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East Africa Tourism

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

Wolfgang H. Thome  Aug 07, 2008

The Madhvani Foundation, the charitable, social and civic corporate responsibility arm of Uganda’s leading industrial and hospitality conglomerate, has now partnered with the Zawadi Africa Educational Fund to provide five scholarships for gifted but economically disadvantaged young girls with strong leadership potential. The selected girls can after completing their studies in Uganda go to the United States and take courses of their choice in leading US universities, including Ivy League members. In addition to the three US scholarships, another two were offered at leading South African universities for ICT studies.

The Madhvani Foundation was set up already in 1962, underscoring the corporate responsibility the Madhvani family always had towards their communities. They now have an annual budget of several hundred million Uganda Shillings and are a leading provider of scholarships in the country. The tourism arm of the family business owns and operates the prestigious lodges Mweya and Paraa and is presently engaged in a full rebuilding of the Chobi Safari Lodge, located in the upper section of Murchisons Falls National Park.

The Ngero rock paintings, located in Kumi district (Northern Uganda) are reportedly threatened by extensive quarrying in the immediate neighborhood of the caves, where the paintings are located. The Museums and Monuments Department at the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry has since swung into action and began to sensitize residents of the area to preserve the art, thought to be over 500 years old. The challenge will be to eventually produce sustainable revenue from the site by attracting tourist visitors to the area, so that value can be created for the local population.

The Gately on Nile, a well sought after “country inn home” near the Lake Victoria shores and within walking distance of the Jinja Sailing Club, now has a sister operation up and running in Entebbe. Strategically located near the turn off from the main airport road to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, the newly opened Gately Entebbe offers nine en-suite twin rooms, a restaurant with a menu similar to the Jinja one, including their famous quiche de maison. The adjoining gift shop and a massage facility for tired guests are due to open shortly. The Gately in Entebbe is only 10 minutes from the international airport, which includes time spent at check points. Merryde Loosemore, the proprietoress, has for the time being moved from Jinja to Entebbe to ensure the personalised service the Jinja Gately has become renowned for. Contact them for more information via email: or and do visit their website for the new Entebbe property at or the Jinja Gately site at

As the traditional European holiday period takes many of the local expatriates back to their home turf, the Sheraton has now offered very special packages for weekends but also valid during the week, to attract visitors other than those coming for ‘business’. Generous goodies are apparently thrown into the bargain to spice up the experience value. Visit or write to

Some embittered residents living along the boundaries of the Tooro-Semliki Game Reserve recently had their crops destroyed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) enforcement personnel and promptly sought protection from other government organs, using however patently wrong arguments. The residents, many of whom had extended their small scale farms into the reserve, were given a year in mid 2007 during which to collect their harvests and move useable plants and roots but seemingly ignored the instructions. The Semliki reserve, described by this correspondent in a related article as a “prime piece of African wilderness real estate” has attracted increasingly more tourists in past years due to its biodiversity and variety of landscapes, which reach from rainforests along the Albertine escarpment to lake flats towards Lake Albert itself, with riverine forests, savannah and wetlands thrown in for good measure. The residents did apparently not find much sympathy however and other parts of the adjoining communities have reached agreements with UWA over revenue sharing and other benefits. Communities in different parts of the country have successfully forged partnerships with UWA over the past years and made substantial strives towards turning the conservation efforts in their immediate neighborhood into improvements in their infrastructure and lives in general, paid for by park entrance fee sharing schemes.

Figures just released by leading economists indicate that inflation has now reached nearly 14 percent, with similar figures obtained from Tanzania while Kenya’s inflation is said to be in the 30 percent region. Fuel prices continue to remain at near unaffordable levels for much of the population and food prices, including greens, have literally exploded in past months. The inflation trend hence added a whopping 3 percent since last month, but the economy is seemingly still powering on, fuelled by rising demand for Ugandan products from mainly Southern Sudan. Inflation in Eastern Africa is, however, nothing in comparison though to Zimbabwe where in spite of a recent currency reform, which turned 10 billion Zimbabwe Dollars into a new 1 Zimbabwe Dollar is still running at astronomic rates of nearly 3 million percent.

In a move setting the Kenyan national carrier further apart from other airlines in the region, KQ has now opened its ground breaking aviation training centre. The facility is reportedly already being used for KQ staff but is said to go commercial next year. Courses on offer will cover ticketing, management skills, supervisory courses and importantly engineering courses which will be supported by KQ’s own maintenance base facilities at Embakasi.

A ministerial statement in parliament this week reaffirmed that Air Tanzania has indeed started operations to Dodoma and was about to serve four more domestic destinations across the country, such as Kigoma, Tabora, Songea and Shinyanga. The development is thought to stir up the domestic aviation market with competition, as ATC could not serve all domestic routes in past years due to lack of suitable aircraft. However, recent aircraft deliveries have turned the trend and the Tanzanian public will be keen to see improvements in service delivery and greater choice.

News were received from usually well informed sources in Rwanda, that the privatization exercise was halted when Brussels Airlines did not submit the required financial proposals, after coming out on top of the applicants class. It appears that an Italian airline’s proposal was lacking in substance and they eventually withdrew the bid, as its sister airline in Uganda continues to struggle in the face of adverse market conditions. This left expected frontrunner Brussels Airlines, but the latest development probably reflects the hard times airlines are falling on in the face of exploding fuel prices and other operational cost increases. Regrets have already been expressed over this development, which had raised many hopes and expectations that SN would establish a stronger foothold in the East African market.
A new player, however, is thought to have positioned itself to step in to the breach by the names of Fly540. The Lonrho Africa-backed airline, which is already operating from Kenya into the region and has recently established a Ugandan operation too, is thought to have quietly made contact with Rwandair and there is speculation amongst aviation industry observers that a partnership with Rwandair or even an outright participation in the airline as the government in Kigali was initially seeking, may be on the drawing board or indeed near. Should the information be correct, it would be good news for Fly540 as well as for Rwandair, strengthening cooperation in the region and offering quality services albeit through a low-cost operational model. Fly540s Uganda operation could upon start up even commence code shared flights between Entebbe and Kigali, where only recently Rwandair upped their once daily service to double daily.

MTN Rwanda last week offered over 200 connected phones through ORTPN to volunteer groups along the Virunga Gorilla National Park, to facilitate a better flow of information aimed at greater protection of the prized animals. The donation was initially announced during the gorilla naming ceremony held last month in Rwanda, a now annual event drawing huge media and visitor attention to the ‘land of a thousand hills’. The phones were given to community groups, NGO staff, park officials and other governmental and non governmental staff working in volunteer and other capacities for conservation. Well done indeed.

Statistics just availed indicate that Rwanda has earned US$80 million for the first six months of 2008, about 20 percent ahead of the target for this time of the year. The data were presented to the public by the Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) director general Rosette Rugamba and the director of the National Institute of Statistics during the week in Kigali at Hotel Mille Colline. ORTPN attributed the success in part to the annual gorilla naming celebrations Kwita Izina, which has drawn much global attention to Rwanda and over the past years brought many celebrities to the country, all of which was used in a systematic and sustained marketing and PR campaign for the country.

It was also revealed at the time that six more revenue sharing projects are due to be launched in coming months, giving communities neighboring national parks and reserves a share of the tourism proceeds in an effort to create ownership and draw support from the people living near parks for conservation measures.

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

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