Archive for November, 2012

SHTA Chairman speaks out about misgivings of the Seychelles tourism industry

I am re-posting this press release, with particular reference to the comments made by Mr. D’Offay on the issue of direct flights between Paris and Mahe, NOT via Abu Dhabi, and the need to restore Mahe as the Air Seychelles hub and not have it shifted to Abu Dhabi. Questions in fact I asked several weeks ago when discussing why the flights from Hong Kong by Air Seychelles should not be direct but instead route via Abu Dhabi, or raising the issue of the extraordinary level of handling charges at the International Airport in Mahe which has driven airlines away. SHTA raises the issue of Turkish Airlines wishing to fly to Mahe but mentions the lack of progress in signing a BASA, but surely the level of handling charges too here is of importance.
Will the interest of the Seychelles tourism industry carry the day when Air Seychelles makes decisions or is it the interest of partner Etihad which comes first? As I said before, their financial involvement in Air Seychelles was warmly welcomed but holding the tourism industry at ransom was surely not part of the deal?
I have always reflected the mood and opinions of tourism stakeholders from the archipelago, not always to the liking of the powers that be and being a friend of Seychelles does include talking rain as well as sunshine or else my credibility would be gone in a flash.

The article I referred to, published after leaving the Seychelles when last visiting, was harshly criticized at the time by a small but powerful section of individuals with clearly vested interests and yet here the SHTA Chairman raises several of the same points as in a mirror image. Will he get shot down in flames too or will his opinion be taken on board as it should be by some of those he named?

Enjoy the read, make up your own mind who is right or who is wrong and who can be trusted and who not.

The Editorial of the monthly publication by the Seychelles Tourism Industry speaks up on the way forward as seen by the island’s private sector, the motor behind the economy of the Seychelles.

In his Editorial in the latest issue of the industry’s publication, Louis D’Offay the Chairman of the industry’s association says:

Welcome to yet another issue of the Seychelles Tourism Industry Newsletter!

We are coming out with this issue as our industry looks sadly at a situation where a lack of concerted effort is so apparent. We were all informed that Turkish Airlines intended to start their Seychelles flights at the same time as they were launching their operations into the Maldives. Why are we still dragging our feet and letting the other tourism destinations of our region get the better of us?

Turkish Airlines are now firmly established with their Maldives schedule and we understand that they are set to increase their frequencies. Their arrival has brought a review in applicable tour operator fares to Maldives.

A win win situation for Maldives. But the question we are all asking is why is it taking so long to develop a Bilateral Agreement with Turkey and thereby giving them the necessary landing rights for an immediate start? Who is punishing Seychelles and the Tourism Industry?

Paris and the need for a direct flight will continue to be a stumbling block between the whole tourism trade and the Minister responsible for Transport.

Times are not easy and as we follow the news of codeshare between Air France and Etihad we fail to understand why Air Seychelles is not thinking of Seychelles just for once. Abu Dhabi will remain the Hub for Etihad, but please make Seychelles the base for Air Seychelles. Today we could be benefiting from that Air France/Etihad cooperation because that cooperation could channel our Air Seychelles passengers into Paris to board a direct nonstop flight to Seychelles. Four flights to South Africa pushed the industry at large to run to push the South African market and to promote twin center in the Americas, especially in Brazil and Argentina. Even Air Seychelles supported the Tourism Board’s David Germain in his endeavours to promote Seychelles. Safari in South Africa and beach in Seychelles, two countries in one holiday was taking off, but now S.A. Tour Operators are telling us that the four flights announcement was but an industry’s invention.

The country is losing face. Brazil Operators have programmed Seychelles, our local DMCs have all gone to Brazil and Argentina at their own cost to be ready when the four flights kick in. We feel our job is done, but where are the flights? Minister Morgan is the Chairman of the Air Seychelles Board of Directors and the Seychelles Government nominees on that Board are in majority numbers and yet they are failing Seychelles. This is sad and Hotels, Guest Houses, Hotel Staff, Tourism Academy Students, yes the Trade in general should take note that the tourism industry is being let down.

The Boat Operators meeting on Praslin raised many shortfalls by two Ministries. Poor state of roads, unlicensed boat operators, jetty management on Praslin & La Digue, thefts on Praslin right in front of the Police Station anchor point, unfortunate state of Curieuse island and its lunch serving area and corruption with Marine Park entrance fees where illegal boat operators enjoy special arrangements. The Ministry of Tourism has also been asked to relook at operating modes between big consortiums and the small individual operators and to work with the Transport Minister to get an Inflight Magazine in the Domestic Air Seychelles flights and Tourism Activity Boards at Domestic Terminals on Mahe & Praslin and Ferry Terminals on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue to promote licensed tourism operators on Praslin, La Digue and Mahe. It was noted by all the boat operators present that it was disappointing that only one Minister turned up for that Praslin meeting with the little people of Praslin.

Where have we reached in our plight to save Praslin & La Digue Tourism? We all know that the cost for visitors on our Domestic Air Seychelles and on the Ferry is today not helping, but it is more a hindrance. The difference in applicable rates and the rate for the 15minutes flight remains remedy against a visit to Praslin at the detriment of Praslin and La Digue. The Tourism Board needs to advertise the schooner rides and state their rates.

Going back in time seems the only recourse to consolidate our industry.

But all is not bad. Congratulations to Michel Gardette and his Team at Fond Ferdinand. Your new Nature Reserve was needed and everyone in the Industry will support and promote your spectacular Coco de Mer park. With your stated applicable entrance fee of Rupees 50 until end December and then Rupees 100 from January is encouraging and it tells us that you have heard our plea to help keep Seychelles more competitive. Such new natural attractions will also help increase the yield of our country from its tourism industry. The more attractions and activities we have for our visitors to spend their holiday budget on, the better our country will be.

Planning Authority and the Tourism Industry are heading in different directions. We hear of projects but we are still not consulted. Today we see hotels being built on top of hotels to make our very own Costa del Sol style of environment. No respect for the country’s environment is today so apparent in so many new hotel and self- catering establishments. Tiled walls on the road cannot suit the charm and authenticity of La Digue for example.

Foot print of new establishments is a new vocabulary, but not applicable to everyone. Unfortunately we see a destruction of what Seychelles stands for, taking place under our very own eyes on a daily basis. We pray that the practice that enabled the Cerf Island Jetty to be constructed is not reappearing again.

Enjoy the read of your industry’s newsletter. Forward it on to friends, family and associates.

On behalf of the SHTA, I will also take this opportunity to wish you all a safe and festive Christmas!!

I thank you.

Louis D’Offay


Entebbe air show for 15/16 December


Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority is partnering to put together a show case aviation event on the weekend of December 15th and 16th, bringing together the aviation industry to give Ugandans a hands on experience.

Air Uganda has already offered to fly disabled children on a special flight on their MD 87 aircraft while the general aviation community from Kajjansi, the Kampala Aero Club, MAF aka Mission Aviation Fellowship and Ndege Juu will join hands with their colleagues from Entebbe such as Eagle Air and AirServ.

Also on board is the Uganda People’s Defence Forces Air Force and the East African Civil Aviation Academy from Soroti, the latter probably also doing a spot or two of career guidance when talking about the courses available at what is often referred to as the Flying School.

Capt. Howard Davenport from the Kampala Aero Club will be performing some of his stunning aerial aerobics displays while other aircraft like air force Sukois and a C130 will be doing fly pasts and low overflights to thrill the crowds, while sky divers will aim to hit the centre point on the ground as they come circling down from the skies above.

This is the second such airshow this year after the Kampala Aero Club, on a smaller and invitation only basis, celebrated their 15th anniversary at the Kajjansi airfield, drawing hundreds of spectators to the perimeter fence, but this time it is an open for all event at the Entebbe International Airport, celebrating not just 50 years of Uganda’s Independence but also 50 years of post independence aviation in the Pearl of Africa.

Qatar Airways to deploy B787 on London route


December 13th will see Qatar Airways’ first B787 Dreamliner commence flights to London, an occasion the airlines has been using in Uganda to push for added sales in a hardly contested market place.

We are the best in the sky and when the new B787 comes on line to London, our passengers to the UK will have the most modern plane to fly with’ said a source from the airline’s Kampala office while also reminding of the range of new destinations QR now offers via Doha, already on line like Perth or coming on line between now and the Spring of next year, such as Warsaw / Poland, Phnom Penh / Cambodia or Chicago in the United States.

Local travel agents at least in part agree with QR’s contention to be the best in the sky but continue to compare, either through personal experience or through passenger feedback, the merits of having wide bodied aircraft from Entebbe vis a vis a narrow bodied single aisle aircraft as used by Qatar Airways.

There are many of our clients who prefer to fly a wide body like on Emirates for instance. Some are outright reluctant to fly via Addis when they hear they have to use a turboprop aircraft between Entebbe and Addis. Price of course is always an issue but Qatar are offering regular promotions of which travelers can take advantage. But others are not sitting still. Brussels Airlines has launched a new cabin product but they only fly 3 times a week and Emirates comes every day with an A330 and connect passengers to London with an A380 even. Now that is what sells besides the price, to fly on the largest aircraft in the world. QR is trying to sell them the experience of the most modern aircraft in the world when flying to London. There is a good market for travel in Uganda and in the end it is customer loyalty gained by treating them well. When bags go missing, flights are delayed by bad weather into Europe in winter, how the transit in the connecting airport is organized and all. The one good thing is that QR has promised free internet on board of the B787 and I gather is also launching it for their A320 they fly to Entebbe and that will be a bonus for my clients. They can stay in touch while flying and so many now use smart phones or IPads or tablets. Imagine they post pictures on Facebook or use Twitter from onboard, that is also a good extra promotion for the airline’ said a leading Kampala travel agent when discussing the hype over the new aircraft, putting things in perspective of course that marketing bravado needs backing up by service and consistently good performance across the board.

Qatar Airways was the Gulf launch customer for Boeing’s Dreamliner and has a total of 60 of these aircraft on order, to be progressively deployed on key long haul routes alongside the airline’s B777’s and A380’s when the latter will join their fleet from next year onward. Happy landings to the new bird and watch this space.

Seychelles starts countdown to ‘Carnvial International de Victoria 2013’


The third edition of the Carnival International de Victoria will commence the formal countdown this evening in Bel Ombre / Mahe in the presence of the Minister for Tourism and Culture Alain St. Ange and the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board Elsia Grandcourt.

Invited guests from the tourism fraternity, government officials, sponsors and the winners of this year’s costume contest will be joined by musicians and dancers, creating a befitting background to the launch ceremony.

The 2013 Festival, now also part of the regional Vanilla Island cooperation’s calendar of key events across the Indian Ocean islands, will be co-hosted by the Seychelles with La Reunion, partnering once again like last year, but also Madagascar and notably Zimbabwe. The arguably most important festival now on the Seychelles has since its launch edition in 2011 become the focus of global interest and a cornerstone part of the Seychelles marketing juggernaut, which seems to grow in strength and magnitude year after year.

The Carnaval de Carnivals as it is also known, draws in participants from the biggest global carnival nations and will next year feature participants from Brazil, the Notting Hill Carnival in the UK, from Germany and a range of other countries. Participants will operate floats and display Carnival Art at its best, when the parade begins to move through the centre of the Seychelles capital of Victoria on Sunday the 10th of February next year when the three festival days will reach the climax. Time to book, not to be missed as Seychelles, Another World awaits your visit.

AFRAA AGM hears revolutionary ideas about the need for a new Pan African carrier


The recently held annual general meeting of AFRAA in Johannesburg sprang a few surprises on delegates and aviation pundits, when none other than Kenya Airways’ CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni had the room go so shtumm that a falling leaf could have been heard, as he floated the idea of the key sub Saharan airlines merging to weather the onslaught of the newly emerged Gulf giants as well as the legacy carriers from Europe, all keenly eyeing the continent’s traffic potential. Participants, according to one regular aviation source who attended the conference, sat up literally pinching themselves to make sure they were not dreaming this up, as Dr. Naikuni elaborated on the competitive threat to African airlines, who, no matter how strong individually or within their alliances, were at the receiving end of Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad and more recently of such emerging giants like Turkish, all expanding their destination network across the continent at the expense of the often weak national airlines but even at the expense of the three African giants, minnows though in comparison to what they face as competition in the skies above Africa.

AFRAA had in recent years launched a number of initiatives bringing together member airlines to save in joint fuel purchases and through other cooperative measures, but none could have imagined that the CEO of one of sub Sahara’s leading airlines would go as far as suggesting a merger to create a pan African carrier of substance, means and reach able to compete on its own terms with their global opposition.

Dr. Naikuni was quoted as having said that unless the current fierce rivals joined hands and more, their individual future would be bleak and survival uncertain, inspite of the ambitious growth plans Ethiopian, South African and Kenya Airways had formulated for themselves.

Surprisingly did the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines sing from the same hymnsheet when he supported the concept, confirming that size in aviation did indeed matter and that the idea of a pan African aviation group should be seriously discussed among suitable partners.

The discussions following in Johannesburg were spiced up it appears by ET and SAA belonging to rival Star Alliance while KQ of course is a member of SkyTeam but comparisons were swift to be drawn with global developments. Only three major groups remain in Europe, where decades ago single national airlines dominated their home market, mergers in South America were taking the aviation industry into the 21st century and at last there is movement in the Gulf too as Qatar Airways will join One World, Emirates has teamed up – subject still to regulatory approvals – with Qantas and Etihad has started a strategic buying spree with stakes in Air Berlin, Air Lingus, Air Seychelles and notably having talks with Indian airlines about taking a possible stake, maybe in Jet Airways, which would further allow them a foot in the door in one of the world’s most populous countries, now at the threshold of becoming a ‘developed nation’ inspite of the many challenges India still faces.

Past experience in Africa is of course far from promising, as Air Afrique’s ascent and decline will attest to. Countries have also entered into bilateral air services agreements with foreign airlines, where in particular Gulf airlines have shrewdly exploited the often hapless negotiators from African countries to secure hugely favourable terms for their own airlines, while in turn other African airlines are kept shut out over competitive fears and political disagreements, something which needs to be overcome on the fast track if even talks of a new sub Saharan mega carrier could begin in earnest.

Even though, the combined volumes of the three potential partners, more may of course join the bandwagon if this is to move along and become reality, would still be just about half of Emirates passengers. Interesting enough have rumours emerged from the Gulf of a potential like up between at least two of the leading airlines, and though swiftly dismissed by both of them as a mere fantasy and invention of ‘nosey journalists’ there clearly is more to it than meets the eye, considering the stringent denials by Qatar Airways about joining and alliance as ‘not being the right time’ only to be confirmed two days later.

Time to take stock and undoubtedly AFRAA will facilitate further talks and behind the scenes discussions to drive the agenda for African aviation forward. With the unthinkable now said and standing in the proverbial room, the floodgates have opened to brainstorm and to start developing a strategy for an airline, which could take Africa truly to the next level and merge the tag lines of The New Spirit of Africa, Inspiring New Ways into something bigger and better and truly making it The Pride of Africa.

As said before, fodder for thought and perhaps an opportunity to take African aviation forward united together instead of being swallowed up one by one divided. Watch this space.

New EAC headquarters officially opened in Arusha


Years of planning and construction came to a successful conclusion yesterday when President Kikwete, accompanied by Kenya’s President Kibaki and Burundian President Nkurunziza officially launched the new headquarters of the East African Community in Arusha / Tanzania, which were funded entirely by the German government at a cost of nearly 19 million Euros.

The offices of the EAC were since the restart of the community housed, on a rented basis, at the Arusha International Conference Centre but it is understood that all staff have now moved to the new building.

EAC Secretary General Dr. Richard Sezibera on the occasion also signed new financing and support agreements with Germany and USAID towards improved tax administration, investment promotion and linking the 5 tax and customs bodies across the East African region though digital integration. Notably absent on the occasion were the Ugandan and Rwandan presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame, reportedly still dealing with the Congo issues back home but expected to meet their colleagues in Nairobi this weekend for the upcoming annual Head of State Summit.

Likoni ferries make more negative headlines


When yesterday late afternoon some of the ferries used to connect Mombasa island with the Southern mainland ‘stalled’, stranding tens of thousands of commuters and hundreds of vehicles including tourist busses, suspicion was raised promptly that disgruntled ferry workers, repeatedly on strike and go slow in recent months, had found a new way to demand for their outstanding payments.

According to reports received from regular tourism sources in Mombasa at least three ferries were out of service, leaving travelers stuck on either side of the channel for hours into the night, while a single ferry did trip after trip trying to clear the backlog of vehicles and walk on passengers. Another ferry brought from the maintenance yard also stalled before it carried out even one commercial trip, lending more credibility to suggestions that sabotage was at work, even though some sources in Mombasa claimed in communications that poor maintenance was to blame, together with over use of the handful of ferries operated by Kenya Ferry Services.

Resorts and the South coast made arrangements for clients coming in way beyond normal dinner time to still get a meal, alerted by safari operators after the drivers had used their mobile phones to call in and report the renewed problems at the ferry ramps.

At least two regular contributors from Mombasa laid the blame squarely on the management of the company, calling them incompetent with one saying: ‘It can happen that one or two ferries stall but this is too much. First three of them fail and then one brought from maintenance also fails? There is something seriously wrong at KFS and I am worried that one day negligence may result in an accident. If ferries stall midstream they can collide with ships coming or leaving and imagine the consequences. There is talk of sabotage but if that is true, are those staff even thinking of the risks they expose ferry users? The sooner we get the new road to the South coast the better because at the rate we are going this will cause us more and more problems’.

By late evening the jams on both sides had started to reduce but queues were reported to be substantially longer still compared to normal operations at this time of the night. Watch this space for updates as and when available.

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