Submit Press release  eTN Team ·  Advertising  ·  eTN Awards  - Worldtourism Events    

Travel And Tourism In Africa

East Africa tourism report

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  Oct 09, 2009

Ugandans at home and abroad will be celebrating the 47th anniversary of attaining independence from former colonial masters, Britain, during a function at Kampala’s main parade ground in Kololo on October 9 and across the country in all urban and rural centers. Media releases from the government indicated that the celebrations will also be used to honor heroes whose names will only be made public when the president makes the formal announcements on Friday this week. Meanwhile, safari lodges, as well as lakeside and island resorts are reporting strong bookings for the celebratory weekend, with expatriates living in Uganda taking advantage of the long weekend to visit the national parks or spend time at or on the lake. Get a taste for Uganda’s attractions by visiting, the main site of the Uganda Tourism Board, from where links to other interesting web sites can also be found.

The Ministry of Tourism, Trade, and Industry recently submitted a 5-year strategic development plan, which will be scrutinized by parliamentary committees. For marketing the country, a relatively modest figure of 2.3 billion Uganda shillings was inserted, while this column has in the past often said that at least US$1.5 million per annum were required to attend all major tourism trade shows, work new and emerging markets, and attend a series of adventure travel shows in North America, especially now that a high profile “Save the Gorilla” campaign is unfolding. Interactive, state-of-the-art web sites and funds are needed to regularly host press and media trips to Uganda in order to match the work of our neighboring countries’ tourism boards, which are better facilitated and often better motivated and focused, as Rwanda and Kenya demonstrate time and again. Also neglected is the sector’s hospitality and tourism training facility in Jinja, which ahead of the Commonwealth Summit in 2007 was sidelined in favor of personally-inspired solutions to provide training, leaving the hotel school limping, while a new curriculum development remains buried in the government bureaucracy at the National Curriculum Development Centre.

The long-expected, el Nino-induced rains are here and have pounded parts of the country already. In Kabale, a landslide cost several lives, including 6-year-old twins. Kampala was also at the receiving end of early morning thunderstorms impacting rush hour traffic and delaying commuters for extended hours at times. The Ministry for Disaster Preparedness issued further warnings to residents in hilly areas to be observant about possible landslides after heavy downpours and also raised warning levels for local administration units about potential flooding.

In spite of speculation by the travel trade over the implementation of the promised two extra flights between London and Entebbe, due to start later this month, and in spite of being unable for quite some time to ascertain those flights on the GDS available in Uganda, British Airways has reaffirmed that the airline will indeed add and retain the extra flights. This will give much-needed seats during the upcoming high season for tourist visitors coming to Uganda, provide more seats for Ugandans traveling abroad – despite the visa hurdles, which seem to be raised higher and higher every year – and add cargo capacity for exporters of Uganda’s quality organic produce to the EU markets. British Airways will use a Boeing 767 on the route to Uganda. While pre-launching the two new flights, the airline’s Ugandan and international management present expressed its confidence that within two more years BA would fly daily from London to Entebbe.

The long-awaited fresh election of the new king of the Busoga Kingdom appears over, following the order of the country’s top court to repeat the process. Initially, a number of clan leaders less than the required quorum had elected a new king, which was necessary after the passing in September 2008 of the previous Kyabazinga of Busoga, Henry Wako Muloki. The kingdom’s customs also demand a rotation of the kingship between the leading clans, while the previous disputed election tried to install a son of the previous king, which then forced a court battle and government intervention to resolve the year-long standoff. The elections earlier in the week apparently complied with both customary, as well as legal requirements, fielding the required quorum of at least 8 clan leaders, and the newly-elected monarch is the 20-year-old William Wilberforce Kadhumbula, who will rule as Nadiope Gabula IV. However, supporters of the previous candidate have already vowed to ignore the election and not recognize their new king, while central government has also not yet made an announcement over its intentions to recognize the new king. In a related development, an army first lieutenant, deployed to be the chief guard of one of the candidates, was killed in a hit-and-run accident the night following the election, bringing the Ugandan CID into the picture to investigate if there was any foul play involved.

Information availed by the Bank of Uganda indicates that the annual inflation rate is up again at 14.5 percent owing to sharply-risen food cost. Parts of eastern Africa have suffered from a prolonged drought and have resorted to importing food from Uganda, amongst others, driving the domestic prices of maize and other staple foods up even further. Petrol products have also been named as culprits for the high inflation, which influence transport fares and impact on food brought to the main urban centers from upcountry areas.

Following stinging criticism in recent weeks of the Bujagali hydro-electric dam and power station project, including criticism by a senior government minister, the World Bank rushed to the defense of the project, which is being undertaken by IPS, a company in the fold of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development. Bank sources denied that the cost of the project would need to rise above the projected US$860 million but had to concede that the coming online of the power plant may now be as many as 9 months late and will likely miss the date of 2011, when the first power was due to enter the national grid. This was blamed on previously unknown conditions of the site, which only supposedly emerged during the early stages of construction.

The latest edition of Uganda’s premium insider guide is now available again on the web, at least for those not able to get their own free printed copy while in Uganda. Visit for access to the most up-to-date guides and contacts of embassies, consulates, airlines, hotels, safari lodges and resorts, travel agencies, and restaurants, plus reviews of places visited by The Eye staff over the past two months. The Eye is a must-read publication for any intending visitors to Uganda and is available quarterly in Rwanda where the web edition appears on Related to this, the premier Kenyan e-guide can be accessed via and also gives a comprehensive overview of what is happening in Kenya, covering a wide range of interests, outdoor activities, restaurants, musical events, fashion, culture, and art – you name it, you can find it in the Kenya Buzz. Subscription is free for anyone wishing to receive the weekly mailings.

The Oktoberfest this year at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel got rave reviews from the German, Austrian, and Swiss communities in Uganda and also from other nationalities and guests staying at the hotel during the week. Original food combined with beer, beer, and yet more beer added to the culinary delights and the brass band music that patrons could enjoy in the heart of the city without having to fly all the way to Munich. The Sheraton food and beverage staff went out of their way to give a swift beer-hall service although none of them was seen carrying a dozen or more of the Bavarian one-liter beer mugs for which the waitresses in the Munich fairground beer tents are so famous.

MTN, the main sponsor of the popular Kampala Marathon, has just announced the dates for the race this year, which is expected to attract more than 15,000 runners – 4,000 more than last year. In view of the added logistical challenges for the start and finish, the event will commence this year at the Kololo “airstrip,” as it used to be called, now the ceremonial grounds for major state functions. A new flexible slogan was also introduced, changing from “run for life” – a reference to the charities supported by the proceeds of the sporting event – to “run for ...,” leaving various other sponsors and participating organizations to add their own objective to the marathon theme. Registration will commence on October 12 and last through October 2h – web site and email details will be published in this column soon.

Save the Rhino International issues monthly news updates on rhinos from around the world, and its latest newsletter has just been dispatched. Visit or write to to receive your own copy of the monthly broadcast directly to your email inbox. The updates this month highlighted the plight of the rhinos in southern Africa where poaching is nearing an all-time high, threatening to wipe out the conservation gains made over the past decade.

Following intense negotiations among the five East African Community member states, it was finally agreed to recommend July 1, 2010 as the commencement date for the full onset of the East African Common Market, including the freedom of movement of labor for east Africans. Additional freedoms for the citizens of the member states will be free movement of goods, capital, services, and the right of establishment and residence – all long awaited by many EAC veterans of the first community, which lasted until March, 1977. The documents have been handed over to the respective Attorney General’s offices to allow for the legal harmonization in the respective member states. A major function is planned for the five Heads of State to make the formal launch announcement next year, but the EAC head quarters in Arusha would not confirm either dates or venue of that high profile meeting at this stage. A word of caution, as non-tariff barriers need to come down along the lines, which in some cases will mean that local services and industry will experience full competition from across the East African Community for the first time. It is also hoped that duly-registered expatriates living in any of the member states will also be able to move freely across the five countries without the need for an additional visa – a measure considered crucial in order to tap into the large tourism reservoir available – in order to stay within, instead of often, as is the case now, and rather than flying to the Gulf or southern Africa where most nationalities can now have a holiday without visa requirements. The East African Community is also celebrating its 10th anniversary since the re-launch in 1999, and considering the general speed of things in our part of the world, a lot has been achieved since then.

Effective from the end of October, Kenya Airways will commence a full code share between Lagos and Nairobi with Nigerian Eagle Airlines to further establish itself as a market leader on the route. In conjunction with NEA, the Kenyan flag carrier is expected to achieve a commanding market share, not just for flights between the two countries, but also to crucially feed traffic into the middle, far, and south eastern routes where KQ operates. Final arrangements in regards to baggage transfer and schedule alignment in Lagos from connecting NEA flights on to Kenya Airways departures are now being worked on by operations staff from both airlines before the new arrangements come into effect on October 25.

The transport ministers of Kenya and Uganda signed agreements last week in Kenya towards the development of a new standard international gauge railway, connecting the city and port of Mombasa with Nairobi and on to the Ugandan border. It was also announced that the new line would follow a different route from the old winding “lunatic express,” as the railway was once dubbed. New bridges will be constructed for the new railway to ensure that trains can indeed cover the distance between Nairobi and Mombasa within 3 to 4 hours, compared to over 12 to 14 hours at present. Notably, the problem-ridden and under pressure Rift Valley Railways was not part of the deal between the governments, giving a clear indication that both Kenya and Uganda wish to proceed with different partners for the new rail line that is estimated to be ready by 2013.

A twelve- to fourteen-hour daily load shedding – in understandable terms, power outages – will again be the daily reality for Tanzanian hotels, businesses, and households, as the national power company has to cope with falling water levels in two of the main hydroelectric plants. Besides the other fallout of the regional drought, insufficient water for power generation is an added problem for the east African economies, as already shown in Kenya and now in Tanzania. Stand-by generating power through thermal plants, driven by diesel or heavy fuel oil, are in short supply in Tanzania and the situation was compounded by other plants being under partial repair. The lack of affordable power will make hotel and resort operations more expensive for the owners as their individual stand-by generators will now have to run half a day, every day, until the mainstream plants are back on the grid.

In a surprise turnabout, the Tanzanian government halted a bio-fuel project after emerging protests from small-scale farmers over threats to their land and livelihoods. A report last week in the Tanzanian media that up to 5,000 rice farmers may be evicted in order to make space for the growing of bio-fuel crops, has raised the political heat in no time at all, with bio-fuels being at best controversial in places where food production is then lowered, prices for ordinary consumers rise, and no visible benefits are yet seen from bio-fuel companies, percolating down to the grassroots levels. Meanwhile, with all investments in Tanzania into bio-fuel production now halted, local Tanzanian farmers – many of them small scale and on subsistence levels using their daily work to feed their families – will score political points for government ahead of elections next year. A policy review is said to be going underway soon to determine the future of such controversial projects in the country, and once the election process and campaigning unfolds, it is expected to add new fuel to the demands of local farmers and their representatives.

Fires were spreading last week towards the upper sections of Tanzania’s second highest mountain. Initially, smaller fires have reportedly started to merge and the dry undergrowth has in some places fueled the fires and accelerated their spread. TANAPA and the Arusha and Moshi fire brigades have combined to combat the blaze, but strong winds and little rain have made their work difficult at best. Wildlife has reportedly fled from the flames and has been seeking refuge in the adjoining Arusha National Park, and tourism activities have also been suspended for the time being to avoid dangers to visitors.

Information was received from Kigali that plans are nearing presentation and consultation stage to enlarge Rwanda’s main gorilla national park by another 3,500 hectares. The proposals are based on the need to capture some of the gorilla habitat outside the present park boundaries so that full protection can be afforded to the endangered species and to reduce the present potential for wildlife-human conflict. Sources close to RDB T&C have pointed out that these plans are far from complete, and intense consultations with affected communities will need to take place before moving ahead, while at the same time confirming that they would indeed like to set aside more land for conservation and protection of the gorillas and other game in the national park. Tourism is the number one foreign exchange source for Rwanda, and the country has regularly outperformed her neighbors in terms of sectoral growth and showcasing at international tourism trade fairs.

Last weekend saw local council elections conducted across Rwanda, and in spite of the massive turnout of voters, the exercise went along in a peaceful and organized fashion. Tourism activities were not said to have been affected by the polls.

The Rwandan national airline has given reasons why flights from Kigali to Gisenyi have been suspended recently. According to airline sources, the state of the single runway at Gisenyi has been a matter of concern in regards to safe landings and take offs, but the airlines stated its desire to resume operations once repairs have been carried out. At the same time, it was also learned that Rwandair was planning to commence flights to Goma in the eastern Congo soon, but no information was readily available about the proposed flight schedule. Other charter airlines with smaller single- and twin-engine planes reportedly continue to fly into Gisenyi as they require shorter take-off and landing distances.

As part of the revenue-sharing scheme between RDB – T&C, which stands for Rwanda Development Board/Tourism and Conservation, as well as communities living near protected areas, half a million Rwandan Francs been handed over to communities around the new national park of Nyungwe. This forest park is home to 13 species of primates, over 250 species of birds, and offers a flora second to none for visitors to explore during extended hikes and walks. Community engagement has been the cornerstone of developing tourism in Rwanda as benefits, unlike in some other countries, are actually shared with those most affected on the ground.

Bringing justice to the more than 800,000 genocide victims of Rwanda’s slaughter campaign inspired by criminal elements of the former government, received a boost during the week when Uganda arrested one of the most-wanted planners, inciters, and executors of the evil acts, which swept across Rwanda in early 1994. Idelphonse Niziyimana was spotted by ever alert security operative after he crossed into Uganda from his hideout with the FDLR militias in the Congo DR, and after reportedly trailing him, he was arrested in Kampala while preparing to travel onto Nairobi using false travel documents. He is, among many other evils, accused to have murdered the former Queen of Rwanda, who was in her 80s at the time, together with her maids and other staff. Executing an international arrest warrant, the Ugandan authorities then, without much ado, bundled him onto a flight to Arusha where he was handed over to the UN Tribunal sitting at the Arusha International Conference Centre. There, already a sizeable number of suspects are standing trial, and many have been convicted to long prison terms and life sentences for the crimes they committed against their fellow Rwandans.

The 2009 Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance (also see has catapulted Mauritius into the number one spot for best governance, while the Seychelles were ranked closely behind in third place. The east African countries had Tanzania excel in 12th place, while Kenya came in 22nd, Ugandan 24th, Rwanda 32nd, and Burundi 38th, out of the total of 53 countries registered on the continent. Over 80 indicators had to be answered to arrive at the 2009 results, which produced a sound vote of confidence for two of the Indian Ocean’s biggest holiday destinations.

After several rounds of negotiations, the key meetings presided over by former Mozambique president Joaquin Chissano, the main protagonists in Madagascar present-day politics have finally agreed through its intermediaries on the sharing of cabinet positions and the appointment of a vice president, prime minister, and deputies. Meanwhile, power-grabber Rajoelina, a former DJ who was pushed into power by army elements loyal to him, remains in place as head of state until the upcoming elections, but he had to commit himself not to stand as a candidate then, meeting a crucial demand by ousted president Ravalomanana and his supporters across the island. It is not clear if, and when, the immediate former president and his own predecessors, also in exile, will return to the island. Once politics have settled down on the largest Indian Ocean island, tourists can have more confidence to return in larger numbers to Madagascar, already well known for its unique wildlife and globally popularized by the animated films of the same name.

The 20th anniversary edition of SUBIOS, the Sub Indian Ocean Seychelles, ended early this week, having brought hundreds of additional visitors to the archipelago for the purpose of both diving and participating in the festivities. Seychelles Vice President Joseph Belmont addressed the opening function of the festival and commended the organizers for their efforts to make SUBIOS a major tourism event of ever-growing importance. Also honoured at the function were the prize winners of the photo and video competition.

Following the successful attendance of Top Resa in Paris by a large Seychellois delegation, all eyes are on the forthcoming World Travel Market where the Seychelles will again field a sizeable delegation to work the market and attract more visitors to the Indian Ocean island nation. Meanwhile, regional efforts continue with a visit by the Seychelles Tourist Board to the island of Mayotte, following earlier visits to La Reunion as a partner to promote multi-center holidays.

Rob Sutcliffe, fresh from a four-year stint at the Kalahari’s Meerkat Project, has taken office as chief conservation officer on Aride Island where he will be overseeing the nature reserve for the next two years. Rob holds degrees in environmental biology and conservation management.
Aride Island is the most northerly-located granitic island of the archipelago and less than a square kilometer in size, yet famous for the large colonies of frigate birds and the Seychelles magpie robin, besides 16 other species found on the island for breeding purposes. Five of these species are only found in the Seychelles, making it a bird watchers must-see before all the ticks are applied to their bird books. Surely at the top of that list must be the red-tailed tropic bird, with the archipelago the only place to see it close up. Visitors are only permitted between Sunday and Thursday, although weekend visits are said to be possible upon prior arrangements. Most trips to Aride originate from Praslin Island and are by boat, which makes visits at times difficult if not impossible, particularly during times of strong winds when boats find it hard to make a safe landing. Food and drink must either be brought or else visitors are advised to take an organized day trip, which includes a beachside BBQ. No hotels or resorts are available on the island, but the island conservation society, which has leased the island and looks after it, has some basic accommodation for overnight visitors, mainly meant for scientists and researchers, subject to space.

The Berjaya Resort in Beau Vallon Bay of Mahe Island and the Praslin Beach Hotel are both available for sale, according to confirmation given by the owners’ representative and CEO of the company. He is quoted in the Seychelles media as saying that “if the price is right, we will sell within six months.” It is understood, however, that both hotels are soon due for their periodical refurbishment and modernization, potentially making the two properties an attractive proposition pricewise, taking the upcoming rehab cost into account, which potential buyers can knock off the price.

East Africa tourism report
Image via

Premium Partners