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Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

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Dr. Wolfgang Thome, eTN Uganda  May 16, 2008

ROYAL DAISY ADDS KISUMU SERVICE
One of Uganda’s few indigenously owned private airlines, Royal Daisy, has now announced the start of a new service between Entebbe and Kenya’s lakeside city Kisumu. The company’s Embraer 120 operates presently three times a week between the two cities and reportedly the service is reaching break-even loads sooner than expected. The airline operated a wet lease coach service twice a week between Entebbe and Nairobi for African Express in the past, but after Fly 540 began its twice-daily operation on the route, African Express soon withdrew their flights, not being able to match double daily frequency due to equipment restrictions. Royal Daisy continues to fly daily to Juba and maintains a loyal following of Ugandans, expatriates and Southern Sudanese, who have come to appreciate the personal service and the friendly disposition of the airline’s staff.

Kisumu has not been available on a scheduled flight from Entebbe since the days of the former East African Airways, which in the good old days (also referred to as the golden years of East Africa), operated a proper lake circuit, connecting Entebbe with Kisumu, Mwanza and Bukoba.

GAME RELOCATION A SUCCESS
Lake Albert Safaris, owners and operators of the Lake Albert Safari Lodge and concessionaires to manage the Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve under the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s (UWA) supervision and according to agreed guidelines, have recently completed the first phase of their planned wildlife relocation.

After obtaining UWA’s approval for the exercise, Lake Albert Safaris has now “imported” 13 waterbuck and 12 hartebeest into their reserve. UWA had granted permits for 20 animals each. Latest reports indicate that two hartebeest already gave birth in their new surroundings. Several animals were fitted with radio collars to keep track of their movements. The relocation was co-funded by USAID/Prime West project and supported by UWA veterinary staff. The animals were trapped at Murchisons Falls National Park, where these two species are found in large numbers, so that the “export” to the 50 miles distant Kabwoya reserve along the Lake Albert shoreline will not be felt.
The lodge owners are now looking at the relocation of other game, as and when they can find funding for their plans. Further information can be obtained through the safari lodge and the reserve management at: info@lakealbertlodge.com and www.lakealbertlodge.com

PRESIDENT SIGNS NEW TOURISM BILL INTO LAW
President Yoweri Museveni has last week signed the new tourism bill, which parliament had passed some months ago, and this final legal requirement now made the new bill the law of the land. The tourism fraternity, in particular those closely involved in the consultative stages of developing the new bill, have expressed relief and appreciation to both the President and Parliament for embracing this ground breaking new legislation. The final stage in the three pronged process, after creating a tourism policy and passing the bill, will now be the formulation and promulgation by the Minister of the pending tourism regulations, at which stage a completely new regulatory regime will be in place, finally guiding the tourism sector into the 21st century.

MPONDWE BRIDGE REOPENS
The bridge along the main traffic artery from Kasese to Beni in Eastern Congo, which had been destroyed by a heavily overloaded truck coming from Congo in mid April, has now been temporarily reopened after emergency repairs were carried out. Strict weight restrictions are now however being enforced to protect the temporary wooden structure, while a new bridge is being constructed. Prices for most commodities across the border with Congo have nearly doubled since truck traffic stopped a few weeks ago and goods had to be transported by other means, mainly bicycles, across the border.

LAKE CONTAMINATION REDUCES FISH EXPORTS
Uganda has missed its annual quota of 60,000 tons of fish exports to the European Union last year due to reduced catches. Past reckless overfishing, catching of undersized fish and in particular the environmental impact of fertilizer run off from agricultural businesses located near the lake shores on the fish breeding grounds has now caught up with one of the most profitable export businesses. Only recently were blooming algae concentrations detected covering parts of the lake has impacted the quantities and qualities of fish caught for processing.

BIRDERS WORRY OVER SPECIES AND NUMBER REDUCTIONS
On the occasion of the World Migratory Birds Day on May 10, Nature Uganda officials decried the constant loss of species and bird numbers, which some of them blamed on the shrinking habitat of migratory birds. According to their report, over the past years a major resting place for such birds, the Lutembe bay along the Lake Victoria shores, was largely converted into a flower farm and the bird numbers recorded every year have since gone down very considerably. Warnings by bird and conservation experts at the time were brushed aside but their bleak projections and predictions at the time are now coming true. Similar lakeshore encroachment is also observed at other lakes, such as Albert and Kyoga, a development that can well threaten the global standing of Uganda as a top bird watching destination with over 1,000 species of resident and migratory birds.

AYA’S AT IT, AGAIN
The notorious Aya brothers, in particular Mohammed Hamid, have resorted to their well known full mouthed statements again in regard of their hotel construction in Kampala. Hamid has claimed that 37,000 tons of steel have been delivered to the site. He, however, once again seems to have gotten his arithmetic’s wrong which not unusual for a man who had promised Ugandans in 2006 that they would “build one floor a week until we reach the top” of the proposed 23 floor building. The brothers also keep insisting that Hilton would manage the hotel once completed, but again, no confirmation could be obtained from the hotel corporation, who have continuously snubbed inquiries over their so–called Ugandan venture. According to Hamid, the hotel is now due to be ready by September 2009 and will be the first “true five-star” hotel.

Meanwhile, the site allocated to Gulf-based Kingdom Hotels remains an empty eyesore in the heart of Kampala, as the hotel company also shows no efforts to build their promised hotel. A prominent primary school and teachers training college had to be hastily demolished, displacing at the time about a thousand pupils and dozens of teachers and instructors for this supposed project. Kingdom Hotels has failed to respond to inquiries about their plans for the site, or if indeed they have abandoned their intention to build a luxury hotel in Kampala.

RIVER TREES REOPENS
In time for the Africa Travel Association annual congress starting next Monday in Arusha and other upcoming main events like the Sullivan Summit and the Karibu Tourism Trade Show, River Trees Country Inn has reopened its doors after the now customary annual low season spring cleaning, renovation and upgrades. Located at Usa River, about half way between the International Airport and Arusha itself, River Trees is again looking forward to hosting visitors, including a few ATA congress participants. About a kilometer off the main road, River Trees is spread out along the Usa River and all villas, cottages and rooms are individually furnished and equipped to high standards. Every Thursday evening, River Trees offers a special supper, regularly attended by many of the extended neighborhood’s residents, an excellent opportunity to get up to date with what is happening in and around Arusha every week. Transfers to and from the airport or into Arusha are arranged with prior notice. Check out www.rivertrees.com or write to info@rivertrees.com

LOKI GETS NEW ATC TOWER
The Northern Kenyan gateway for relief and support flights into Southern Sudan, Lokichogio, recently had a new air traffic control tower commissioned. New ATC equipment now ensures that flight operations and communications will be largely improved, and safer, in the Northern part of Kenya. The investment is part of a greater East African initiative to improve aviation facilities across the region and will come as a relief to air operators using Loki, many of whom have in the past complained about substandard facilities.

It was also learned during the week that the Kenya Airports Authority was allocating a further US$10+ million for the rehabilitation and upgrade of about a dozen more airfields in upcountry locations across the country, thought to be of importance for tourism purposes and general access to those areas. This development is in line with efforts across the East African Community, where aviation infrastructure has been pushed up the national priority ladders in order to facilitate faster growth of not only the airline industry but their economies at large.

RWANDA TO HOST INVESTMENT CONFERENCE
The first ever East African Investment Conference will be held in Kigali between 26th and 28th of June this year, aimed at providing information on the region and improving the standing of East Africa as an investment and tourism destination. The Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda governments and their respective investment promotion bodies, but also leading private sector organizations from the entire region, will all participate in the event. Contact info@rwandainvest.com for more information and participation details or visit www.rwandainvest.com/conference

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report



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