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East Africa

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

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Wolfgang H. Thome / eTN  Jun 06, 2008


The Presidents of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda have used the opportunity of attending the Tokyo Summit between Japan and African nations to promote tourism, besides trade and investment, to their home countries in Eastern Africa. The East African community countries all benefit from income generated by tourism activities, and achieving higher arrival figures from Japan and South East Asia would undoubtedly boost occupancies and achieve a more balanced client base. This in turn would lessen the impact of one or more of their traditional markets suffering from setbacks, as witnessed recently due to events in Kenya earlier in the year, impacting the entire region. Direct flights from several airports in Japan to East Africa are now available on a daily basis with Emirates via Dubai to Entebbe, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Other airlines, too, fly via various way points and onward connections from Japan to Africa, allowing quick access to world famous national parks.


The road maintenance program recently advertised by the Ministry of Works, is due to commence at the beginning of June and is under serious threat as rains continue to pound large parts of the country. With changing weather patterns one can no longer rely on age old experiences. Work will inevitably be delayed now for some time, while the rains continue to eat away the roads and turn potholes into craters. A series of recent accidents are also blamed on potholes, when drivers tried to avoid them only to collide with oncoming traffic or go over the embankments. The situation has a negative impact also on food deliveries to the city as feeder roads from crop-growing areas become impassable adding further pressure on market prices. Visitors intending to go on safari are well advised to consult with their tour operators, especially those on self drive, to avoid being caught up in an unpleasant situation.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of pilgrims and worshippers who assembled at the Martyr’s Shrine in Namugongo outside Kampala were largely spared the elements on Martyr’s Day earlier in the week when the sun came out and occasional showers kept the dust in check.


The Uganda Revenue Authority has issued a stern warning to hotel owners during a recent meeting, not to keep a falsified second set of books and be compliant with tax laws and regulations. A recent brief item in one of the dailies mentioned a meeting between URA and UHOA, which the Hotel Owners themselves did not, understandably, advertise through their PR machinery. There is now some public speculation what may have prompted the revenue authority to issue this warning and if there are indeed cases where two sets of books are being kept for the purpose of evading taxes.


The Civil Aviation Authority re-advertised, in a surprise development, the position of Managing Director/CEO, as apparently no suitable candidate has yet been identified from the first round of applications. The position of Deputy Managing Director/Deputy CEO was, however, no longer included in the full page advertisement in the local media last week. Outgoing CEO Ambrose Akandonda has been with the CAA since its formation in 1991 when it emerged from the Department of Air Transport within the Ministry of Works and Transport. Ambrose has been steering the authority over the past 17 years from success to success and has built up an impressive list of achievements. Ambrose will be leaving the CAA later in the year.


Media reports from Kenya indicate that inflation levels, caused mainly by sharply rising food prices and the exorbitant cost of fuel products, has now reached 30+ percent, compared with price levels a year ago. A recent column item already touched on this burning issue in regard to Uganda, and should inflation run away in Kenya, it is beyond doubt that Uganda and other countries in the region will suffer similar trends soon. This will have an affect on exchange rates, cost of transport, food and other commodities and probably worsen the social conflict between the have’s and have not’s in a society where the struggle for survival is a daily challenge for many of the region’s poor. Would-be visitors are also well advised to monitor exchange rates and payment modes and can expect further surcharges in the coming months to cover for inflationary trends.


After another major failure recently of all approach, landing and runway/taxiway lights, added further pressure on the Kenya Airports Authority to finally do something about these dangerous incidents, which can potentially endanger landing aircraft or halt air traffic altogether. A tender was well underway some months ago, following a failure lasting several days last year, but was inexplicably cancelled. KAA also has a habit of not responding to inquiries in a timely manner, showing the ugly face of monopolistic government authorities. Subsequently another light failure, affecting several hundred passenger, occurred and literally forced the KAA’s hand to get the system overhauled. Underground ducts of the present system are apparently not watertight and waterproof, a crucial oversight taking the seasonal heavy rains in Mombasa into account, and the new installation is said to be focusing on those weak points. It has been a long time habit to blame rains for all and sundry problems in the region, and it is high time to stop blaming the weather for what is entirely human shortsightedness and shortfalls.

Moi International Airport in Mombasa is the main entry gate for holiday makers from abroad coming to the Indian Ocean shores, and the ongoing tourism sector recovery depends largely on a functioning airport. Should safety issues of this nature continue, overseas airlines may well be forced to suspend flights until the problems have been rectified, endangering the recovery of tourism, which took a serious hit earlier in the year as a result of post election violence.


With the arrival last month of their new A320 aircraft and in the two previous months of two Bombardier Q300 turboprops, the immediate fleet renewal of Air Tanzania has now been concluded. Airline sources also confirmed that two brand-new Q400 are on order and will join their fleet in late 2009 as they cannot be delivered any earlier than that due to the production limitations at Bombardier. These major investments will pave the way for Air Tanzania to reclaim a number of domestic routes they had to suspend in the past due to lack of suitable turboprop aircraft. ATCL will also be able to hold their own on regional and continental routes against other carriers with their new A320, which is adding greater comfort and more economical operations parameters to the airline and the faithful passengers ATCL had retained over the years.


After returning the leased Air Malawi B737-500 a few weeks ago due to technical issues, Rwandair is said to be going for another lease of a similar or even more modern B737NG due to be completed over the next few weeks. The changes also caused the code share with Kenya Airways to be suspended, when Rwandair took on the lease of one of the CRJ 100ER’s from Kenyan private airline ‘Jetlink’, a move which raised concern with Kenya Airways over issues of IOSA certifications and requirements. When the concerns could not be adequately addressed, KQ then suspended the code share, after initially having their passengers sign indemnity forms and waivers, which in turn did not go down well with Rwandair.

The airline also confirmed ongoing interest to buy a suitable aircraft, but this could take another year before a conclusion can be reached. Their Johannesburg flights remain suspended as the CRJ 100ER is not suited for that range, and will only be resumed once a new B 737 has been procured. The code-share with South African Airways on the Kigali – Johannesburg route is at present also on ice for those reasons.

It has also been confirmed that long-serving Chief Executive Officer Manzi Kayihura left the airline last month and that the position of Chairman of the Board was expanded to ‘Executive Chairman’, a position now held by Gerald Zirimwabagabo. Well known to this correspondent for decades, Manzi did a sterling job at Rwandair over the years and secured the survival of the airline under challenging circumstances.

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

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