Archive for January, 2011

Breaking News – Kenya’s air fare wars escalate yet more

AIR FAR WAR ESCALATES YET MORE

Overnight were news received from Nairobi, that Kenya Airways has done a ‘double’ on Fly 540 and other airlines like Jetlink, when they once again used their seemingly deep pockets and lowered fares on the domestic routes to both Mombasa and Kisumu.

In one fell swoop did KQ, now operating 10 daily flights between Nairobi and Mombasa – during the peak season it was as many as 14 a day AND using larger aircraft – lower their ‘bookable’ fare by a whopping 22 percent. This translates to a return ticket cost of Kenya Shillings 6.200 inclusive of taxes, and is now 250 KShs cheaper than the Fly 540 fares launched just a few days ago.

However, while Fly 540 offers their 6.450/- KShs return fare for ALL their flights, Kenya Airways is making their ‘lowest’ fare only available on a few ‘off peak’ flights, and all the ‘in demand’ departure times remain at the higher fare of KShs 7.999/-. In addition Kenya Airways has a standby fare of 3.000/- KShs one way, all inclusive for those with a hang for ‘gambling’.

The other domestic route now heavily competed over is Kisumu, and here Kenya Airways, operating up to 4 flights a day, are now charging the lowest ‘off peak’ fare too.

Aviation analysts this correspondent spoke with this morning were expressing their concern over this latest escalation of the ‘fare war’ in Kenya, with one saying it was now just a matter of time before ‘one of them blinks’ and either reduces capacity on the respective routes, once again matches the ‘lowest’ fares or else fall to the wayside as East African Safari Air Express did a few weeks ago, albeit with the eventual safety net of a takeover by Fly 540.

Said another regular contributor: ‘Kenya Airways can sustain their new fares better than anyone else in the market. The speciality airlines flying to Lamu, Ukunda and other secondary aerodromes in Kenya are not that much affected because they have a market wanting to get to their final destination and are ready to pay more. But Jetlink, Fly 540 and Kenya Airways, they are now battling it out over the main domestic routes from Nairobi to Mombasa and Kisumu, and who knows, Malindi and Eldoret might follow.

KQ’s domestic flights are a very small percentage in overall revenue and passengers carried terms, compared with their regional network, Africa network and their flights to Europe, the Mid East and Far East. Therefore, for them lower fares on the domestic market is almost like a permanent promotion of their inter Africa services and international long haul flights. In other words, low fares do not hurt them as much as it does to Jetlink and Fly 540; both of them rely quite substantially on their domestic revenues and a further fall in fares may have them rethink their strategy vis a vis the dominant carrier. These two others simply must make money out of their domestic flights to survive while KQ can rely on their generous income from in particular their African network where yields are much higher. I think for that reason the other two have pressed ahead and opened up regional routes to Eritrea, Somaliland, Tanzania, Burundi where the earnings are better, so as to cushion what has become a cut throat market within Kenya. Fly 540 is also flying within Kenya to places where KQ cannot go, as only smaller turboprops can land there, and that too is probably for their financial benefit, as long as they can sustain the load factors needed to such destinations.’

Adds this correspondent that at no time in the past have the main routes given travellers such wide choices of airlines and departures nor have the fares been so hotly contested. But then, what is good for the travellers may not be good for the airlines, isn’t it.

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region, Fourth edition January 2011

 

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Twitter: @whthome

Blog: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com

Fourth edition January 2011

Uganda News

MOBILE OPERATORS NOW TARGET INTERNATIONAL TARIFFS

The move last year to an almost uniform tariff of 3 Uganda Shillings per second for calls across the networks – notably market leader MTN charges more for calls to other networks – left many phone users wondering how low tariffs might still drop, especially considering that in Kenya the lowest call cost is still way under the 180 UShs per minute now charged here in Uganda. However, not much has happened since until Airtel, formerly Celtel and Zain, has now offered the 3 Shilling rate per second also for calls to such destinations like India and China, both major trading partners of Uganda and therefore destination for thousands of calls a day from traders and importers. Other phone companies are said to have reacted nervously over this latest move by Airtel, which has during its launch made it clear that the market was in for a ‘revolution’ in terms of service levels and pricing. Visitors to Uganda from abroad can take advantage of such cheap call rates, rather than ‘roaming’ at substantially higher expense with their home phones, by purchasing a SIM card, or even a phone including of a SIM card for as little as 1.000 Uganda Shillings or 39.000 Uganda Shillings respectively and ‘save save save’ while making calls home or roaming the internet, where in particular Orange offers relatively fast speeds even when using one’s phone for emails or web searches.

POSTA UGANDA LAUNCHES GORILLA STAMP SERIES

Last week the Uganda Wildlife Authority and Posta Uganda used the ‘world post day’ to launch a new dedicated series of stamps, available at the counters of all post offices across the country immediately. All the stamps of various denominations bear portraits of mountain gorillas, many of which might have attained ‘international fame’ since shown on http://www.friendagorilla.org where they have been ‘befriended’ by thousands of Facebook subscribers against a nominal fee of 1 US Dollar. The new stamp series is a result of the close partnership between the two organizations, and their commitment to promote Uganda’s most visible and best known tourism attraction – the tracking of mountain gorillas in the two national parks of Mt. Mgahinga and Bwindi. Visitors to the country can now send postcards or letters home bearing the new stamps and helping to create added awareness of Uganda’s tourism attractions.

RHINO SANCTUARY DECIDES TO MAINTAIN 2010 RATES

AND just in is information that the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary has decided to maintain most of its ‘old’ rates valid for 2010, effective with immediate effect – write to angie@rhinofund.org for more information on this development, but also for bookings ahead of visiting the ONLY rhino sanctuary in Uganda, conveniently located en route between Kampala and the Murchisons Falls National Park. The sanctuary has accommodation available for guest wishing to stay overnight, a fully fledged restaurant and bar service and ‘simple’ entrance continues to be free, although the tracking of the rhinos is a chargeable activity. A brand new state of the art safari lodge is also in its final stages of construction and expected to open its doors soon. Again details can be obtained by email from the Rhino Fund’s Executive Director Angie Genade.

MORE PARROTS FOUND AND RESCUED

An undercover operation by wildlife officials and security operatives over the weekend led to the discovery of about 140 African Grey parrots at a wildlife trader’s place of residence and business along Entebbe road. Following an apparent tip off the premises were raided and the birds confiscated, as the trader in question had no valid and current license to keep parrots although his licenses did permit him to keep other species. African Grey parrots are in much demand, both locally and internationally where they can trade for as much as 1.500 US Dollars, making it attractive for poachers to raid nests for eggs and unscrupulous wildlife traders to have the birds captured by villagers who, considering the international value of the African Grey, are getting little more than a handout for their complicity in the illicit trade. This is the second high profile case of these parrots being ‘liberated’ as only two weeks earlier many more were confiscated at the Congo DR / Uganda border near Kasese. It also ‘en vogue’ amongst many diplomats and senior expatriates in Kampala to get a pair of African Grey parrots to keep them on their terraces in cages for display, a lamentable practise considering that this species is on the CITES appendix. Here UWA too has some responsibility to bear for granting individual licenses to keep such birds in captivity while they should in fact discourage the habit and begin to prosecute everyone found in doing so.

NILE WATER SUMMIT CANCELLED – AGAIN

The planned summit to once again try and reach an agreement between the water producers in Eastern Africa and the water users in Northern Africa was cancelled late last week. Information from sources normally well informed tells the story of Egypt once again trying to force the agenda upon the countries in Eastern Africa, most of which have now signed the new treaty they had proposed and negotiated over for years, before running out of patience with Egypt and the regime in Khartoum. Egypt and Khartoum are trying to hang on to the notion, that the redundant and outdated treaties made by the British colonialists in 1929 and 1959 were still valid, which granted them not only the lion’s share of the water use but also veto powers over any projects, including hydro electric dams and irrigation projects to be undertaken in Eastern Africa. Yet, the ‘producer countries’ of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo DR and Ethiopia, and soon the independent Southern Sudan too, consider the waters or rivers and lakes feeding into the Blue and White Nile as their ‘own’ resource, are willing to share it but not under dictates, ultimatum and threats as the Egyptian delegations have shown over the years. This latest cancellation will not go down well in East Africa and if delayed beyond the independence of Southern Sudan the regime in Khartoum and Egypt will have to deal with 8 ‘producers’ rather than the 7 so far and have even less of a chance to push their view point through.

MV KALANGALA RETURNS TO GOVERNMENT

Following the long saga of the main lake transport ferry MV Kalangala, which was taken out of service for major maintenance in the early second half of 2010, government caved in to pressure from the media, the public, in particular the island dwellers of the Ssese Islands, and took back the previously privatised operation of the ferry. Considering that elections are due to be held in less than a month this is clearly a smart move, if government wishes to retain the votes of those living on and trading with the islands, and hence no time was lost after the return of the ferry from its inspection in Mwanza to take her back into service. The official reason given was that the initial 3 year contract with a private company had in any case expired, but it was learned that there was all intention of renewing the contract had it not been for the sustained pressure in particular from the media over the affair. The private operators blamed governmental procurement rules for the long delays in getting the engine of the vessel overhauled and then additional complications arose over who was responsible for paying some of the bills. A lesson learned says this correspondent: Do not privatise services which are in the purview of government, especially when it comes to linking the islands of Lake Victoria with the mainland, as other considerations must supersede pure profit motivation, which was the case here. This is of particular importance in this case where safe and affordable lake transport is crucially important for the islands’ tourism industry and keeping the supply lines open for the residents of the islands. AND THAT is a government responsibility and NOT a matter for private exploitation.

Kenya News

SAA TO REDUCE NAIROBI FLIGHTS TO ONCE A DAY

Changes are coming into effect by the end of February on the route between Johannesburg and Nairobi. South African Airways, presently flying double daily with single aisle aircraft, has finally decided to match Kenya Airway’s wide body operation and will introduce an A340 aircraft on the route. While the seat capacity will not fundamentally change, the double daily operation however will reduce to a single daily flight between JNB and NBO and vice versa, cutting back on the choice of departure times but adding greater inflight comfort while enroute, including flat bed seats in business class. Departure from Johannesburg to Nairobi is set for 09.40 a.m., reaching the Kenyan capital by 02.45 p.m. (14.45 hrs) before returning to South Africa at 04.15 p.m. (16.15 hrs) and landing in JNB by 07.30 p.m. (19.30hrs) – all times given local time. Happy Landings to passengers and crew!

MORE B787 DELAYS ANNOUNCED CAUSING ANGER AT KQ AND ET

Boeing’s latest delay on the first delivery of the ‘Dreamliner’ turned development nightmare, has caused consternation amongst the East African airline market leaders Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines. An electrical fire during a test flight last year prompted ALL further flights to be halted until the cause of the malfunction had been satisfactorily explained, but subsequently the test schedule and delivery schedule of the first B787 too had to be revised again to the dismay of customers. As before, Boeing was slow in making the details available to their clientele and again are under scrutiny why they took so long to own up to the added problems. Observer talk has it that another 6 months delay in on the cards for launch customer ANA, with other airlines having to wait even longer. Both KQ and ET have a number of planes of this type on order, and were in fact initially planning to fly the new aircraft already, and being able to replace their present ageing B767 fleets. Ethiopian has already last year signed a major order with Airbus in a clear message to Boeing, and with the latest delay it is now increasingly likely that they may switch the 787 order into 777’s to bridge the gap or else seek additional Airbus aircraft being leased or bought as a stop gap measure. At Kenya Airways an announcement is now equally thought imminent of an order for the Airbus A330, again to facilitate network expansion and added frequencies to existing destinations, where the present workhorse B767 aircraft is either becoming too small or else has, in comparison with the A330 at least, become too cost intensive to operate. All B767’s of Kenya Airways, were they to remain in service for a longer period of time, would require major retrofitting and upgrades and unless Boeing is footing most or all of these bills they are bound to see Airbus make greater inroads into the East African skies. A source at Kenya Airways commented off the record: ‘this is another disappointment for us. We had hoped to have the 787 flying by now and we don’t even have a concrete date as of now when we might get the first 787. Management may have to convert this order to the larger 777 aircraft but a lot now points towards the acquisition of Airbus models to help us grow the way we have mapped out the next few years. Aviation fuel is also getting expensive again, so we need aircraft which consume less per seat kilometre’. Watch this space for future updates.

AIRSTRIPS FOR EACH COUNTY – PROMISES KAA

The Kenya Airports Authority has last week pledged to have at least one functioning airstrip, if not aerodrome, available for general aviation by the end of this year, in each of the 47 counties. Counties were formed under the new constitution, which did away with the former administrative set up of provinces and districts. However, not all of the new geographical and administrative entities can be reach by air with ease and KAA and the government, probably for the dual reasons of boosting security alongside tourism and trade, have set aside major funding this year to achieve their goals. A regular aviation source from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport did confirm that such plans were underway and he knew of several airstrips presently under repair and maintenance, but questioned the wisdom to hand over such facilities to the local administrative unit to ensure upkeep and staffing. ‘these airstrips, especially the larger aerodromes, should be kept under KAA control and management, not ‘divested’ to local county administrations, because those may not know what is involved in terms of staffing, communications with ATC in Nairobi and maintenance’. Once the strips have been cleared or upgraded, it takes more than just look at it or see it as a pasture for domestic animals and if the upkeep is not ensured we cannot fly there and be sure it is safe.’ Fodder for thought for the powers that be at KAA. Meanwhile is expansion work at the main international airport in Nairobi ongoing, which is due for more parking positions, terminal enhancement and eventually a second much needed – and long overdue – runway.

EXEMPLARY RESPONSE BY KENYA AIRWAYS AND JKIA EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM

Last Friday saw emergency services swing into action at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, when a Kenya Airways flight from Harare came in for a landing following a tyre burst while taking off in Zimbabwe. Flight KQ 701 landed shortly after 4 p.m. in Nairobi with all emergency services at full alert and deployed along the runway, but thankfully the crew was able to land the plan without an incident and received gratefully the applause from their 96 passengers on board the flight. It is understood from passenger statements that they had been briefed inflight about a possible emergency and after their successful landing counsellors were also at hand for those who might have needed their services. Kenya Airways was also praised for their swift and comprehensive briefing of the media and the general public over the incident and notably the use of social media, i.e. KQ’s Facebook page and Twitter they instantly reached ‘those who needed to know’, including eTN.

CHINESE IVORY SMUGGLER GETS OFF LIGHTLY

A Nairobi magistrates court has again let an ivory smuggler off with not more than a slap on the wrist, after sentencing a Chinese man, caught at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport while transiting from his Kinshasa flight to the onward flight to Guangzhou. He was found to have over 60 kilograms of raw and semi processed blood ivory in his checked baggage, which was identified by sniffer dogs. After he was subsequently arrested he tried to bribe the arresting officer with 200 US Dollars, but mysteriously this potential charge – carrying a hefty prison sentence, did not come up after his lawyer had him plead guilty to illegal possession of ivory. The Magistrate then sentences him to a fine of 600 US Dollars or 8 months in prison, but after paying the fine the culprit reportedly walked from court, back to the airport to catch his flight home, less the ivory that is which remains confiscated in Kenya. Conservationists, while conceding that here like in a recent case when a Chinese woman was fined for the same offence while in transit from Maputo the law appears to have been applied, now demand stiffer sentences to create a workable deterrent for people buying blood ivory or rhino horns elsewhere in Africa and then try to ship it via Nairobi. Commented a regular source from Nairobi: ‘paying a few dollar fine is not the right thing, not the message we have to send out. Travellers must know, they are caught in Kenya with ivory, even if in transit, they go to jail – that is the only language they understand’. One airline source promptly commented, saying ‘this might in fact lose us passengers travelling with Kenya Airways or other airlines through Nairobi if we become too strict’ but several other sources dismissed this possibility as unrealistic saying: ‘we are not losing passengers other than those with criminal intent. If they fly via Nairobi they must expect their bags to be screened while being loaded from one flight to the next. This is the same everywhere and if they had drugs in their baggage they would be arrested too if our sniffer dogs find something in the baggage. So let’s make our laws meaningful so that not just in Kenya you are jailed for having ivory, but even when coming from other African countries where they still claim buying blood ivory is legal. I am with you there all the way’. Over the past several years, since China ‘rolled out’ its African investment plans and increased ‘cooperation’ have poaching and smuggling of ivory and rhino horns dramatically increased with a large number of Chinese citizens appearing in court over such cases. Only recently did reports come in from across the border in Kenya that even carcasses of giraffes were found, less their legs which had been cut off, near a Chinese workers camp. The bone marrow of the giraffe’s legs is said to have special properties treasured in Chinese potions and the Kenyan media did not mince words as to who they thought was responsible for the slaughter of wildlife. It is therefore in China itself, that their government has to strengthen legislation over the import, possession and processing of ivory to make it a crime for those who try to sell and buy ivory products as a deterrent, if the world’s most populous nation is to retain international respect and standing.

HRA POSTPONES CLASSIFICATION AGAIN

The Kenyan Hotel and Restaurant Authority has once again postponed the planned classification of restaurants, hotels, resorts and safari lodges, which was initially to be completed last year by August. The HRA later cited a lack of funds for their inability to complete the important project, which would give clients a level of assurance of the actual ‘rating’ of a hotel and that the ‘stars’ awarded reflect reality. Sources in Nairobi last weekend made it clear that HRA had applied for the required funds but was not certain when or if they would get their budget allocation, saying that the latest revision of a completion date for June 2011 was by no means guaranteed. The East African Community had in recent years developed a catalogue of criteria for grading and classification and expects member states to roll out the exercise, but across the region only partial classifications have been undertaken in select areas, while the completion everywhere hinges on the availability or absence of funds.

EAST – SOUTH COOPERATION GETS ANOTHER BOOST

 Information was received that Wildlife Ecotours and Corporate Wildlife Team Building Adventures from Cape Town in South Africa are again putting an itinerary together with a Kenyan based company ‘Bush Adventures’ (www.bush-adventures.com) which is specialised in teaching visitors ‘bush and survival skills’ learned from Masai and Samburu warriors. The trip will allow to see both the Southern and Eastern African wilderness, a unique combinations otherwise rarely available in itineraries of major operators. Visit the South African website for more details through the following link: http://ss35.on9mail.com/new/en_send_preview_iframe2.aspx?SID=14&NewsletterID=179465&SiteID=16893&EmailID=12679633&HitID=1295119760145&token=d4de2e2cf536ec69ea4651d838c94d6e0a91f8ca

Tanzania News

KARIBU TOURISM FAIR FOR JUNE 03-05

East Africa’s leading international tourism trade fair, held in Arusha – the safari capital of East Africa – is now accepting bookings for stands and spaces. The annual event has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years and will once more be ‘fully booked’ before long, as exhibitors rush to make their bookings in anticipation of a strongly grown demand for safari- and beach holidays in the region. Interested parties should as soon as possible write to booking@karibufair.com to ascertain space availability or else visit the website via http://www.karibufair.com where bookings can also be done instantaneously on line.

ARCHEOLOGISTS DISCOVER ANCIENT RUINS ALONG COASTAL AREA

Tanzanian archaeologists and historical experts have announced the discovery of dozens of ancient ruins along the coastal area, dating back to as far as the 13th century. The new finds will shed new light on life as it was then, the identity of coastal dwellers and possible trade with other seafaring nations across the oceans, in particular the Gulf area. It is believed from initial assessment that Arabic traders but also the Portuguese in later centuries, had made landfall in what is now Tanzania and established settlements able to provide water and food to the ships, but also trade for commodities in demand back then. The experts were following clues on slave trade routes and coastal centres and during their exploration stumbled across some relatively well preserved ruins partly buried under vegetation. Tourism sources in Dar es Salaam are already exited over the prospect of soon being able to offer a new attraction for visitors to see while on holiday in the country and the nearby aerodromes and airfields of Tanga and Pangani will be able to cater for tourists flying in from Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and Arusha. Said a regular source: ‘this find is potentially priceless for us. Kilimanjaro and Serengeti, Ngorongoro are well known abroad. So are our beaches from the mainland to Zanzibar and the other islands used for tourism. But now we can add a big component of history and culture which should draw more visitors to Tanzania.’ Only recently was mention given here to the extensive caves also found in the Tanga area, which in itself still await further exploration and interpretation of the finds made there, but for now tour operators are already getting busy to gather enough information to include a trip to Tanga in regular itineraries. Watch this space. S

INGLE CURRENCY TO BECOME REALITY

A four day meeting last week in Arusha at the headquarters of the East African Community brought together central bank and financial sector participants from the five member states. The sole purpose of that meeting was to discuss and map out a timeframe for the introduction of a single currency for the region, aimed to lower the cost of doing business across the region which would be encouraging more regional transactions. I is also thought that a common currency would enhance the value vis a vis the international currency trading market, compared with the individual ones, an important parameter when dealing with a global economy and make eventual fluctuations more predictable.

TOURISM CONFEDERATION OF TANZANIA MEETS NEW MINISTER

The apex body of Tanzania’s tourism sector associations, including amongst them the tour operators association, the hotel association, the air operators association, the travel agents association and others, met last week in Dar es Salaam with the recently appointed minister for natural resources and tourism Hon. Ezekiel Maige to discuss matters of mutual interest. The minister, well acquainted with tourism as he was deputy minister in the same minister before the last general elections, was told of the multiple challenges the sector encounters in their daily work, the need to boost spending for marketing the country abroad but was also handed a number of requirements from the tourism stakeholder what government ought to do to fully develop the industry in regard of special incentives for the industry.

ZANZIBAR ‘STONE TOWN’ WORLD HERITAGE STATUS UNDER THREAT

News broke last week that Kempinski Hotels were given a site in the old stone town of Zanzibar for re-development into a 5 star hotel. It is understood from a source in Dar es Salaam that government appeared less than amused over the prospect of UNESCO taking another issue with a Tanzanian World Heritage Site, after the plans for the controversial Serengeti Highway have already raised the possibility of UNESCO striking out that world renowned national park from its listings. The old stone town in Zanzibar is unique, in as far as its history and preservation is concerned and attempts to build high rise office blocks have in the past been almost unanimously defeated in the respective planning offices. A former cabinet minister is now implicated, together with some other officials to have used influence peddling to give the site to Kempinski, and the hotel company is loath of the idea of getting into the conservation bad books, more so as their Bilila Lodge in the heart of the Serengeti has already drawn sustained criticism over its alleged negative impact on the ecosystem. The Stone Town site, located on the Forodhani ocean front, has so far accommodated a number of government offices which will be required to move elsewhere first before anything much can happen on site, and other relevant government departments have already rushed into the controversy claiming that prerequisite permissions have also not been obtained as yet by Kempinski, raising the spectrum of the project being delayed for long periods of time, made substantially more expensive or shelved altogether – conservationists of course would prefer the latter option. While discussing the issue with a regular source in Tanzania the issue of a similar project of Serena Hotels was also raised. East Africa’s leading hotel group had in the past restored and meticulously maintained the outer appearances of initially rundown buildings, and in their unique fashion not only restored them externally but ‘inserted’ a fully functioning top hotel into the location without affecting the character of the neighbourhood. The project has won several global awards in the past, a sign that careful planning and working hand in hand with the local community can actually produce stunning results. In contrast, the same cannot be said at this time about the Kempinski project, more so as regular sources were reportedly given the cold shoulder by Kempinski over an issue where stonewalling is the last thing one would want to do, considering the sensitivities of the Zanzibari population and their pride of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, now under ‘threat’ by the new project. Watch this space as more information becomes available.

Seychelles News

NEW RAFFLES RESORT TO OPEN IN FEBRUARY

The luxurious Raffles Resort on the island of Praslin is finally going to open its doors in February as construction has finally drawn to a close and the new resort is getting the finishing touches, and the staff completes their intensive training. The Raffles, as it will undoubtedly become known on Praslin, less than half an hour’s drive from the island’s aerodrome, will offer 86 villas to its guests and promises already to become one of the archipelago’s foremost resorts, even considering the intense competition on ‘top of the food chain’. Located not far from the Valle de Mai, where the famous ‘coco de mer’ is found, this latest addition to the hospitality scene across the islands will underscore the Seychelles’ global standing as one of the finest island paradise destinations in the world. It goes without saying that the resort’s general facilities, the Spa and the restaurants will equally be meeting the most discerning standards and the ‘Raffles family’ – and brand of Kingdom Hotels – will surely be proud of this latest ‘baby’ in no time at all. For more information visit http://www.seychellesraffles.com or even better, book your next holiday there to experience it ‘live’.

EMIRATES ADD YET MORE FLIGHTS TO SEYCHELLES

Effective end of March will award winning Emirates – just crowned ATW Airline of the Year once again – add 3 more flights per week on the route to Mahe, moving 3 up from the current daily arrivals. The Seychelles tourism fraternity has already welcomed this huge increase in capacity as it will permit more travellers to reach the archipelago at convenient times of their choosing and vowed to work hand in hand with the airline to promote the country in particular in new and emerging destinations. Tourism gurus across the islands also expressed their hope that this added capacity will assist the newly opened hotels and resorts to reach their occupancy goals a lot faster, as the dual promotion, by STB and by Emirates will attract new visitors to Seychelles. Said one regular source from Victoria: ‘we can now more aggressively promote incentive travel to Seychelles and attract larger groups. Until now airline seats were often a constraining factor but with 10 flights from just before Easter, this will be a thing of the past. It is now even possible that Emirates may one day come double daily to Seychelles and that will also attract more investments into new resorts and even time shares or owned properties like Eden Island. I think overall it is some of the best news we had in many years and 2011 can now for sure become a new record year for tourism. By going to 10 flights a week Emirates will have doubled their capacity compared to two years ago, a sign of confidence that the island destination holds a lot of appeal for travellers from around the world, who can now fly from an airport near them every day to ‘paradise’. It was also learned at the same time that Emirates has agreed to become a major corporate sponsor of the first ever carnival festival in the Seychelles, due to be held between March 04th to 06th. Special fares will be launched ahead of the added flights, making it even more affordable to visit the island paradise destination. Watch this space.

SEYCHELLES CARNIVAL FESTIVAL ORGANIZERS COUNT DOWN TO MARCH

Now only weeks away the Seychelles tourism sector is in its final countdown to the inaugural carnival festival which is due to be held in Victoria between the 04th and 06th of March. The Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourist Board Mr. Alain St. Ange, pictured above, last week ‘launched’ the countdown at the International Conference Centre in Victoria, the Seychelles capital located on the main island of Mahe. With major corporate sponsorship now assured – Emirates came on board recently too when they announced the addition of three more flights per week – the event is going to be one of the highest profile activities across the country’s tourism calendar and will be drawing in carnival delegations from as far as Brazil. Well done STB once again for innovative ideas how to best promote the ‘island paradise’.

Southern Sudan News

NOW IS THE TIME TO CONSIDER INVESTING

The Undersecretary in the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, Dr. Daniel Wani, has last week, following the successful independence referendum, thrown the doors wide open for potential investors in the sector. In details availed from Juba he was quoted to have said, that his ministry was seeking an immediate investment volume of 150 million US Dollars from private sector investors in the aviation, hospitality and safari sectors while also encouraging private public partnerships in the wildlife sector. Opportunities exist now across the entire Southern Sudan, not just the capital Juba – which is also capital of the Central Equatoria State – but the other nine state capitals too, where accommodation and hospitality services will after independence be in much demand. Juba presently has no hotel of international top standards and while hotels, often called ‘camps’ have over the past 5 years ‘graduated’ from initial tents over prefabricated and air-conditioned units to the conventional ‘brick and mortar’ constructions, much needs to be done to bring quality in both construction and finishing but also management expertise. The wildlife sector too has presently only one partially functioning lodge on offer in Nimule National Park, while the other 5 national parks require investments to open them up to tourists. Initially this is thought to be rolled out through mobile or semi-permanent tented camps, the classic traditional ‘safari style’ while undoubtedly the construction of more permanent lodges in key positions across those parks will also go underway. In the run up to the formal independence date, tipped to be the 09th of July this year, much added work however needs to be done in regard of creating an investment code, spelling out investment incentives, resolving issues about foreign exchange – freely transactable across the East African Community but very strictly regulated by Khartoum’s regime so far – and most important an institutional, legal and regulatory framework covering the wildlife and tourism sectors, a key demand for instance by potential investors from Kenya, Uganda and further abroad. Other issues which need clarification are the Visa regime, the presently mandatory police registration of visitors, another relict from the police state imposed in the country by Khartoum so far, and the general question of accessibility of the parks and game reserves across the South through roads or by air. More investment opportunities await those bold enough to take the early leap into the Southern Sudan for ventures ‘on the Nile’, where for instance in Uganda the adventure tourists find white water rafting, boating, kayaking and much more, all of which can be replicated in the soon to be independent Southern Sudan. Already connected very well by air from Nairobi – from where the most flights each day depart for Juba – other neighbouring countries like Uganda and Ethiopia too now operate daily scheduled flights from their own main international gateways to Juba. This guarantees daily connectivity for visitors from abroad, a key ingredient when the marketing of the new country’s wildlife and culture based tourism attractions goes underway. For now there are exiting prospects coming up with arguably Africa’s last ‘frontier’ being opened up for exploration, and the migration of the white eared kobs, second only to the Serengeti migration in terms of numbers, will be a huge magnet for visitors from around the world to come and see. Watch this space for more upcoming news and updates, as Southern Sudan counts down to Independence Day on 09th of July this year.

BLUE NILE STATE WANTS TO ‘GO SOUTH’ TOO

Latest information from Southern Sudan confirmed that the present ‘consultations’ at Blue Nile State, a part of the Sudan but not officially part of the South will allow the population to determine their ‘direction’ by a consultative process as laid out under the 2005 CPA agreement between the erstwhile foes. Details filtering back into Juba from Blue Nile are have that the people, mainly Africans proper, by a large majority of those participating in the discussions expressed their intention to join the South, which after a successful referendum will become independent on July 09th. Presently a voting process is underway and like in the Southern Sudan’s 10 states, all indications are that the population will express their clear intention to join the South and follow it into independence. A similar process ought to be underway too in South Kordofan, but disagreements between the regime in Khartoum and the Government of Southern Sudan have delayed the process there for a little longer. The third of the unresolved disputes over ‘where we belong’ is over oil rich Abyei, and there in particular the original population, mostly from the Dinka tribe, also want to ‘go South’ while the regime is trying to obscure the majority desire by attempting to have nomads participate in the consultation and voting process. As always, watch this space for updates from what will be Africa’s newest country very soon.

And in closing today some material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, courtesy of Gill Staden, who lives at the Victoria Falls in Livingstone / Zambia:

Egyptair to Bring 1m Tourists to Zambia From Lusaka News

 ZAMBIA will attract one million tourists from Egypt as a result of the introduction of direct Egyptair flights between Cairo and Lusaka, Zambia’s ambassador to Egypt Herbert Simutowe has said. Speaking after the inauguration ceremony in Lusaka yesterday, Lieutenant General Simutowe said the introduction of the direct flights would increase trade between the two countries and boost Zambia’s tourism. Egyptair Airlines yesterday commenced its operations in Zambia by introducing a direct four-times-a-week flight between Lusaka and Cairo.

Gill: According to the article about the new branding of Zambia’s tourism, Mr Pelekamoyo stated that we had 810,000 visitors to Zambia in 2009. I do therefore, find it difficult to believe that the new flights from Egypt will bring us an additional 1,000,000 tourists. Having said that, it is great to see another airline use Lusaka airport.

And adds yours truly: work out how many flights it will actually take to send a million Egyptians to Zambia and when that is done, work out if Zambia has enough rooms to accommodate them all … Incidentally, we heard similar ‘promises’ when a few years ago a government minister said, upon signing an MoU with China as ‘approved destination’ that a million Chinese would visit Uganda … and as we say here: ‘WAPI’ …

New Babies for the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

From African Wildlife Foundation

Sure, a baby rhino with its oversized wrinkly skin and short nose may be homely. But who can’t love a face like that? Especially when 300 African rhinos have been poached in southern Africa alone in the past year. AWF is in fact in love with the two baby rhinos just born in Mosi-Oa-Tunya Park in Zambia. Both female, the calves were born to two of the cows AWF helped get settled in the park after all but one of the park’s white rhinos were killed by poachers. Now AWF needs your help to protect the new additions to our family.

Kariba Dam Floodgates Open

According to the news Kariba Dam has opened its gates again – three of them. Although Livingstone has been suffering from lack of rain, most of the catchment area for the Zambezi river has not. The lake has been steadily rising and with the knowledge of a lot more water to come down the river, the Zambezi River Authority has decided to open the gates. The Zambezi River has travelled for 1,700 km before it reaches the dam wall and many tributaries have run into the river. Last year the gates were open for several months causing flooding downstream. Lake Kariba hardly reduced its level when the rains started again. This is going to be a long flood season for the homes, lodges and farms downstream.

And here some more nasty news from Zimbabwe, raising the question: have they learned nothing from their disastrous farm takeovers which crippled their agriculture and drove the country into well near famine …

The Economy or the Election?

As we mentioned earlier, Zimbabwe is in an election year. They have also started to market the country heavily in order to attract tourists and the money that they bring. However, it seems that the need to attract voters is more important than the tourists as militants are now targeting resorts around Lake Chivero. Lake Chivero is just 30 km from Harare and is a popular destination for Harare-ites wanting to have a break from town. It is alleged that 200 militants sealed off a safari lodge, Kuimba Shiri Lodge on Friday, only to allow movement again on Sunday. The militants did not do any damage or steal any property. They did, though, take an inventory of all the stock and property in order to value it. This, the owner was told, was in order to prepare it for black shareholding of 51% – a Zimbabwe policy of empowerment for blacks. This was not the only lodge to be affected by militants. Other businesses along the lake were also targeted by groups singing pro-Mugabe chants and carrying sticks and preparing an inventory. In the meantime, the Minister of Tourism was giving a new branding to Zimbabwe’s tourism: The World of Wonders. … The mind boggles …

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region, Third edition January 2011

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Third edition January 2011

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Twitter: @whthome

Blog: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com

Third edition January 2011

Uganda News

BRUSSELS AIRLINES CARRIES MORE TRAFFIC IN 2010

Inspite of the problems in 2010 with the Icelandic ash cloud and the severe winter snow storms in December has the Belgian national airline carried overall 4.4 percent more traffic for the past year. Codeshared flights into Entebbe / Uganda, and in fact into the wider region to airports like to Bujumbura, Kigali and Nairobi, with major shareholder Lufthansa too has added to the attraction of passengers to fly with SN and it paid off handsomely as Ugandan traffic, originating here, also grew. Brussels Airlines flies daily into the East African region and their unique operating method, covering two destinations at a go, gives their passengers ‘options’, since ‘local’ code share arrangements, like on Air Uganda between Juba and Entebbe or Entebbe and Nairobi allow them to fly with their favourite airline daily, to Brussels and beyond. It is also understood that principal agreement has been reached to add at least one more A330 to the SN fleet this year, allowing the airline to expand their frequencies into both West and East Africa and in the process cementing Star Alliance’s market leadership in global destinations, numbers of flights and passengers. The same source also confirmed that Africa will remain for the foreseeable future the only long haul continent for SN, as the company prefers to have for instance flights to North America operated by their Star Alliance code share partners to their mutual benefit. Said the source on condition of anonymity: ‘we know Africa very well and have a big market share as a result of the rapport with travellers, companies and travel agents we built over decades, first as Sabena and now as Brussels Airlines. I believe our company chose to do what we know best, and that is to fly to Africa and give our international partners many destinations across the continent. In turn, they operate code shared flights with us to North America and other parts of the world, where they have strengths, and in the end it works out best for our passengers and the airlines involved’.

BAT UGANDA STORAGE GOES UP IN SMOKE

The anti smoking crusade in the country took an ironic turn last Friday, when one of the main BAT Uganda storage facilities in the Nakawa Industrial Area went up in the proverbial smoke. The warehouse reportedly caught fire after a power outage, as sparks were reportedly seen flying after the electricity supply was eventually restored, and an investigation is now underway to establish the precise location where the fire started, attempting to find clues, or ascertain if spontaneous combustion could have been responsible. Over 2 million kilograms of processed tobacco leaves were destroyed in the fire, the first major fire of this year, and BAT’s spokesperson pegged the damage to over 10 million US Dollars. Huge smoke columns were seen from across the city and anti tobacco and anti smoking crusaders have already sarcastically mentioned to this correspondent that ‘for the health of our fellow Ugandans it is better to see tobacco go up in smoke like this than being smoked by people and making them ill’. Meanwhile have calls re-emerged to boost the capacity of the fire brigade and establish hydrants at strategic points across the city and the industrial area, to allow instant supply of water, something which, according to media reports, ran out soon after the dousing had started … ooops …

SHILLING CONTINUES TO SLIDE

The Uganda Shilling reached new lows yesterday afternoon when end of day trading pushed the local currency to 2.380 / 2.390 versus one US Dollar. Tourist visitors are welcoming the trend as their hard currency buys them considerably more curios, mementos and even ‘beers’, but the locals are getting increasingly worried over the effect the creeping devaluation is having on the cost of imports, especially fuel. Petrol prices are now back in the 3.100 Ushs range per litre, driving prices of food up also as the transportation cost keeps escalating, but traders of other commodities have already indicated that the next batch of landed goods will increase in price as a result. One banker this correspondent consulted overnight indicated that companies in particular have been active in buying US Dollars to pay end year dividends, make scheduled loan repayments but was hesitant to point to the upcoming elections as one of the added causes. Another banker was more frank in this regard claiming that recent events in Tunisia, hitherto considered a stable country, may have prompted financial investors to clear their positions in local financial instruments and was swift to point to a fallout across much of the continent where similar trends in recent days were recorded. A reliable political source however rubbished this and pointed to the disparity of import spending and export earnings, claiming ‘when our oil hits the markets next year we will have one of the strongest currencies in the region’. Wait and see.

Kenya News

SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE GETS MORE THAN THEY BARGAINED FOR

The cruiseliner ‘Spirit of Adventure’ had some unexpected adventure of its own last week, when being approached on the open ocean by pirates, while enroute to the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa in Kenya. The ocean terrorists however failed to get near enough to the cruiseliner to pose a serious threat, as the crew successfully outmanoeuvred them and made a swift getaway into safer waters, using evasive manoeuvring. Some of the several hundred passengers on arrival in Mombasa however did tell the local media that they were told to ‘duck down’, good advice considering that the pirates often shower ships from the distance with machine gun fire and even use rocket propelled grenades in order to make ships stop, a clear sign that they are willing to risk casualties in their criminal pursuits. The incident was kept low key in the local media, and not yet made its way widely into major international media either, as the cruise company was reportedly trying to keep such unwelcome news under wraps. It would admittedly be a nightmare scenario, often referred to by the way in articles here, had the pirates managed to get hold of the cruiseliner, a priceless bounty worth tens of millions of US Dollars if not more – and should it ever happen the ultimate wakeup call for governments trying to ‘wish the problem away’ instead of tackling it with enough determination and resources. The Indian Ocean ports of Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar but also the island countries have in the recent past lost substantial numbers of port calls from the major cruise companies, many of which have in fact cancelled long standing arrangements and relocated their ships to ‘safer’ waters in the Caribbean or the South Pacific, leaving only a few to still include for instance Mombasa in their itineraries. In fact, pirates have now expanded their area of operation to as far South as Madagascar, and only last week were 6 of them captured who landed in Tanzania, either out of sheer audacity or for being stupid enough to think they can land, buy food and water and then return to the ocean to continue their ‘hunt’ for ships and yachts. Thankfully residents of a fishing village spotted them and called in police and other security organs which then arrested the pirates and charged them in court for illegal entry and possession of assorted arms and ammunition. A related article refers separately to this development. The resulting loss of revenue, for ports, suppliers and tourism businesses, is estimated to be massive – there is talk of tens of millions of US Dollars across the region – adding pressure on the respective governments to do substantially more to secure the sea lanes and have cargo and passenger ships once more enjoy safe passage. Notable exception here is the Seychelles, which has over the past year or two substantially boosted their surveillance and patrol abilities, and has put their new coast guard vessels and aircraft to immediate good use. On several occasions they have now already robustly responded to distress calls and freed crews and ships captured by the ocean terrorists, arrested the pirates, tried them in court and jailed them for twenty and more years. However, other ‘regular’ members of the naval coalition, inspite of having arguably enough surface ships and aerial support in the area now, are considered weak in their responses and lack robust rules of engagement which allow them to react harshly when spotting small boats on the open ocean, looking like pirate skiffs, acting like pirate skiffs and for all practical purpose being pirate skiffs, and the pirates subsequently often get away to continue their bloody handiwork. Navies of several countries seemingly lack the ability of their commanders on site to take appropriate decisions, which for instance let to the capture of the Chandlers while a British navy ship stood nearby awaiting orders from above, instead of leaving it to the crews to deal with the ocean terrorists ‘Seychelles style’. Hence, while the Seychelles are to be congratulated for their determined no nonsense approach in safeguarding her territorial waters, other East African countries need to follow suit now and equally boost their naval capacity and engage pirates found loitering off their shores to at last secure the sea lanes once again and allow safe passage for cargo and passenger ships. Until that happens, cruise ships and cargo vessels remain ‘prey’ for the ocean terrorists and the sea lanes will remain unsafe and insecure, adding cost to our imports and exports and loosing the East African economies mega bucks in lost tourist dollars.

FLY 540 ROCKS MARKET WITH NEW ‘LOWEST’ FARES

The ongoing battle for aviation supremacy on the Kenyan domestic routes has just gotten a notch hotter again, as Fly 540 yesterday announced that they were to reduce, with immediate effect, their fares between Nairobi and Mombasa to only 6.540 Kenya Shillings, return and all inclusive. Although Kenya Airways has a stand by fare of 3.000/- KShs one way on offer, the Fly 540 fare arguably beats it as the bookings are confirmed and no one runs the risk of having to wait for the next flight just because an earlier one was fully booked. After the high season of Christmas and New Year holidays is now well and truly over, capacity on the route from Nairobi to the coast appears to be on the high side, resulting in the short term either in reduction of flights or the use of smaller aircraft, or else attempting to keep the interest in travel high by offering special fares. The ‘safari airlines’ too are operating to the coast but have ‘smarter’ options by flying from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to such places like Lamu or Ukunda, where Kenya Airways’ jets cannot land – a niche market which also attracts higher fares compared to the ‘milk run’ between Nairobi and Mombasa directly. East African Safari Air express already succumbed to the intensified competition in quarter 4 last year, when the airline, after a brief suspension of services, was reportedly taken over by Fly 540, itself on a determined expansion drive across the African continent but especially in the Eastern African region, where they have established bases in Uganda and Tanzania too. Aviation observers have voiced their concern, that the ongoing fare levels are hard to financially sustain, unless flights are operating with near full capacity, and there is intense speculation over how Kenya Airways and Jetlink, the other two main competitors of Fly 540, will react in coming days to the gauntlet Fly 540 has just thrown down. KQ in particular has in recent months rolled out a marketing offensive to recapture previously lost market share on Kenya’s domestic routes to for instance Malindi, Kisumu and Mombasa and is hardly likely to just roll over and give up what they just managed to claw back. Fodder for thought and watch this space, where news from the Eastern African aviation scene regularly break.

FLY 540 ADD NEW DAR / MWANZA SERVICE

The regionally leading LCC (low cost carrier) has just announced the commencement of an additional flight between Kenya to Tanzania, routing from Nairobi via Dar es Salaam and then on to Mwanza, before returning in reverse order. All sectors have full traffic rights it was pointed out, allowing passengers to board in Dar for Mwanza, or from Mwanza for Nairobi for that matter. The aircraft used for the service is the CRJ 200 painted in their trade mark orange colour, and the flight leaves Nairobi just after 9 a.m. before returning in the late afternoon again to base. The new routing will bring added competition on the route from Nairobi to Tanzania’s commercial capital and Indian Ocean port city but also offer passengers on domestic routes another option to fly from the coast to Mwanza or vice versa.

JUBA ROUTE PROVIDES HIGHEST YIELD

The average cost of US Dollars 500 for a return flight between Nairobi and Juba, almost double of commonly charged fares between Nairobi and Entebbe for instance, is a prized and treasured cash bonus for airlines flying on the route, like Kenya Airways, Jetlink or Fly540/EASAX. With returns on domestic fares in Kenya greatly reduced, as a result of increased capacity and competitive fare wars presently witnessed on the route to Mombasa, the yield on the Juba route is reassuring to the operators raking in the cash. Those carriers operating to Juba have quietly, and needless to say off the record expressed their delight that the demand on the route for passengers and loose cargo has allowed the airlines to keep their fares high, which in turn contribute substantially to their financial bottom lines, in fact making up for the sharply reduced revenues per passenger on their Kenyan domestic routes between Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi and Kisumu. Jetlink, one of Kenya’s leading private airlines, has in fact jumped ahead of the pack over the past weeks with the introduction of a third daily flight between Nairobi and Juba, and the market has responded very well according to a source by filling that flight too, often to capacity. Jetlink was the only Kenyan airline to fly twice a day to Juba, using their CRJ 200 aircraft, and the third frequency has exceeded their own expectations. Launched ahead of the holiday period the airline is expected to make a windfall from the travel boom, stemming from ‘referendum travel’ when many Southern Sudanese actually returned ‘home’ to cast their vote for independence, but there is some speculation that the third flight, after the ‘rush’ is over, may be halted again, unless passenger numbers remain high and business and ‘political’ traffic continues to grown. Watch this space for up todate news from East Africa’s aviation sector.

ANTI ALCOHOL LAW IMPLEMENTATION HALTED BY COURT

 The new Kenyan ‘anti drinking laws’, which already led to the arrest of many, has been put on halt when the High Court in Nairobi ruled for an injunction, following an application by bar owners. The tourism industry’s hospitality sector too had vehemently objected to clauses in the new law regarding licensing provisions and opening hours, saying it was not viable for city hotels, beach resorts and safari lodges to follow such a law, and demanded a revision of such regulations thought to be counterproductive. It is not known if in fact any tourists have been arrested over the last few weeks, since the law took effect, but any such arrest, quoting a senior tourism stakeholder ‘would send the wrong message to overseas tourist who come to our beaches and want to have fun, and not be told by overzealous enforcers that they can only have fun during certain times’. In ‘the old days’ bars were only allowed to open between 11 am and 2 pm on workdays, and then again from 5 pm till 11 pm – making the barman’s call ‘last order’ famous and causing the closing time ‘rush’ before the bar had to be shut, but allowing patrons to consume drinks ordered before closing time. Those rules however were found to limit operations of major hotels and resorts where tourists often like to party into the wee hours of the morning, and eventually the law was changed before crusading politicians once again managed to ambush the public when they passed a new law last year. Hospitality businesses claim little if any consultations were held with them while the law was drafted and for that reason alone it must be revisited – but for now it is in the High Court awaiting ‘judgement’ on the various complaints lodged against it already. For tourist visitors in particular now is the time to have a drink, any time of the day, before the new law possibly springs back to life.

WATER DISPUTE AMONGST SUPPLIERS CUTS COASTAL RESORTS OFF

The Water Resources Management Authority was last weekend accused of robber baron methods, arrogance and – at least by some quarters – of ‘near criminal misconduct’, when they cut off the water supply of the Coastal Water Board. As a result, and as seen the week before along a section of the South Coast already, beach resorts were suddenly off water supply, inspite of most being up todate with their water bills. The area affected was said to spread from Mtwapa Creek to Malindi, a stretch of 100 kilometres and dozens of beach resorts. Said one regular source from Mombasa in a message to this correspondent: ‘what do we care if there are disputes between two water supply bodies. We for sure are paid up and a quick survey amongst fellow managers tells me they too have paid their water and electricity bills. Taking the argument between the two water bodies into the public domain, and in the process interrupting water supplies for hotels and resorts, especially when we are all having almost full occupancy along the coast, is a very callous and irresponsible act and those responsible should be charged in court. How about hospitals, businesses and residential areas, none have water – do those responsible know that people can die without water, and yet they paid bills on time. Only last week they did the same at the lower south coast and the results were very bad for those affected and now they are doing worse for a bigger area. This is a national shame and when I wonder will parastatals ever know and learn they are there to SERVE and not to RULE’.

DESIGN WORK ON NEW SOUTH COAST HIGHWAY SANCTIONED BY KENYA GOVERNMENT

It is understood from a regular source in Mombasa that the Kenyan government has now finally given the green light to proceed with the design work and pre-planning for the long awaited ‘South Coast Highway’. The new road will be making the time consuming and unreliable journeys through the city and by ferry across the Likoni channel redundant, and will directly link the main highway from Nairobi to Mombasa, and the Moi International Airport in Mombasa from the ‘starting point’ at Miritini to the coastal resorts along the famous Diani Beach, Ukunda and the rest of the beaches enroute to the Tanzanian border. A ‘branch’ is expected to open up the port of Mombasa with a direct link, giving added convenience also to users of Kenya’s and in fact East Africa’s biggest harbour. It will bring relief for companies delivering goods to the South Coast, or sending agricultural produce to the markets from there, and in particular the tourism industry has already expressed relief that the project is now gathering momentum. As a side effect journeys with the ferry will become somewhat easier for commuters, as long as the ferries are actually operating without a hitch that is as service disruptions in the past have caused pure havoc with the crossing schedules.

ROAD IMPROVEMENT TO OPEN UP LAKES JIPE / CHALA AND REMOTE TSAVO WEST PARTS

Information received from Mombasa last week indicates that contracts have been signed by the government of Kenya to finally tarmac the road from Voi to Mwatate, crucially important for trade with neighbouring Tanzania but more important for tourism, as it really opens up parts of Tsavo West otherwise not easily accessible. The road from Voi – located about 100 miles from Mombasa and 200 miles from Nairobi – to the Taveta border with Tanzania passes by the private Taita Hills Game Reserve, where two safari lodges operated by Sarova Hotels are located, before leading on to the ‘back portion’ of Tsavo West where Lake Jipe is found, but also Lake Chala (shared with Tanzania across the common border). ‘Grogan’s Castle’, a privately owned and managed and carefully restored ‘colonial style’ villa accommodation too is located in the neighbourhood and will be reachable with greater ease, when the road improvements have been carried out, and undoubtedly more tourists will be able to visit this unique, some say spectacular part of Kenya.

GO TRAVEL! ‘IN A BETTER WORLD’ SCOOPS GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD

A film shot in late 2009 on location in Kenya has during the Golden Globe Award Ceremony been given the highest accolade as ‘best foreign film’, an unexpected honour and boost to Kenya as a tourism destination. The film, portraying the lives of two Danish families, is about the work of one of them in a refugee camp health centre and clinic and will show the back drop of the breathtaking landscapes of the Great Rift Valley which spreads through the entire country but is most spectacular near the chosen location at Elementaita. While time was too short since getting the news to obtain a ‘read’ from the Kenya Tourist Board it is known that the country is trying hard to attract film makers with incentives and special concessions to the country so that ‘Destination Kenya’ can make an impact around the world when such films are shown. Well done!

Tanzania News

SOMALI PIRATES ARRESTED ON TANZANIAN BEACH

Observant villagers alerted police and other security forces when a boat carrying 6 suspected Somali pirates landed nearby their homesteads last week. While the Somalis were trying to bargain for food and water, security operatives arrived and apprehended them, in the process also confiscating a cache of arms on their boat. It has long been alleged that the increase of piracy cases in the Indian Ocean waters off the extensive Tanzanian coast was partly attributed to pirates making landfall in remote parts where they don’t see signs of much human activity, so that they can restock water and food supplies and then return to the ocean to capture yachts, ships and cargo vessels, as they slow down while going into port or else slowly depart from Tanzania. In the past such allegations had been denied by authorities, at times asking media personnel to ‘bring evidence’ or going as far as suggesting such ‘reports’ were anti Tanzanian propaganda, but this recent capture will undoubtedly make future reports more credible and maybe have police take swifter action, should more such boats be spotted to land on Tanzanian territory. The arrest took place last Thursday evening, after the Somalis were first seen in the early afternoon trying to land their boat but struggling with rough waters. After their capture the alleged pirates also claimed a second boat had capsized in rough sea before, likely drowning another 5 while they were out hunting for opportunistic targets to attack, hijack and take back to Somalia for ransom. The 6 arrested men will be produced in court this week and are certainly facing charges for entering the country illegally and being in possession of illegal weapons, while other aspects of the case are being investigated aimed to bring further charges against them. Meanwhile well done to the people spotting them and the security forces for their swift reaction!

HEAVY RAINS BRING TRAIN TRAFFIC INTO CENTRAL TANZANIA TO A HALT

The recent heavy rains in parts of Tanzania, and the resulting damage done to bridges and rail lines, have resulted in traffic from Dar es Salaam into the central part of the country being suspended, at least until 21st of January but longer depending on the weather conditions. Repairs to the damaged Bububu River bridge are being carried out as a matter of urgency and work teams are trying to shore up the bridge to allow trains to pass. With the suspension of rail traffic hundreds of passengers are now reportedly stuck both upcountry as well as in Dar, waiting for trains to resume service, but the offer of full refunds of prepaid tickets has already resulted in many travellers switching to busses to reach their destinations. Would be passengers are advised to check in advance if the route is open for traffic to allow them make alternate travel arrangements. In a related development it was also confirmed that the Tanzanian government has only offered 21 billion Tanzania Shillings in order to reach a settlement with Indian firm RITES compared to the ‘asking price’ of 125 billion TShs. The two partners, government had after a lengthy process selected the Indian firm to manage Tanzania Railways and invest in the company, are clearly on a ‘divorce’ path now and this development is also reminiscent of the saga of Air Tanzania, where government had to come to the rescue to resolve a similar ‘split’ with South African Airways a few years ago, leaving ATCL moribund and financially crippled. However, in aviation at least companies like Precision Air and Fly 540 (T) did step into the breach and offered arguably even better services, but the railways business is different and requires to operate and not go broke or come to a standstill. Strikes by staff in the recent past and the current operational problems due to flooding of key routes have made government’s task not made any easier. This is leaving the Tanzanian government only limited room to manoeuvre in the great bargaining now underway over how much they have to pay to get ‘rid’ of the erstwhile choice partner now turned into a public villain.

CATTLE INVADE SERENGETI

The globally renown national park is just not getting out of the news of late, as more bad stories emerged over a cattle invasion last week. Rangers did impound over 200 heads of cattle being driven into the park by villagers and herdsmen, ostensibly in search of pasture for the livestock, but still in contravention of park rules. Arguments are now said to be ongoing between the cattle owners and SENAPA over the return of the animals which by Tuesday were still being held. The area according to a TANAPA source is however notorious for poaching incursions and it was pointed out to this correspondent that poachers could easily disguise themselves as cattle herders, only to then kill elephant or other protected game under the cover of darkness or when no aerial surveillance was seen nearby, making it necessary to react swiftly and decisively to any sort of illegal entry and intrusion into the park.

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR OFFERS NETWORK WIDE SPECIAL FARE

The Rwandan national airline has just launched a range of special and all inclusive fares from Kigali to their widening range of destinations in the region, across Africa and into the Gulf. Dubai, available it is understood from other East African destinations too when flying with RwandAir via Kigali, sells at 500 US Dollars while for instance Mombasa sells at 299 US Dollars, all taxes and other charges included. Johannesburg sells, until the end of January – extension of the ‘specials’ is considered a possibility – 550 USD per person while all regional destinations are sold at fares which beat the competition by quite a bit, and then some more. Visit http://www.rwandair.com for more details.

RWANDA DEVELOPMENT BOARD SECURES INTERNSHIPS FOR UNIVERSITY STUDENTS

Some 200 students in various fields, including the hospitality and tourism field, have just completed internships with local and international companies, secured for them by the efforts of the Rwanda Development Board’s human resources division. Skills transfer and human resource development rank high on Rwanda’s national agenda and the RDB has in the past supported training – in the tourism and hospitality industry – but also across the economy, so that better standards can be injected into the workplace for the benefit of visitors. It is understood from a source in Kigali that a further 300 students will soon be placed in internships following the success of the pioneer programme.

TRANSBOUNDARY GORILLA PROJECT CHAIR MOVES TO CONGO DR

Earlier this week did the rotational chairmanship of the gorilla conservation project ‘change hands’ as the Ugandan Dr. Andrew Seguya on behalf of the Uganda Wildlife Authority handed over to his colleague from the DRC Cosmas Wilungula. The ceremony did take place in Kigali where the handover was preceded by meetings of technical experts discussing a range of pending issues. Participants came from Uganda, Rwanda and Congo, which cooperate closely in the protection of the prized mountain gorillas whose habitat is spread across the four national parks in the three countries, the Parc de Volcanoes in Western Rwanda, the Parc de Virunga in the Congo DR and both Mt. Mgahinga and Bwindi in Uganda. Management, conservation, research, enforcement and prizing, amongst other areas are now all coordinated between the three wildlife management bodies and this policy of cooperation has yielded good results in past years with the gorilla population actually increasing year by year.

 Ethiopia News

ETHIOPIAN INCREASES COOPERATION WITH LUFTHANSA

 Information received from Addis Ababa indicates that Ethiopian Airlines and Lufthansa last week signed an initial 5 year deal for the introduction and use of LH’s Lido/Take Off Performance Solution into the ET flight operations. Substantial savings are expected to be generated, but this latest ‘deal’ between the two airlines underscores the already existing close cooperation and in fact further intensifies it. Both airlines fly in codes share from Frankfurt ten times a week to Addis Ababa and the Lufthansa flight number then extends to a large and growing number of regional destinations in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa. Towards that end has ET introduced double daily frequencies to key airports to permit seamless connections, both ways, for travellers using the joint flights from and to Frankfurt. It is understood from a Lufthansa source that this close cooperation is in fact showing growing success in terms of passenger numbers and cargo uplifted on the long haul flights and beyond. Ethiopian Airlines will be joining the global industry leader Star Alliance later in 2011 and expects added benefits from becoming a full member of the world’s most far reaching aviation cooperation. Watch this space.

Seychelles News

AIR SEYCHELLES NEW TWIN OTTER ARRIVES IN MAHE

The two week long journey of HM’s latest fleet addition, all the way from the manufacturer’s facility in Western Canada, across this sprawling North American country, via Iceland, Scotland, mainland Europe, the African mainland and finally across the ocean to Mahe International Airport, came to a successful conclusion last weekend. The brand new aircraft of the DHC6-400 type arrived from its last ferry flight segment out of Mombasa / Kenya to a fabulous welcome by Air Seychelles management, staff and invited visitors and will soon commence domestic operations, where it will join three ‘older’ Twin Otters and a ‘Short’ to fly tourists and locals across the archipelago. The addition of the new state of the art aircraft, which includes the very latest avionics suite available for such aircraft on the market, will also allow Air Seychelles to add more frequencies during high demand periods, when seats are in short supply while also allowing one off charters to be contracted when tourist groups, or local business men need to fly to one of the islands for a day or longer. Last year, 2010, was the Seychelles best ever year in tourism arrivals and the new aircraft will undoubtedly be a bonus for HM to meet the growing demand for flights from the international airport to the other tourism islands – often just a 15 to 20 minutes’ hop across the crystal clear ocean, while the ‘scenic’ route with the high speed ferry to for instance Praslin gives arguably more close up views of the scenery but takes considerably longer. The new aircraft will be named Ile de Curieuse in the long tradition of the airline to ‘baptize’ aircraft after the names of the various islands of the archipelago. From us at eTN it is Happy Landings to the new aircraft, crew and future passengers who can enjoy the ‘Creole Spirit’ on board, even if a domestic flight can take as little as 20 minutes.

NEW BUS FLEET LAUNCHED ON MAHE

52 brand new busses were received last weekend in Victoria and formally handed over to SPTC, boosting public transportation across the main island of Mahe. Seychelles Public Transport Corporation provided details on the new TATA built vehicles, which have a seat capacity between 36 and 55 passengers. The new busses will allow to widen the reach of public transport even further, offer more frequencies during morning and evening rush hour and safely bring pupils to school and staff to their work places. It has also been noted that owing to the reasonable cost of a bus ticket, and the frequent stops along tourist routes and ‘sights’, many foreign visitors too use the busses and traverse the island from one end to the other, exploring Mahe on their own.

 Southern Sudan News

REFERENDUM COMPLETED, COUNT UNDERWAY

After millions of eligible voters had cast their votes last week across the vast Southern Sudanese territory, the vote count is now underway. International observers, like former US President Carter, former UN supremo Kofi Annan and a host of others, representing the who is who of human rights, civil liberty and democratic principles organisations came to the Southern Sudan to not just ‘observe’ but form almost a human shield around voting centres to allow the vote proceed in peace. Fears had persisted that Khartoum friendly militias may try to disrupt the voting process, but the large contingent of international and African observers made this well near impossible for them, without causing major international incidents. The East African Community, now getting ready to receive a joining applications from Juba soon after formal independence of the South – expected to be celebrated on 09th of July – had observers there, as did COMESA, IGAD – the inter governmental authority on development – and of course the African Union. The people in the South were happy to make friends with many of them, and already after the first few days was the mandatory minimum of 60 percent participation reached, which eventually ended with percentages reaching well into the 90 percent margin, and few of those, according to well informed sources close to the tallying and counting centres, would have opted to remain in the union with the perceived oppressors from the regime in the North. Formal announcements of the results are only scheduled for early February, but the initial trend is already as clear as can be – a new country will be born in Africa and the decades long struggle of the people of the Southern Sudan for liberties and freedom will at last become reality.

 

And as promised last week Gill’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ has re-surfaced, hampered by perennial internet connection problems, from which we are all suffering to varying degrees on a regular basis … I always find it very educating to read Gill’s collection of articles and reports, and many of them are almost a mirror image of what is happening her in Eastern Africa too. I was particularly pleased to read that conservationists carried the day in protecting birding areas in Zambia over what appeared to be exploitative intent by a Chinese company set to swallow up an pristine forest and wilderness area – well done indeed!

Another tax

National Airports has introduced a Security Charge for all passengers at the airport. It is US$5 international and US$3 for domestic flights. Since the introduction of this new charge we are delighted to see, what appears to be, a permanent road block on the airport road, manned by police wearing reflective jackets and checking insurances, licences and vehicle road-worthiness. How nice. And adds yours truly: will this have to be paid in cash (huge potential for fraud) or as in other countries be included in the ticket charge, collected by the airlines and then remitted …

And another tax …

As all Road Licences and Vehicle Insurances have now had VAT added onto them, all vehicle users have seen the cost of running their vehicle go up by 16%. What a shocker … and when will it all end??? It would be so nice to see something come down in price. And here yours truly adds that this might affect the cost of safaris too, so check with your safari operators if there is any change in cost for holidays already booked to Zambia

From one British Travel Website http://www.travelhouseuk.co.uk

The legendry Victoria Falls, the declared seventh wonder of the world and the “smoke that thunders” is the breathtaking natural attraction that we all want an escape to. However, this water shield separates Zambia from Zimbabwe, the two Southern Africa countries known for different kinds of attractions otherwise. This amazing water fall is not only a divide between the countries but also, is a major reason why one country’s tourist boom means decline for the other. Tourist, unfamiliar with African continent also wonder which way is safer, cheaper and more rewarding to see the Victoria Falls, for the falls can be accessed from both Zambia and Zimbabwe. Not only it’s a matter of access but Victoria falls are part of two national parks – Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia and Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe. According to Livingstone Tourism Association (LTA) chairperson Kingsley Lilamono “stakeholders in the tourism sector needed to work hard, as Zimbabwe poses a serious challenge to Zambia in 2011” He further added “There are increased numbers of tourists who prefer to stay in Zimbabwe than Zambia” There are many reasons for this Zimbabwean victory, for instance, the basic fare on direct flights to Harare cost 300 GBP Nett excl. taxes with Air Zimbabwe which is the country’s national flagship carrier as well. Air Zimbabwe provides onward flights to Victoria Falls. Whereas, direct flights to Lusaka the capital of Zambia costs around 482 GBP Nett excl. taxes with British Airways that offers nonstop flights from the same departure point as Air Zimbabwe i.e. London. However the comparison is not limited to flights only, accommodation, transfers as well as local transport and Safari or excursions in Zambia in comparison to Zimbabwe are more expensive. Yet, the level of services as well as the quality of excursions, flights, transportation, wild life Safari, Golfing etc offered by Zambia are considered a lot much better than Zimbabwe. As Zimbabwe is still in a transitional phase, whereas Zambia has been focusing on the country’s tourism sector a lot in the past decades. Evaluating all the plus and minus of the above analyses, through Zambia remains the first choice for British Travellers seeking a high quality services, but when it comes getting cheap flights and affordable holiday Zimbabwe gives a tough competition. There are two comments on this article. Firstly the Victoria Falls is actually in one Park – the World Heritage Site. In fact, I was told some time ago that if you pay for entrance on the Zambian side it should give you entrance to Zimbabwean side and vice versa. This of course does not happen and it is an indication of our lack of working together to increase tourism to our region. Wolfgang’s story below about East African countries increasing charges in order to ‘protect’ their businesses from neighbouring countries, is another example of our Zim-Zam problem . In fact, if we all learned to work together we would all increase our incomes. Of course, the other comment on this article is the cost of doing business in Zambia. It comes up almost every week. This month we have seen an increase in vehicle costs and in flight costs. Eventually, of course, Zambia will hike prices so much that it will be totally unable to compete … and be the demise of the tourist industry.

From Zambian Ornithological Society (ZOS)

As many of you have heard a Chinese Timber Logging Company – The Fly Dragon Wood and Lumber Company – had been given a logging concession to take out timber from the Mutulanganga Local Forest Reserve #183. The proposed logging of the forest reserve and open areas would have irrevocably destroyed the key habitats that make Mutulanganga IBA such a unique site of conservation concern. This forest has a large gallery of Mopane trees as well as a significant area of rare Lowland Deciduous Thicket. In addition, the forest also protects the headwaters of the Mutulanganga, Bendele, and Lusitu rivers that flow into the Zambezi River. The forest areas act as protection from the severe impacts of flash floods and gully erosion on infrastructure, agriculture land and surrounding villages. From ZOS’s point of view the Forest Reserve is significant as a regular breeding site for the migratory African Pitta. It is also significant for Long-tailed Cuckoo, Dark-backed Weaver, and Southern Ground Hornbill and notable for Southern Crowned Crane. The area is a wintering site for Palearctic Migrants such as the Thrush-Nightingale, River and Marsh Warblers, and Mottled and Bat-like Spinetails. From WECSZ’s point of view the Mutulanganga Forest helps to protect the Namoomba Elephant Corridor and Dispersal area, and provides sanctuary and foraging areas for the regional Elephant population and other large mammals such as Hippos. The forest is also a significant area of bio diversity which is important to keep intact for Zambia’s future generations. In April, due to lobbying from the Zambian Ornithological Society (ZOS) and the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Zambia (WECSZ) the Environmental Council of Zambia rejected the Environmental Project Brief (EPB) submitted by Fly Dragon Wood and Lumber Company to log the area and asked for a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be done. This was subsequently presented and in December 2010 it came up for review. Once again ZOS and WECSZ submitted full objections to the project. Our Project Manager – David Ngwenyama – worked hard to get other environmentally minded organisations and NGOs to also raise objections to the planned logging. We heard today that the EIA has been rejected by the Environmental Council and that the Fly Dragon Wood and Lumber Company has been stopped from logging in the Mutulanganga Forest and adjacent area. ZOS would like to especially thank David Ngwenyama, Mike Bingham, Meg Thompson and Adam Pope who have been instrumental in achieving this decision. It is gratifying to know that our voices can be heard. It is now very important that we all continue to work with the Site Support Group in the area to ensure the longevity of both the mopane and the deciduous thicket and assist with alternative income generating activities other than unsustainable cultivation and charcoal burning. Adds yours truly: this is a remarkable story of determined and committed conservationists and NGO’s to stop the destruction of a crucially important bird habitat!

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region, Second edition January 2011

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Twitter: @whthome

Blog: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com

Second edition January 2011

 

Uganda News

 

TWO MORE GORILLA BABIES BORN BEFORE YEAR END

 

The Uganda Wildlife Authority just released details about the birth of two more gorilla babies in December, both born in the Bwindi National Park. They ‘belong’ to the Kyaguriro group – all habituated groups are named – which is not commonly available for tracking by tourist visitors, as its range near the Ruhija park centre made the group ideal for exclusive research and monitoring by park staff, vets and zoologists.

UWA also reported in the same release that two ‘wild’ adult gorillas and an infant had recently joined up with the same group, boosting its number to the delight of the Ruhija staff.

 

CONGO PARROTS IMPOUNDED AT UGANDAN BORDER

 

The vigilance of customs officers and other security staff is responsible for the confiscation of over 150 African Grey parrots at the common border near Kasese in Western Uganda.

Like in other Eastern African countries with borders to hinterland countries Uganda too is often used as a conduit country to smuggle wildlife, birdlife and reptiles through before ‘exporting’ the illicit cargo to its final destination. African Grey’s are now endangered as a result of such activities and in particular irresponsible expatriates here in Uganda, often even diplomats, are showing off by displaying captured birds in cages, rather than enjoying them in the wild, as this correspondent still does in his lake side residence.

Tropical birds fetch high returns overseas, at least for those birds which survive the journeys as they are often packed into small size boxes without food and water, and prices of several hundred dollars per bird, for rare species going into the thousands, are reportedly charged by traders.

Customs has in the meantime released the birds to the custody of the Uganda Wildlife Authority and efforts are underway, after ascertaining the health status of the birds, to eventually release them into the wild again.

 

Kenya News

 

FLY 540 STARTS 2011 WITH DELIVERY OF ANOTHER CRJ 200

 

The regional low cost airline, now operating across Eastern Africa in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, has on Wednesday taken delivery in Nairobi of another CRJ 200 aircraft, which will at the earliest possible time be deployed on their growing network of destinations across Eastern Africa.

After the acquisition of East African Safari Air Express in December there was some speculation over the pace of future developments within the Fly 540 network, but critics and doubting ‘Thomases’ were given a reality check, when the aircraft, painted in their trademark orange colours, touched down in Nairobi yesterday to join their fleet.

It is understood from usually very reliable sources that a third CRJ 200 aircraft will soon join their fleet too, and having the ‘former’ EASAX DC9’s also flying for the airline group will give them yet more jet aircraft capacity to operate their services on time with back up aircraft available at last.

Kenya’s aviation sector, the most active and diverse in the region and way ahead of Uganda and Tanzania, is expected to see exciting new developments in 2011, as Kenya Airways continues to aggressively reclaim their domestic market share while other private airlines like Fly 540 and Jetlink, but also the ‘safari airlines’ operating out of Wilson Airport into the national parks, will undoubtedly give as good as they get in this intense competitive environment, where only the financially and operationally fittest are expected to make it.

 

KENYAN AVIATION SECTOR HIT BY VAT ON LANDING / PARKING FEES

 

Airlines in Kenya are slowly coming to terms with the unwelcome news, that the charges of the Kenya Airports Authority for landing and parking will now be subject to a 16 percent Value Added Tax, a measure contained in the current Finance Bill but apparently not spotted by aviation lobbyists and the airline association. Kenya Airways, Fly 540 / EASAX, Jetlink but also the ‘safari airlines’ like SafariLink, Air Kenya and others will now have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for navigation, landing and parking fees at airports they fly to across Kenya, opening the door to financial hardship, considering that raising fares in Kenya’s extremely competitive aviation landscape is not the easiest option.

Fuel prices too are on the up, caused by a combination of a weakened Kenya Shilling, now trading in the 81 range versus one US Dollar and continued high crude oil prices, which are beginning to find their way into the cost of Jet A1 and AVGAS.

None of the regular contacts was ready at this stage to go on record as to what went wrong and why the applicable sections of the Finance Bill were not objected to by the aviation industry while the draft was in the committee stages and changes were still possible, in itself telling the story that associations and individual airlines seemingly ‘slept’ through this process only to wake up to a 2011 financial hangover. It was also not immediately clear if foreign airlines flying into Nairobi and Mombasa would also be subject to paying the VAT on the landing and parking charges or would under international aviation conventions be exempt, leaving the local airlines to carry the burden alone.

 

KENYA’S HRA COMPLAINS OF INADEQUATE FUNDING

The Hotel and Restaurant Authority, launch in 2010 by the minister for tourism, has a herculean task ahead of them in the new year, as an updated classification exercise was to go underway in January.

Lack of adequate funding is now threatening the start and roll out of the hotel and restaurant inspections, following which the classifications granted before will be reviewed and where necessary revised, both upwards of course should better standards make it possible, but also downwards where standards have visibly slipped. Sections of the hospitality industry have already started to lobby government to allocate enough funds for the new classification, with some of them claiming that previous exercises may have been flawed in their outcome and influenced by well connected individuals, and that only a fresh classification could now address such concerns.

 

PORINI’S SELENKAY CONSERVANCY EXPANDED

The Selenkay Conservancy outside the Amboseli National Park, operated by Porini Camps and Gamewatcher Safaris, has just been substantially expanded under a renewed lease agreement, which will see the current contract between the Masai clans owning the land, and Porini extended until 2026.

The information was provided by Jake Grieves Cook, recently retired as chairman of the Kenya Tourist Board, and now concentrating once again entirely on his conservation tourism business. Said Jake: ‘the original 15 year contract was still running for another two years and the new agreement will supersede the existing contract and run initially a further 15 years.’ Jake also told eTN that as a result of their performance in the conservancy, and the resulting royalties for every guest booked into the Amboseli Porini Camp, the Masai families decided to give them more land for conservation of wildlife. Frequent droughts, which in particular in recent years have decimated the herds of cattle and goats, have reduced the wealth of the Masai clans, who still largely depend on herding, but the income from ground rent, the opportunities for employment – over 90 percent of the staff come from the local Masai community – and dedicated community support projects such as schools, clinics and water bore holes, have persuaded many of the Masai that there is a better future in tourism and conservation than in the traditional ways of herding.

A personal visit some time ago also provided the insight that the grazing grounds were suffering from degradation to a far greater extent than the land set aside for wildlife conservation, since overgrazing and soil erosion – caused by the daily trek of livestock to the watering holes – was not an issue as game has different and less taxing feeding habits compared to cattle and goats.

Having conservancies adjoining national parks and game reserves also creates much needed buffer zones against human encroachment and gives wildlife more room to roam the African plains while spreading tourism income more directly into the neighbouring communities, something ‘traditional’ wildlife based tourism is still struggling to emulate.

Only a few weeks ago did Jake also accomplish the addition of more land to his conservancies just outside the Masai Mara, closing the ‘gap’ between two existing conservation areas hitherto fragmented by livestock grazing blocks. This is a strong indication that a revived tourism sector in Kenya is now driving crucial conservation measures by communities, who are convinced that their future prosperity is better protected by moving from exclusive ranching to a mixed use of their ancestral lands and by embracing tourism. Visit www.porini.com for a fuller overview of their activities and community support programmes.

 

MORE POACHERS NABBED IN KENYA

Three poachers were arrested last week in the Laikipia area of central Kenya, while in possession of two rhino horns and over 80 tusks. Firearms and other sophisticated equipment used for poaching were also recovered, as this ‘under cover’ operation was successfully concluded. Amongst the items found were also night vision goggles, uniforms resembling those of official government agencies, high quality rifle scopes and communications equipment. One of those arrested was notably out on bail, while standing trial for a similar offence, and calls immediately emerged to deny poaching suspects bail and keep them locked up until their trials are concluded. Conservationists also demanded that the laws be immediately reviewed with the aim of keeping suspects in jail for a lot longer than the present maximum term of four years and that the fine option, if at all to be granted, be revised from the present 40.000 Kenya Shillings – little more than 500 US Dollars – to become open ended to punish the culprits also in their pockets.

The operation was instigated by the Kenya Wildlife Service intelligence unit in conjunction with other security agencies and it is understood from usually well informed sources that similar ‘sting’ operations are also underway. Anti poaching patrols too have been stepped up country wide in response to the increased number of reported poaching incidents but what is considered of equal importance is to capture the financiers, middlemen and traders to deal the black market in blood ivory a mortal blow.

 

Tanzania News

SAUTI ZA BUSARA JUST A MONTH AWAY

The now globally renowned music and performing arts festival in Zanzibar, Sauti za Busara, is now only a month away for their 8th edition. It will take place between 09th and 13th of February on the ‘spice island’ of Zanzibar and a superb range of performers from across Africa have confirmed they will attend and play or perform for their ‘faithful’ followers.

The festival has over the years become one of the biggest cultural festivals in the entire Africa but for sure the most important one in Eastern Africa, and growing visitor numbers and demand for ‘performance places’ underscores just how ‘big’ it has become over the years.

Visit www.busaramusic.org or write to busara@busara.or.tz for more details or to receive their emailed news updates on a regular basis.

 

AFTER WIKILEAKS EXPOSES ATCL ‘AIRBUS DEAL’ ALSO SAID TO BE OFF

The Air Tanzania management did clearly not want to wait for a call ‘from above’ and swiftly issued a statement on their aircraft purchase plans, after WikiLeaks blew a wide hole into their silence over ongoing allegations that not all was well in their negotiations with the two leading aircraft manufacturers.

‘The Airbus deal is off too’ was the message from corporate headquarters, trying to avoid even more intense scrutiny for the nearly bankrupt state owned airline, which has been gobbling up resources like a bottomless pit and yet is still hoping for another bailout from taxpayers money. Airbus was the company declared ‘chosen’ by management, and the allegations now are that as Boeing told them they would not accept ‘middlemen’ for their proposed deal that the ATCL managers then went to Airbus, trying the same thing. The public announcement therefore is seen and interpreted as ‘seeking absolution’ by pre-empting anything which might emerge on their discussions with Airbus at a later stage.

Now largely a ‘spent force’ as one aviator from Dar es Salaam put it to this correspondent when discussing the circumstances of the WikiLeaks documents, he went on to add: ‘I think parliament may after such revelations not give them more money, and if that is so they must liquidate the company. Since the crash of their B737 they simply have not gotten back on their feet and with only one aircraft left for them, what really can they do. At least Precision Air has stepped up their flights in Tanzania and I hear they will be starting to offer shares to the Tanzanian public very soon. If that is so, we no longer need a state controlled airline which cannot perform, and if they close, the staff worth absorbing can get new jobs easily with other airlines, even Precision or 540 Aviation. So I hope our politicians after this latest scandal over Air Tanzania also got enough now and close this chapter for good’.

 

SERENGETI HIGHWAY PLANS FUTURE UNCLEAR

The visit of the Tanzanian Vice President last week to the Serengeti – sold to the public as a private holiday – on closer scrutiny did provide added clues as to the government’s anxiety over the intense pressure from around the world to cancel the Northern highway route or else face cuts in aid budgets, project support and risk to be de-campaigned as an eco friendly tourism destination. It is understood that Dr. Bilal was briefed by park staff during his ‘private holiday’ on the controversy over the highway route across the migration paths and in particular he was alerted to the negative impact of a highway across the park vis a vis the survival of the great herds and tourism arrival numbers and revenues.

The founding father of Tanzania, the late ‘Mwalimu’ Julius Nyerere, had made firm policy commitments towards maintaining the Serengeti ecosystem but his political ‘grand children’ seem to have conveniently forgotten about his teachings while looking to maximise profits from mining, which the road would open up and make possible.

‘Officially’ the government in Dar es Salaam has not yet changed position, ever careful NOT to give the political opposition and opponents of the plans ammunition over ‘U-Turns’, but signs are slowly emerging, as predicted here before, that the powers that be have finally started to understand what is at risk should they push the highway construction through. A further EIA – environmental impact assessment – is also still underway and the minister for tourism, unlike his predecessor who never even made it through the nomination process as a result of her pro highway shenanigans, has already indicated that whatever results the EIA would present, should be accepted, EVEN IF it would stop the project altogether. Hence, watch this space as gradually a clearer picture emerges over the way forward and a final decision inches closer.

 

Rwanda News

CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY ALSO BENEFITS FROM TRAFFIC GROWTH

Information was received last week that the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority’s income had risen substantially during 2010, largely as a result of more flights from abroad landing in Kigali and the increased frequencies of RwandAir, the country’s national airline. Revenues grew by about 25 percent, according to a Kigali based source with passengers traversing Kigali for the first time exceeding 300.000 during the period under review. The same source also suggested that 2011 is likely to be going a better year even, as the effects of the late addition of more flights by such airlines as KLM would be felt over an entire financial year and not only for the few weeks at the end of 2010, when the new schedule took effect.

Codeshared operations between such overseas based carriers like Brussels Airlines with RwandAir are also expected to bring more passengers to the ‘land of a thousand hills’, for both business and tourism purposes.

 

RWANDA COMPLETES FIBRE OPTIC CABLE ROLLOUT

Information was received last week that Rwanda has now concluded the laying of fibre optic cables across the entire country, bringing information and communications technologies closer to the population. The main links from the ‘landing points’ at the Kenyan coast are connected at the Rwanda / Uganda border and have now reached all corners of Rwanda. Visitors in particular appear satisfied with the greater speeds of their internet connections while call rates too have come down in recent months to the delight of Rwanda’s business sector.

Kigali, the country’s capital, in particular has been ‘wired up’ and wireless connection points spread across the central business district and residential areas, supporting government’s desire to turn Rwanda into an ICT hub in coming years, which will also help to promote the ‘land of a thousand hills’ as a tourism destination.

 

POACHERS NABBED, REPATRIATED TO CONGO

During the Christmas season did two Congolese poachers try their luck to come across the common border to Rwanda, laying snares and traps in the Volcanoes National Park, hoping to ‘get lucky’. Thankfully the Rwandan park rangers were alert, holidays or not, and nabbed the pair red handed.

Following the discovery of snares, with a young gorilla needing rescue and treatment by wildlife veterinarians, a major patrolling exercise was launched, during which several hundred snares were found on both sides of the border, reportedly most of them in the Congolese national park.

This will undoubtedly cause concern amongst the conservation fraternity but also amongst park staff, who in particular in Rwanda pride themselves for their vigilance and surveillance, which kept poaching at very low levels. The two poachers, who already in Rwanda admitted to their crimes, will likely be prosecuted in Congo although they have according to sources from Kigali pledged to turn themselves into ‘anti poaching agents’ supporting the wildlife rangers in the future to prevent the spread of the evil activity.

Gorilla tourism is the most recognised activity for foreign visitors coming to Rwanda but Congo – likely because of its reputation stemming from long civil wars and unrest in the East of the country, is not getting many visitors compared to Uganda or Rwanda out of security concerns for the safety of foreigners in the area. Meanwhile, well done to the park staff for their positive results!

 

Madagascar News

ROGUE REGIME DETAINS JETLINK AIRCRAFT AND CREW

A Jetlink CRJ aircraft was ‘detained’ on arrival in Madagascar last Friday, when landing at Nosy Be to reportedly fly an Italian airline crew back to Kenya. Sources in Nairobi claim that the flight had received all the required clearances before taking off from Kenya for Madagascar, a normal procedure in fact for airlines all over the world, and the company was taken aback when learning about the detention of their crew and aircraft over their alleged failure to secure landing clearance in advance.

A senior pilot in regular contact with this correspondent also explained, that crews on such charter flights do not take off, especially to such destinations like Madagascar – the country is ruled by a rogue regime in power by force of arms and being shunned by the African Union after breaking several reconciliation agreements – if they do not have all their paperwork together. He then added: ‘when you approach a country’s airspace, like in this case, the Jetlink aircraft would have been over the Indian Ocean radioing ahead, they [cockpit crew] would give their particulars to air traffic control, and that includes a clearance document reference. So if the Madagascar authorities claim they were not aware, that is frankly rubbish, because when communicating, if there was indeed no clearance document, they would have told the aircraft to turn back and get clearance first. But then again, Jetlink would not have taken off without having all required documentation and permits in place. I personally think, in that country, the way it is run, maybe the left no longer knows what the right does and communications within could have broken down or been faulty between Antananarivo and Nose Be’.

Diplomatic efforts were made from the Foreign Ministry in Kenya to ascertain the fate of the plane and crew and it is understood that they were eventually released and able to fly their charter passengers from Nosy Be back to Kenya, as should have been the case in the first place.

The incident has of course made its way into travel advisories and across the aviation fraternity nevertheless, warning of unpredictable behaviour by the Madagascar authorities, a development which will only add more woes for the country’s tourism industry, which frankly deserves better than it gets from its regime, considering the many natural and unique attractions the world’s largest island holds for potential visitors. The ICAO’s report on the status of the country’s airports, equipment and management last year already put Madagascar into the bad books of airlines and this latest incident will not help to improve their reputation abroad.

 

Seychelles News

175.000 ARRIVALS MISSED BY A WHISKER

The Seychelles have recorded their best ever tourism arrival and revenue year in 2010, when they managed to add over 17.000 extra arrivals to their previous record in 2009. Leading nationalities of visitors were once again Italy and France, followed by Germany and the UK, although it was learned that German tourists stayed the longest in the islands averaging over 13 days. The total number of visitor arrivals was pegged at 174.529, a remarkable result considering the downturn only two years ago when the fallout of the global economic and financial crisis hit the tourism industry on the archipelago hard.

These results are also a clear indicator that the involvement of the private sector in tourism marketing, which started in early 2009, has paid off very handsomely for the archipelago’s tourism sector, and the added restructuring of the Seychelles Tourist Board, undertaken in 2010 has laid the foundation for future successes and yet greater numbers of visitors in coming years. Notably, STB had forecast a figure of 170.000 arrivals for 2010 and will be more than happy to see this projection exceeded by 4.529. Well done to Alain St. Ange, CEO of the Seychelles Tourist Board, and all the staff at home and abroad.

 

INDIA BASES ANTI PIRACY AIRCRAFT ON MAHE

Last week saw the arrival of an Indian military operated Dornier surveillance aircraft, which will now be based at the international airport of Mahe. The Indian government had committed to provide a brand new such aircraft, and two helicopters, said to be worth over 20 million US Dollars, to the Seychelles government as a measure of their support towards anti piracy operations.  However, as production and equipping the aircraft will take some more time India decided to base one of their own at the archipelago to bridge the gap, before delivering the new equipment later in 2011.

The Seychelles government has taken a tough stand on Somali perpetrated piracy, engaged the ocean terrorists on several occasions decisively, recovered hijacked ships and brought Seychelles citizens and other seafarers home safely, leaving no doubt that the country will continue to employ robust measures to combat the menace. The aircraft, like the recently handed over 5 high seas patrol boats given to the Seychellois armed forces by the United Arab Emirates, will boost the archipelago’s capacity to carry out surveillance and defend and protect the extensive territorial waters around the islands, extending some 200 nautical miles into the Indian Ocean.

The new plane, according to reliable information received from Victoria, is capable of flying for over 7 hours nonstop on ocean patrols and has a radius of 700 nautical miles within which it can carry out surveillance, supported by the latest electronic monitoring equipment on board. The aircraft will also be armed, allowing it to give aerial support to surface patrol boats of the Seychelles coast guard, should this be required. A group of Seychellois military staff will be trained to conduct these operations once ‘their own’ plane will be delivered from the manufacturers in India.

In a tourism related development it is also noted that leading cruise lines are now gradually bringing their vessels back to the Seychelles for port calls, having the confidence that their approach and departure lanes are tightly controlled and help is always nearby, from members of the naval coalition as well as from the Seychelles coast guard, navy and military aviation wing. Well done Seychelles and what an example they set for other affected countries in the wider region.

 

Southern Sudan News

A NEW COUNTRY IS BORN

First indications from Juba and other towns in Southern Sudan speak of overwhelming support to the ‘YES’ vote by the population during the week long independence referendum. All signals are now showing ‘green light’ and when the results are formally announced, expected very soon, the countdown will begin towards full independence, expected within in six months from the starting day of the referendum.

Crowds in Juba, the Southern Sudanese capital city, and other towns and municipalities, were ‘jubalent’, already celebrating their independence from the oppressive regime in Khartoum, which treated the Southern Sudanese Africans like second and third rated citizens in their own country, which had literally enslaved them for generations, exploited the South’s mineral wealth while giving back mostly in the currency of civil war, i.e. aerial bombings, indiscriminate warfare and a near total lack of infrastructure and the destruction of the little there ever was, at least until the CPA was signed in early 2005 in Kenya.

However, the northern regime in Khartoum did little if anything to entice the South during the last 5 years to stay in the union and habitually dismissed complaints over cheating on the sharing of oil revenue, the creation – or rather lack creation of new infrastructure in the South, their ongoing support for criminal gangs and militias trying to cause havoc amongst the Southern population while also constantly making threats against the Southern leadership overtly and covertly about ‘consequences’, should the region indeed make good of their right to chose independence.

This however will all soon be a thing of the past, when the country in a few months time can raise their own flag for the first time, sing their own national anthem and become the youngest country, not just in Africa but across the world. Congratulations to our brothers and sisters across our (Ugandan) Northern borders for having behaved during the referendum in a mature and determined way and by doing so honoured all those members of the public and the SPLA who laid down their lives in pursuit of freedom over the past decades.

 

 

And more news from ‘further down South’, i.e. from Gill Staden’s The Livingstone Weekly will appear once again next week.

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region, First edition January 2011

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Twitter: @whthome

Blog: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com

First edition January 2011

 

Uganda News

ENTEBBE ROAD UPGRADE CONSTRUCTION START PROMISED FOR MID 2011

  

It was learned during the last week that the Uganda National Road Authority has completed the design work for the new dual carriage highway between the capital Kampala and the Entebbe International Airport and expects construction to commence by mid 2011. It appears that the Chinese government is in the process of approving a major loan – one source put the amount in excess of 300 million US Dollars – towards the construction project, which should see transit time between the airport and the city substantially reduced when the new highway is ready.

Of added significance is one element of the new highway project, which is supposed to connect Kampala’s major leisure and conference facility on Lake Victoria, the Speke Resort and the Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort with ‘Entebbe road’. This was already proposed ahead of the 2007 Commonwealth Summit, branching off from the main Entebbe road near Kajjansi, but available resources and time did ultimately not permit this connection to be constructed, which – if found correct – will also open up the lake shore views to road users. Another intersection is expected to link the home of Nkumba University, Abaita Ababire – located only a few kilometres from Entebbe – to the new highway. The exact routing however is still kept under lock and key to avoid unscrupulous elements profiteer from last minute land purchases for which government then has to compensate owners for at high cost.

UNRA has also remained shtumm over a solution for the main bottleneck into the city, the ‘Katwe’ area, where traffic for most of the day piles up kilometres at end in order to enter the central business district at one of the city’s main landmarks, the ‘Clock Tower’. Unless that section is turned fully into a one way – presently it is a partially mixed section with oncoming traffic – there is not much hope that entering the city, once reading the ‘bottle neck’, will be any easier. Watch this space.

 

STUDENT PROTEST AT NATIONAL HOTEL SCHOOL EXPOSES GOVERNMENT FAILURES

  

The students at the Hotel and Tourism Training Institute in Jinja, based at the Crested Crane Hotel, have delivered a petition, via the District Resident Representative, to President Museveni, complaining about the lack of graduations since the institute was in an overnight action by cabinet at the end of 2007 transferred from the Ministry of Education and Sports to the Minister of Tourism. Sources at the school claim that a formal graduation would be difficult in the absence of an enabling law governing the institute, something cabinet – probably as a result of their hasty action in 2007 – had not only overlooked but ignored relevant advice offered at the time.

While under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, the institution and its organs were governed by the ‘Universities and other tertiary institutions act’, which, when it came into effect, repealed the earlier ‘Hotel and Tourism Institute Statute’. Hence, the Ministry of Tourism found itself with an institution overnight at the end of November 2007 but without a law, and subsequently no board could be appointed either, leaving the institution in legal limbo.

While under the education ministry, graduations were held on a regular basis but came to a halt when the institution found itself in a legal vacuum, covering courses et al.

Inspite of these difficulties has the management of HTTI, even in the absence of a formal board, made substantial efforts to increase students intake, make changes to courses and improve facilities for students, but a return to ‘normality’ can really only be achieved when a new enabling law has been passed by parliament. This however, considering that there is now an election coming up and parliament is presently adjourned ‘sine die’ for the holiday period, will only come about some time into the term of the next parliament and might take a year or more to achieve, to the detriment of the institution and the disadvantage of students paying the price for this unforgivable oversight by cabinet at the time.

Meanwhile it is understood that sections of the hospitality private sector have repeatedly tried to use the ‘vacuum situation’ to ‘get their hands on the institute’, remarkable for an industry which, apart from a few really professionally run hotels with their own internal training departments like the Serena or the Sheraton to name but two, has a notorious track record about in house training and is known to consider it as a financial burden rather than creating human resource assets. Watch this space.

 

UGANDA WILDLIFE AUTHORITY COMMISSION WATER TANKS FOR MGAHINGA NEIGHBOURS

  

Last week saw several newly constructed water tanks on the slopes of Mt. Muhavura / Mgahinga Forest National Park being officially handed over to the communities neighbouring the gorilla national park near Kisoro, according to information received from the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Reliable sources within UWA confirmed that the authority has spent over 80 million Uganda Shillings to construct the water catchment and piping system, which is feeding fresh water into the tanks. Nearby villages can now draw much needed fresh and clean water for domestic use and their agricultural and animal husbandry activities. The project was according to another source supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, in short IGCP, which donated funds towards the construction as part of their policy to support communities living at the boundary of such parks like Mgahinga, Bwindi or Volcanoes in Rwanda with infrastructural assistance to give benefits to local residents from gorilla tourism income. What a gift at the end of last year – asante sana to both UWA and IGCP.

 

SECURITY REMAINS TIGHT WITH STAFF AT BORDERS ON HIGH ALERT

  

At least three Somalis, considered ‘suspicious’ according to an existing terror warning list, were arrested on New Year’s Eve as they tried to enter into Uganda from Kenya. It is understood that they were also in possession of most likely forged travel documents triggering instant alarm amongst immigration and security staff at the border. Overland busses, since the recent explosion of a parcel in Nairobi on a Uganda bound bus, are now searched intensely, as are saloon cars and trucks, in terms of passengers’ identities and all things carried, to ensure that the country remains safe. Security organs throughout the holidays remained on high alert, at airports and land borders, and even lakes bordering neighbouring countries are now subject to higher levels of surveillance and patrols. Hence, Ugandans enjoyed a peaceful New Year, aided by the direct security measures put into place in restaurants and hotels across the country – Happy New Year 2011 from ‘the Pearl of Africa’ to you all.

 

Kenya News

  

BLOOD IVORY SMUGGLER GETS OFF LIGHTLY

  

Legal shenanigans by a lawyer were blamed by conservationists for a ‘fine only’ ruling by a Nairobi magistrate’s court, after a Thai woman, nabbed at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport over the Christmas holidays was sentenced to a fine last week. She pleaded guilty to possession of nearly 20 kilograms of ivory, but in mitigation her lawyer claimed she had purchased it ‘legally’ in the streets of Maputo / Mozambique to take home to Thailand with her, before the contraband – at least by Kenyan law – was found during a routine check of luggage being transferred to her flight to Bangkok in Nairobi.

Conservationists were outraged over the ruling, claiming that international law and the CITES agreement to which Kenya is a signatory, made the transportation of ivory illegal, as – according to their claims – was the planned importation of the ivory to Thailand. Said one conservationist from Kenya in response to the ruling: ‘it is hard to understand how a magistrate cannot send this woman to prison for her offence. She admitted it and was found at the airport with hard evidence. I appreciate that everyone has the right to counsel and to be represented in court as good as possible, but such legal manoeuvres by shysters are not helping to stop poaching and support conservation. That lawyer might have gotten his client off lightly, but then it is always said that the law is an ass’.

It is understood that the 40.000 Kenya Shillings or about 500 US Dollars fine was paid, the woman released and departed from Kenya, although it appears that the ivory remained confiscated under Kenyan law.

 

AGREEMENT OR NOT, KENYA AIRWAYS AND UNION DIFFER

  

Confusion was spreading last week when the radical Aviation and Allied Workers Union denounced a press release from Kenya Airways in regard of the ongoing discussions and negotiations, as directed by a court order sometime last year. The union denied that any agreement was reached at all, clearly itching to inflict another strike on Kenya Airways and prompting calls from amongst Kenyan employers to take a leaf from the UK’s legislative plans to trim and cut the powers of unions in order to prevent callous strike action.

Court had banned the union, at the ultimate cost of being held in contempt, to go on strike in 2010 and directed that negotiations must continue, but that spirit seems to be undermined by union comments, that they could still go on strike should negotiations fail – having probably exactly that in mind to create a scenario which would allow them to walk away from the talks as they planned in the first place. Watch this space how the two sides progress towards a new pay deal.

 

KENYA FOLLOWS TANZANIA’S EXAMPLE AND ADDS NON-TARIFF BARRIERS

  

Safari companies from other East African countries will now be compelled, according to the latest information from Nairobi, to obtain tourist licenses from the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism, if they want to continue taking ‘their’ clients across the border for instance from Uganda and into the Kenyan national parks. Ugandan and Rwandan companies, where such rules are not enforced, are perplexed about the Kenyan move, which was seen as a retaliation against similar measures taken by Tanzania last year, ostensibly to keep Kenyan companies out of the Tanzanian national parks.

However, a source in Kampala also pointed out that the Kenyan move hurt Ugandan safari firms too now, and questioned the entire principle of the East African Community’s efforts to integrate the economies, while some national governments continue to erect additional barriers, out of a bad spirit to retaliate or else to keep unwelcome competition out of their ‘sphere of influence’.

Air operators in Uganda too have often voiced the same complaints, as they too are treated as ‘foreign’ when attempting to fly into Kenya and in particular Tanzania. Said one regular aviation source from Kajjansi: ‘this is no surprise, or should not come as a surprise to the safari operators if they had ever bothered to follow the issues we have with flying into the region. We in aviation have been suffering a lot from such prohibitive measures. For East Africa to become an integrated economy, we have to start treating non-EAC countries as foreign and designate ourselves, internally I mean, as regional, with full recognition of licenses and permits, which in our case [aviation] are now anyway issued under CASSOA regulations. Those apply to each member state’s aviation industry in the exact same format, and therefore there should be no reason at all to demand fresh licenses or permits when flying across a border within the EAC.

Two Uganda based tour operators, also regular contributors of opinions and information, were somewhat taken aback by the news and requested time to study the implications of the Kenyan requirements before commenting, but voiced off the record similar sentiments as expressed from the aviation sector. Said one on a related question: ‘we continue to let Kenyan registered safari cars into our parks but if they now demand licenses from us, we need to ascertain that first of course, which we need to get in Nairobi after having our own licenses issued already here in Kampala, then we may have to demand that our government too closes that door. Foreign to me means such companies like truck tours across Africa registered in the UK, or in South Africa, and of course one should demand from them that they get a license before they are allowed to operate here, but our brothers from Kenya and Tanzania, they are fellow East Africans, not foreigners, and that should reflect in the way we do business in the region’. Watch this space.

 

SERENA HOTEL’ OWNERS SEEKING FRESH CAPITAL FOR EXPANSION

  

Eastern Africa’s main hotel, resort and safari lodge company has started 2011 on a positive note, according to information from Nairobi. The leading hotel group has indicated, that following a strong recovery of demand for their properties in 2010 they are likely to continue with expansion and refurbishments of existing properties in coming years. The group now has a presence in all five East African Community member states and are market leaders in terms properties in Kenya and Tanzania, leaving room for similar ‘footprints’ in Uganda – where the group maintains an interest to expand into the national parks – in Rwanda and most notably also in Mozambique.

TPS, the holding company of Serena, is therefore likely to return to the capital markets during the year in order to tap into available financing, although it has not been ruled out that extra rights issues might be floated too in order to support a faster take-up of new opportunities, the last one having taken place in 2010 when some 1.2 billion Kenya Shillings were raised.

The company owns most of its properties but has of late also more aggressively branched out into management of properties owned by third parties, like the Lake Victoria Serena Hotel between Kampala and Entebbe. Watch this space.

 

Tanzania News

  

NATIONAL PARK PATROLS BOOSTED BY AIRBORNE SURVEILLANCE

  

Information received from Arusha indicates that the recent slaughter of an Eastern Black rhino, relocated only months before from South Africa at substantial expense, may have triggered a knee jerk reaction by government, already under criticism from conservationists over a range of other hugely controversial issues. The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, during a site visit and meetings in the Serengeti last week, announced that helicopter and fixed wing aircraft sourced from other government departments have already been deployed to improve daylight surveillance of the park and seek out potential poachers who could then be pursued on the ground by rangers and other security personnel. In this connection it could be confirmed that added manpower was also deployed to have more rangers patrol the sprawling Serengeti on the ground.

The Minister also acknowledged that the killing of the rhino was having a negative effect on the country’s policy on conservation and a wakeup call – if any was indeed needed following long standing complaints by the conservation fraternity over a lack of funding and serious commitment to anti poaching operations – prompting a range of reactions to improve the situation.

The minister was reportedly not willing to give more operational details of measures now underway to ensure that poachers would not learn too soon what was to come their way, but the ministerial visit and public comments were nevertheless welcomed by sources within TANAPA and SENAPA who expressed their hope that things would now improve. There is speculation that webcams may be deployed on crucial spots to permit ‘real time’ surveillance being carried out, especially as mobile phone coverage extends to much of the national park now. The same TANAPA sources also confirmed that several suspects have already been arrested over the killing of the rare rhino and been charged in court while the search for others, and their ‘financiers’ was still ongoing.

 

WIKILEAKS DOCUMENT SUGGESTS ATTEMPTED CORRUPTION IN AIRCRAFT DEAL

  

Air Tanzania has come under added scrutiny, when WikiLeaks documents emerged, allegedly drawing on communications between the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam and the State Department. The cables contain direct reference to negotiations between Air Tanzania and Boeing, during which it was reportedly suggested to Boeing officials to use an ‘agent’ if they were to advance a possible deal. As similar ‘cases’ were at the time also making waves over other ‘deals’ in different sectors of the Tanzanian economy, the ‘hint’ was not taken too kindly by embassy officials, when they had been briefed by Boeing personnel and reported up the line, eventually finding their way to WikiLeaks and into the public domain.

Air Tanzania was at the time looking at both a strategic investor to bail the broke airline out, but also to upgrade and renew their fleet in order to provide at least some level of competition to other privately owned airlines operating in the country. The airline eventually settled for an A320, amongst other smaller commuter aircraft, and questions are now also asked if that addition to the ATCL fleet came about through corrupt practises or was ‘genuine’.

The news will do no good to ATCL’s present situation, which remains moribund and attempts to inject government funding into the airline will undoubtedly meet with strong opposition, leaving the question open if 2011 will be finally be the year ATCL will financially ‘crash’ and go into liquidation. Watch this space.

 

Seychelles News

  

AIR SEYCHELLES TWIN OTTER’S FERRY FLIGHT ‘ON COURSE’

  

The latest information of the two week ferry flight operation all the way from the West of Canada to the Seychellois island of Mahe is that ‘all systems work beautifully’ and the aircraft is presently in European airspace, en route via Greece to the African continent, from where the ‘final hop’ will take place between Mombasa and Mahe. Regular updates on the flight are available via my Twitter account @whthome and in the next edition we hope to report the safe arrival of the first commercially delivered ‘new type’ Twin Otter DHC6-400, which will soon be deployed on the archipelago’s domestic network, where it will join three other Twin Otters and a ‘Short’ for regular scheduled and chartered flights to Praslin and other outlying islands’ airstrips.

Meanwhile, also from the Seychelles, it was learned that Hilton has signed a management agreement with the owners of Silhouette Island Resort, which will now be managed by the global hospitality giants and bring added brand recognition and market value to the resort.

 

Southern Sudan News

  

EGYPT AIR’S JUBA FLIGHT UNDER ‘FIRE’

  

Travellers returning last weekend to Juba, and having travelled via Cairo to use the Egypt Air flight, which now operates twice a week but first stops over in Khartoum, complained bitterly about the alleged shenanigans of staff at the Cairo airport, when they got ‘stuck’ there due to a takeoff delay.

Juba is presently restricted to day light operations in the absence of sufficient approach, runway and taxiway lighting, and when the flight departure from Cairo got delayed, passengers destined for Juba were told that the crew could not fly the plane from Khartoum to Juba, as it would arrive there and find the airport closed. This naturally resulted in arguments, as only two flights a week operate on to Juba, while Khartoum is served daily, and passengers were left reportedly distressed by these news, with others getting into hot arguments with airport staff, as they had planned to be home for Christmas. It was in one of those conversations that some airport staff then allegedly called the Southern Sudanese ‘slaves’ in an Arabic phrase often used by regime sycophants in Khartoum prior to the peace agreement, and many still do so in private conversations, though no longer very openly in public these days. It stems from this fact that added information was credible that those passengers travelling to Khartoum also engaged in tirades against the Southern Sudanese, and it is difficult to establish who ultimately threw the most invectives and insults, the airport staff or the Northern Sudanese, who are known to be increasingly angry over the expected forthcoming separation after the independence referendum on the 09th of January.

It is understood that Egypt Air did eventually book the affected passengers into hotels and gave them some cash compensation for the inconvenience they had been subjected to, but the incident has not done Egypt Air any good in the South Sudan, where the airline is now being actively de-campaigned and where prospective passengers are ‘helped’ by travel agents to make other flight arrangements and rather fly via Entebbe, Nairobi or Addis Ababa and change planes there to their final destination, if only to avoid travelling via a hostile Khartoum and similarly hostile other Arab countries – which exactly reflects the sentiments and perception amongst the Southern Sudanese population.

In a related development it is also understood that passengers on this particular flight to Juba are well advised to remember, that Khartoum does not recognise Visa issued by Southern Sudanese missions abroad for visits to the North of the country, i.e. when entering the country through Khartoum, and that they demand separate Visa for the ‘Republic of the Sudan’ in such cases. Independence surely cannot come soon enough now for the Southern Sudanese people. Watch this space.

 

ALL SYSTEMS GO FOR REFERENDUM

  

Information from several sources in Southern Sudan’s capital of Juba all speak of increased levels of security and an orderly preparation by government to supply voting materials for the January 09th referendum, in which the Southern population is expected to vote for full independence from the Khartoum regime.

Voices from Khartoum too have toned down their rhetoric in recent days, likely influenced by key members of the Arab League already distancing themselves from the regime and indicating that they will not only accept an independence vote but also blaming Khartoum for their failure to keep the country united.

Both Egypt and Libya are known to have quite openly concluded that the Bashir regime failed to use the last 5 years, since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the SPLM, to assist the South in developing infrastructure and making an honest effort to re-distribute national wealth.

Sources in the South went however way beyond that sentiment and accused Khartoum to have done little more than cheap the South on the oil revenues, support anti SPLM militias, blocking legislation, hindering the resolution of agreeing on a common border and doing nothing when ‘hot heads’ in the regime abused the Southern population and leadership. They also termed the most recent ‘peace’ initiative by Khartoum as no longer of value, in particular since most of the Eastern and some of the Southern African states have already made it plain that they will not tolerate the resumption of hostilities initiated by Khartoum, which in clear text means a likely intervention on the side of the South as allies in arms.

Initial results of the referendum will be announced on Twitter via @whthome, so do sign up to get the most up to date news from Juba as and when available in coming days.  

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 49 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 4 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb.

The busiest day of the year was July 28th with 148 views. The most popular post that day was Breaking News – Breaking News.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, safaritalk.net, twitter.com, chobelodgeuganda.com, and mail.yahoo.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for wolfgangthome.wordpress, kwalate safaris, alphonse umulisa new times, wolfgang h. thome, and south africa accommodation holidays blog comments.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Breaking News – Breaking News July 2010
1 comment

2

Breaking News from Uganda’s oil sector August 2010
3 comments

3

A visit to the ‘Gem on the Nile’ – the new Chobe Safari Lodge in the upper part of Murchisons Falls National Park September 2010
5 comments

4

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Fourth edition September 2010 September 2010

5

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Third edition July 2010 July 2010

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