Archive for December, 2011

Uganda aviation news – Qatar Airways due to commence onward flights to Kigali by March 2012


A usually well informed source within Ugandas aviation regulatory system has confirmed that Qatar Airways, since early November coming daily to Entebbe, will as indicated here earlier indeed commence onward flights between Entebbe and Kigali, come 21st March 2012.
The flights will on arrival in Entebbe disembark passengers destined for Uganda before continuing to Kigali, from where then the return journey to Doha, via Entebbe will begin. It is understood that Qatar Airways will have full 5th freedom traffic rights between the two destinations, according to the same source, giving the airline a clear competitive advantage over other Gulf aviation rivals, none of which is yet flying to Kigali. The aircraft used will continue to be an Airbus A320 in a two class configuration of 12 in business class and 132 in economy class. The new add on destination will benefit tourism and trade in Rwanda as The Land of a Thousand Hills will be linked to Qatar Airways global network, through which passengers can reach the capital Kigali with but two stops enroute, in Doha and in Entebbe.
Qatar Airways will in early 2012 also commence flights from Doha to Mombasa and Zanzibar, and the addition of Kigali will round up a comprehensive presence with daily flights, and in the case of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam double daily flights between Qatar and East Africa. Happy landings in 2012 and beyond.

Uganda aviation news – SN starts promoting their own ‘Big Apple’ flights


The Kampala office of Brussels Airlines must have thought what better to end one year than giving a sneak preview into the next, when they launched their 2012 promotional campaign for New York, New York. The airline will fly under their own flag from Brussels to New York come June 2012 and has put on the market launch fares at US Dollars 1.392 all inclusive from Entebbe via Brussels to the Big Apple.
Until June all present code share arrangements will remain in place, which have in the past seen passengers from SNs East Africa destination networks fly on to the United States under one ticket but on flights operated by Star Alliance partner Continental.
It was in fact learned that these code share arrangements will continue even when Brussels Airlines launches their own daily flights so as to give passengers wider choices of connections and destinations within the United States.
Which in closing reminds this correspondent of those Savoir Vivre days of SNs predecessor SABENA, first flown on in their classic B707, when national airlines ruled the world of aviation and operated route networks based often on political rather than purely economic premises; though until today, the national airline of the Kingdom of Belgium has always had a great affinity to Africa and maintained and strengthened ties in East and West Africa, back in those good old days and even more so today, when the bottom line decides where an airline flies to and how often.
A Happy New Year 2012 and Happy Landings, to my friends at Brussels Airlines and in fact to my friends at all the airlines, especially those coming to Uganda The Pearl of Africa: Air Uganda, our own quasi national airline, Kenya Airways, RwandAir, Precision Air, Fly 540, South African Airways, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways, KLM, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways and our latest addition Gulf Air.

Seychelles – truly ‘Another World’


At the end of every year I get swamped with stories, news and bits and bobs from around the entire region, with some notable absentees as usual being my own countrys tourist board, which seemingly still has to learn how to make better use of the new media like eTurboNews, especially considering that exposure there is for FREE while lamenting there is never any money to do something serious.
Our neighbours in Rwanda are really sharp, all credit to the RDB Tourism and Conservation staff, when it comes to seeking exposure, getting the news out and telling the world about their achievements, innovations and successes, and the Kenya Tourist Board and KWS are not far behind that, something I note with satisfaction as there clearly are some out there in Eastern Africa who have mastered the art of doing PR, PR and then some more PR.
Top of the pops however, for the third year running in my estimate, comes the Seychelles, small in size compared to most countries BUT pulling all the right strings and doing all the right things to remain in the global media spotlight. Having made many friends on the archipelago over the years, I get a constant stream of news, details, press releases and updates, not just from the tourist board and their phantastic staff but from hotels, resorts, individuals, airline staff, restaurants and yes, even officials in government, at times on and at times off the record.
Alain St. Ange, pictured above, seems to have mastered the art of cloning himself as he appears almost everywhere tourism and aviation are being discussed, promoted and showcased. Of course, he is not alone in this task of promoting his country abroad. Ably assisted by Elsia Grandcourt, his Deputy CEO at the Seychelles Tourism Board, and a number of dedicated and keenly motivated staff at their offices in Bel Ombre, but also abroad where Tourism Ambassadors support the archipelagos efforts to gain strongholds in market places.
In his probably last major broadcast last night Alain sent me the 2011 Review, and it is worth publishing to show my friends in the wider Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean Islands region, how best to go about promoting, using even adversity to remain in the spotlight.
For 2011 my personal winner is The Seychelles Truly Another World with Rwanda and Kenya taking the runners up places, perhaps an incentive to do better next year for those countries and islands I regularly report about who have not made it to the top of the pops this year. And now, in recognition of STBs supremacy, here is the reproduction of the last of their mailings:

Seychelles Tourism takes great strides and blows in 2011
Courtesy Seychelles daily Nation Newspaper 30 December 2011

At the stroke of midnight tomorrow, Seychelles will clock another visitors arrival record to cap a year which has seen its fair share of highs and lows for tourism.
The official visitor arrival numbers issued every Wednesday without fail by the National Bureau of Statistics have kept the country duly informed on the performance of its tourism industry. This is the barometer used by the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) as one of its key indicators provided by an independent authority.
As much as the Royal honeymoon of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on North Island in May will stay one of the highlights of the year, the announcement of the restructuring of the national airline Air Seychelles in November will leave a bitter taste to 2011.
Events like the Carnaval International de Victoria in March, the Seychelles Ball in September and SUBIOS, The Seychelles Festival of the Sea in November brought positive vibes in the industry, but on the other hand, the freak shark attacks in August at one of the most popular beaches in Seychelles sent shockwaves across the country.

Tourism experts are concerned that the decision to drastically cut back on the services of Air Seychelles would impact negatively on the industry for many months, especially in France and Italy which is the islands main key markets. The loss of direct nonstop flights from Paris, Rome and Milan is set to greatly impact on visitor arrival numbers.

The government announced the measures in November as part of the airlines restructuring and repositioning process to turn Air Seychelles into a regional airline, as it said the country could no longer sustain the operational compounding losses of the state-owned airline.

Singapore was the first service to be cut immediately after the announcement while the pull-out from all long-haul services to Europe takes effect after the New Year. Now, as part of its planned regional operations next year, Air Seychelles will initially be operating only to Mauritius and Johannesburg using a B767-300 aircraft.

Amid concerns that these new measures will impact negatively on visitor arrivals to the islands, especially out of Europe which accounts for 75% of total visitors to Seychelles, the government has entered into talks with a number of international airline companies to see how they can fill the void left by Air Seychelles and ensure continuous services to the islands.

Visitors flying Air Seychelles out of Europe have had the advantage of direct non-stop flights to the islands but there is now concern that if this option is not available anymore, the country might lose business to its competitors which has far better direct nonstop connections.

But the good news so far is that Air Austral has announced it will be offering a non-stop Paris-Seychelles service, with an onward to Reunion from end of March 2012. It will use that same route for its return leg. Blue Panorama airline has also announced its intentions to operate direct flights from Milan and Rome to Seychelles, thus covering the Italian market.

Everyone will remember that only a few months before the Air Seychelles announcement, another event that sent shockwaves through every home in Seychelles was the shark attacks on Praslin. Our ocean is known as being amongst the safest in the world where no predators lure and tourists can swim to their hearts content.

But the deaths of Frenchman Nichol François Xavier Virolle and Englishman Ian Redmond from shark bites triggered understandable concerns among Seychelles overseas trade partners. Tourism operators on Praslin rallied like never before to reassure clients and partners while fishermen took to the sea in a brave attempt to chase the killer shark out of our waters. At the same time, Seychelles launched an aggressive PR campaign to save its safety label and reassure its tourist markets. Precautionary measures were also taken in the high-risk areas and one of those was the installation of exclusion nets.

The tragic events are known to have provoked a few cancellations but overall, Seychelles reputation as one of the safest destinations remains intact. Ironically, the Anse Lazio beach went on to be rated as one of the top 13 beaches in the world by bing travel last week, confirming it remains well-liked by travellers and critics.

For another year, the piracy issue came back as a thorn for the industry in 2011, as the repercussions of continuous attacks at sea (though fewer in our waters), posed a setback for the yachting and boating business as movements and cruises are restricted to the safer zones.

… and the highs

On the brighter side, tourism has remained one of the most vibrant and performing industries of the Seychelles economy for another year. Around 10% more visitors than last year would have travelled to the islands by the time the clock chimes midnight tomorrow and this would be a new record.

There has also been continuous and exciting developments on the product side, with two new big hotels opening — namely Raffles Praslin Resort and Kempinski Seychelles Resort, the latter built on the site of the former Plantation Club.

The Hilton Hotels and Resorts group has opened its second property in Seychelles the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort and Spa. The hotel was the former Seychelles Labriz Silhouette Resort on Silhouette Island.

Likewise, there were new openings and extended products on the medium-range and smaller hotels markets made possible by the call for Seychelles to claim back its industry.

In aviation, the arrival of new airlines and increasing business of existing ones is rendering the sector more competitive like never before. Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways have both increased their services to Seychelles and a new airline Etihad Airways started operations to the islands in November from Abu Dhabi. Ethiopian Airline, which had also announced new flights to Seychelles as from November, postponed its services for next year and indications are that they will start their Addis Ababa-Seychelles service in April.

Transaero Airline from Russia is also set to launch their operation early in 2012 which will link Seychelles to Moscow with a direct flight. This sector is now bound to get more competitive with the arrival of new airlines which will serve the routes previously dominated by Air Seychelles.

An events-based Seychelles

2011 will also be remembered as the year when the Seychellois public filled every nook and cranny of our tiny capital to witness the first ever Carnaval International de Victoria.

This major celebration, which pulled over 20 international floats and a number of international dignitaries to our shores, was deemed a great success and will see a second in March 2012.

It will, however, this time, be organised under the new banner of the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands where Reunion will join Seychelles as co-organisers of the event. The three-day carnival consists of the opening ceremony in the heart of Victoria on the first day, the carnival procession throughout the streets of the capital on the second day and the family fun day on the third day.

The STB, which has proved its experience at organising and hosting events at this level, will get another new event next year in the like of the Miss Seychelles … Another World beauty pageant.

Promotion of this event has started in earnest this year and the lucky winner is expected to go home with a number of attractive prizes, including the opportunity to represent Seychelles at tourism trade fairs overseas.

The annual tourism gala returned in September as the Seychelles Ball brought together stakeholders from both the private sector and government. It is one of those events where stakeholders get the chance to network and socialise.

Subios The Festival of the Sea was revamped this year and became a truly attractive three-day event for members of the public. It was held in conjunction with the Seychelles Round Table Regatta and the opening ceremony was the first time ever held on a floating barge in the bay of Beau Vallon.

The tourism board also hosted a range of other exciting international events on its yearly calendar such as the Seychelles Regatta in May when famous sailors from all over the world came to race between the islands of Seychelles, the Eco-healing marathon in February and the Tourism Week in September.

It also collaborated with local partners on several national events such as the Feast of the Assumption in August, the Creole Festival in October and the Yuri Bashmet Seychelles Classical Music Tour in December.

It was announced this year that Seychelles will host another international event in 2012 the International Mind Body Spirit Festival in which visitors will enjoy a range of holistic packages of rejuvenation and well-being while competing and discovering the different islands of Seychelles.

Seychelles on the international scene

Seychelles, through the STB, pushed ahead with its PR campaign to increase visibility of the destination in the press and media all over the world, and 2011 has been a very good year for that.

The STB chief executive Alain St Ange was himself invited to address a number of world conferences and share the successes of the local tourism industry.

The country also opened its first PR and News Bureau office in Europe, to act as support for the international press and deal with general queries on the country. The office is based in the United Kingdom.

At the same time, in a bid to target new emerging markets, the STB opened new tourist offices in Abu Dhabi and China and is now covering Russia with a dedicated marketing executive areas which are showing healthy growth in terms of number of tourists visiting Seychelles.

Also for the first time this year, the STB organised its annual marketing meeting jointly with the Reunion tourism office. The marketing teams of both countries collaborate and strategise for the joint promotion of both islands, a move brought about by the cooperation of the Vanilla Islands.

The islands and countries of Indian Ocean have decided to work together in a synergy as the Vanilla Islands and present a new holiday experience in the Indian Ocean for travellers.

The common decision was reached in August 2010 but real cooperation and actions between the islands kick-started during the course of this year.

Other news

Helicopter Seychelles made its return in helicopter services after a year-long internal restructuring and has expressed its intention to be a serious provider, with new larger machines to expand its existing services.

On the occasion of World Tourism Day on September 27, the STB in collaboration with the GOS-UNDP-GEF Programme Coordination Unit launched the new Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label.

Mr St Ange said, at the launching, it was important for the tourism industry to adopt the new label, to encourage hotels and other tourism establishments to merge the principles of sustainability into their daily operations.

He stressed that every partner should play their part in safeguarding the sustainability of our tourism industry for the future generations.

Seychelles fit for a Royal honeymoon

Like a breath of fresh air in a world of turmoil, Prince William and his new wife Kate jetted to Seychelles in May to spend their honeymoon on the idyllic island of North.
This ended weeks of speculation as to where the newlyweds would honeymoon, with Kenya being the favourite bet as Prince William originally proposed to Kate there.

But the couple chose Seychelles with its sandy beaches, clear waters and secluded hideaways where they said they truly had a holiday of a lifetime.

The trip was publicised all over the world and travel agents in all Seychelles markets and online booking machines reported a sudden surge in queries on Seychelles.

Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Paul Adam said the people of Seychelles were truly honoured that Prince William and his wife chose to return to Seychelles for this special holiday after their previous vacation in 2007 and we are proud to have been able to offer them a peaceful and private getaway.

Rwanda hospitality breaking news – Kigali Serena Hotel takes the only 5 star rating in the city


(The Kigali Serena Hotel courtyard with gardens and swimming pool Simply the Best)

The Kigali Serena was the first to receive the coveted 5 star rating for any Kigali business and city hotel, following an exhaustive and extensive grading and classification exercise conducted by the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation Department. The award ceremony, in fact held at the Kigali Serena Conference Centre, also awarded the Lake Kivu Serena, a lake side resort only recently visited by this correspondent, a 4 star rating, giving the Rwandan properties of Serena top honours in their respective categories.

(The Lake Kivu Serena, a lake side resort with a private beach the perfect place to start or end the Congo Nile Trail between Gisenyi and Kamembe)

Also receiving a 5 star rating was the Nyungwe Forest Lodge, another property visited and written about here and on TripAdvisor during the year 2011, and again fully deserved. This lodge is located in the midst of a tea plantation right at the edge of the Nyungwe Forest National Park, the proverbial enchanted forest in the humble opinion of this author.

(Nyungwe Forest Lodge, owned by Dubai World as fine a property as they come)

Other hotels in Kigali received four stars, notably the Mille des Collines, a long time crowd favourite with arguably the best and largest croissants in Kigali for breakfast, while Hotels Lemigo and Manor too scooped four stars each. Eight hotels and resorts were awarded the still very respectable 3 star status while a further 16 establishments attained a 2 star rating. Only one property, the Gorilla Hotel in Ruhengeri / Musanze, got a 1 star rating.
The awards were handed over by the Rwandan Minister for East African Community Affairs, the Hon. Mrs. Monique Mukaruliza in the presence of the RDB Chief Executive John Gara and Ms. Rica Rwigamba, Head of Tourism and Conservation within the Rwanda Development Board and the plaque for the Serena properties were received by Mr. Charles Muia, Country Manager for Serena Hotels and General Manager for the Kigali Serena.
Warmest congratulations to the winners, the participants and those who attained a star rating where others failed.

Tanzania conservation breaking news – Attempted denial of cross Serengeti Railway exposes yet more ‘projects’


(The most direct line from Mwambani to Musoma leads across the Serengeti)

With much of official Tanzania on their year-end vacation to celebrate Christmas and New Year, the almost inevitable denials over the suggested direct routing of a new railway line from Tanga to Musoma through the Serengeti National Park came from lower ranking officials, clearly stung by the vehement reaction in regional and international media.
It was reported here, and then followed up by Ugandas The Daily Monitor ( that the pre-Christmas signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Uganda, Tanzania and the China Civil Engineering Construction Company paved the way for a full scale feasibility study to be carried out by the Chinese company at a cost of approximately 450 million US Dollars. Considering that the Tanzanian government, under immense international pressure over plans to build a highway across the same stretch of wilderness area, had to yield and write to UNESCO the Serengeti is a World Heritage Site that no highway would be built, only to see the letter writer, Tourism Minister Maige then rubbish his own written assurance within weeks when he claimed in public utterances that the road would still be built anyway, the denials however sound hallow and shallow.
It is clear that cost, as in everything, is a crucial factor and should the feasibility study suggest that a direct route would be cheaper, and therefore financially more viable, it is a foregone conclusion that the Tanzanian government will inevitably have to consider such proposals, more so as China is also the likely source of finance for the mega project, and should the Tanzanian government attempt to alter the outcome of the study, they would risk the financing and the project altogether.
The Acting Director of Economic Infrastructure in the ministry of East African Cooperation, Dr. B. Rufunjo, in his hastily convened media briefing on Thursday in Dar es Salaam, while attempting to deny such a routing would be even remotely possible, added yet another dimension to this ongoing saga, when he let it slip that as part of the agreements and discussions with Uganda even an oil pipeline would be constructed between the Tanzanian coast and the lake port of Mwanza, something he may well have to bite his tongue for after letting that cat out of the bag.
There are now THREE major infrastructure projects on the table, seeking financing and implementation according to the professed plans and intent by the Tanzanian government.
First was the highway, later on reduced to a gravel road across the Serengeti to connect the mineral rich region between Lake Victoria and the Serengeti to the rest of the country. Then followed the information that a joint railway project was being planned with Uganda to connect Musoma, where a major lake port is to be constructed with the coast at Tanga, where right in the middle of the Coelacanth marine national park in Mwambani another deep sea port is to be set up. And as the third component, now out of the bag by slip of tongue of Dr. Rufunjo, the oil pipeline has been casually made public only days after the railway controversy began to race around the world, alarming and alerting the conservation fraternity once again to another potential assault on the Serengeti.
It is common, both in practice and sense, that major corridors or transportation, like railways, highways and pipelines, are bundled, as has been done along the sector from Mombasa to Nairobi, where pipeline, highway and railway run for long stretches almost parallel and often only hundreds of metres apart.
It makes construction easier, provides redundancy in terms of access for maintenance, emergencies and repairs and most important, keeps the cost down of the overall construction of such projects vis a vis available jointly used work camps and related facilities.
The attempt to downplay and deny any intention of having a railway cross the Serengeti therefore backfired when the third element was made public, giving the local, regional and international conservation groups fresh fodder for thought and more worries. As usual, loud protests from within Tanzania will be few and far between, as the media especially in the case of the controversial highway plans were almost mute while individuals and NGO opponents feared political repercussions and trumped up charges against them, should they be too noisy; in 2010 during the elections, a perfect pretext to clamp down on any real or perceived opponents of development and government, during much of this year 2011 to keep controversy out of the run up to the 50th anniversary of Tanganyikas Independence from Britain and in 2012 for any other reason, perhaps even terming opposition to such development projects economic treason the term enemies of development has already been used repeatedly since the highway plans became public in May 2010.
One thing though is for certain, that the global conservation fraternity, already having Tanzania under the spotlight for a series of other planned environmental assaults like Uranium mining in the Selous, the planned construction of a hydroelectric dam and power plant at Stieglers Gorge / Selous or the on again / off again soda ash plant on Lake Natron, will redouble their efforts to oppose any such plans involving the Serengeti and other key wilderness areas. From sources in Nairobi it was also confirmed that the legal team, which is pursuing a case against the Tanzanian government in the East African Court of Justice in Arusha over the highway plans, may well try to expand their brief and seek a ruling covering aspects other than just the road, like for instance rail and pipeline routings.
And as is the case with the Serengeti Highway, there is no question of denying Tanzania her development as has been suggested in a flurry of comments since the news were broken here. For the highway a southerly routing has been recommended, and in fact the World Bank and other organizations, including the German government, have made it clear they would help finance such a route, and the same can be achieved for pipelines and railways. It is not an either or but a sensible compromise to be sought and implemented which leaves pristine wilderness areas intact for decades to come as a resource for wildlife based tourism, a major economic activity for Tanzania and much of the rest of East Africa. Let us not destroy what already works and works well but protect and preserve it while employing some common sense when finally deciding on where highway, railway and pipeline will be located. Not across the Serengeti if global opinion has anything to do with it. Watch this space.

Kenya conservation news – New park fees from New Year

Effective New Years Day 2012 will Kenya Wildlife Service raise their premium park fees from the present US Dollars 60 per person per day for foreign nonresident visitors to US Dollars 80 per person per day, after making the announcement earlier in the year. Also discontinued are now the lower entrance fees which were in the past charged during the traditional low season, but it remains to be seen in 2012 what impact, if any, that will have on the pattern of park visits by foreign tourists.
The additional income is to help KWS to improve financial self sustainability and lessen the need for the Kenyan government to allocate subsidies to the wildlife management body.
With Kenya being on course for the best year ever in terms of tourist arrivals and revenues KWS is banking on continuing growth and more visitors to the parks, eventually allowing income to match expenditure without financial deficit.
Visits to parks not designated as premium parks will from 01st of January attract a daily fee of US Dollars 65 per person per day. Value for money? Go see for yourself!

Tanzania tourism news – VAT refunds for tourists set to begin next week

A regular source from Dar es Salaam has provisionally confirmed that the long awaited VAT refunds for tourists on departure from either Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam or from the Kilimanjaro International Airport outside Arusha are due to start come the New Year 2012.
Goods purchased by non-resident foreign tourists do qualify for a VAT refund from a dedicated TRA Tanzania Revenue Authority office at both airports as long as purchases overall are at least 400.000 Tanzanian Shillings. The same source though pointed out that teething problems may yet have some tourists miss that chance to get some money back, in case logistical problems need resolving but that, if at all, may really only be temporary. Time to dig those pockets and buy buy buy Tanzanian made goods, curios, fabrics and other mementos and spread some little wealth into the country? In any case, good news from Tanzania for tourists, making the destination certainly more attractive for foreign visitors. Just waiting now when Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda will follow this trend. Watch this space.

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