Archive for January, 2014

The Pearl Guide’s Best of January 2014

Interested in more news from and about Uganda, where to go and what to do?
Here is an insight from The Pearl Guide – republished for your benefit!

The Pearl Guide’s Best of January 2014

The_Pearl_Guide_Jan_2014

Best of January 2014

Enabling you to make the most of Uganda with the best reviews, features, photography and more.. Experience premium Uganda.

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10 Valentine’s Recommendations

Valentine’s Day for once after such a long while falls on the ideal Friday in 2014. This means you’re rather short on reasons this year to not put your best foot forward for your lover. See our recommendations!

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Lakeside Adventure Park

A classic adventure for the adrenaline junkie: High Ropes, Obstacle Courses, Beach Games, Climbing Wall, Overnight Camping and so much more! See our review!

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Olive Garden Cafe & Bistro

Of Olive Trees, Tasty Food and a Weight Loss Programme. Check out our review of this lush green cafe resembling something out of a water painting!

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World Music Festival – Repainting Uganda

For four years now, Milege Afro-Jazz Band has held an annual concert named, Repainting Uganda. See what transpired at the last edition!

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More European destinations by Brussels Airlines come summer schedule

BRUSSELS AIRLINES TO EXPAND THEIR EUROPEAN DESTINATIONS IN SUMMER SCHEDULE

(Posted 31st January 2014)

Apart from adding two Polish destinations from March onwards, namely Warsaw and Krakow, will Brussels Airlines this summer add nine extra seasonal destinations across Europe. SN will serve Malta, Athens, Cagliari, Bari, Seville, Montpellier but also Ajaccio, Bari and Bastia effective the date of their summer schedule.

This will be good news for travellers from East Africa where Brussels Airlines serves Bujumbura, Kigali, Entebbe and Nairobi with an Airbus A330-200, providing expatriates from those cities with direct flights home while those seeking a summer vacation in Italy or Greece of on Malta will be able to connect there via Brussels.

A team of 40 airline staff are presently in Uganda for a cycling event which aims to raise 100.000 Euros for charity, under the name of ‘Bike for Africa’, including the airline CEO Bernard Gustin.

Brussels Airlines is a member of the Lufthansa ‘family’ and is operating many of the flights to Africa under a code share arrangement with Germany’s national airline, including the route to Entebbe.

Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from Eastern Africa.

RVR news – both ups and downs

RIFT VALLEY RAILWAYS – ARRIVAL OF NEW EQUIPMENT OVERSHADOWED BY MORE QUESTION MARKS

(Posted 31st January 2014)

Two sets of news emerged about Rift Valley Railways, operators of the present rail system in Kenya and Uganda under a long term concession from the two governments.

The arrival of a new automated track maintenance machines, a so called Ballast Tamper and a Ballast Profiler at the port of Mombasa, procured at a cost of 3 billion Uganda Shillings or over 1.25 million US Dollars equivalent was widely applauded the day before yesterday, when the equipment was offloaded from ship to shore and set on the rails in the port. Able to restore the track at a speed of 1 kilometre per hour, compared to the current 40 metres by regular work gangs using manual tools, the new machinery is expected to progressively improve the condition of the entire track system in Kenya and in Uganda. RVR staff are presently being trained on the use of the two machines and deployment is expected in early March at the latest.

Last year were 70 kilometres on the Mombasa to Nairobi line rebuilt, using manual means, on a stretch which accounted for nearly two thirds of the delays encountered on the route, cutting journey time between the two cities by 6 hours already. Further improvements, especially on the sector from Nairobi to the Ugandan border and to Kisumu will bring similar benefits to importers and exporters using the railsystem for transporting their goods.

Rift Valley Railways, by their own statements, have now by and large met the conditions of their concession and ticked off one area of compliance after the other, fending off questions on their performance which admittedly in the early years was way below standards when Sheltam of South Africa was still involved before being pushed out in a shareholder restructuring.

In fact the second set of news refers precisely to that again as the company’s second largest shareholder, TransCentury, which holds around 34 percent of the shares, announced their intent yesterday to ‘change their shareholding position’ which was left without further comments to linger, leaving open the key question if this means trying to increase or decrease their holding. This sort of guessing game plays directly into the hands of those wanting to cancel the company’s concession and who are just waiting for the right reason to push their agenda through, especially as the new standard gauge railway is coming up and the narrow gauge existing railway seen as a potential ‘spoiler’, able to operate at substantially lower cost and largely improved speeds at the time when the new railway will finally be ready.

It was shareholder quarrels which were largely blamed in the early years of the concession to have prevented the company to meet investment targets, cargo volume targets, speed and reliability targets and line refurbishment targets, prompting calls at the time to cancel the concession, before then the investment company Citadel of Egypt came on board, eventually installing new management from Brazil and starting the turnaround after a largely dismal start under Kenyan management.

Besides regular cargo services, late last year extended to the town of Gulu in Northern Uganda after refurbishing the rail line after nearly 2 decades of rot, does RVR also operate 3 weekly passenger train services between Nairobi and Mombasa and vice versa. Watch this space for future updates about rail transport between Kenya and Uganda.

Uganda tourism relegated to ‘less important economic sector’ ranking

TOURISM SECTOR STABBED IN THE BACK AS GOVERNMENT KICKS SECTOR FROM TOP 10

(Posted 31st January 2014)

Uganda’s tourism industry is coming to terms with the latest shock inflicted on it by the government, when it became known that for the 2014/15 budget was tourism booted down the ranking list even further and no longer stands among the professed priority sectors, inspite of significant contributions to the national economy.

Key sectoral stakeholders have for long accused government of only paying lipservice to the sector without ever giving it due recognition and budgetary support and those outspoken critics are now having a field day in having once again been proven right, that key individuals in government continue to think that ‘tourism just happens’ and therefore not require any special financial consideration.

In fact from figures available it is becoming evident that the budget allocation to tourism has been continuously trimmed back leaving the Uganda Tourism Board all but crippled to carry out its mandate for generic marketing of the country. Even after restoring a standalone Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, a move long demanded by the sector which saw the portfolio being submerged in a minister including trade and industry at the time, the hopes for a half way decent fund allocation was swiftly extinguished, leaving the ministry too with challenges of not being able to pay for quite a few of their planned activities and having to defer them to a time ‘when funds become available’.

Tourism is the global number one service industry. Tourism has the capacity to fast track job creation, attract foreign investment, boost foreign exchange earnings and create goodwill for the country when our visitors go home with a positive holiday experience. But it is increasingly clear now that all we get from this government is hot air but no money which amounts to stabbing us in the back. Everything today is about oil. May I remind you that at the time oil became a factor in Nigeria the country was self sufficient in producing food and agriculture was a key sector back then. Then came the oil and agriculture deteriorated for lack of attention and Nigeria ever since has to import food. Here I fear a similar trend. Maybe some want to destroy tourism so that they can drill and pump oil from the national parks without interference from a sector which demands protection measures for the environment, emergency plans and equipment standing by in case of a big spill somewhere. When I look back over a few years it is almost like a masterplan unfolding, to starve the sector of funds and squash the life out of us. The ministry is harping on about their new policy and masterplan but let us be clear here, we had a tourism policy and they did not implement most of it and the masterplans from before gather dust in filing cabinets. It is not writing new plans it is about implementing those plans and there our ministry has miserably failed for lack of money. And let us be frank, a Miss Tourism contest is a nice social event but what we need to concentrate on is to attend global trade shows, the American adventure trade fairs, market ourselves abroad more vigorously. But it seems this government has lost the plot as far as tourism is concerned. Maybe we need to look at the way we as a sector do business with government, how we interact and consult. Because whatever we did, it does not seem to make any impact when it comes to budget allocations’ ranted a senior stakeholder with regular input on all matters of Uganda’s present tourism set up and developments.

Others pointed at additional failures, like the lack of a board at the national hotel and tourism training institute for lack of a legal foundation, the self destruction of the Uganda Wildlife Authority under past ministers from which the institution is only now beginning to recover again or as a case in point, the delay in implementing the single tourist Visa for Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, which was due to kick off on January 01st but faced, like many other issues, logistical challenges of preparedness.

Looking back at now almost 22 years in Uganda and being involved in the tourism industry from the very first moment after arriving in the country, it is clear that tourism is a sector full of opportunities and potential but then, potential is not a currency which banks accept and when not fulfilled and exploited, like the biblical talents, never can live up to the full scale of what the sector is capable of. True, visitor numbers have been growing and tourism receipts have grown too but government is yet to embrace the UNWTO recommended tourism accounting methods known as ‘tourism satellite accounting’ and is reportedly still in arrears vis a vis due payments to key international bodies where membership is quintessential. ‘Whatever progress we have made, we made it under very tough circumstances and with very little real support from our government. Had it not been for World Bank and EU and USAID projects, who knows where we would be today. This government would be well advised to take a hard look at their priorities and return focus from oil and foreign or regional affairs to national domestic affairs. It is at home where we make or break the economy and if you break tourism, it will be like pulling a cornerstone from the building and bring the roof down, but does anyone listen. We shall go to parliament again and seek redress from them because it is obvious that the finance ministry is only ready to take the revenue we generate but not put anything back into the sector’ added another source from Kampala. All eyes will now be on the budget reading expected in March this year to see if any last minute changes have been made to the proposals now revealed or else hope that parliament will make adjustments for the sector as they did when granting relief over VAT proposals made by the finance bureaucrats last year which would have out-priced destination Uganda for years to come. Watch this space.

A day in the Nairobi National Park

This shared article, received from Porini Camps’ Aleema Noormohamed, is an absolute ‘Must Read’ as it describes the marvels of having a national park at the fringes of one of Africa’s major cities where just 10 miles from the Central Business District a new world opens for visitors. Thank you Aleema for sharing!

A hidden gem in bustling Nairobi

by Porini Camps on January 29, 2014 in Travel

Written by:Aleema Noormohamed

Born in Canada, bred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and having lived in Kenya for the last 20 years, travel is in my blood. I made a resolution 14 years ago, when the world was supposedly ending due to the dramatic turn of the century, that I would visit ONE new place every year, and to never stop exploring.

13 years later, I have seen more than 25 places in the world, some international, some local – and I can say with confidence that this is a resolution is attainable by everybody. So forget the long list of resolutions that you make at the end of every year. That list is unrealistic.

2013 for me, was a year of local exploration. Not venturing too far from home (Nairobi), I decided to re-explore a place I had not been to in many years; The Nairobi National Park. We take it for granted and often people wonder whether there could REALLY be ANY wildlife in such a small area of land that is surrounded by an entire throbbing and buzzing city? You would be surprised.

My sister and I visited on a Sunday morning, leaving home at 7am to get to the main gate at 7:30. There were already a few others ahead of us so we joined the line of parked vehicles as we got our entry tickets. A few minutes later the Kenya Wildlife Service rangers gave us a look over and said “enjoy your day girls”.

We drove in behind other park lovers. They took a right, we took a left. We were leaving the city behind. We drove for two minutes before seeing another 4WD parked to the right of the road. One of the guys in the car had binoculars and was pointing at something in the grass.

The grassy stems were very long and dry. We searched and waited. The silence of the park was incredible (especially knowing that the city was not too far behind us). We heard a ruffle and a soft crunch. The grass swayed gently and then we saw her move. Her ears flicked and she stuck her tongue out – a lioness – and we hadn’t spent more than 10 minutes in the Nairobi National Park!

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We waited for a few more minutes, hoping she would stand up. It didn’t seem like she had any intention of doing so. We were more than happy with our first sighting and decided to move on. As we drove on, we started spotting little herds of gazelles and trotting warthogs.

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I was told about a little bush camp that was nestled in the middle of a forest in the park, so we kept an eye out for it (as we had left the directions at home). As we drove on, I looked around us, and there was no one else! Not a single vehicle in sight. There came a small herd of buffalos and our favourite striped animals, the zebras. Then a rhino and its little one crossed the road in front of us! I wasn’t ready for THAT!

We passed a little family of crowned cranes, and some guinea fowl jogged by heading over to the picnic site where baboons were waiting to prey on some unsuspecting tourist’s sandwich. We continued on and met with giraffes, and ONE eland among a throng of antelopes! I wondered if he was adopted.

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We reached the underbrush of what became thick forest, and hoped (in vain) that we would spot a leopard. It was so green around us. All we could hear was the slow humming of our engine and the rustling of the leaves. The sun’s rays were shining through the forest top reflecting a shimmer of green all around us, making us feel like we were in a fairy tale. Even though the wildlife stayed hidden in the woods, the drive through brought a sense of serenity. We drove past a sign that said “NTC”.

“STOP!” I told my sister. “We need to turn there! That’s the camp we are looking for!” She reversed the car, and we turned onto a path that crissed-crossed through the forest. We reached a “parking area” where we were met by a young Maasai. He smiled and guided us down a path. A bush buck calmly sat next to the path, looking at us through her long lashes.

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As we approached the camp, a tall giraffe welcomed us. What a comfortable and classy set up! A pleasant surprise to a long morning of driving around in the park!

The camp manager offered us a welcome drink and a seat in the mess tent. We exchanged stories about our morning adventure with some of her daily adventures activities around the camp. She hears lions roaring at night, has witnessed a rhino close up, has had to wait for a buffalo to move out of her path, has said good morning to a giraffe near the manager’s tent and has nicknamed a warthog, that has madeNairobi Tented Camp his home, Simon.

For a second we forgot we were in Nairobi!

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What a wonderful place to relax and unwind! I couldn’t believe this was just 20 minutes away from home! The manager kindly let us know what routes to take as we wanted to continue our adventure in the park. As we left Nairobi Tented Camp, I promised myself that I would come back to spend one night!

nairobi-tented-camp

The afternoon continued unfolding in all its glory. As we exited the forest, we met a sunbathing hippo and further on we spotted a giraffe and a buffalo sharing a common space in an amicable manner. In the distance, a bird flew high in the sky and an ostrich ran as if training for the next Olympic marathon. As our day came to a close, we realised we had spent seven full hours in the park without a dull moment!

HOSEA partners with 3G Payment Solutions

KENYA HOSPITALITY TRADE FAIR LAUNCHES NEW PAYMENT PLATFORM

(Posted 31st January 2014)

The organizers of the 2nd Kenya Hospitality Trade Fair and the Hotel Summit East Africa, which will both run concurrently from 14th to 16th of May this year, have yesterday signed a deal with 3G Direct Pay to facilitate easy payments for trade show stand bookings by exhibitors and for participants to pay their fees for the Hotel Summit.

This year the trade show will be launched with the theme: ‘Redefining the Hospitality Industry in East & Central Africa’, will once again be held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in the heart of Nairobi and has again partnered with the East African Economic Chamber of Commerce. The Hotel Summit East Africa, which will take place at KICC too, has chosen the theme: ‘Moving Forward With Confidence’ and focus this year on such key issues as regional integration, Financing of Hospitality Projects, Technology, Human Resources and Capacity Building, among other agenda items and leading key note speakers have already been signed up, due to be announced in due course.

3G Direct Pay provides payment solution services to hundreds of travel related businesses in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, focusing on Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Zanzibar, and accepts all major credit cards, mobile money and e-wallets. The payment provider will be participating as Online Payment Partner offering an open credit card processing platform for exhibitors and delegates. 3G Direct Pay leads the African travel market where hundreds of travel businesses and millions of end customers can shop, pay, sell and get paid at real-time.

In a related development it was also learned that the Nairobi Governor Dr. Evans Kidero, has endorsed the two events and announced that Nairobi will be the ‘Official City Host Partner’ for the trade fair and the symposium.

For more information about the event visit www.kenyahospitalitytradefair.com or check out the organizers ‘Slujan Events’ at www.slujan-events.com

ServiceMag Rwanda announces 2013 award winners for best services

RWANDA’ S SERVICE MAGAZINE ANNOUNCES THE 2013 WINNERS

(Posted 31st January 2014)

The Kigali Serena Hotel ballroom was the venue last night for the award ceremony of Rwanda’s leading magazine, the ServiceMag and publisher Miss Sandra Idossou was at hand to welcome the over 200 invited guests, which included the who is who from across Rwanda’s civic and business community.

The unique annual survey was designed by the ServiceMag and independent UK firm SPA Future Thinking and aimed to establish which businesses were providing the highest level of customer care, according to their users. Findings revealed that popularity does not always equal quality, meaning the most frequented businesses do not necessarily have the most satisfied clients.

Winners in 15 service categories were announced, and while by and large given enthusiastic applause for their achievements last year, others caused some heads to shake and wonder how the winners went about to run their ‘campaign’. The notable absence of RwandAir will no doubt trigger some soul-searching there as will other businesses too go back to the drawing board and map out a campaign for the next round of these awards to actively solicit votes as some of the winners apparently did for 2013.

That notwithstanding, here are the winners of last night’s event:

Airlines – KLM

Bus Companies – Horizon Express

Banks – Access Bank SA

Insurance Companies – CORAR

Healthcare – Polyclinique du Plateau

Hotels – Hotel Mille Collines

Restaurants – Sakae

Coffee Shops – RZ Manna

Internet Providers – Tigo

Telephone Providers – Tigo

Supermarkets – Nakumatt

Government Agencies – Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration

Petrol Stations – Engen

District Offices – Kicukiro

Media – Isango Star


 

Graph indicates the sectors of service that excel at providing customer care to their clients, from most satisfactory to least satisfactory. According to the voters, supermarkets, airlines and banks rank the highest, whereas the public sector ranks lowest in terms of satisfaction.

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