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Travel And Tourism In Africa

East Africa tourism report

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  Oct 23, 2009

The national water corporation has lamented the ongoing pollution of Lake Victoria and the present blooming of new algae fields not far from its main pumping station in the suburb of Gaba, Kampala. Consumers across the city have complained of falling water supplies and irregular supplies, blamed by the water company on a reduction in processing capacity of presently some 30,000 cubic meters a day. The algae bloom and other pollutants make the production of potable water lengthier in its process and more costly due to the added quantities of chemicals now required. Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest fresh water lake, after Lake Superior in North America, and a source of water and fish for millions of Africans living along its extensive shores. The lake is shared between Tanzania, which accounts for about 49 percent of the surface, Uganda with about 45 percent of the surface including the source of the river Nile, and Kenya with the remaining 6 percent of the surface of the lake falling into its territory. However, recent allegations of overfishing and pollution caused by fertilizer run off has caused serious concerns among not just environmentalists but society at large, and several major projects are rolling out to improve the water quality and protect the tributary rivers, too. Meanwhile, the lamentations of the water managers cite broken pipes that at times wait for days to be repaired, causing the precious liquid to spill back into the gutters, make mud pools, or break up the tarmac.

As reported in a related column item recently, the Uganda Air Cargo Corporation (UACC) has taken delivery of two Harbin Y-12 Chinese-built passenger planes, each with a seating capacity of 19 passengers. Up to that limit, no cabin crew is mandatory in flight under Ugandan and international air service regulations, making operations more economical on short sectors, although the UACC may put a cabin attendant on board its flights. According to usually well-informed sources, the airline intends to venture into the passenger business but will initially offer the planes for charters to domestic and regional destinations, while later on trying to secure an expanded air services license (ASL) for scheduled operations. No reliable information could be obtained, however, on planned destinations in the region. No information was available either on the location of the maintenance facility looking after these aircraft, but these details must be revealed upon application for a new air services license in a public hearing conducted by the UCAA’s board of directors’ licensing committee.

As reported a few weeks ago, the Ugandan shilling has appreciated considerably against the greenback, from a low of nearly 2,300 shillings for one US dollar to now below 1,900 shillings for one US dollar. Similarly, other currencies like the UK pound, the euro, the Swiss franc, yen, and UAE dinar are affected in the same way. Local expenses are, therefore, dearer for visitors, who have to change more of their home currency to afford locally-procured meals, drinks, and souvenirs, while exporters fetch less in shillings for their dollar earnings, already leading to complaints by farmers and agricultural/horticultural businesses that their income no longer covers the rising costs suffered in recent years.

In a predicted development, the 11 chiefs of the Busoga Kingdom met in Kampala under the moderation of a government minister, to discuss the recent election of a new Kyabazinga (or king) for their kingdom east of the River Nile. While one of the chiefs was reportedly out of country, the other 10 apparently agreed to hold a fresh round of elections to select a new king in an apparent move to find a more harmonious outcome to the process prescribed by the kingdom’s constitution and rules. Watch this space as this year-long saga continues to grip the attention of Ugandans.

The long demand by the Rwenzururu clans in the west of Uganda, around the area of Kasese on the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains, has led to the formal coronation of their own king after years of struggle to have their cultural institution recognized. It appears from the sketchy historical records available at this time that the demand was first voiced over 40 years ago when the area residents began to oppose the Toro kings as their overlords and created a growing split, eventually succeeding. The ceremony reportedly brought some 60,000 people from the area together in Kasese to witness the crowning ceremony, and President Yoweri Museveni was the guest of honor at the coronation. His advice - to respect and live in peace with communities around the kingdom not wishing to be associated with the cultural institution - was well placed, considering the recent events related to the Buganda kingdom, where a section of communities living along the River Nile’s eastern bank have rejected the traditional Buganda overlord, leading to incited riots in Kampala at the time (see the related previous reports in Government supporters were swift to point out that contrary to allegations made by Buganda kingdom hardliners that the president was anti-monarchy, his support for the creation of the new kingdom and presence during the entire function, was enough evidence that this was wishful thinking and far from reality.

The cost of meetings at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel has now been set as low as US$35 per participant, which includes the use of the selected meeting room, notepad and branded pen, and one coffee break either in the morning or in the afternoon. Lunch for participants is served on the outside terrace from the daily buffet and inclusive in the quoted rate. A second coffee break, needed for a full day meeting, goes for an additional US$2 per participant and all taxes and service charges are included. The Sheraton features a number of state-of-the-art meeting and board rooms and free, ample and secure parking is also available for guests, an added benefit the hotel can offer its patrons. After the meeting, the hotel offers a different evening theme or activity every workday of the week, often started with the happy hour, enticing the work-shoppers to stay on a little longer and enjoy the good life in the heart of the city after work.

Entebbe Handling Services, in short ENHAS, has been subjected to a fresh strike threat by the unions to enforce its demand for better pay. A few days ago, workers downed their tools in a sudden wild cat strike, trying to use the threat of lack of handling of inbound and outgoing aircraft as a pressure point towards management, but this was swiftly overcome, ultimately without success. The company’s management offered a flat rate increase of Uganda Shillings 70,000 for the lower pay grades, but this was rejected by the union as not enough. This figure translates into about US$37 per month at current exchange rates. The Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union and its shop stewards demand, however, a 50 percent pay raise, considered unlikely to succeed given the economic situation in the country at large and the level of profitability of airport handling in particular. Entebbe has two handling companies licensed right now, the other one being DAS Handling, which among others, looks after Kenya Airways while ENHAS handles Air Uganda and most of the big airlines coming from overseas. It cannot be ruled out that the government may intervene if indeed a strike would threaten to ground operations in Entebbe, as the land-locked country depends on air transport for passengers and cargo movements.

Alison Porteous, co-owner of the Bulago Island’s holding company LVSC, has set her eyes on a new venture on the island after the main lodge has been handed over to Wild Places Africa for refurbishment and future management. Ali will be opening a private residence soon, named “1 Minute South” after the geographical location of the island on Lake Victoria. The private residence will feature an infinity pool for a maximum of 14 guests able to stay at the mansion, and they will enjoy full-fledged butler service, and excellent cuisine is promised, too. The residence also has a private beach accessible only by guests staying at the house. Watch this space for the opening announcement in due course. Bulago Island is only 6 to 8 minutes by air from the Kajjansi airfield and speed boats take between 40-50 minutes from the mainland.

The threat of widespread flooding as a result of the onset of the el Nino-induced rainy season has shocked the member states of the East African Community (EAC) into action, after the first taste of those excessive rains has already caused landslides and partial flooding in some areas. Earlier in the week in Nairobi, the EAC countries were joined by Ethiopia and reportedly also Eritrea to map out emergency responses, raise the level of preparedness, and agree on food and material assistance, which may be extended to the affected countries and regions to reduce the impact on already impoverished populations as a result of the long-lasting drought. Meanwhile, the rains caused the first major traffic snarl in Kenya, when a heavy truck slid and got stuck on a temporary bypass alongside the road construction area along the main Mombasa to Nairobi highway, causing other vehicles to also get stuck in the softening quagmire and eventually bringing traffic to a standstill for 17 kilometers, which lasted more than 10 hours, before clearing the obstacle.

This weekend, Captain Irene Mutungi will receive the Africa Legend of Travel award as part of the Africa Travel Awards ceremony held in Lagos, Nigeria. Having made her way through the ranks of piloting, she made it to the summit when she got her four stripes handed by Kenya Airways, after a successful previous flying career with the airline as a co-pilot. It is understood from sources within KQ, that Capt. Irene was not just KQ’s first lady captain but also the first African lady captain appointed by a major continental airline. In total, Kenya Airways employs four lady captains and over 20 lady co-pilots, underscoring the Pride of Africa’s ambition to become a full equal opportunity employer. This deliberate policy has not just benefitted the airline by tapping into the hitherto neglected pool of female piloting aspirants, permitting them to fill vacancies with Kenyan nationals, but it also opened the door for professional women on a continent still struggling to come to terms with equality and in an industry and profession which was for decades marked by male domination and resistance, to open the doors for the other half of the world population. In the past, Kenya Airways has on occasions deliberately put an all-female crew on board of one of its aircraft, cockpit, and cabin for PR purposes and to demonstrate its support of equal opportunities in the aviation sector and to also show its passengers that times have indeed, and thankfully, changed. Well done Capt. Irene, and well done Kenya Airways.

Over two dozen countries have sent experts to the Kenyan port city of Mombasa to discuss reigning in the excesses of fishing, in particular for tuna species, in the Indian Ocean off the Eastern African coast line. The meeting is looking into research data released previously to assess the damage already done to the fish stocks and find sustainable solutions to permit them to recover in future years. Of concern to many of the poorer countries is the matter of illegal fishing inside the declared 200 nautical miles of economic exclusion zones, which has, in the past, denied such countries revenues, as they were not able to enforce a naval blockade against illegal fishing vessels nor pursue them and arrest them. One of the aims of the meeting is to establish a mechanism, like CITES for wildlife, to apply for the fishing industry, too, and make it eventually impossible to trade illegally-caught fish on the open market, as is presently the case. As a side issue, discussions on the Somali piracy are also taking place on the fringes of the conference, and it is generally expected that the naval coalition will receive support for tougher mandates and increases in its fleet size to more effectively patrol the sea lanes and prevent hijacking of ships.
Deep sea fishing (angling) has long been a favorite pastime of local expatriates and tourists coming to East Africa, but the depletion of certain species over the years has now led to a widely-practised tag and release policy among the leading boat owner companies in Malindi, Mombasa, the Pemba Channel, Zanzibar, and further down south towards the Mozambique Channel and beyond into South African waters.

Kenya’s premier insider web guide is now in the final stage to launch a matatu map for the greater Nairobi area, which gives the more adventurous visitors to the country, or those on a shoe-string budget, renewed options on how to explore the capital and its environs by the same mode of transportation used by millions of Kenyans every day. Visit for more information and also to subscribe to its free weekly mailing for any sort of activity one can imagine or wish to take part in, from Salsa dancing lessons to pottery classes; making flower arrangements or learning how to cook a particular dish; to the latest restaurants, sporting, and charity events; as well as outdoor activities; and 4X4-driving training on a proper off road range - you name it, it’s in Kenya Buzz.

The latest en vogue activity in Rwanda appears to be cycling, as several safari operators are now offering such tours in selected locations across the country. RDB-T&C has also confirmed that cycling inside the Nyungwe National Park is permitted upon prior notification, but this presently applies only to individual cyclists, with organized tours expected to be on the market for 2010. It could also be established that some companies are importing mountain bikes suitable for rough off-road terrain and that such tours would be operated with qualified guides trained not only in safe operations but also first aid, just in case a cyclist takes an unintended dive. Meanwhile, sports cycling also gained greater popularity in Rwanda, and the national team has participated in several races both inside Rwanda as well as abroad. The terrain of the country, being hilly at best and mountainous at worst, sets its own challenges for beginners who want to cycle the country, but being able to see the magnificent scenery will be a great reward for those tourists taking the slow route across Rwanda.

It was announced earlier in the week, that the hunting palace of the late King Mutara III, located in the Nyagatare district of Rwanda, is due to be rehabilitated and then transformed into a historical site. This will permit visitors to Rwanda to sample the cultural history of the country, which spans back many centuries, in addition to having a nature-based, wildlife safari experience. The “land of a thousand hills” is presently diversifying its tourism products and will undoubtedly benefit from extra interest by tourist visitors coming to learn about the history and culture of the former kingdom. Sadly, the historic palace was looted and desecrated during the 1994 genocide, when artifacts, memorabilia, and furniture were taken or destroyed. The restoration will be based on available file photos and recollections by survivors to make it as real as possible.

The Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation, in short RDB-T&C, has announced that they will publish all relevant new documentation in regard of hotel standards and classification by early November to permit both the business community, as well as the public, to understand better the concept of the changes now underway – aimed to align Rwanda with the rest of the East African Community (EAC). It is also understood that legislation and regulations will be aligned, as will policy white papers, so that in coming years, the region can indeed be marketed as one destination with many attractions, permitting tourist visitors seamless itineraries free of bothersome custom and immigration procedures other than at the initial point of entry and final point of departure from the EAC.

The national airline of the Seychelles expects to take delivery of a new De Havilland Twin Otter aircraft before the end of the year to boost its domestic capacity for flights from the main international airport on the island of Mahe to the outlying islands of the extensive archipelago. Passengers flying to the Seychelles on the national airline, and also on other carriers, can book their onward flights in advance to their final destination where many of the exotic resorts on smaller Robinson-type islands, depend on regular air services to bring in their guests and much-needed urgent supplies. The aircraft’s avionics, engines, and related systems are state of the art, making significant operational savings on fuel and maintenance possible. A second new Twin Otter aircraft purchase has been deferred for the time being until the economic impact of the new aircraft has been assessed and relevant data are at hand to make an informed decision. The Twin Otter is a short take-off and short landing aircraft and operates in and out of very short and narrow airstrips on some of the smaller outlying islands, which often span from one beach across the entire island to the other side, making the use of smaller STOL-capable aircraft a must.

UK tour operators termed the Seychelles as its top honeymoon destination, with Marrakech, Jamaica, and Las Vegas occupying the next three places. Affordable Seychelles has apparently made its way to the top with a combination of the exotic, fair prices and easy access by air with major airlines - all factors for making the decision where to go after the most important day in one’s life. Many resorts have specialized in honeymoon packages, and weddings on one of the many islands of the archipelago are gaining popularity. Some of the smaller island resorts are booked almost exclusively by honeymooners, offering privacy, private beach access from its cottages or beach villas, and a befitting social program, which is available either for the couple alone or in small groups of other honeymooners.

The 24th edition of the annual Creole Festival is taking place this weekend, celebrating the diversity and rich cultural heritage of the archipelago. Corporate sponsors and tourism businesses have contributed cash and in-kind towards the holding of the festival, which will feature performing arts, crafts, fashion, and food, amongst many other activities. Tourist visitors on the island will receive relevant information from their respective hotels to be able to visit sites and observe the various events.

The Seychelles Tourism Board conducted a workshop and B2B sessions last week, seeking to attract a greater number of Chinese citizens to visit the archipelago. The president, while on an official visit to the Chinese capital, used the opportunity to underscore his government’s commitment to the tourism sector by appearing in person. He also invited Chinese airlines to fly to the Seychelles to provide a direct connection from China to the islands.

(Information provided by Gill Staden, eTN Zambia ambassador)
South African visitors will soon have added choices if they opt to see the Victoria Falls of the Zambezi River. Information was received that the “1Time Airline” is commencing flights from Johannesburg into Livingstone on the Zambian side of the falls on November 26, 2009. They will initially operate four times a week on Sunday, Monday, Thursday, and Friday, all flights being nonstop and taking about 1 hour and 45 minutes flying time. The special start-up fares have been published at ZAR890 one way and ZAR1850 return (payable in Zambian Kwacha) subject to seat availability at the time of booking. Different fares, however, may apply when booking in South Africa, and intending travelers are advised to make early inquiries.
For reservations and sales in Zambia, contact the airline’s general sales agent Southend Travel as follows: tel: +260 213 320241 or +260 213 320773 or +260 213 322128, cell: +260 99619700, or email Mr. Ramesh at .

A Sudanese registered Boeing 707-320C crashed on Wednesday afternoon around 1530 hours local time, shortly after takeoff from Sharjah International Airport – a regional cargo hub from which many flights take off for African destinations – killing all 6 crew and other staff on board. Sudan has been hard hit in recent years with air accidents, many of which involved aged former Soviet Union type aircrafts like Antonovs and Iljushins. First information available from Sharjah points to a possible case of overloading as a cause of the crash, when the aircraft appears to have struggled to gain altitude before it then veered sharply off course and flipped before crashing and bursting into flames. There is confirmation that the plane was owned by Azza Air, a privately-owned airline operating cargo and passenger flights within the Sudan and into the region, but apparently on lease to Sudan Airways, itself hard hit by a spate of recent crashes. The accident led to the temporary closure of the airport to allow for the retrieval of the flight data and voice recorders, other parts needed for the accident investigation, and the clearing of the debris before resuming operations. The Sudanese aviation fraternity has expressed their shock over the crash and are mourning their colleagues who died in the inferno.

Investors interested in the southern Sudan will soon find a changed legal environment, making projects in the south more attractive and facilitating a number of crucial issues like ownership or lease of land, an absolute prerequisite for anyone wishing to put up a hotel, resort or safari lodge; farm commercially; or build and set up factories. The information about the new laws are now beginning to circulate within the East African Community, where the south Sudan missions are propagating the new Investment Promotions Act, the new Land Act, and the new regulations in regard of taxation. It is of particular importance that the new land laws will finally permit land, owned or leased, to be used as collateral with financial institutions and banks to back up credits with a tangible security, not possible so far under the old legislation. New rules regarding the registration of businesses were published last week, which will culminate in the launch of a new business registry unit under the Ministry of Finance. Greater regional and international showcasing of southern Sudan’s investment opportunities in trade fairs and investment exhibitions is also on the drawing board to allow the private sector to participate and play a lead role in bringing infrastructure, services, and industry to the south, be able to create much needed jobs in the post civil war era, and fight poverty and spread prosperity.

East Africa tourism report
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