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East Africa Tourism

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa  Aug 29, 2008

After receiving an approving nod from the African Union, Uganda seems set to be voted on the UN Security Council for the next term of non permanent members, representing the African continent. Rival Madagascar has apparently stepped aside in favor Uganda. This is perceived to be not just an honor for the country but also an affirmation of the democratic progress made since dispatching the former dictators in the mid ‘80s. Uganda is also reportedly set to assume the African Union chair at the next major AU summit, which would add further profile to the country and should attract more investment, more trade and more visitors in coming years, all of which will benefit the nation. Uganda has in the recent past participated in global UN missions with peacekeeping troops, most notably in Somalia but also in West Africa. Reports from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also indicate that Uganda would use her position to lobby for a radical change at the UN Security Council’s set up which could see two African nations hold permanent seats, should the demand for change be accepted by the global body’s assembly.

The Kyambura Game Reserve, which adjoins the Queen Elizabeth National Park, has long been one of the easiest places to track for chimpanzees in the area, but tourists staying at the other lodges in the park had to commute some distance for this activity. The reserve is also home to several crater lakes and borders Lake George and the Kazinga Channel, offering a unique safari experience. Volcanoes Safaris is now in the process of adding an 8-room eco-lodge on their 60 acres site adjoining the upper Kyambura gorge, allowing more or less instant access for their guests to the starting point of the tracking. The new lodge, which like all other Volcanoes properties is expected to blend well into the surrounding landscape, is expected to open its doors to the public early next year.

Volcanoes has also partnered with the neighboring community to intensify protection of the wildlife. Towards this end they acquired a former clay extraction site used for making building bricks, which will be converted into a wetland, aimed to attract birds and wildlife to the location. Queen Elizabeth national park is already known as home to over 600 species of resident and migratory birds, making it arguably one of the richest bird watching destinations on the globe.

The Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre, based at the Kajjansi airfield a short distance outside Kampala on the main Entebbe road, has just added another plane to their growing fleet of light single and twin-engined aircraft. Their new PC12 will commence operations imminently now catering for growing demand of tourist charters and flying oil company personnel to and from the exploration sites in the Albertine Graben. Senior management of KAFTC has also indicated that yet another Cessna 208 Grand Caravan may be on the way to Kajjansi, should traffic growth continue as experienced in recent months. Visit for more information.

Uganda’s ongoing failure to pay arrears accumulated as well as the current subscription to the United Nations World Tourism Organization had left the country’s membership in suspension. For much of the past decade the Ministry of Tourism failed to raise the funds needed to maintain membership and benefit from UNWTO programs aimed towards developing countries and, in particular, the group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) for which marketing support and human resource development funds worth a multiple of their actual dues are readily available. During a hearing in parliament over the Ministry’s budget it was also learned that membership dues for other continental and international bodies remain in arrears due to lack of funds. The Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry has long been one of the least facilitated government ministries in spite of tourism’s generated income topping the list of economic sectors. Ministry officials preferring to remain unnamed blamed the situation on a lack of understanding about how tourism functions amongst the Ministry of Finance budget planners and senior staff.

In the run up to the Commonwealth Summit last year hotels were told that they needed to permit their staff to join a trade union of their choice, something many hotel owners had fought up to this point with determination. At the time only the Sheraton Kampala Hotel had signed a collective bargaining agreement with the union representing hotel workers. However, the summit preparations changed all of that and finally, almost a year after the summit, the hotel owners association signed an agreement with the two key unions representing hotel staff. The signing ceremony took place earlier in the week. What however caused some consternation was the comment by an assistant commissioner for local government, calling on the hotels to promptly pay the hotel tax recently made operational.

The meteorological department in Entebbe has given an early bird notice to authorities in the East of the country about expected heavy rains over the next two or three months, some of which may cause flooding similar to the situation experienced last year. However, the advance warning will now allow governmental agencies and bodies to prepare for the heavy rains, which took the country by surprise a year ago and led to the closure of roads and bridges while displacing many people and ruining their planted crops. Meanwhile nights were unusually cool recently with temperatures falling as low as 14 degrees centigrade, caused by a combination of overcast skies and unfavourable winds. Kampala was also once again pounded by strong rainstorms, causing flooding in some city and suburban areas after the heavy down pours.

German holiday airline Condor, en-route from Mauritius to Frankfurt / Germany with over 270 passengers and crew on board, had to make an emergency landing at Kenya’s Mombasa Moi International Airport last Thursday around lunch time. Reports from Kenya’s coastal city say that problems apparently occurred inflight with one of the plane’s two engines, which developed vibrations and probably also leaked fuel. The crew, after shutting down the faulty engine, then decided to land the plane in Mombasa, where the emergency services including fire engines were subsequently put on alert and deployed. The Boeing 767 landed however without any incident and all passengers and crew were able to disembark normally. A relief plane was due in Mombasa the next day (Friday) to fly passengers and crew home to Germany after they spent an extra unscheduled day at the Indian Ocean beaches of Mombasa.
Happening only a day after the Madrid Spanair crash the precautions taken by the crew and their prompt reaction and decision to rather land the plane in Kenya to establish the cause of the problem was generally applauded by the affected passengers, according to a report from Mombasa.

The Arusha International Conference Centre Director of Marketing and Conferences, Mr. James Mgani, has passed away last week following a short illness. Mr. Mgani had met members of the Africa Travel Association during their global summit earlier in the year and will also be remembered by the Leon Sullivan Summit participants, besides the many more visitors from around the world who had attended meetings and conferences in Arusha in recent years. James worked in the tourism industry in various capacities for the past two decades and was a dedicated promoter for the country and its tourism sector. He had joined the Arusha International Conference Centre in 1990 and is mourned by his family and the many friends he made inside and outside Tanzania during his career.

The Executive Chairman of Rwandair earlier in the week confirmed that Rwanda’s national airline is due to establish a separate cargo operation in a few months time. The strategic objective of this move will be to guarantee affordable, regular and dedicated airfreight capacity to export flowers, fruits and vegetables to the consumer markets in Europe and the Middle East, as the present capacity for palletized cargo is limited to the flights of Brussels Airlines, and for loose cargo to Kenya Airways and Ethiopian. It was also confirmed that negotiations with Lonrho Africa’s airline partner Fly540 are on course and expected to be concluded soon. This will result in the Rwandan government selling 49 percent of its stake to Fly540 while a portion of the remaining shares will then go to some institutional investors from Rwanda itself, to retain the required number of shares for the nationality clauses in international and bilateral agreements with other countries.

The airline has also confirmed that they are putting together a team of consultants to develop a new strategic plan and a new business plan to be prepared for the challenges ahead in coming years.

President Paul Kagame formally welcomed the leaders of the EU election monitoring team, who arrived in the country early in the week. Unlike in other African countries the Rwandan government had invited monitoring teams for the forthcoming parliamentary general elections. The visitors will undoubtedly boost hotel occupancies substantially across the country but are also expected to take in the sights of Rwanda, and maybe even track for the mountain gorillas, while in country. The main elections campaign was launched by the President at the main Kigali stadium before thousands of excited RPF supporters.

Complaints have emerged from Juba, Southern Sudan’s capital city, that of late the Air Uganda service was erratic which led to regular delays, at one stage to the point that permission for take off had to be denied by Air Traffic Control as darkness settled over the airport. In the absence of functioning lighting systems the airport is only conducting daylight operations, a fact well known to most airlines, and the Air Uganda aircraft had to stay in Juba overnight before returning the next morning to Entebbe. At least some clients were reportedly lucky that afternoon to ‘hitch a ride’ on one of the Nairobi based airlines’ planes, which routed via Entebbe dropping them off, while the rest of the booked passengers had to make their own arrangements for the extra night in Juba. Upon some further investigation it was then learned that one of the airline’s two MD aircraft was away for at least a month on an ACMI lease arrangement in West Africa, leaving the remaining aircraft struggling to perform all the required scheduled flights, leave along doing them on time. During subsequent days a number of other travellers also apparently flew via Nairobi to reach their final destination.

The recently ended 29th Olympic Games of modern times in China again brought success to the East African nations, with Kenya in their best Olympic showing ever bagging 5 Gold, 5 Silver and 4 Bronze medals, putting them firmly on top of the African rankings. Ethiopia came a close second with 4 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze medals, while Zimbabwe came a respectable third in the African standings, a major miracle considering the economic and political turmoil back home. Cameroon and Tunisia also got one Gold each, while some of the African political and economic powerhouses like Egypt, Nigeria or South Africa ended up way down the scale having to settle for some of the runner up spots or third places or even no medal honors at all. Well done in particular to the Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes for doing Africa proud and putting East Africa on top of the world news with good news. Well done indeed!

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

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