Ethiopia's Omo Valley
Perfectly, Privately Pemba
Manta Resort Profile
East Africa Hotnews
Prof. Wolfgang Thome
Switzerland of Africa
By Muguette Goufrani
To Casablanca by Rail
Jerry W. Bird
Air Highways Website
FROM THE ARCHIVES OF AFRICA TRAVEL MAGAZINE.
News from 'Uganda - Gifted by Nature' and the East African Region
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Fifth edition January 2009
SKYJET TAKING TO THE AIR
After an anxious wait, when bureaucrats and politicians dragged their feet to grant the final permissions to Uganda's latest airline to at last take to the skies, all systems are now 'go' for Skyjet. Their aircraft sat on the ground for weeks after getting their AOC, costing the investors much money, but the long wait has now ended. Commercial Director Emmanuel Okware briefed this correspondent on the airline's plans and confirmed that they would operate daily early morning flights from Entebbe to Juba and then on to Khartoum, before returning in the afternoon via Juba again to Entebbe. It remains to be seen if Air Uganda will make any changes to their Juba flights so that a morning and afternoon departure from Entebbe will offer better choices to travellers.
Skyjet has been given 'designated carrier' status by the Ugandan CAA to fly to Southern Sudan, Sudan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Djibouti, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.
Flights will commence with a Boeing 737-200 previously operated in the US. A second aircraft is expected to join their fleet by May this year, also from the US, before by end 2009 a B767 is due to join the fleet for the longer routes, also coming from the same previous owners. The airline will eventually commence a three times a week flight to Cairo, via Khartoum, probably when their second aircraft is operational.
Skyjet's two letter code is 'UQ' or 'Uniform Quebec' in airline lingo, assigned a few weeks ago by IATA. Bookings can be made through the leading global reservation systems like Galileo and Amadeus to facilitate business through travel agents, although direct bookings are of course accepted by Skyjet. The airline will be e-ticket compliant and launch fares for the Juba and Khartoum routes are a bargain. The baggage allowance is 30 and 40 KG respectively in Y and C Class.
The exact day of start up will be reported in this column, but for now it is 'Happy Landings' to the Skyjet team.
HOTEL OWNERS 'WHINING' OVER LOCAL HOTEL TAX
True to their ilk have the hotel owners early in the New Year began to whine and complain again about the 2 percent local hotel tax, which was introduced at budget time last year. Suffering from a larger capacity of rooms, many of which were built ahead of the end 2007 CHOGM Summit with very substantial tax and duty remission, hotel rates have progressively started coming down, although they are in comparison with for instance Nairobi still expensive. Yet, in Nairobi the city hotels charge VAT, CTL (Catering Training Levy) and build in the service charge element, regularly reaching the 30 percent margin of add ons. It will be interesting to see what they hotel owners will resort to next, when the proposed tourism development fund levy will be introduced, aimed to finance the operations of the financially well near crippled tourist board and other intended beneficiaries. Meanwhile the moaning is expected to continue thus cementing the opinion that the pressure group is primarily a tax and duty avoidance body.
UGANDA CELEBRATED LIBERATION DAY
January 26th marked the annual 23rd liberation day celebrations since 1986, when the National Resistance Army, led by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, marched into Kampala and drove out the last of the dictatorships, which marked post independence Uganda's politics until then. After ruling initially for 10 years under the 'Resistance Council system of governance' the country then went to the polls in 1996. This took place under a new constitution and President Museveni has since then won three elections, allowing the National Resistance Movement Party to continue staying in power. The country's next general elections are due in 2011 and the president has already given some indication of standing again, should the NRM nominate him as their candidate, as is widely expected by political observers.
Uganda has seen a remarkable economic recovery since 1986, when the country's infrastructure, the manufacturing and service industries were virtually destroyed by incompetent and corrupt dictators and their cronies, and Uganda's tourism industry has made a full come back since the early 1990's. At that time a new investment code and new economic policies came into place which allowed an annual GDP growth of in average over 6 percent. Uganda, fondly called 'the Pearl of Africa' or alternatively 'Uganda &endash; Gifted by Nature' now offers world class hotel and meeting facilities in Kampala and Entebbe, has been host of a large number of regional, continental and international meetings and conferences and can rightfully claim to be one of the most scenic and evergreen countries in Africa, worth a visit any time and made possible by a multitude of daily intercontinental flights from Entebbe to the rest of the world. Congratulations to the President, the Government and the People of Uganda.
NILE HORSEBACK SAFARIS PUBLISH NEW RATES
The popular horse riding safaris out of Bujagali Falls along the upper Nile valley have taken a prominent place amongst the adventure activities in the area. Overnight trips along the Nile normally stay at 'The Haven' (www.thehaven-uganda.com), a German owned and managed small but fine resort on the Nile, but 2 or 3 hour and full day riding trips are also popular. Prebookings are essential. Write to them for details on available trips, bookings and rates or visit them on their website: email@example.com and www.nilehorsebacksafaris.com
UGANDA TO HOST 'SMART PARTNERSHIP SUMMIT' ONCE AGAIN
The Malaysia inspired 'South &endash; South' meeting under the auspices of the Commonwealth Secretariat has selected Uganda once again to be host to the summit, after first hosting it in 2001. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed was the 'creator' of the meeting, which first took place in Malaysia and has since then moved to other Commonwealth countries in alternate years. The meeting is expected to bring together an estimated 1.000 delegates and government delegations from participating countries and will be held in Kampala during the month of July 2009.
NAPE FAULTS EIA PROCESS FOR OIL REFINERY
The national association of professional environmentalists, in short NAPE, has earlier in the week published a half page response to the NEMA review of the EIA and related submissions for the Tullow Oil proposed mini refinery in Western Uganda. It was pointed out that allegedly the required consultative period of 21 days was arbitrarily shortened to only 11 days, preventing widespread 'counter consultations' and sufficient time for experts to extensively study the published documents. It was further alleged that for instance the Uganda Wildlife Authority, amongst other key stakeholders, were not involved in the consultations when the EIA was prepared. Watch this space as another battle for the environment seems looming on the horizon.
KAJJANSI AIR OPERATORS ACCUSE SHELL OF 'MONOPOLISTIC PROFITEERING'
The air operators in Entebbe and Kajjansi using AVGAS for their fleet of light aircraft are once again up in arms over the pricing of AVGAS by in particular Shell, the main supplier of the commodity in Uganda. Information received shows that a litre of AVGAS in Uganda is at least 35 US Cents more expensive than at Nairobi's Wilson Airport. This difference cannot be explained, as tried by Shell, by the added transportation cost between Kenya and Uganda, leave alone the fact that AVGAS regularly runs short and has even run out altogether on occasions in the past. A litre of AVGAS presently sells just under 2 US Dollars in Entebbe / Kajjansi while the same commodity costs Kenyan airlines 1.60 US Dollars for non contract clients. The same applies for AVGAS prices in Tanzania, most notably at Mwanza airport, also located on Lake Victoria. The Uganda Association of Air Operators have squarely laid the blame for this situation on Shell's supply chain and pricing policy.
Fuel companies in Uganda have shamelessly exploited motorists in past months, when their pump prices have only very slowly reduced from the all time high, as crude oil had touched the 150 USD mark last year, before falling back to a fraction of that cost. While there are mitigating factors, like the reduction of axles from 4 to 3 on the trucks and trailers, lowering the carrying capacity, this does still not add up to the fact that consumers, and the general aviation sector, are being milked dry by the suppliers over pure greed for profits. There simply is no other viable explanation or reason.
The aviation companies in Kajjansi have now warned that the price differential in fuel cost between Kenya and Tanzania on one side and Uganda on the other side is progressively pricing Ugandan airlines out of business when competing for the same contracts and business as their neighbours and some of the more outspoken aviators are blaming Shell Uganda for what appears to be a 'hidden agenda'. Shell was not available for comment at the time of going to press.
KENYA TO ADOPT TSA
The Kenyan government has now moved towards adopting the TSA or Tourism Satellite Accounting system as recommended by the UNWTO, allowing for capture, processing and interpretation of tourism related economic data along internationally accepted lines. This will allow for better comparison of Kenya's tourism sectoral performance vis a vis the main competitors and on a global scale. A visitor and sectoral survey, split into two parts, will go underway soon to collect data from sources hitherto not tapped.
Uganda had been advised years ago to adopt TSA but has not substantially moved towards that goal for reasons best known to the Ministry of Tourism, while two visitors' expenditure surveys were carried out under the EU funded former Uganda Sustainable Tourism Development Programme. Sad to see others now do what we had the opportunity to do years ago.
COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY REPORT 'DAMNING'
Although the report of the Justice Porter Commission of Enquiry into the stealthy sale of the Grand Regency Hotel in Nairobi was already delivered in November 2008 to the president, details are only now starting to emerge as government tried to keep the report under wrap. The main blame is laid on the door of the Central Bank of Kenya governor for his hasty disposal of a national asset under his care &endash; the hotel had been under receivership for some time prior to the sale &endash; and the secretive, non transparent manner in which the give away sale was conducted. The former minister of finance, who left office over the scandal but was recently re-appointed to a different cabinet position, was largely absolved of blame but the commission's report nevertheless had suggested he should accept some responsibility. General consensus in the Kenyan media and amongst the people is that the hotel was greatly undervalued and some sort of 'deal' was struck when selling the hotel to the Libyans who now run it. In fact, sections of the Kenyan media speak openly of 'deliberate deception' by the Central Bank chief, lack of honesty and good faith.
The report however stopped short in demanding that the sale be cancelled, a rather unsatisfactory end to one of too many scandals in Kenya according to sentiments made available to this correspondent. The Kenyan public is now also demanding that the full report be published to draw their own conclusions as to culpabilities of those thought to be responsible.
AIR TANZANIA RESUMES FLIGHTS
It was learned from sources in Dar es Salaam that Air Tanzania has finally last Friday taken to the skies again after a break of nearly two months. The airline had the AOC suspended by TCAA over alleged discrepancies in 'documentation', but no specifics could ever be obtained for this action, which saw Tanzania's national airline almost driven to financial ruin.
When flights finally resumed yesterday, it was also announced that ATC would for the time being only serve domestic destinations, like Arusha / Kilimanjaro International, Zanzibar, Mwanza and a few other places, while carrying out feasibility studies and take a fresh look at its regional and international routes. Hence, flights from Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro to Entebbe will continue to be suspended and under a code share agreement be operated by Air Uganda.
On the first day of operations few passengers opted to fly with ATC, as travellers were initially sceptical if the airline would indeed resume flights, but prebookings for coming days appear to be significantly up again, as the news settle in amongst potential travellers and travel agents alike.
The development is largely credited to the intervention of the Tanzanian president, who gave the green light to the treasury to bail out ATC and ensure that sufficient funds were available to see the national airline through the 'passenger draught' until loadfactors had stabilised once again.
ATC is also reportedly seeking consultants to develop new strategies and a fresh and realistic business plan, before re-entering the regional and international routes.
Management in press releases and direct contact with the media again underscored the fact that their aircraft had been and continued to be fully airworthy and the suspension of their AOC had been caused 'by other reasons' than safety aspects. Says this correspondent: 'Happy landings once again'
BOOKINGS NOW OPEN FOR NEXT KARIBU TOURISM FAIR
The annual East African tourism trade show in Arusha, 'Karibu' has recently announced that bookings are being accepted early this year to allow participants plan ahead and secure the space they are seeking. As was the case in previous years, the available exhibition space is expected to sell out fast. Write to the fair management via firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit their website for online bookings at www.karibufair.com. Last minute bookings, it was pointed out, may disappoint would be participants when their preferred space is no longer available or in fact the entire exhibition sold out.
RWANDA SIGNS RAILWAY DOCUMENT
The proposed railway line from Ishaka in Western Tanzania to Kigali has taken a further step forwards, when Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding about the establishment of a 'dry port' in Ishaka and the construction of the railway line to connect their landlocked countries to the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam. The agreement was reached under the auspices of the East African Community in Arusha, where the transport ministers met for a scheduled consultative session. Early news of the plans were reported in this column several months ago already, beating other media to the 'door', courtesy of reliable sources in Kigali.
The rail link will reduce reliance on the port of Mombasa and more important make import and export transportation cost more affordable.
Meanwhile, Rwanda will celebrate 'Hero Day' on February 01st, commemorating those who laid down their lives in achieving liberation from the oppressive and brutal Hutu regime.
KIGALI'S GENOCIDE MEMORIAL SET TO EXPAND
One of Rwanda's 'sacred sites', the genocide memorial in Kigali, is now due to be expanded. The added wing will become the home of a new research facility, the 'School of Genocide Studies' and also house a screening room where visitors can see archived films about the 1994 genocide. The study capacity is limited to about 50 students on campus at any given time. The Genocide Memorial is one of the most visited places in Kigali where governmental and non governmental delegations as well as individual visitors pay their respects to the victims of the senseless mass murder of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994. It is thought that about 300.000 genocide victims have been laid to their final rest in the Gisozi suburb of Kigali.
MORE TOURISM FAIRS TO PROMOTE AFRICA
Information was received that the Southern African Tourism Expo will be held between 02nd and 04th May 2009 in Livingstone / Zambia. The exhibition will bring together national tourist boards and a range of targeted businesses advertising their services, plus of course the all important 'buyers'. Contact: email@example.com or visit www.southernafricatourismexpo.com
TRAVEL ZAMBIA MAKES 4TH EDITION
Zambia's premier travel magazine has recently produced its fourth edition, again a superb piece of 'art' in promoting travel to Zambia. A wide range of reports, accompanied by excellent pictures and of course an equally wide range of 'tidbits' make mouth-watering reading. The magazine's website offers an excellent overview for 'distant' readers who have not been able to subscribe to it and can be accessed via: www.travelzambiamag.com or via www.travelafricamag.com
Nothing however beats holding one's own copy in the hands, reading it from front to end and allowing oneself to be carried away by dreams of travel to the unique national parks in Zambia.
GAME SURVEYS REVEAL MORE SURPRISES IN SOUTHERN SUDAN
The ongoing efforts by the Government of Southern Sudan's Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism to scientifically establish game numbers and distribution of animals across the South, which are assisted and financially supported by international wildlife conservation NGO's, have yielded yet more interesting results. Within the 'Sudd' &endash; arguably the world's largest wetland, several thousand elephants were found deep inside the ecosystem, away from danger and relatively safe from hunters and poachers. Several parties involved in the 'census' have given indication that as many as 4.000 elephant could be roaming the 'Sudd', providing more attractions for future visitors.
MINISTERIAL STATEMENT ON SOUTHERN SUDAN TOURISM POLICY
As indicated in last week's column, but inadvertently omitted, here is the statement made by the AG. Minister for Wildlife Conservation and Tourism:
MAY I TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO WELCOME PARTICIPANTS TO THE TOURISM POLICY WORKSHOP AIMED AT FINALIZING THE FIRST EVER TOURISM POLICY FOR GOSS (Government of Southern Sudan).
THE TOURISM POLICY IS EXPECTED TO PROVIDE THE OVERALL OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIES NECESSARY TO ENSURE SUSTAINABLE TOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTHERN SUDAN.
THE POLICY IS BEING DEVELOPED AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF CONSIDERABLE CHANGES ON THE POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL FRONTS WITHIN SOUTHERN SUDAN.
THE POLICY THEREFORE IS EXPECTED TO MAKE THE PRIVATE SECTOR PLAY A MAJOR ROLE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TOURISM INDUSTRY, WITH GOVERNMENT PROVIDING AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT. THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT THEREFORE WILL MAINLY BE OVERALL SUPERVISION AND CARRYING OUT THE NECESSARY REGULATORY FRAMEWORK AIMED AT PROVIDING STANDARDS TO ENSURE THAT THE DESTINATION REMAINS COMPETITIVE BOTH REGIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY.
ON THE INTERNATIONAL SCENE THERE HAS BEEN A TOURISM PARADIGM SHIFT DUE TO RAPID DEVELOPMENT OF TECHNOLOGY. TOURISM HAS BECOME MORE COMPETITIVE WHERE THE CONSUMERS ARE MORE INFORMED, KNOW WHAT THEY WANT AND HAVE A WIDER CHOICE OF DESTINATIONS.
THE ABOVE FACTORS COUPLED WITH THE 1992 RIO DECLARATION ON ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT, AND THE AGENDA 21 FOR TRAVEL AND TOURISM CALL FOR THE FORMULATION OF A HOLISTIC TOURISM POLICY WHICH WILL PROVIDE THE NECESSARY DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK FOR THE TOURISM INDUSTRY.
THIS DRAFT POLICY IS A RESULT OF A CONSULTATIVE PROCESS INVOLVING ALL THE KEY STAKEHOLDERS. OPINIONS, OBSERVATIONS, COMMENTS AND INPUT BY INDIVIDUALS HAVE BEEN SOUGHT AND INCORPORATED. THIS PROCESS IS VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT PROVIDES THE SENSE OF OWNERSHIP TO ALL THE STAKEHOLDERS AND WILL ACCORDINGLY FACILITATE THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE POLICY.
IN DRAFTING THE TOURISM POLICY, POLICY DOCUMENTS OF RELEVANT GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS WITHIN GOSS AND FROM OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE REGION HAVE BEEN TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE DRAFT POLICY HAS BEEN A RESULT OF COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS BY RESOURCE PERSONS FROM THE MINISTRY OF WILDLIFE CONSERVATION AND TOURISM AND OTHER RELEVANT GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS, THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND OUR DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS, WITH TECHNICAL INPUT AND FACILITATION FROM OUR UGANDAN CONSULTANTS, NAMELY DAVID ABURA OGWANG ESQ. AND PROF. DR. WOLFGANG H. THOME, NOT FORGETTING THE LATE DR. YAKUBO MOYINI.
OUR THANKS AND APPRECIATION ARE EXTENDED TO ALL THOSE WHO HAVE WORKED SO HARD TO PRODUCE THIS FINAL TOURISM DRAFT POLICY DOCUMENT.
WITH THESE FEW REMARKS I WISH YOU A FRUITFUL REVIEW OF THE TOURISM POLICY DOCUMENT AND NOW DECLARE THIS WORKSHOP FORMALLY OPENED.
And to end this week's column, Gill Staden from Livingstone / Zambia is contributing the following news items, pictures and reports:
A New Steam Train
During the week, another steam train operation was launched. This one runs from Palm Grove to the bridge where people get off the train to enjoy a view of the Falls and the bridge. This train is operated by Safari Par Excellence.
We boarded a bus at the David Livingstone Safari Lodge and were taken to the rail track at Palm Grove. There we were greeted with a glass of mint tea ... We boarded the train and then, after loads of
photos, the train got underway. And the beer appeared ... now, that's more to my liking ...
It is only a short run from Palm Grove to the bridge and we soon passed by the Customs Post, down the embankment and on to the bridge. I must say it was refreshing to go past the Immigration without having to have a passport stamped!
We stayed on the bridge for about 40 minutes, taking photos and chatting. Finally we climbed back on board the train and chugged back to Palm Grove.
This is a much different experience to the Steam Train experience offered by Sun International and Bushtracks. Both are good. I liked walking around the bridge and got some good photos of the Falls.
I hadn't walked over the bridge for some time and was shocked to see all the wires crossing and re-crossing the gorge.
These wires are, to me, an eyesore. We have miles of gorges why do we have to spoil the view from the bridge. Surely, whatever operation this is can be moved somewhere else.
David Livingstone Safari Lodge / Official opening
Although the lodge has been operating since April last year, there had not been an official launch of the 'David Livingstone'. On Saturday the honours were done in great style. The Minister of Tourism came from Lusaka to preside over the opening and was accompanied by many other dignitaries from within and outside Livingstone.
Chiefs Sekute and Mukuni were also there with their entourages, looking very splendid. The ZAF Brass Band played. It was all very special &endash; as these occasions tend to be.
After the ribbons were cut and all the speeches over and done with, everyone went for a ride on the Lady Livingstone &endash; the boat which accompanies the hotel.
Having done my duty as reporter, I ducked out of the cruise, but I am sure that everyone had a fine time.
From Zambia Ornithological Society
Birdwalk details at the bottom of the letter but first please read the info!
The ZOS AGM is on Saturday 28th February and we are looking for people who have skills that can help us on the committee.
1. We need someone to volunteer to regularly upgrade our webpage - this person does not necessarily have to be on the committee if time is an issue.
2. We need someone who will coordinate the bird walks and bird talks and would like to be on the committee
3 Are there any budding journalists out there who would like to take over the setting out of the newsletter? It is quite a fun job, but takes a bit of time.
4 Anyone out there who would like to be the Membership secretary? - we have a space for you. If you are interested in any of the above then please drop me a line
Call Guida on 0977 485446 for more information
CAA GETS BUSY IN 2009
The Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority has now invited bids for the construction of a head office for the regional 'Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency', which will be located in Uganda but serve all five East African Community member states. CASSOA has already taken up its work in 2008, but in rented premises, and a new dedicated building is needed on CAA land near the airport to increase and improve communications, efficiency and accessibility of the new agency for the aviation fraternity from the entire region.
The CAA also intends to build a new passenger terminal building at the Arua aerodrome, starting later in 2009, according to reports received earlier in the week. Arua is one of the busiest aerodromes outside Entebbe and Kajjansi and located in the West Nile region of Uganda, which borders both the Congo and Southern Sudan and is therefore of strategic importance besides being a business hub.
THE DANGERS OF PROTECTING FORESTS
Two staff of the National Forest Authority were reportedly killed last week while on duty in a forest reserve near Masaka, when they encountered illegal loggers. The staff had gone to the Jubia Forest Reserve to carry out an inspection, when the wood poachers set upon them with axes and saws, brutally killing two while a third one managed to escape severely injured and hide until help arrived.
The NFA staff members were responding to reports of illegal logging and pit sawing of wood, prohibited by law but sadly common place as often reported in this column. Condolences are expressed to the family and friends of the deceased and the NFA on the loss of their colleagues. Arrests have been made already over the gruesome crime.
MINISTERIAL 'STATEMEMT' RAISES EYEBROWS
This item was picked from the 'have you heard' column of Uganda's leading daily newspaper, the New Vision and can also be accessed via: http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/9/40/668258
Repeats this correspondent the questions many asked in mails, calls and text messages: are there any takers who can make tourism happen with enthusiasm and volunteerism alone, no funds required or available??? Anyone??? Hello, even one???
I'm a volunteer &emdash; Janat Mukwaya
Being a cabinet minister is not such a big deal, well at least minister of tourism, Janat Mukwaya thinks. While inaugurating a new board of directors for Uganda Tourism Board at Metropole Hotel recently, Mukwaya voiced her dismay with the outgoing board thus:
"I'm perturbed that the board you're replacing resigned due to lack of funding. Even we who are ministers are only delivering a service, we are doing voluntary work. We are not getting that much money."
Against that backdrop, the minister advised the new board not to flee because they are not getting paid but rather, sacrifice for their country!
Well, if that is what it means to be minister, we can only imagine how many Ugandans would die to 'sacrifice a little' for their country.
KENYA AIRWAYS GETS NEW B737-800
The Kenyan flag carrier, fondly called 'Pride of Africa' has taken delivery earlier this week of a brand new B737-800 with 145 seats in business and economy class. The airline leased the new Boeing from ILFC and is due to receive another similar type aircraft in February this year. The additional capacity will come in handy during the present tourist high season and allow further route diversification and frequency increases. Watch this space.
IN OR OUT
As a follow up to the story last week over the fate of the CEO of the Kenya Airports Authority, some sources in the Kenyan government have denied that he was sent on forced leave by the board over an audit report, which was reportedly 'devastating' in regard of procurement malpractices and other alleged misdeeds. Yet when the story broke a usually reliable source in Nairobi had called the CEO's office only to be told that he was 'not there' and when asking about his expected return he was further told 'I do not know' &endash; lending credibility at the time to the claims he had been forced to vacate the office. In any case, his term of office is about to end, sorting out the issue once and for all.
KAA has in the meantime also signed a major concession agreement with a Qatari firm, which will build a 300 bedroom hotel at the perimeter of the airport, combined with an exhibition centre. This will undoubtedly strengthen the position of Kenya's most important airport vis a vis the regional rivals and pretenders to the number one slot in regard of passengers, cargo and aircraft movements.
In a related development it was learned, that the Director General of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has also left office after his contract has come to an end, but no replacement has yet been named by the authorities, keeping the aviation fraternity guessing. Notably however, the board also did not give him another year's extension, probably because relations between the now gone Director General and the aviation fraternity had reached the lowest possible level. The aviation fraternity, in particular the 'General Aviation' section had issues galore with him over his rushed introduction of the contentious air service regulations and as several individuals from Nairobi's Wilson Airport put it 'good riddance'. His masterpiece was the gazetting of the regulations while consultations were still going on in a complete breach of trust and the sentiments of the aviators were confirmed when news emerged that an ICAO audit termed the new 'pet' regulations of the former Director General 'way over the top' and recommended an immediate review and amendments to that piece of work.
The airport manager at Wilson Airport in Nairobi is reportedly also leaving after service two terms of office, again with no substantive appointment for a successor in place as yet. Keep watching this space for emerging news.
NEW AVIATION FACILITY AT 'ORLY AIRPARK'
The Aero Club of Kenya has now confirmed that the building of the new 'club house' at the airpark located some 40 minutes drive from Nairobi is well advanced. The new facility, including airstrip et al, is located at the Kitengela plains and will offer a new sense of 'aviation freedom' away from the overcrowded and overregulated Wilson Airport. The new club house is expected to be ready by middle of the year and Aero Club members will be able to make full use of the facility.
Meanwhile, Harro Trempenau has been re-elected once again as Chairman of the club as was most of the committee, a resounding vote of confidence in their ability to run the aviation fraternity's affairs.
Congratulations Harro, well done indeed.
It was also learned that the occasion of 100 years of aviation in Kenya will be celebrated with a formal dinner and memorial lecture cum presentation on the 28th February in the Aero Club of Kenya club house. Enquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
KENYAN 'NATION' AND 'STANDARD' THREATENED WITH LIBEL SUIT
From information received out of Kenya it is understood, that a former board member of the Kenya Tourist Board has now issued notices of intention to sue for libel to the country's leading news and media organizations, following the reports two weeks ago over the situation at KTB. As and when the two newspapers react to this in public with a statement this will be reported in this column as will eventual progress with the suit, if indeed it does go ahead.
To prove such cases in a court of law however is notoriously difficult and ordinarily takes a very long time to conclude. Watch this space.
CHANGE IN E-LAW TO BENEFIT KENYA TOURISM
The recent amendment to the relevant laws will finally allow Kenyan websites featuring tourism products to transact 'real time' bookings and payments. Until now bookings could be done but payments could not be effected at the same time, keeping reservations in suspense till money reached by other means. This took place through alternate non-Kenyan payment gateways but mostly bank transfers which proved time consuming and costly for all participants, looking at the fee practises of banks in Kenya and across the region.
The change in law will finally also allow several Kenyan airlines to accept bookings and payments via credit cards, strengthening their hold on the market while disadvantaging the travel agents yet more once again.
FRANTIC EFFORTS TO GET AIR TANZANIA FLYING AGAIN
Energetic work was going on behind the scenes to get Tanzania's national airline back into the skies again, after it was first grounded in December by the TCAA over what at least some industry observers say were obscure reasons aimed at keeping TCAA itself from being sanctioned by ICAO. The AOC has since been returned to the airline but due to lack of funds flights could not resume until the main suppliers of fuel and other services have been paid some of their outstandings. Government is reportedly putting a financial package together to allow the airline resume operations, as with every day the airline does not fly their market share is being taken over by competitors. Watch this space.
TOURISTS ENRAGED BY ANIMAL POISONING
Visitors to Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve recently witnessed a number of animals dying or already dead by suspected poisoning, reportedly inflicted by poachers in search of animal skins and other trophies. The poachers had apparently spread poisoned fruits and bread but had not counted on being found out by tourists on game drives, who then alerted wildlife officials to their observations.
RWANDA NEWS UPDATE
The Office for National Parks and Tourism under the Rwanda Development Board has now informed that they have acquired a 24 seater 'comfort' boat for Lake Kivu to offer a new product to visitors coming to the area. Serena Hotels operates the nearby Lake Kivu Hotel, assuring visitors of international standards and quality and the new boat service is aimed to allow tourists to spend more time in the area, exploring the lake shores for birds.
The boat is also providing a new route between the gorilla national park and the Nyungwe Forest National Park according to the statement received from ORTPN, which makes visits to Rwanda more exciting than ever before. While gorillas can be tracked at the 'Parc de Volcanoes' the Nyungwe park is home to some 13 species of other primates, including chimpanzees and a variety of other game, birds and a unique flora.
The annual gorilla naming ceremony 'Kwita Izina', an absolute highlight in the tourism activities calendar in Rwanda, is provisionally set for 20th June 2009 and at least a dozen new born gorillas will be 'baptized' on that day. The festival itself however will span several days prior and after the naming day to allow for a range of additional activities to take place.
Rwanda had a record tourism year in 2008 and expects to do even better in 2009, now that more products and services are available.
BURUNDI GOVERNMENT UPSETS CONSERVATION FRATERNITY
New have emerged from Burundi that the government, seeking to create much needed jobs, is considering to offer mining concessions for precious / semi precious stones and nickel in an area earmarked previously for tourism and conservation purposes. In fact, the Burundi government some 20 years ago, uprooted over 3.000 families from the 50.000 + hectares area in question to create a game reserve, but the ongoing civil war at the time did not allow tourist visitors from abroad to travel to the area, nor in fact visit the country for fears of their safety.
The government of today therefore will find it hard to explain the turnabout, as only weeks ago commitments were made to make tourism a big part of the newly emerging Burundian economy. While foreign companies are offering immediate payments, preferred by the bureaucrats in the finance ministry, tourism would arguably be able to produce as many if not more jobs over a period of time and trigger a constant inflow of foreign exchange and FDI into the country, without having to destroy natural resources in an unsustainable fashion, as is now proposed. It is expected that the proactive Eastern African conservation fraternity will begin to raise the matter in regional and international forae and exert pressure on the government in Bujumbura to drop the contentious plans. The conservation and green lobby did manage to put the brakes on a hair brained scheme in Tanzania to build a mineral extraction plant at Lake Natron last year and boldened by their success will not shy away from another 'good battle' to save East Africa's threatened biodiversity.
SOUTHERN SUDAN GETS NEW TOURISM POLICY
Following final stakeholder consultations over the past several days, in which a panel of experts drawn from public and private sector, academia, NGO's and development partner representatives reviewed the draft policy document prepared by a team of consultants, the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism has taken 'delivery' of the document.
The new policy is aimed to provide a foundation for the restoration of the tourism industry in coming years and will be followed by new legislation and regulations for the sector. A full transcript of the Minister's speech is published in this column. Said this correspondent's co-consultant for the work, Mr. David Abura Ogwang, at the end of the week long reviews and consultations: 'this is a milestone for Southern Sudan. The policy document is comprehensive and covers all aspects of tourism related activities and it will serve the government and people of the Southern Sudan well in the years to come'.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TO FILM THE 'BOMA' MIGRATION
Staff of the local offices of the Wildlife Conservation Society revealed during the week in Juba, that a film team of the National Geographic Society was in the Southern Sudan to commence filming one of the best kept secrets in the wildlife arena, the great migration of the white eared gazelles in and out of the Boma National Park. The park extends along the border with Ethiopia in the East of the Southern Sudan and is earmarked as a tourism destination within the emerging circuit of national parks and other attractions. The game numbers, estimated by some experts to be nearly 800.000 animals, have astonished conservationists, as after the long liberation war of the South against the oppression of the Arabic North of the Sudan game was thought to have been decimated. To the delight of the conservation and tourism fraternity however initial game counts produced amazing results, giving hope for the Southern Sudan to reclaim market share in coming years.
JUBA ERUPTS IN CELEBRATION FRENZY ON OBAMA INAUGURATION
Hotels and restaurants across Juba were filled to the brim on the evening of the 20th January to witness the inauguration of the first African American president in the history of the United States, Mr. Barack H. Obama.
The roots of Obama's African family are traced back to a small village in Nyanza province in Western Kenya, where his late father was born and raised, giving a sense of pride, hope and expectation to the populations in not just Kenya but across Eastern Africa. Many of the revellers were wearing Obama T-Shirts, caps, shawls and 'kangas' &endash; i.e. wrap arounds, showing the picture of Obama being 'their man'. Congratulations to the 44th president of the United States and all the best for the next four years ahead of him.
And finally my thanks go again to Gill Staden, Livingstone / Zambia for her contributions to this column with her weekly newsletter from 'Zambia and beyond' &endash; selected items are shown below:
A Trip on the 'MV Mwambushi'
The other week I went for a booze cruise on the Mwambushi, one of the Safari Par Excellence river boats. My son and friends were visiting so it was a good excuse. And I hadn't been on a river cruise for a while.
The Mwambushi is the smaller of the boats, the other one being the Mukumbi. Mwambushi is perfect for a small group. It has an upstairs and downstairs, but downstairs tends to be a bit better because there is no shade on the upper deck.
All the river cruises now take the same route. It is a bit dull because I often feel like I am in a herd &endash; all of the boats in the same place at the same time.
The first section of the ride takes you along the bank of Siloka Island where you can often see bushbuck, elephant, hippos and crocodiles. We did see one crocodile and some hippo. There didn't seem to be elephant on the island and the bushbuck were elusive.
We then meandered over to the mainland along the side of the Game Park. It was a bit difficult to see anything because, at this time of year, the bush is thick. We did see a few impala, though.
Arriving at the top of Siloka island, all the boats circle around waiting for the sunset. Our sunset, that evening, was not very spectacular, so I didn't take any photos. It was a bit of a dull day. As soon as the sun has gone down below the horizon, all the boats raced back to their mooring site.
I really enjoy a river cruise but it would be nice to ring the changes sometimes. We used to go round Siloka Island and come back round the bottom and take shots of the sunset from there. I don't know why we don't do it anymore.
Anyway, thanks to Saf Par for the ride. It was a pleasant evening.
From Zambia Ornithological Society
January 25th. Bird walk at Munda Wanga. We will meet at 8 hours in the car park. The entrance fee is K15,000 per person. This is a discounted rate as ZOS and Munda Wanga are working together with conservation education. The walk will be through the botanical gardens and we will do a preliminary bird list for Munda Wanga. Afterwards there will be a ringing display of some of the owls and eagles that are due to be released back to the wild.