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East Africa Tourism

Wolfgang’s East Africa report

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Wolfgang H. Thome  May 01, 2008

During a visit last week to the Bunyoro Kingdom as part of a national poverty alleviation tour, Ugandan Yoweri President Museveni once again made it clear that human encroachment into national parks or forest reserves and grazing of cattle in protected areas will no longer be tolerated. He instructed the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the National Forest Authority to evict encroachers and prosecute them, while also directing that cattle herds must move out of the parks and find pasture elsewhere.

Only recently did wildlife experts express their concern to this correspondent over their experience while visiting some of the national parks, where cattle were outnumbering game. The president’s remarks are both timely as well as to the point. The President’s remarks echoed the sentiments of many conservationists and much of the tourism fraternity, which for quite a while now had lobbied government for a more decisive approach to this problem in order to protect the long-term future of wildlife-based tourism in Uganda.

Austrian, German and Swiss business owners in Uganda and Ugandans holding representations and franchises from companies in those countries held their inaugural annual general meeting last week at the Metropole Hotel in Kampala and elected their association leadership. After being in the making for some two years, with ongoing support from the Austrian trade mission in Uganda, the Swiss Consulate and the German Embassy, the association is now formally incorporated and able to work with an elected board. The GBA Uganda will in the future liaise closely with the Uganda government on investment, tourism and trade issues concerning the German-speaking countries (Austria, parts of Belgium, Germany, parts of Holland, parts of Luxemburg and Switzerland) in the heart of Europe, cooperate with their home governments, their home chambers of commerce and industry, as well as related bodies in those German speaking countries. GBA is also due to work in unison with their counterparts in Kenya and Tanzania, to promote improved business, trade and tourism ties between the five East African Community nations and the German-speaking countries of Europe. This correspondent was elected as chairperson, pledging to use his considerable connections across the region, as well as in the “old country” to further the aims and objectives of the newly founded association.

Just six months after opening in time for the Commonwealth Summit, the Metropole Hotel in Kololo has moved to the top of its class of newly constructed business hotels. With occupancies in average ranging in the 80 percent margin, the 60-room property has left other such hotels trailing in its wake. While all of the air-conditioned 60 rooms are of almost equal size and layout, the equipment levels vary between the three room categories. In-room computers with high-speed Internet connection are available in the top bracket, which goes for an internationally very affordable US$120 per night. The basic room sells at US$90 per night, inclusive of free wireless Internet access, daily mineral water supplies, in-room coffee/tea facilities and of course a full breakfast, all taxes and the service charge. Half of the rooms face the 18-hole and clubhouse of the Uganda Golf Union’s course in the heart of the city, while the other rooms face the fashionable Kololo suburb. Airport transfers are available for guests with the hotel’s own shuttle bus. One of the hotel’s popular features for Kampaleans and resident guests is The Oriental, which serves authentic Thai cuisine for lunch and dinner. In the business arcade of the hotel guests find a car hire and travel office, a small but well stocked boutique and a unisex beauty parlor. Visitors intending to come to Kampala should check out the hotel’s website under for more information and bookings.

The Eastern African and Indian Ocean districts of the Lion International movement are due to hold their fifth convention from 01st to 04th of May at Kampala’s fancied Commonwealth Resort and the Speke Resort and Conference Centre on the shores of Lake Victoria. President Museveni will officially open the convention tomorrow, May 3. Up to a thousand “Lions” and accompanying spouses are expected to descend on Kampala, supporting the local hospitality industry while “doing good.” The Lions have in the past excelled to provide needy Ugandans with free treatment for eye disorders and eye diseases and have earned the admiration, thanks and respect of tens of thousands of beneficiaries from many parts of the Africa.

The once upon a time ‘grand old dame’ of hospitality in Entebbe, the Lake Victoria Hotel, now owned by the Libyan Arab Investment Company, has at last finished a near decade long exercise of refurbishing and modernizing the hotel. Located near the Entebbe Golf Course, it is just a few kilometers from the international airport and therefore conveniently located for travelers to and from Uganda as a first or last stopover.
The hotel was partly divested from the former Uganda Hotels Corporation in the mid ‘90s and eventually bought out completely by the new owners, who dilly-dallied with the renovation and took overtime to finish the work. The hotel also underwent several managerial changes over the past decade but at last now seems to have gotten its act together.

The Lake Vic, as it is normally referred to by Ugandans, however ,now has stiff competition from the Imperial Hotel Group, which operates the Imperial Resort Beach and the Imperial Botanical Beach, both strategically located on the lake shore and adjoining to Entebbe’s botanical gardens and the wildlife education centre. The Botanical Beach was incidentally twice the venue for hosting visiting US presidents Clinton and Bush, when they came to Uganda during previous African state visits. The Imperial Hotel properties in recent years dominated the upmarket in Entebbe and captured in particular the meeting and conference market very well. Watch this space.

For the next few weeks, Kenya Airways will be operating the code shared flights between Nairobi and Amsterdam exclusively with its own B777 aircraft, after KLM’s B747 are undergoing heavy maintenance over the coming weeks ahead of the busy European summer season. This will be a boost in aircraft utilization by the Kenyan flag carrier, which has suffered load factor setbacks in January and February, caused by Kenya’s post election violence. Passenger and cargo performance has since, however, stabilized and is steadily moving upwards again. The airline is also suffering of the sharply increased fuel prices for JetA1 and has already indicated a further increase in fuel surcharges on their tickets for flights across their network from June onwards. Airline sources however confirmed that while this is a matter of concern, like for the entire global aviation industry, the fundamentals of KQ’s performance are sound, especially in view of using the latest fuel saving aircraft types. The same sources confirmed that the situation will receive close monitoring in coming weeks and months but as other competitors on long haul routes too will suffer of the same risen fuel cost any further fare rises would be equitably spread across the aviation industry.

It is thought that smaller airlines in the East African region with old and aging equipment will be the first to suffer any serious cash crunch while KQ with its financial reserves will be better equipped to weather the brewing storm. Airlines operating modern, fuel-efficient turbo prop fleets, like Tanzania’s Precision Air and Kenya’s Fly540 too are expected to perform better than industry average.

The present chairman of COMESA – The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa headquartered in Zambia’s capital Lusaka – Kenya’s president Mwai Kibaki, has now reacted to the protracted election saga in Zimbabwe, where weeks after the elections still no results for the presidential race are made public. The Kenyan president, himself of course no stranger to recent poll disputes in his own country, has now in consultations with other key leaders in the COMESA region decided, that holding the summit meeting in Zimbabwe’s resort town of Victoria Falls at this time was not possible, and neither was it advisable to pass on the leadership baton to Mr. Mugabe, who against world opinion seems determined to hang on to the presidential office while seeking ways to manipulate the poll results from some weeks ago in his favor.

Government sources in Harare are trying to put a brave attitude to the development, which is a major slap in the face of Zimbabwe and its political establishment while there is growing evidence now, that African leaders are gradually putting some distance between themselves and the Mugabe regime. South African president in waiting Jacob Zuma was unusually outspoken and candid in media interviews over the situation in Zimbabwe, unlike the sitting South African president Thabo Mbeki, whose own reputation is now being dented over his ‘Chamberlain’ approach towards his neighbors in open disregard of the intense terror and suffering inflicted on the Zimbabwean people by its regime.

Wolfgang’s East Africa report
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