. He goes on to say: “We are pleased to see that a growing number of governments around the world are taking decisive steps in this regard.”

With a forecast of 1.8 billion tourists by 2030, the UNWTO is sending a strong message to tourism destinations across the world to adopt policies that will enhance growth of tourism to their destinations. The organization is encouraging countries to be open to visitors and tourists, to facilitate visa regulations, and to streamline policies in order to benefit from the tourism sector.

In emerging economies, we are witnessing the emergence of new tourism source markets. China, Brazil, India and Russia are the new shakers and players in the tourism phenomenon.

Burundi is still the most expensive tourism destination in the East African Community (EAC) charging $90 dollars for 30 day visa as compared to its neighbours such as Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda who are charging $100 for a multi-destination visa.

Burundi’s integration in the EAC has economic benefits if we can position ourselves as a desirable new destination and try to make a mark in the tourism industry. Our presence in the travel and tourism market is still insignificant; even though the potential is there, our brand and image are still fragile, and our tourism products need to be developed, there is work to be done, the sector is still fragile, hence we can’t afford to be left behind.

Efforts to attract visitors should focus on how to facilitate our visa policies. We should be advocating for changes and emulate the open door policies, which have been successful in other emerging destinations. Free visas to tourists from source markets and reducing the cost of visas are a few tangibles examples of how to increase tourist numbers to Burundi.

In 2013, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda initiated a single tourism visa and, each of these countries has counted over one million visitors. The socio-economic impact is significant, and its our turn now to revise our current visa and immigration policies. Our potential source markets whether it is in tourism, leisure or business are vital, and providing differentiated treatment is one of the possible incentives for increased tourism. One of the solutions is the possibility of issuing visa on arrival.

Since 2010, Bujumbura International Airport has seen an increase in the frequency of airlines connecting Burundi to the rest of the world from less than 10 flights a week just a few years go to double that figure now. The approach of “visa on arrival” is more progressive. After all, we are known for our hospitality, so why prevent tourists from visiting us when the economic, social and cultural benefits speak for themselves?

Let’s get connected to the rest of the world and break down the barriers so we can say to all who visit us: “Welcome to our Beautiful Burundi!”

End quote

Carmen of course hit the nail on the head and it can only be hoped that the powers that be in Bujumbura listen to her wise words and council. For ITB 2015 it is clearly too late but there are other trade fairs coming up, overseas as well as in the region, and if the Visa policies are revised, next up on the big league will be the Karibu Tourism Trade Fair in Arusha in early June. If Burundi is serious about tourism, and wants to enjoy the economic benefits of job creation, DFI and Regional Direct Investment, foreign exchange earnings and more, there can only be one way forward. Watch this space which way Burundi will move from here on!

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