Archive for June, 2013

Weekly roundup of news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region, Fifth edition June 2013

AVIATION, TOURISM AND CONSERVATION NEWS from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.

A weekly roundup of breaking news, reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

You can get your daily news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthome or join me on www.facebook.com/WolfgangHThome where the articles also ‘cross load’.

Read the daily postings on my blog via www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com which you can also ‘follow’ to get immediate notification when a new article is posted. Many of my articles are also published via www.eturbonews.com/africa with added news from the African continent and the world of tourism, aviation and travel at large.

Fifth edition June 2013

East Africa News

US PRESIDENTIAL VISITS – BONUS OR INTOLERABLE BURDEN

(Posted 27th June 2013)

When US President Barrack Obama touches down at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam in a few days, there will be a fair amount of BO-OOO’s from neighbouring Kenya, the land his late father came from and the land he ostensibly ditched following the outcome of the March general and presidential elections, which was won by a team his administration worked hard to keep out of office.

Leading CEO’s from Nairobi have shown solidarity with their elected President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, and the majority in both houses held by their coalition, and turned down invitations to join a dinner hosted by Obama in Dar es Salaam, and did so in a very public way which went viral on East Africa’s social media.

Tanzanians of course still are enthusiastic about being chosen as THE country Obama selected to visit in Eastern Africa, but it is expected that enthusiasm will quickly wane, when the full force of security arrangements comes into effect in the final run in to his touch down in Dar, as airspace will be closed, roads be blocked off and a ‘secure cordon’ be established for several kilometres around the Hyatt Hotel Dar es Salaam, where he will be staying.

Some of us in East Africa remember past US presidential visits, to Uganda for instance, where both Bush and Clinton visited, and where enthusiasm, at least for the ordinary wananchi and business community, quickly gave way to that unique ‘royally pissed off’ feeling when the shutdowns started to take effect.

For our politicians in the region too, the euphoria of hosting a US president, often made way to sheer incredulity, when, apart from the host president – and there are reports some of those were not spared either – they were subjected to the full scrutiny of the US Secret Service, their communications down and their own security details disarmed and shoved aside.

An interesting article appeared in the Standard, published in Nairobi, which is worth sharing, to not just recall such past memories but to forewarn our fellow East Africans in Tanzania of what is about to descend on them like the proverbial ton of bricks.

What Kenyans will ‘miss’ as President Obama tours other nations in Africa

Updated Wednesday, June 26th 2013 at 22:33 GMT +3

By DANN OKOTH

Kenya:In September 2000, as then US President Bill Clinton visited Arusha, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa stared in disbelief as US Secret Service agents opened doors of his limousine to let in a sniffer dog hunting for “hidden bombs and grenades”.

Hours later, retired President Daniel Moi, who had flown to Arusha to meet Clinton, could not communicate with Moi International Airport Mombasa after the Secret Service agents jammed all local communications in the town. Moi was scheduled to be in Mombasa for a three-day visit. When USPresident Barack Obama arrives in Dakar, Senegal today, the country’s systems will be turned upside down. His visit will cost US taxpayers an estimated $100m, enough to build three Thika superhighways.

Despite goodies a US President brings — investors and announcing grants to local projects — his visit can be a nightmare. It can negatively affect local businesses.

Just ask the people of Dakar, Senegal. When President Bill Clinton visited the city in 1998, most small business in downtown Dakar were closed and residents were “bunkerised” — or forced to stay indoors.

With Obama’s impending visit, Dakar has already been turned into a slow city and beggars have been cleared from the streets.

Trapped in cars

If Obama had factored Kenya in his itinerary, it seems conceivable that all communication systems in the country would probably have been shut down as US intelligence apparatus take control of communications. Our airspace would possibly be shut or interrupted, and roads would be cordoned off.

Thousands of Nairobi residents would be trapped in their offices, cars and homes. If you think traffic jams are bad in Nairobi, think of what a visiting US President would do.

Dakar is still smarting from an embarrassing scenario in 1998 following Clinton’s visit.

Already residents in downtown Dakar are reporting lost business and economists are projecting losses to the country’s economy to the tune of millions of dollars yet Obama has not arrived.

This is what Kenyans will not be subjected to as Obama bypasses the country in his African trip that takes him to Senegal, South Africa and the neighbouring Tanzania.

Kenya got a taste of this disruption on a minor scale when President Clinton visited Arusha for the regional summit. Former President Moi was expected back in Mombasa the same evening at around 8pm.

But five hours later, the presidential jet had not touched down in Mombasa and the ensuing anxiety caused shivers among the country state security apparatus.

The problem was that they were unable to reach presidential security en tourage in Arusha because the US had jammed all communication.

A security officer, who was part of the security team waiting for retired President Moi in Mombasa, says they endured hours of anxiety as the whereabouts of the President remained unclear. He says: “We were in the dark because the President had delayed to arrive and nobody was telling us from the other side what was happening. We had no idea they were experiencing communication problems,” he says.

Instead of the scheduled 8pm arrival time, the president’s jet arrived in Mombasa some minutes past 1am. There has been hue and cry about what Obama’s snub on Kenya portends, but every US President’s visit comes with excess baggage, which include security nightmare — even though such visits are deemed to come with some goodies — and could include investment and trade opportunities and foreign policy influences. Quoting a US government internal planning document for the visit, The Washington Post reports that US Secret Service agents would be posted in secure facilities. An aircraft carrier with a fully equipped medical trauma centre will be part of the security arrangements. If Obama were visiting Kenya, this carrier would probably be stationed off Mombasa port. According to the newspaper, support vehicles, which include 14 limousines, will be airlifted in by US cargo planes.

US military helicopters were reportedly spotted on Tuesday flying over Pretoria and Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, with national police spokesman Sally de Beer confirming the fly over as an exercise in conjunction with the US government to ensure everything ran smoothly when Obama arrived. Three Sea Knight helicopters and two Black Hawks were also spotted flying over Illovo and Sandton. According to an impeccable Kenyan intelligence source, this might not account for all the security measures in President Obama’s African itinerary. “They only reveal what they want you to know,” says the source, who wishes not to be named. “Otherwise the equipment and intelligence on the menu would be enough to shut down half of the continent,” adds the source, who has been at the helm of security during US officials’ visit to Kenya.

In Africa, however, such elaborate US security arrangements for the visit of their Heads of State have often dazzled — if not completely embarrassed the continent.

Back to Arusha summit, after the Secret Service cleared Clinton’s table of mineral water and soda, they quickly replaced them with a can of coca cola flown directly from America. President Clinton drank straight from the can — and it was the only drink he took inside the meeting hall.

He turned down local food. A visit by the US President to any African country is a tantalising experience because it could mean a better relationship with the most powerful nation on earth—and even more aid—but it comes with its own attendant costs. US officials say Sub-Saharan Africa is a centre of global growth and a place where US business investment and trade could help boost Africa’s economic expansion. President Obama arrives on the continent along with key economic officials and will meet American and African business executives. Economists say many of the world’s fastest-growing economies are inAfrica, and the potential for future growth – particularly outside the resource sectors – is greater than it has been before.

So when the echo of the initial hurray’s has faded away and the flags, handed out in generous amounts been put back into drawers, no doubt the net results of the Obama visit will be closely studied, more so as he arrives in Africa as a distant second to Chinese president Xi Jinping, whose predecessor also toured Africa as did the former Chinese Prime Minister. Obama’s visit is therefore seen as more of damage control than a true ‘original’ in the light of his administration’s foreign policy rankings for Africa, which has been overshadowed by a renewed rivalry with Russia and of course the race to the pinnacle which is underway with China, politically, economically and militarily. Give or take a few years, or a decade or two, there is little doubt who will come out on top, not in Africa anyway where China has over the past two decades rolled out a carefully crafted policy of bilateral and multilateral aid projects, major infrastructure development support and other measures, in return gaining access to the continent’s massive resources at the expense of the West and in particular the US. Obama will no doubt try to stem the tide, for a while at least but hapless meddling in foreign countries politics, like in Kenya prior to the elections, has left a stale taste in the mouths of the locals.

The cost of his trip to Africa, some say anywhere between 60 and 100 million US Dollars, is under severe criticism back home in the US, where the focus of the political mainstream is on Russia, China and Europe and to fix the aftermath of the revelations of massive spying on the allies in the EU and the adversaries beyond, which came to light in recent weeks. ‘He should have just written a cheque for that amount and sent to Africa’ said a politically astute source in Kampala yesterday when discussing the issue before adding ‘… and our friends in Tanzania will be able to judge for themselves, how the Obama visit ranks in comparison to Xi’s visit not so long ago. The will wonder why Obama needs an army of security and shuts down Tanzania and literally takes over when Xi’s visit was the exact opposite. He too had security, of course, but far less obtrusive and with no hint of taking over the host country like the Americans are now preparing to do’.

Another regular source from Nairobi expressed his own relief as he wrote: ‘They would have shut down our airspace and crippled airtraffic. Domestic flights would have been cancelled and the worst, Africa’s busiest airport, Wilson, would have been shut down too because it is within sight of JKIA. Our tourists, and remember we are still trying to come out of our downturn, would have been left grounded and no matter what publicity Obama’s visit could have brought, would that have been a price worth paying? Who would compensate those tourists for their messed up itineraries? It would be us, our tour operators and airlines, not the Americans. I have mixed feelings about missing out on this visit. Obama obviously has a hidden agenda here and we know why that is so, it is the outcome of the elections which saw his favourite lose big time. His visit could have boosted Kenya’s image abroad but for not coming we also were spared all those downsides. And if the visit boosts Tanzania’s tourism, the entire region will benefit, so we get the benefit without the troubles’.

The cost for local businesses, which had hoped for a windfall from the visit, may be major, and while Tanzania’s tourism sector hopes to cash in later on the ‘fame’ the visit may bring in the American market, they will have a bunch of very unhappy tourists to deal with who’s itineraries will be messed about while in Tanzania because of the security cordons and precautions. Yes, the hotels in Dar will be full, booked by the press corps and US officials, but when those are gone, will the fully booked signs remain lit or be substituted by the ‘vacancies’ signs hang out again? Time will tell, but for sure, those Kenyans still upset about Obama giving them the cold shoulder, they should think again, of what they have been spared. Still wondering, well read Dan Okoth’s article a second time!

QATAR AIRWAYS NAME LONDON AND PARIS AS FIRST A380 DESTINATIONS

(Posted 26th June 2013)

Qatar Airways has announced that once they will receive their long awaited Airbus A380, the first destination to be served with the giant aircraft will be London Heathrow, later to be followed by Paris CDG. The aircraft will be configured in a three class cabin layout, featuring First, Business and Economy in what will arguably be the best and most comfortable design of its kind. It is understood that the First Class Suites will rival those of QR’s nearest competitors, if not outdo them, while both Business and Economy will put to shame the crammed environment many other airlines using the A380 subject their passengers to.

Meanwhile is Qatar Airways stepping up the deployment of the B787, as more of the aircraft are joining their fleet.

Qatar Airways is presently flying daily to Entebbe and on to Kigali, once a day to Kilimanjaro and serves Nairobi and Dar es Salaam double daily with an Airbus A320. Said one of their staff when asked to comment on the comparison with the wide body aircraft used by their closest competitors: ‘The flight to Doha is just about 5 hours. The A320 are state of the art aircraft with inflight connectivity and inflight entertainment. Our catering on board is first class or we would not be a 5 star airline. Turkish comes here with a B737-800 or in some cases the B737-900, Etihad comes to Nairobi with an A320 too, so this strategy to open up markets is proven. The use of a smaller aircraft also allows for a second daily frequency to airports with some more demand, which gives greater flexibility to our passengers. The announcement 3 weeks ago of a partnership with Fly 540 also expands our reach in Kenya and the region, because we can now serve passengers from beyond Nairobi or other main airports to which we fly. And we have no complaints about the type of aircraft we operate from East Africa to Doha and from there are our wide body aircraft take passengers to their final destination across the globe. We are also still the only Gulf carrier operating the new B787 Dreamliner’ said a staff of the airline on condition of anonymity for not being the official spokesperson for the carrier in the region.

The new Doha international airport which is due to open later this year, has according to earlier information received from the airline – which also operates the airport – been purpose built to cater for the Airbus A380 and the combination of a brand new mega airport and a fleet of brand new mega planes will undoubtedly raise the profile of QR even further across Eastern Africa. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from the region’s vibrant aviation sector.

HOUSTON MARKETING TARGETS SCANDINAVIA FOR AFRICAN MARKET WITH SEASHOW

(Posted 26th June 2013)

Targeting the growing Scandinavian market to Africa and the Indian Ocean islands, here comes an ideal opportunity once again to meet with most of the major wholesalers and tour operators in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Collectively the four Nordics countries are considered as probably the 4th largest European source market for East African countries including the Seychelles.

Houston Travel Marketing, always seeking opportunities to promote travel to Africa have a few tables available on their post WTM Spotlight on Africa Nordic Seashow from November 11th to 14th this year. East Africa is again well represented with at this stage two Ugandan operators, two from Tanzania, three from Zanzibar, three Kenyan companies and notably is the Seychelles Tourism Board also exhibiting at the event this year.

For November 2013 Houston Marketing has decided to hold workshops in Finland and Sweden only. Sweden is the biggest source market for Southern and Eastern Africa and they are arranging for workshop in Stockholm and also Gothenburg which is Sweden’s second largest city.

This provides exhibitors with an ideal opportunity to meet with most of the major wholesalers and tour operators in Finland and Sweden at a go.

This is the 6th year that Houston Marketing is organizing the Seashow as it is popularly known since the workshops are held on board ship in the ports of the respective cities. Each year has been a resounding success. In 2012 some 21 exhibitors participated in the event meeting 204 outbound tour operators, incentive travel companies, travel agents and importantly the local travel media. Exhibitors in the past were particularly impressed with the quality of the attendees enabling them to meet with the decision makers of most of the who is who in each country’s tourism industry.For more information on the Seashow visit derek.

REED TRAVEL EXHIBITIONS ADD FOCUS ON AFRICA

(Posted 26th June 2013)

Reed Travel Exhibitions have announced the dates for a three pronged approach in holding three key promotional events at the same time and at the same venue.

The ‘Africa Travel Week’ will be staged in Cape Town between 28th of April to May 03rd 2014 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The three main events merged into one week of promotional activity for travel to Africa will be WTM Africa, IBTM Africa and ILTM Africa showcasing inbound and outbound travel, general leisure, luxury travel, business travel and the MICE sector.

Reed is aiming to create a unified platform to promote Africa, which will make the Cape Town event THE place to be next year for all and sundry dealing with African tourism and travel.

Richard Mortimore, the Managing Director of Reed Travel Exhibitions was quoted in a media release saying: ‘Reed has been exploring opportunities in Africa for sometime and the success of our first launch event, ILTM Africa, has given us the platform to now introduce two more of our global industry brands to create ‘Africa Travel Week’ and make it the leading global event for the continent’s travel industry. Because of the sheer size of the continent and diversity of its travel offering, all three brands will help bring the world to Africa and promote Africa to the world’s leading source markets. RTE is committed to the African continent and its future as a global player in the leisure, business and luxury tourism sectors’.

WTM Africa, taking place between May 02nd – 03rd, is expected to attract exhibitors from all categories of the leisure travel industry within sub-Sahara Africa as well as North African destinations, aligning itself with other RTE sister events like WTM, WTM Latin America, Arabian Travel Market and International French Travel Market – Top Resa.

IBTM Africa, taking place between April 28th – 30th, will be a table-top summit located in the West Ballroom, adjacent to the exhibition hall in the CTICC. It will target the inbound and outbound meetings, events, incentives and business travel sectors of sub-Sahara Africa, with suppliers from the MICE sector including hotels, venues, convention bureaus, DMCs, technology providers and suppliers of services. IBTM will reflect the brand values of its sister events CIBTM (China), EIBTM (Europe), GIBTM (Middle East), AIME (Australia), AIBTM (US), IBTM India.

ILTM Africa, also taking place between April 28th and 30th will be the second edition of this event, having staged the successful inaugural exhibition earlier this year. A table-top summit located in the East Ballroom of CTICC will, in line with its successful launch, target Africa’s inbound luxury travel market. ILTM Africa is part of a global portfolio of luxury travel events that include ILTM (Cannes), ILTM Americas, ILTM Asia, ILTM Japan and ILTM Spa.

Both ILTM Africa and IBTM Africa will operate with a pre-qualified Hosted Buyer programme and a pre-scheduled appointment system. WTM Africa will combine a Hosted Buyer and appointment system with a trade visitor programme.

Africa Travel Week will be supported by the Thebe Exhibitions Group, based out of Johannesburg. ‘We will be working with Thebe as our local management services contractor to provide logistics, operations and local sales and marketing services’ commented RTE’s Richard Mortimore.

Meanwhile did Arthur Gillis, the CEO of the Protea Hospitality Group, the largest hotel group on the African continent with some 130 hotels in 10 countries comment as follows on the upcoming events: ‘Africa Travel Week is the sort of event that exposes the best of the continent to a global audience that covers the entire travel spectrum from leisure to luxury, business to conferencing. Cape Town, arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world, will be the perfect backdrop to a travel showcase of this magnitude. The Protea Hospitality Group firmly supports collaborative efforts of this nature in which tourism players work together for the greater good of growing travel and investment in Africa by creating infrastructure and permanent jobs in a market sector that I believe will continue to show steady growth in the long term’.

With the UNWTO General Meeting coming to Africa in August this year, hosted jointly by the cities of Livingstone in Zambia and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, there is an obvious trend visible now to focus on Africa to a much greater extent than in the past and finally make use of the continent’s many unique attractions and first class meeting facilities, hotels, resorts and safari lodges which have sprung up over the past decades. These developments in Africa took place almost unnoticed by the global travel market, which last year saw in excess of 1 billion people take to the road, rail, rivers, oceans and skies and yet bringing only a paltry small percentage of those travellers to Africa as a whole. Time for more focus on Africa and RTE obviously has captured that mood at the right time and in right measure.

Uganda News

UGANDA’S HOTEL FORCED TO RAISE TARIFFS BY 18 PERCENT

(Posted 27th June 2013)

Notices are now being sent out by hotels, lodges and resorts from across Uganda to their clientele, warning them of an imminent rise in tariffs. The Ugandan Minister for Finance Maria Kiwanuka, during her budget speech two weeks ago, announced that the exemption granted for hotels of VAT would be lifted and full rates of 18 percent value added tax be imposed, come July 01st.

While tourism stakeholders immediately objected to the measure, some pointing to the clear discrepancy of government terming tourism and export industry and yet now slapping a key ingredient, accommodation and meals, with 18 percent VAT while other exports do not have to bear such added cost, like in all cases past when it comes to tourism, at least in most cases, these observations where brushed aside and ignored.

Uganda is already perceived as a bit expensive compared to Kenya for instance, but the last budget dealt us a big blow. Fuel is increasing because of a tax rise for petrol and diesel and accommodation is now also going up by 18 percent. This is not something we can absorb. We already are stuck because we have quoted firm rates for our tours and when the tax takes effect, how will we be able to explain to clients that this has to be paid extra’ lamented a frequent commentor on articles, expressing the sentiments heard from across the entire tourism sector before adding: ‘We are now made to pay for financial indiscipline. Just look at all those huge supplementary budgets which were passed since the last budget was presented. Last year we were told of spending cuts and how government must save money. Where did all that go? Instead they spent more than they had. The financial scandals also robbed us of a lot of donor funding and now we are all punished by higher taxation. The poorest of the poor will fork out 200 shillings more per litre of kerosene, pay VAT on flour and water. Those extra taxes on our tours will make us less competitive really and the UTB promotion budget is also peanuts. They are not serious’.

One of the hotel notices received in copy reads:

Dear Esteemed Guests,

Please be advised as of July 1stthe hotel & tourism industry has been imposed a mandatory 18% Valued Added Tax on all accommodation, food and beverage sales.

We have no alternative than to be adding this to our standard rack rates.

Apologies for any inconvenience and thanking you for your understanding in advance.

Quo vadis Uganda Tourism, once again a pertinent question asked which however seems to be falling on deaf ears once again, as the lip service to the sector, a key cornerstone of Uganda’s economy, continues without any concrete measures to boost the sector and help it live up to its true potential. Watch this space.

MADHVANI FOUNDATION OFFERS HOPE TO TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY STUDENTS

(Posted 24th June 2013)

Uganda’s best endowed and without argument largest educational foundation, the Madhvani Foundation, has this year received over 1.400 applications from students seeking support for their studies, a dream only having a chance to turn into reality if chosen by the trustees of the foundation.

Long serving Chairman of the Madhvani Foundation, former Minister Henry Kyemba, has since last year retired from the position and the new Chairman Anthony Butele, has already gone on record ahead of the selection exercise now underway, saying: ‘I am honoured to be entrusted with such a pivotal role in an organisation that is doing so much to shape the socio-economic landscape of the country through supporting the growth and development of a competent and skilled talented human resource pool. We will continue to dedicate our time and resources to ensuring that students with the highest potential but without adequate financial backing receive some much needed support through a transparent selection process’. He then added: ‘It is students like these [sic; the over 1.400 who applied] that give Madhvani Foundation a sense of purpose to continue dedicating large amounts of money from year to year in order to support their education. They are all brilliant students and all they need is someone to give them a little push. We hope that this year, more students will benefit from the opportunity offered by the Foundation. Applicants will be notified of any progress in the application process through our website and successful candidates will be contacted for personal interviews in July’.

In past years have dozens of applications been approved to allow students to commence courses in the tourism and hospitality management field, or else to continue studies beyond the Bachelor degree level, ensuring that the next generation of hotel managers or tourism planners can gain the knowledge and skills needed to step up when the current generation of tourism and hospitality experts retire.

An alumni scheme keeps successful candidates and those who completed their studies in touch, with each other and with the foundation, which continues to play a significant role in Uganda’s education support system, annually dedicating over 650 million Uganda Shillings toward part and full scholarships.

Find out more about this organization by visiting www.madhvanifoundation.com

Kenya News

TOURISM CABINET SECRETARY’S COMMENTS BOOST TRADE ASSOCIATIONS

(Posted 29th June 2013)

While addressing the general meeting of the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, which took place earlier in the week at the Whitesands Resort and Spa in Bamburi / Mombasa, did the Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, Mrs. Phyllis Kandie, give the sector associations a boost, when she stated that licenses will in the future only be granted to companies which are a member of a relevant tourism trade association. She was further quoted that government will only engage in dialogue with associations representing the various sub sectors of the tourism trade, suggesting that talks on crucial matters will include the Kenya Tourism Federation, Kenya’s tourism private sector apex body and the member associations like KAHC, Budget Hotels, PERAK, KATO, KATA, EcoTourism, KAAO and MCTA.

Tourism trade associations have for long advocated to make membership a mandatory requirement in order to be licensed by government, and it appears that calls to root out rogue and briefcase operators have finally gotten attention. Cabinet Secretary Kandie was, according to a source from Mombasa, quoted to have said about unlicensed and rogue elements: ‘We shall deal with these firmly because their time is up. We need to clean up the industry and we are resolute on this’. She went on to assure the stakeholders present that: ‘We shall also hasten the creation of a Communication Crisis Committee and centre to coordinate and manage industry related crisis that would otherwise negatively impact the industry’. This would arguably either work hand in hand or supplement the KTF crisis management set up, which has in the past proved hugely beneficial to have key institutions come on board in times of a crisis, like the Kenya Police, other security organs as well as KWS and KTB.

Tourism stakeholders reportedly used the opportunity of interaction to make it clear that the reduction of the budget estimates for the tourism industry was unacceptable for the sector and could lead to significant job losses in the hospitality sector, prompting the Cabinet Secretary to assure them that discussions were underway to leave the proposed budget intact, which would permit the Kenya Tourism Board to roll out an aggressive recovery marketing campaign, as endorsed by the industry.

Tourism featured high in the inaugural addresses of President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto and is generally thought to be a cornerstone and foundation from which to accomplish the double digit economic growth the new government has promised Kenyans during their present term of office. ‘If those budget cuts are not reversed tourism will not be able to play that leading role the president expects the sector to take in boosting our economy. Instead, the sector might suffer a reversal and the nascent recovery we now see may turn to the opposite. Our competition is not sleeping. They used the past months to position themselves at our expense. We need to tell the world why they should come to enjoy Kenya’s beaches and not those elsewhere. We need to tell the world why tourists should come to visit our game parks and not those of others. If the money is not there for KTB to go out and hit the market hard, the dream of 3 million visitor arrivals will remain just that, a dream’ added the same source during some interaction on the event’s progress. Watch this space.

KENYA AIRWAYS INTRODUCES NEW COST CUTTING MEASURES TO BOOST PROFITABILITY

(Posted 28th June 2013)

Good news for shareholders have come out of the Kenya Airways headoffice in Embakasi, when information was released yesterday about projected 5 billion Kenya Shillings in savings over the next few years, following the re-negotiation of crucial maintenance and supply contracts with service providers

Following the announcement of full year results earlier this month, which resulted in the airline’s share price suffering some downward correction, has the top management of Kenya Airways been taking the offensive to the market and the measures just made public are in fact, or so it is understood, the result of months of work behind the scenes, aimed to reduce the cost burden associated with maintaining a growing fleet.

The statement received from KQ in part reads:

Start quote:

The savings arise from improvement in commercial terms, service levels, contractual terms and conditions, as well as significant direct and actual cost savings; coupled with the benefits of the planned fleet expansion.

For the next five year contract period, the airline will save over KSh754.6 million (US$8.8 million) annually under its aircraft maintenance Component Support Programme (CSP).

In addition to this, Kenya Airways’ strategic expansion programme, Project Mawingu, which aims at growing its network of destinations, besides expanding the fleet from the current 42 to 107 new modern aircrafts, will lead to a significant cut in costs, contributing to the savings.

Kenya Airways’ Chief Executive Officer and Group Managing Director, Titus Naikuni, said that the CSP was part of the airline’s efforts to review its high cost drivers in a bid to reduce operation costs without compromising on quality. The aviation industry traditionally has high operating costs. This is the reason why we are continually reviewing our operations to ensure that we are able to deliver a world-class experience to our customers while keeping an eye on our costs.

The CSP was led by a team comprising airline staff from different areas – Technical Procurement, Engineering Development, Component Workshops, Technical Planning, and Quality Assurance & Engineering Finance – to develop guidelines and review all existing contracts.

The cost-cutting measures come as the aviation industry smarts from tough times in the last financial year due to knock on effects of the economic slowdown in the Eurozone leading to reduced passenger numbers and a spike in oil prices that increased airlines’ operating costs. This led to losses, financial difficulties and collapse of airlines.

Kenya Airways indicated, in the recently released 2012/13 full year financial results, that its direct operating costs were KSh77.2 billion, which remained unchanged from the previous year. The airline’s turnover, on the other hand, dropped to KSh98.8 billion in the 2012/13 financial year, compared to the KSh107.9 billion that was netted the previous year.’

End quote

The commitment of Kenya Airways, to connect Africa like no other airline, by flying to all political and commercial capitals across the continent by the end of next year, remains firmly in place and as more of the modern Embraer E190 jets are delivered, and a new order reportedly is being finalized for more of the larger B737NG’s, this vision, according to a source close to the airline, will be turned into reality. By March 2014 does Kenya Airways expect the first of 9 B787 Dreamliners on order, to facilitate both fleet expansion and the retirement of the aged B767 fleet, which will lead to further significant savings in operating cost compared to present day. For more information about the airline, for schedules, bookings and on line check in, visit www.kenya-airways.com

NEW TOURISM COLLEGE TO BE SET UP IN KILIFI

(Posted 26th June 2013)

A regular source from Mombasa has confirmed that the current visit to the coast by Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie, who holds the tourism portfolio besides regional cooperation and commerce, will have her see the proposed site in Kilifi for the new tourism college, for which the sector has been advocating for a long time.

Initially due to be build by Utalii College in Nairobi, Kenya’s and the region’s premier hospitality and tourism training institution, it will now be put up using the Tourism Fund, which was formerly known as the Catering Training Levy Trustees. The Tourism Fund is part of the new institutional set up of the tourism public sector administration, alongside a number of other parastatals bodies in charge to look after separate segments of the industry.

Information given speaks of a cost of over 8 billion Kenya Shillings, which will include not only the purpose built campus with state of the art facilities, but also an attached application hotel, conference rooms and leisure facilities. It is expected that President Kenyatta, during one of his forthcoming visits to the coast, will officially lay the foundation stone as construction is ready to kick off, with a contractor apparently appointed and presently mobilizing resources to set up a base on the 60 acres site in Kilifi.

The new college will be called the Ronald Ngala Utalii University, named after a leading coast politician of pre and post independence days who represented his constituency in parliament and served in Jomo Kenyatta’s cabinet, Kenya’s founding father and dad to the current president Uhuru Kenyatta.

Tourism stakeholder have welcomed the move and several in fact commented that the establishment of a proper hospitality and tourism training college at the coast is long overdue, as manpower development and skills transfer have suffered in past years as a result of the main Utalii College in Nairobi, and its satellite campuses, was massively oversubscribed offering places only to a chosen few and leaving out those not selected to be at the mercy of private colleges, many of which are not up to the standards the sector would like to see. Watch this space for future updates about the start of construction and the progress until completion.

NAROK COUNTY TERMINATES EQUITY BANK’S MASAI MARA GATE COLLECTION DEAL

(Posted 26th June 2013)

Details were received overnight that the Narok County government has unilaterally cancelled the 10 year deal the previous Narok County Council had entered into with Equity Bank for the collection of gate fees for the Masai Mara Game Reserve, which is managed by Narok, not the Kenya Wildlife Service.

The deal, which at the time caused considerable controversy over allegations and counter allegations, appeared to have settled down after the initial hullabaloo, as the bank invested in equipment at the gates using smart card technology for the collection of gate fees. Initial results indicated that indeed the collections went up significantly, suggesting that a major racket has been in place before to defraud the council of revenues, and those affected resorted on several occasions to violence, destroying gate posts, the equipment and the data transmission set up, while also blocking roads keeping tourists as quasi hostages. Some in fact resorted to threats against this correspondent for reporting on the situation and the circumstances as per stakeholder information received at the time, not preventing further reports though along the same lines.

It is understood that the bank is presently reviewing their legal options to sue for unjustified termination and claim substantial damages from the county government for loss of the 7 percent transaction commission as well as other fees for the remainder of the contract duration.

Tour operators with credit on their smart cards allowing them to pay for the entrance fees of their cars, guides and tourists, have also expressed their frustration over the changed circumstances, claiming to have as a group hundreds of thousands of Kenya Shillings tied up in smart cards they can now no longer use while others who early this week still purchased the cards from the bank’s Narok offices equally complained about being duped into spending money on the cards but on arrival at the gates to find out that cash was required, raising questions on the ways and means this change was implemented.

A source close to the bank said in a late message last evening that: ‘The bank, from what I know, insists that the termination of the contract is illegal and the laid down procedures for termination were not followed. They are looking at their options to resolve the matter through amicable discussions or else use the law to protect their position’. In a further twist, it may be recalled that the former KWS Executive Director Dr. Julius Kipng’etich join the bank last year as Chief Operating Officer following his resignation from the Kenya Wildlife Service, this may be opening the spectrum of renewed rivalry since in the past KWS and Narok County did not always see eye to eye over the management of the reserve and other issues. For sure, not the best advertisement again for Kenya as it is once more the tourists who were taking the broad side of the fall out with many of them now seeking a refund of the fees ‘injected’ into smart cards only to find them worthless on arrival at the gates. Watch this space.

COAST HOTELIERS RAISE RED FLAG OVER PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS

(Posted 24th June 2013)

Senior hoteliers along the Kenya coast have raised the red flag over proposed budget cuts for the country’s tourism sector, warning of dire consequences should the planned recovery marketing missions not unfold and take root as a result of lack of funds. A knee jerk reaction by members of the parliamentary budget and appropriations committee left the tourism sector reeling, as the hapless MP’s cut two billion Kenya Shillings from the tourism funding, to redirect to other sectors attempting to avert strikes, but at what ultimate cost.

Information at hand indicates that along one of Kenya’s best beaches, Diani Beach, some 11 out of 21 resorts are presently closed, ostensibly for ‘renovations’ but in reality, only a few of those actually have carried out extensive maintenance and refurbishment work while most others are closed for a simple fact, lack of business.

When KTB asked for an added recovery marketing budget of 500 million Kenya Shillings it was not a farfetched request. It was based on the needs of the sector, based on assessing reality on the ground and put forward after careful consideration. The start of the year was very slow and sluggish. The impact of travel advisories was real this time. Our competitors for beach vacations did not sleep and exploited the situation. We have to recover that traffic but to accomplish that we need KTB to get the funding to go out and promote. Some politicians seem to be mistaken in their belief that this will pay for the private sector to go out and promote. This is absolutely not the case. We in the private sector pay for our own trip expenses. What KTB does is generic marketing of Kenya, offering the private sector space on stands they put up at the main tourism trade shows or the sales missions they stage abroad. These funds are for advertising and PR missions to bring travel journalists to Kenya and have them write about the destination. These funds were also meant to bring travel agents to Kenya and showcase our destination to them to create goodwill and business opportunities. We were shell shocked when the news about raiding our sectoral budget broke. Here at the South Coast half of our resorts are closed right now and even then, our average occupancy among those open is less than 30 percent. Some are doing better, true, but others are just struggling to even make the cash to pay for electricity and water and staff salaries right now. KAHC [the Kenya
Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, the country’s primary hotel
association] has already laid out what impact on our sector the budget cut will have. We are looking at major job losses and investors in the sector will be wary to commit millions of dollars for new projects, when the existing hotels struggle to make ends meet. At the South Coast only the Swahili Beach opened over the past few years but we still have a net loss of beds. That is because other resorts closed down. If this message will not get across to government, and to parliament, they would condemn the sector to years of downsizing. Kenyatta and Ruto [Kenya’s President and Deputy President] have singled out tourism as a growth sector and a cornerstone in their plans to generate double digit economic growth. Tourism is a sector which can, given the right circumstances, generate jobs faster than any other sector, can attract FDI and earn the country hard currency by selling our sun, sea and sand, resources we have in plenty. We will be seeking urgent audience with government to discuss our situation. Kenyatta was chairman of KTB so he will remember what it takes to turn Kenya into a success story, because he himself back then struggled to get the funding they needed. Not all hope is lost but for now, these are the facts’ salvoed a regular contributor from the Kenya coast when asked to comment on the latest statistical revelations.

The MCTA Chairman, re-elected unopposed two weeks ago, Mohammed Hersi, who is also the Regional Manager Coast for Sarova Hotels and who oversees the North Coast’s largest, and arguably most successful resort complex, the Whitesands Resort and Spa, together with the two lodges Taita Hills and Salt Lick, already let fly on Twitter when the news over the intended budget cuts became public, and it is expected that MCTA, together with the KAHC and other key tourism representative bodies like KATO and KTF will meet with their Cabinet Secretary soon to try and save the day. Clearly, not all is lost just yet but certainly there are rising clouds of doom on the horizon which need chasing away, and that can only be accomplished when KTB, and the tourism industry at large, are getting the facilitation they need to carry out their mandate successfully. Watch this space.

Tanzania News

SERENGETI HIGHWAY BACK ON TANZANIA’S AGENDA AS BUDGET SET ASIDE FOR PLANNING

(Posted 27th June 2013)

Words like ‘deception’ but also the undiplomatic word ‘lies’ were used in comments sent to this correspondent when news emerged that the Tanzanian government, in the face of past protests and boycott threats, and in neglect of more viable alternative routes, seems to have gone back to their much disputed position of building a highway across the Serengeti’s main migration routes.

The proposed budget for the financial year 2013/14 appears to contain a dedicated allocation of funds to advance the planning of the highway and prepare the design of it, inspite of both the German government and the World Bank having offered to pay for exactly those components should the government consider to look at the Southern route, bypassing the Serengeti and, for that matter, reaching substantially more people than a route directly through the park.

Powerful mining interests, some of which reportedly ‘donated’ heavily to the last election campaign, are said to be behind this route, among other bedfellows intent on wrecking Tanzania’s environment and prime park for profits, as the highway would open up Lake Natron for soda ash extraction while offering the most direct route for mining concessions given out already or pending between the Serengeti and Lake Victoria. Tanzania’s works minister in fact was quoted that once those studies were completed, and notably there was not a word said about a detailed environmental impact assessment on the likely displacement of the great herds of wildebeest and zebras, construction would commence just as soon as the results were available. With plans also on the drawing board to build a new railway between Tanga and Musoma on Lake Victoria, places where in fact even new ports would need constructing, one of them right inside the Coelacanth marine national park, it has never been completely and categorically ruled out that a railway would not run parallel to the planned highway to save mileage AND to allow for the bulk export by rail of soda ash, like done from neighbouring Kenya’s Lake Magadi to the port of Mombasa.

Already have calls emerged for US President Barrack Obama to speak out against the massive upswing in poaching in Tanzania, a country fingered as the one with the most elephant killed in 2012 anywhere in the world, and these environmental crimes in the making too in fact should be on his agenda when speaking to President Kikwete. Considering though the backing Tanzania has been getting from China, the leading ‘importer’ of blood ivory from Africa, it is unlikely that other than platitudes substantive responses can be expected when the two meet and then answer the questions of the international media.

The evidence found in the budget proposals for the intent to push ahead with this highway, by hook or crook, will however very likely result in re-invigorating the ‘Save the Serengeti’ campaign, where anti poaching lobbyists can now, armed with the facts and statistics of poaching in 2012 at hand, join with their counterparts from the anti highway lobby and renew global pressure on Tanzania.

Past threats of a tourism boycott have so far remained in the domain of mere words, at least while a case is pending before the East African Court of Justice, in which the opponents of the project are seeking a permanent injunction on the Tanzanian government. The aim of the case is to prohibit government from starting any form of construction or alterations of tracks and existing ‘roads’ inside the Serengeti towards the end of serving as a highway. How the court will decide is not clear at present, though going by past experience it is likely they might grant the plaintiff’s request, but if not, for sure a massive anti Tanzania campaign would be unleashed around the world, no doubt making the heads of bureaucrats in Dar es Salaam and Dodoma spin as they are not used at home to find such levels of open dissent and opposition, and unable to unleash their goons on protestors outside Embassies and High Commissions, which would be the primary targets under such circumstances. Time to remain vigilant and watchful and keep raising voices around the globe that ‘Serengeti Must Not Die’.

TANZANIA RANKED TOP SAFARI DESTINATION IN AFRICA

(Posted 24th June 2013)

Good news emerged over the weekend when the rankings by Safaribookings.com became known, which put Tanzania, albeit by a mere whisker, on top of the African rankings as the continent’s leading safari destination.

Second came Botswana, followed by the arguably more fancied Kenya, Zambia and South Africa.

The news were warmly welcomed among tourism stakeholders who in recent days struggled to come to terms with the impact of two incidents over the past 8 weeks in Arusha, and who have now taken renewed courage and spirits from beating their nearest rivals to claim Africa’s top position.

Named as key factors to hand Tanzania the ‘victory’ in the contest were Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, two globally known parks which for decades have kindled the world’s travellers keenest interest and have become part of literally every bucket list drawn up.

Comments from Tanzania’s deputy minister for tourism though were taken with more than a grain of salt, when he publicly claimed that ‘Kenya’s days are numbered’, an utterance both undiplomatic for a ministerial position and very much unlike his superior, cabinet minister for natural resources and tourism Amb. Khamis Kagesheki would have said in public.

Nyalandu’s comments are a disgrace. Instead of reveling in the accomplishment he introduces cheap politics. We need to seek cooperation in East Africa to market our region, which has captured positions one and three from among all African destinations, and not start another round of cat fights’ commented a regular source from Arusha before continuing: ‘Our main rivals are not ourselves, because in East Africa we can have one destination with many attractions. Our main rivals are South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. When we finally have the common tourist Visa we can harvest more tourists because they find it easier then, and cheaper, to visit several or all of our countries. Each has big attractions. I followed your reports from Rwanda last week about their gorilla naming. We have no gorillas in Tanzania but visitors can still come to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro and then fly to Rwanda for the gorillas. We have the one and only Kilimanjaro in Tanzania but Kenya has Mt. Kenya and you in Uganda have the Rwenzori Mountains. So again, alpinists can come and do all three in one holiday. This is co-ompetion in a positive way. We need to build on our mutual strengths and people like Nyalandu need to come out of their negative mind set and work hand in hand instead of making such inflammatory statements. East Africa has many challenges to succeed in tourism, given security issues, budget issues and other reasons, so let him hold his horses and follow his senior minister’s lead by being diplomatic’ said the source from Arusha, for obvious reasons not wishing to be named.

Others agreed that ‘friendly competition’ can only help to raise standards and gain exposure in the world market and that, as a given fact, a cross border itinerary for safaris, which includes all the key attractions of the region, is the most preferable option for tourists who come a very long way.

Congratulations to Tanzania for making the top rankings of Safaribookings.com and best of luck in the current voting season for Africa’s best lodges, resorts, hotels and attractions by the World Travel Awards, the winners of which will be presented, and no pun intended here, in Nairobi later this year. Watch this space.

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR TAKES DELIVERY OF SECOND B737-700NG

(Posted 28th June 2013)

Yesterday afternoon saw another addition to RwandAir’s growing fleet arrive in Kigali, when the second B737-700NG landed at the international airport. The aircraft, formerly operated by TUIFly of Germany and only about 6 years old, brings to a close the replacement exercise of the more aged B737-500’s which RwandAir had leased from GECAS during the past several years. Both of these aircraft are now being prepared to return to the leasing company in the United States. The new aircraft carried a load of donated equipment and gifts, collected in Germany by friends of Rwanda and well wishers, as part of the delivery flight which took off from Hannover / Germany.

RwandAir now operates four B 737NG’s, two brand new -800 ‘birds’ acquired from Boeing in late 2011 and now two fairly new – 700 types. The commonalities of the two however allow cockpit and cabin crew to fly on both types of aircraft without further type certification as can the ground engineers equally maintain both aircraft types as a result of the identical technical features.

RwandAir also operates two brand new Bombardier CRJ900NextGen, which arrived only very recently, while an order for a Bombardier turboprop aircraft, a state of the art Q400 type, is awaiting delivery in November this year.

The national airline of Rwanda earlier this month commenced flights from Kigali, via Lagos, to Accra / Ghana, to where it now operates 5 times a week. Flights to Douala are also due to start soon, expanding RwandAir’s presence in West Africa, from where traffic to Eastern Africa and to Dubai – WB flies daily from Kigali to Dubai – can now connect with ease in Kigali. Another new destination already confirmed is South Sudan’s capital of Juba, to where the inaugural flight is expected to take off in August this year.

RwandAir has as a result of the growth in destinations been able to record a massive increase in passengers, many of whom now fly beyond Kigali with what has been termed as one of Africa’s fastest growing airlines. During a recent inaugural flight to Accra, a senior member of the RwandAir team said: ‘We are an example that airlines in Africa, especially national airlines, can actually grow and prosper by purchasing brand new aircraft. Many people abroad think African airlines use only old ramshackle aircraft. RwandAir has shown that the use of new aircraft is important for expansion and growth. Our government backs us, our people back us and we have been accepted as an important player in African aviation. When we get our B787’s and the new airport opens, we want to be the airline of choice to connect Africa through Kigali’.

Both the airline’s top management and even President Paul Kagame have in the past made it clear, that when the time is right RwandAir will seek a strategic investor to partner with, a move expected to go underway in a few years’ time, when the airline’s operations have consolidated and when WB is expected to turn profitable.

While RwandAir has expressed no preference towards any of the three main global airline alliances as yet, it codeshares with Brussels Airlines on the route to the European capital – SN being a member of Star Alliance – but has also signed a close cooperation agreement with regional giant Kenya Airways, which is part of SkyTeam.

Interesting times ahead for RwandAir no doubt, but for now it is happy landings for the new aircraft, its crews and passengers. Visit www.rwandair.com for more details on the airline’s current destinations, schedules and bookings.

UNWTO’S DR. TALEB RIFAI NAMES GORILLA BABY AT KWITA IZINA FESTIVAL

(Posted 23rd June 2013)

(Dr. Taleb Rifai seen here emerging from the traditional homestead at the Kinigi Kwita Izina showground after being dressed in a traditional ceremonial Rwandan outfit – picture by W.Thome)

The Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organization, Dr. Taleb Rifai, was among the 13 namers of newborn gorillas, and of a newly formed breakaway gorilla family, at this year’s Kwita Izina festival in Kinigi, Musanze District of north western Rwanda. (www.kwitizina.org)

Dr. Rifai was selected by the Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Department alongside such other personalities like Jeffrey Sachs, the American economist and Director of the Earth Institute in Washington, actors Isaiah Washington and Ramsey Tokunbo Nouah, Paul Dalgleish, Marriott International’s Director of Sales and Marketing for Africa and the Middle East and renowned Kenyan wildlife lobbyist Dr. Paula Kahumbu, among others.

While naming, a link to a YouTube upload of the address is shown here (http://youtu.be/_nin-lx8iUM?a), Dr. Rifai brought the greetings of the world tourism fraternity to Rwanda and in a number of one on one conversations with tourism representatives from several African countries present at the event, urged them to attend the forthcoming UNWTO General Meeting. This year’s UNWTO meeting will be held in August and hosted jointly by the Zambian city of Livingstone and the Zimbabwean city of Victoria Falls, an event which is expected to turn the world’s focus on Africa as an emerging tourism destination. Todate Africa is only receiving a fraction of the global travel which now stands at well over 1 billion people and for many countries on the continent tourism could be the answer to poverty reduction, job creation, foreign exchange earnings and direct foreign investment, a trend actively promoted by Dr. Rifai’s administration at the UNWTO headquarters in Madrid. Kwita Izina 2013, Celebrating Nature and Empowering Communities.

RELIGIOUS ‘CIRCUIT’ IN KIBEHO WELCOMES FIRST PILGRIMS FROM INDIA

(Posted 23rd June 2013)

(Image taken from www.inhisname.com)

Only days ago was it reported here that the Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Department had launched a new religious tourism product for visits to Kibeho, that a first ever group of Indian pilgrims from Goa came to the site to pray and worship. Goa, an erstwhile Portuguese colony, was taken over by India in December 1961 through annexation, but has retained until today its largely Christian orientation with many Goans carrying family names of Portuguese origin.

Ignatius Pinto, who was also one of the ‘namers’ at the just concluded Kwita Izina annual Festival of the Gorillas, in conjunction with Seventh Wave, a specialized safari operator based in Kigali for tours to Kibeho, got everyone’s attention when addressing the mammoth crowd at the Kinigi showground, as he narrated his plans to bring pilgrims to Rwanda on a regular basis. Speaking from his wheelchair, Ignatius turned into a living testimony for having opened up Kibeho for pilgrims from beyond Rwanda and Eastern Africa, now available to visitors from around the world.

I have already booked more groups until the end of the year and for next year. This is the first organized tour group from India to come to Rwanda’ did he tell as he departed from the Kinigi showground, leaving lasting impressions on those he met and interacted with.

It is expected that RDB will soon release newly developed publicity material about Kibeho and include details about religiously motivated tours on their website but it goes to show that the tourism planners in Kigali have found yet more ways to diversify the range of opportunities for tourists coming to the Land of a Thousand Hills. For more information contact the Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Department via their website contacts on www.rwandatourism.com

Seychelles News

VISA WAIVER FOR SEYCHELLOIS VISITING CHINA NOW IN EFFECT

(Posted 29th June 2013

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY TO THE PEOPLE AND THE GOVERNMENT OF THE SEYCHELLES

Effective 26th of June can Seychellois citizens, who want to visit China, including Hong Kong, where Air Seychelles flies to three times a week, enter China on a 30 day visitor pass, at no cost and with no hassles on arrival. The deal was signed earlier in the year and makes the Seychelles the first and presently only African country to have such an arrangement in place. The Seychelles have for long opened the doors of the archipelago to visitors from abroad without the need for any Visa, for any nationality for that matter, a factor which has significantly contributed to sharply rising visitor number from China, up 67 percent this year compared to 2012 already, or from countries of the former Soviet bloc, India and in fact from across Africa too. All required to enter the archipelago is a return ticket, a confirmed hotel booking and sufficient funds for upkeep, or in the case of visitors from Africa a Yellow Fever inoculation certificate when coming from areas of prevalence.

While most countries go by the often outdated method of reciprocity, and use Visa fees payable on arrival or in advance of travel as a source of supplementing their national budget, they in fact make travel to their countries difficult, often keeping visitors away, who opt understandably for places to visit where less stringent rules apply.

Perhaps time, in view of this development, for other African countries to re-examine their own Visa policies, especially those countries hustling for more visitors and yet slap them with an entry fee on arrival. Seychelles, truly Another World.

CHANGES AT THE HELM OF STB

(Posted 28th June 2013)

(On the left the outgoing STB CEO Elsia Grandcourt and on the right incoming CEO Sherin Naiken)

A press release yesterday late afternoon from the office of President James Alix Michel, confirmed that the Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Mrs. Elsia Grandcourt, will retire from STB on 30th June this year. Elsia, who served as CEO since the 01st of March last year, previously served as Deputy CEO under Alain St. Ange, before taking over as Chief Executive when Mr. St. Ange was appointed as Minister of Tourism and Culture.

The relevant part of the statement from the Office of the President in Mahe reads as follows:

Start quote:

Following the resignation of Mrs. Elsia Grandcourt from the post of CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, the President has appointed Ms. Sherin Naiken, formerly Principal Secretary for Tourism, as the new CEO of STB. Mrs Grandcourt has been nominated for a high level post in an international organisation.

End quote

The announcement was part of a more comprehensive statement of new appointments and changes, which included the creation of a Department of Entrepreneurship Development and Business Innovation, which President Michel had mentioned in his recent State of the Nation address.

For now it is a fond farewell to Elsia Grandcourt, with whom this correspondent worked closely over the past years in her respective capacities and a warm welcome to Sherin Naiken, who will take charge on July 01st. Visit www.seychelles.travel for more information on the destination and in particular of the upcoming key annual calendar of events festivals, the La Digue based ‘Festival of Assumption’ and the ‘Festival of the Sea – SUBIOS’ in November. Seychelles, truly Another World.

SEYCHELLES SIGNS NEW BASA WITH HONG KONG

(Posted 27th June 2013)

Information was received from Mahe, that during the ongoing Investment Conference, which the Seychelles are presently holding in Hong Kong in order to attract both business links and more tourists, a new bilateral air services agreement was signed between the archipelago and Hong Kong, which is a region with special status within the People’s Republic of China since attaining independence from Britain.

Air Seychelles has been operating direct flights, from Mahe via Abu Dhabi to Hong Kong three times a week under a special status which has now been regularized to fit common air service agreements in place elsewhere.

Hong Kong airlines, like Cathay Pacific, can now also commence flights to Mahe, very likely with fifth freedom rights from an intermediate waypoint, as is the case with Air Seychelles from Abu Dhabi, though no such plans are imminent.

Present at the signing ceremony were Air Seychelles’ CEO Cramer Ball, the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board Mrs. Elsia Grandcourt, the CEO of Seychelles Civil Aviation Gilbert Faure and other officials, who saw the Minister for Trade and Investment Pierre Laport affix the official signature on the documents alongside the Hong Kong Secretary for Transport Prof. Cheung Bing-leung.

Congratulations to the Seychelles for this landmark agreement and happy landings for aircraft, crews and hopefully many passengers flying from Hong Kong to Mahe and vice versa.

SEYCHELLES TOURISM BIDS FAREWELL TO LOUIS D’OFFAY AT SHTA

(Posted 25th June 2013)

Louis D’Offay, for the last 15 years the chairman of the Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association SHTA, has during the just concluded Annual General Meeting of the archipelago’s premier private sector association retired from his position. Under his leadership over the past 15 year has the Seychelles tourism industry undergone a major reorientation and reformation and established itself as an equal partner to the public sector with key representation on the Seychelles Tourism Board and the Seychelles Tourism Academy, among other bodies where SHTA is providing private sector expertise and input.

Immediate successor, until a new board for SHTA is elected in early 2014, will be his erstwhile deputy, well known tourism personality Danielle Payet-Alis, who will continue with the proactive stance of SHTA vis a vis the country’s global marketing efforts and the ongoing repositioning of the country’s tourism academy, among many other duties where SHTA collaborates with government.

In his outgoing address did Louis stress the need to continue with the consultative processes established over the years with government bodies, to tackle pending issues like taxation, airlines, security concerns and ‘gainful employment permits’. He also called for an immediate appointment at the Seychelles Tourism Board of a Director of Marketing, a position which has remained open since the erstwhile office holder Alain St. Ange – back then seconded by the private sector to STB, rose to the position of first CEO before being appointed Minister of Tourism and Culture 15 months ago. Louis also expressed the concerns of his membership over air access between Mahe and La Reunion, following the withdrawal of flights by Air Austral, which in his words doubled the cost of a ticket as a result of having to travel via Mauritius.

Louis will according to a regular source from Mahe now concentrate with renewed vigour on his hotel business, being the owner of the renowned 5 star rated L’Archipel resort on the island of Praslin.

Having been acquainted with Louis for several years now, time for a big round of applause, a great many thank you’s for all the past interaction and all the best for the future where undoubtedly we will meet again. A warm welcome goes to Danielle, also known to this correspondent for a number of years, and who’s experience in marketing the Seychelles through Seychelles Connect, Seychelles – Resa and the Seychelles Leisure and Business Guide will no doubt bring a fresh perspective and initiatives to SHTA.

AIR SEYCHELLES MAKES IT TO SKYTRAX PODIUM POSITION

(Posted 25th June 2013)

The turnaround at Air Seychelles, manifested through a million US Dollar profit after not much more than a year of partnership with Etihad, Abu Dhabi’s national airline, and marked by a rush of code share arrangements which now sees the HM code carried to more destinations than the ‘old’ Air Seychelles could ever reach, has continued after the results of this year’s Skytrax passenger survey has come to light.

More than 18 million passengers from around the world voted for excellence in the skies and lo and behold, Air Seychelles has made it to a podium finish.

Air Seychelles is now ranked as Africa’s second best airline, up by 8 places from last year’s 10th overall position in this category, and the airline’s staff is now ranked as the third best in Africa.

In the ‘most improved’ category Air Seychelles came in fourth, and the airline’s global standing is now position 56, up from number 133 in 2012.

Cramer Ball, Air Seychelles’ CEO, received the news with obvious delight and had this to say: ‘This is a significant achievement for Air Seychelles and further confirmation that the airline is moving in the right direction. To climb so quickly in the Skytrax rankings in such a short time is evidence of our team’s determination to be the best airline in the Indian Ocean and to fulfill Air Seychelles’ vision to be a high quality, profitable airline. The Global Airline Awards are based on traveller feedback, so it is pleasing to see that our customers are recognising the rapid progress we are making towards being the best airline in the region. The results demonstrate our commitment to training, our investment in our people and our product and further demonstrates the value of our partnership with Etihad Airways’.

The results will no doubt assist to further underscore the archipelago’s relentless drive to portray the Seychelles as a dream destination in the deep of the Indian Ocean, an experience which can now start as soon as passengers board an Air Seychelles flight from Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Johannesburg or Mauritius – and, not to forget, when flying across to Praslin island on one of the nearly 20 daily services from Mahe.

Watch this space for regular and breaking news from the Indian Ocean region’s vibrant aviation sector.

AND in closing, as most weeks, some worthwhile reads from further down south, courtesy of Gill Staden:

Historical Centre

The historical centre of Livingstone is based around Mukuni Park which used to be called The Barotse Centre. Many of the buildings here date from 1910 or thereabouts. Some of them are still in good condition, having been preserved with direction from National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC).

Finance Bank is having a makeover inside and is becoming like any other bank – all shiny and modern with a low ceiling. Gone is that beautiful high ceiling which used to let in light and air; now the bank will have to rely on electric lights and air conditioners. When the building was first constructed there were no such things as air conditioners; electricity was minimal. In present Zambia where electricity has to be conserved, I find this ‘innovation’ for modernization very sad. But few people can say anything to bankers …

Fortunately the outside will remain the same.

On the corner of Airport Road and Mosi-oa-Tunya Road is the old Post Office. It now houses Department of Immigration and Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.

The pavement outside is in a bad state and needs to be looked at.

Surely NHCC can make a feature of our old historic centre to entertain visitors. We get many people coming to Livingstone who had ancestors who used to live here and they want to see where they lived and how they lived.

Tourism takes on many facets. Most people come to Livingstone to see the Victoria Falls but there are others who come for history, for sports and for entertainment. If we are to maximize Livingstone’s tourism potential we have to show off all our assets, and history is a big one.

ZAMBIA

New airport tax in Zambia

From Robin Pope

Please note that National Airports Corporation has now introduced an Infrastructure and Development charge which is effective immediately.

This tax is applicable for ALL passengers departing from Livingstone, Mfuwe, Lusaka or Ndola Airports on domestic or international flights. The new tax will be applied to ALL tickets for scheduled flights issued or amended after 15 June 2013. The new tax will also apply to all private charters and will be payable along with the departure taxes.

Anyone with a ticket issued BEFORE 15 June 2013 is exempt from paying the tax.

The Infrastructure & Development charge is ZMW 27 (approximately USD 5) for domestic travel and ZMW 54 (approximately USD 10) for international travel

Another bridge over the Zambezi

From the Zambia Weekly

The Road Development Agency (RDA) has awarded China Henan International Cooperation Group (CHICO) a KR80 million contract for the construction of Sioma Bridge across the Zambezi River on the Sesheke-Senanga Road, reported the Daily Mail. CHICO is an old-timer in Zambia, with several roads under its belt. Currently it is working on the Mansa-Luwingu Road and the Lusaka-Chirundu Road – and is constructing the Chiawa Bridge over the Kafue River in Chirundu.

Kafue National Park

If you are heading towards Kafue National Park this year, you will need the new book, just out. It gives all the places to stay, includes a map to get you around and GPS coordinates. There are also lists of birds and animals for you to tick off while you are there.

Even if you are not going to Kafue, this book is a must for any library – home or lodge.

I have copies for sale. Retail K150, wholesale (10+) at K105.

Kandie boosts the importance of Kenya’s tourism trade associations

TOURISM CABINET SECRETARY’S COMMENTS BOOST TRADE ASSOCIATIONS

(Posted 29th June 2013)

While addressing the general meeting of the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, which took place earlier in the week at the Whitesands Resort and Spa in Bamburi / Mombasa, did the Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, Mrs. Phyllis Kandie, give the sector associations a boost, when she stated that licenses will in the future only be granted to companies which are a member of a relevant tourism trade association. She was further quoted that government will only engage in dialogue with associations representing the various sub sectors of the tourism trade, suggesting that talks on crucial matters will include the Kenya Tourism Federation, Kenya’s tourism private sector apex body and the member associations like KAHC, Budget Hotels, PERAK, KATO, KATA, EcoTourism, KAAO and MCTA.

Tourism trade associations have for long advocated to make membership a mandatory requirement in order to be licensed by government, and it appears that calls to root out rogue and briefcase operators have finally gotten attention. Cabinet Secretary Kandie was, according to a source from Mombasa, quoted to have said about unlicensed and rogue elements: ‘We shall deal with these firmly because their time is up. We need to clean up the industry and we are resolute on this’. She went on to assure the stakeholders present that: ‘We shall also hasten the creation of a Communication Crisis Committee and centre to coordinate and manage industry related crisis that would otherwise negatively impact the industry’. This would arguably either work hand in hand or supplement the KTF crisis management set up, which has in the past proved hugely beneficial to have key institutions come on board in times of a crisis, like the Kenya Police, other security organs as well as KWS and KTB.

Tourism stakeholders reportedly used the opportunity of interaction to make it clear that the reduction of the budget estimates for the tourism industry was unacceptable for the sector and could lead to significant job losses in the hospitality sector, prompting the Cabinet Secretary to assure them that discussions were underway to leave the proposed budget intact, which would permit the Kenya Tourism Board to roll out an aggressive recovery marketing campaign, as endorsed by the industry.

Tourism featured high in the inaugural addresses of President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto and is generally thought to be a cornerstone and foundation from which to accomplish the double digit economic growth the new government has promised Kenyans during their present term of office. ‘If those budget cuts are not reversed tourism will not be able to play that leading role the president expects the sector to take in boosting our economy. Instead, the sector might suffer a reversal and the nascent recovery we now see may turn to the opposite. Our competition is not sleeping. They used the past months to position themselves at our expense. We need to tell the world why they should come to enjoy Kenya’s beaches and not those elsewhere. We need to tell the world why tourists should come to visit our game parks and not those of others. If the money is not there for KTB to go out and hit the market hard, the dream of 3 million visitor arrivals will remain just that, a dream’ added the same source during some interaction on the event’s progress. Watch this space.

Seychellois citizens now enjoy Visa free visits to China

VISA WAIVER FOR SEYCHELLOIS VISITING CHINA NOW IN EFFECT

(Posted 29th June 2013)

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY TO THE PEOPLE AND THE GOVERNMENT OF THE SEYCHELLES

Effective 26th of June can Seychellois citizens, who want to visit China, including Hong Kong, where Air Seychelles flies to three times a week, enter China on a 30 day visitor pass, at no cost and with no hassles on arrival. The deal was signed earlier in the year and makes the Seychelles the first and presently only African country to have such an arrangement in place. The Seychelles have for long opened the doors of the archipelago to visitors from abroad without the need for any Visa, for any nationality for that matter, a factor which has significantly contributed to sharply rising visitor number from China, up 67 percent this year compared to 2012 already, or from countries of the former Soviet bloc, India and in fact from across Africa too. All required to enter the archipelago is a return ticket, a confirmed hotel booking and sufficient funds for upkeep, or in the case of visitors from Africa a Yellow Fever inoculation certificate when coming from areas of prevalence.

While most countries go by the often outdated method of reciprocity, and use Visa fees payable on arrival or in advance of travel as a source of supplementing their national budget, they in fact make travel to their countries difficult, often keeping visitors away, who opt understandably for places to visit where less stringent rules apply.

Perhaps time, in view of this development, for other African countries to re-examine their own Visa policies, especially those countries hustling for more visitors and yet slap them with an entry fee on arrival. Seychelles, truly Another World.

RwandAir takes delivery of second B737-700NG

RWANDAIR TAKES DELIVERY OF SECOND B737-700NG

(Posted 28th June 2013)

Yesterday afternoon saw another addition to RwandAir’s growing fleet arrive in Kigali, when the second B737-700NG landed at the international airport. The aircraft, formerly operated by TUIFly of Germany and only about 6 years old, brings to a close the replacement exercise of the more aged B737-500’s which RwandAir had leased from GECAS during the past several years. Both of these aircraft are now being prepared to return to the leasing company in the United States. The new aircraft carried a load of donated equipment and gifts, collected in Germany by friends of Rwanda and well wishers, as part of the delivery flight which took off from Hannover / Germany.

RwandAir now operates four B 737NG’s, two brand new -800 ‘birds’ acquired from Boeing in late 2011 and now two fairly new – 700 types. The commonalities of the two however allow cockpit and cabin crew to fly on both types of aircraft without further type certification as can the ground engineers equally maintain both aircraft types as a result of the identical technical features.

RwandAir also operates two brand new Bombardier CRJ900NextGen, which arrived only very recently, while an order for a Bombardier turboprop aircraft, a state of the art Q400 type, is awaiting delivery in November this year.

The national airline of Rwanda earlier this month commenced flights from Kigali, via Lagos, to Accra / Ghana, to where it now operates 5 times a week. Flights to Douala are also due to start soon, expanding RwandAir’s presence in West Africa, from where traffic to Eastern Africa and to Dubai – WB flies daily from Kigali to Dubai – can now connect with ease in Kigali. Another new destination already confirmed is South Sudan’s capital of Juba, to where the inaugural flight is expected to take off in August this year.

RwandAir has as a result of the growth in destinations been able to record a massive increase in passengers, many of whom now fly beyond Kigali with what has been termed as one of Africa’s fastest growing airlines. During a recent inaugural flight to Accra, a senior member of the RwandAir team said: ‘We are an example that airlines in Africa, especially national airlines, can actually grow and prosper by purchasing brand new aircraft. Many people abroad think African airlines use only old ramshackle aircraft. RwandAir has shown that the use of new aircraft is important for expansion and growth. Our government backs us, our people back us and we have been accepted as an important player in African aviation. When we get our B787’s and the new airport opens, we want to be the airline of choice to connect Africa through Kigali’.

Both the airline’s top management and even President Paul Kagame have in the past made it clear, that when the time is right RwandAir will seek a strategic investor to partner with, a move expected to go underway in a few years’ time, when the airline’s operations have consolidated and when WB is expected to turn profitable.

While RwandAir has expressed no preference towards any of the three main global airline alliances as yet, it codeshares with Brussels Airlines on the route to the European capital – SN being a member of Star Alliance – but has also signed a close cooperation agreement with regional giant Kenya Airways, which is part of SkyTeam.

Interesting times ahead for RwandAir no doubt, but for now it is happy landings for the new aircraft, its crews and passengers. Visit www.rwandair.com for more details on the airline’s current destinations, schedules and bookings.

Kenya Airways introduces new cost cutting measures in wake of FY 2012/13 losses

KENYA AIRWAYS INTRODUCES NEW COST CUTTING MEASURES TO BOOST PROFITABILITY

(Posted 28th June 2013)

Good news for shareholders have come out of the Kenya Airways headoffice in Embakasi, when information was released yesterday about projected 5 billion Kenya Shillings in savings over the next few years, following the re-negotiation of crucial maintenance and supply contracts with service providers

Following the announcement of full year results earlier this month, which resulted in the airline’s share price suffering some downward correction, has the top management of Kenya Airways been taking the offensive to the market and the measures just made public are in fact, or so it is understood, the result of months of work behind the scenes, aimed to reduce the cost burden associated with maintaining a growing fleet.

The statement received from KQ in part reads:

Start quote:

The savings arise from improvement in commercial terms, service levels, contractual terms and conditions, as well as significant direct and actual cost savings; coupled with the benefits of the planned fleet expansion.

For the next five year contract period, the airline will save over KSh754.6 million (US$8.8 million) annually under its aircraft maintenance Component Support Programme (CSP).

In addition to this, Kenya Airways’ strategic expansion programme, Project Mawingu, which aims at growing its network of destinations, besides expanding the fleet from the current 42 to 107 new modern aircrafts, will lead to a significant cut in costs, contributing to the savings.

Kenya Airways’ Chief Executive Officer and Group Managing Director, Titus Naikuni, said that the CSP was part of the airline’s efforts to review its high cost drivers in a bid to reduce operation costs without compromising on quality. The aviation industry traditionally has high operating costs. This is the reason why we are continually reviewing our operations to ensure that we are able to deliver a world-class experience to our customers while keeping an eye on our costs.

The CSP was led by a team comprising airline staff from different areas – Technical Procurement, Engineering Development, Component Workshops, Technical Planning, and Quality Assurance & Engineering Finance – to develop guidelines and review all existing contracts.

The cost-cutting measures come as the aviation industry smarts from tough times in the last financial year due to knock on effects of the economic slowdown in the Eurozone leading to reduced passenger numbers and a spike in oil prices that increased airlines’ operating costs. This led to losses, financial difficulties and collapse of airlines.

Kenya Airways indicated, in the recently released 2012/13 full year financial results, that its direct operating costs were KSh77.2 billion, which remained unchanged from the previous year. The airline’s turnover, on the other hand, dropped to KSh98.8 billion in the 2012/13 financial year, compared to the KSh107.9 billion that was netted the previous year.’

End quote

The commitment of Kenya Airways, to connect Africa like no other airline, by flying to all political and commercial capitals across the continent by the end of next year, remains firmly in place and as more of the modern Embraer E190 jets are delivered, and a new order reportedly is being finalized for more of the larger B737NG’s, this vision, according to a source close to the airline, will be turned into reality. By March 2014 does Kenya Airways expect the first of 9 B787 Dreamliners on order, to facilitate both fleet expansion and the retirement of the aged B767 fleet, which will lead to further significant savings in operating cost compared to present day. For more information about the airline, for schedules, bookings and on line check in, visit www.kenya-airways.com

Sherin Naiken confirmed as new STB Chief Executive

CHANGES AT THE HELM OF STB

(Posted 28th June 2013)

(On the left the outgoing STB CEO Elsia Grandcourt and on the right incoming CEO Sherin Naiken)

A press release yesterday late afternoon from the office of President James Alix Michel, confirmed that the Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Mrs. Elsia Grandcourt, will retire from STB on 30th June this year. Elsia, who served as CEO since the 01st of March last year, previously served as Deputy CEO under Alain St. Ange, before taking over as Chief Executive when Mr. St. Ange was appointed as Minister of Tourism and Culture.

The relevant part of the statement from the Office of the President in Mahe reads as follows:

Start quote:

Following the resignation of Mrs. Elsia Grandcourt from the post of CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, the President has appointed Ms. Sherin Naiken, formerly Principal Secretary for Tourism, as the new CEO of STB. Mrs Grandcourt has been nominated for a high level post in an international organisation.

End quote

The announcement was part of a more comprehensive statement of new appointments and changes, which included the creation of a Department of Entrepreneurship Development and Business Innovation, which President Michel had mentioned in his recent State of the Nation address.

For now it is a fond farewell to Elsia Grandcourt, with whom this correspondent worked closely over the past years in her respective capacities and a warm welcome to Sherin Naiken, who will take charge on July 01st. Visit www.seychelles.travel for more information on the destination and in particular of the upcoming key annual calendar of events festivals, the La Digue based ‘Festival of Assumption’ and the ‘Festival of the Sea – SUBIOS’ in November. Seychelles, truly Another World.

Seychelles and Hong Kong sign new BASA

SEYCHELLES SIGNS NEW BASA WITH HONG KONG

(Posted 27th June 2013)

Information was received from Mahe, that during the ongoing Investment Conference, which the Seychelles are presently holding in Hong Kong in order to attract both business links and more tourists, a new bilateral air services agreement was signed between the archipelago and Hong Kong, which is a region with special status within the People’s Republic of China since attaining independence from Britain.

Air Seychelles has been operating direct flights, from Mahe via Abu Dhabi to Hong Kong three times a week under a special status which has now been regularized to fit common air service agreements in place elsewhere.

Hong Kong airlines, like Cathay Pacific, can now also commence flights to Mahe, very likely with fifth freedom rights from an intermediate waypoint, as is the case with Air Seychelles from Abu Dhabi, though no such plans are imminent.

Present at the signing ceremony were Air Seychelles’ CEO Cramer Ball, the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board Mrs. Elsia Grandcourt, the CEO of Seychelles Civil Aviation Gilbert Faure and other officials, who saw the Minister for Trade and Investment Pierre Laport affix the official signature on the documents alongside the Hong Kong Secretary for Transport Prof. Cheung Bing-leung.

Congratulations to the Seychelles for this landmark agreement and happy landings for aircraft, crews and hopefully many passengers flying from Hong Kong to Mahe and vice versa.

%d bloggers like this: