Submit Press release  eTN Team ·  Advertising  ·  eTN Awards  - Worldtourism Events    

East Africa Tourism

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

Wolfgang H. Thome  Oct 30, 2008

The first tripartite summit of its kind last week in Kampala, which brought 26 countries of the East African Community, COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) and South African Development Community together, also addressed the issue of easing travel between African countries. Visa requirements, not optimal even for visiting tourists, are at best restrictive and at worst obstructive towards the citizens of these countries, when intending to visit other African nations for business or pleasure. The ultimate aim was to establish a ‘Visa free zone’ for citizens of the trading blocks, a far vision however as even within for instance COMESA itself a broad range of travel and Visa restrictions still apply, in particular by some countries like The Sudan. Watch this space.

After further substantial investments in heavy fuel oil thermal power plants, the national electricity distribution company Umeme has now announced the end of day time power cuts. Heavy fuel oil plants have been introduced to progressively substitute the much more expensive diesel propelled plants, a smart move in view of the high cost of diesel. This will be good news for domestic and industrial users of electricity. Evening loadshedding, when demand is at its highest, will however continue for the foreseeable future until the new Bujagali hydro electric plant will come on line, expected to be latest in 2011. However, usually well informed sources have pointed out that the construction of the delayed hydro electric plant at Karuma Falls needs to be sped up, as by the time Bujagali goes on line the demand for electricity will have sharply risen and more capacity must be brought on line in view of revised demand projections, or else load shedding would be bound to continue for some more time to come.

Meanwhile it was learned that NEMA has yet to approve the application of Tullow Oil for the construction of their planned refinery and thermal power plant, as no specific location has been given, although the wider area has been defined during public hearings over the past weeks. Environmental watchdogs in Uganda have also been pointing out that they are NOT categorically standing in the way of oil production but only want to see best global practises introduced to avoid lasting damage to the environment.

UWA has now advertised new opportunities for investors in the safari and services sector. Prime opportunity exists in the Kidepo Valley National Park, where the ‘old’ and now derelict Grand Katarum Lodge is available for a long-term concession. The property is strategically located in rocky outcrops overlooking the Nablus Valley, where for much of the year much of the game is concentrated as water is readily available while draught bites in other parts of the park. A camp for re-development (Sebitole) is also available at the primate Kibaale National Park, where upmarket accommodation is now greatly desired by UWA. A similar opportunity for managing the Kapkwai Cottages within the Mt. Elgon National Park has also become available. For Lake Mburo National Park UWA is seeking a concessionaire to introduce and operate boats on the lake for bird and game spotting from the water and the fifth opportunity will be to create and manage a new trail within the Rwenzori Mountain National Park. More information about these opportunities can be found at the UWA website: or can be obtained by interested bidders via email from

Bid documents are available at the UWA head offices in Kampala at a cost of 50.000/- Uganda shillings, at present exchange rates just over US$25. Deadline is December 3 this year at 1100 am sharp, whereafter the documents will be publicly opened in the presence of bidders or their representatives. NO electronic submissions will be acceptable to UWA, it has been pointed out and all bids must be delivered in original format, duly marked with bidders details.

After dragging their feet for weeks at end in bringing fuel prices down, while the cost of crude oil around the world collapsed from an all time high of nearly US$150 a barrel to less than half of that, the fuel companies have now incurred the wrath of the people as they started raising the pump prices again. This time they are citing the falling value of the Uganda Shilling against the US dollar, now hovering near the 2.000 mark, to raise prices after greedily exploiting the public for and extended period of time by keeping petrol, diesel and kerosene up to their former highs with little reduction at all. General comment from affected people: “shame on them” … as if the big fuel companies were at all bothered about this!

The recent entry of SN into the Lufthansa family has born prompt results. The airline has now signed agreements with British airline bmi, also a member of the Lufthansa family and reportedly now due for a full takeover by LH, and will subsequently offer travellers from Uganda such additional routes like Edinburgh, Nottingham and Leeds, operated by bmi. In turn bmi will add their flight numbers to such destinations operated by SN from Brussels like Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Newcastle. Brussels Airlines presently flies four times a week from the European capital to Entebbe via Nairobi.

Skalleagues from the Kampala chapter 611 returned from the Skal World Congress in Taipei with the news, that the club was recognised for membership development, having added a whopping 27 percent new members to the chapter in the past business year. Club president Ms. Kaine Sabiti, who is also the General Manager of the Amadeus office in Kampala, announced the good news during the recent club fellowship, which was attended by over 40 members.

Following the successful first phase of moving their flight handling to the new purpose built Terminal Three at Dubai’s International Airport, all flights to and from Africa, including of course the daily service to and from Entebbe, have now moved to their new home. Some leading travel agents were asked for comments and said they and their clients are excited about the change and the new terminal will provide more space, quicker transit and superb shopping opportunities.

Meanwhile, the airline has taken delivery of their second A380, according to airline sources, and will now commence daily flights on this type of aircraft from Dubai to New York, making travel on Emirates from Entebbe via Dubai to the US even more enjoyable.

The Emirates Kampala office has also confirmed that the long awaited non stop flights from Dubai to Los Angeles have finally commenced on October 26, adding another attractive destination for their faithful travellers and giving Ugandans yet more options when choosing their airline. Special introductory fares have been launched across Emirates’ Eastern African destinations to stimulate traffic. No dates have been released yet to start their planned flights to San Francisco though.

The ongoing heavy and in parts of the country very heavy rains have now taken another “victim” when the main road from Kampala to the West of the country was partly swept away, some 80 km from the capital. Culverts seem to have collapsed causing the rest of the roadbed to gradually wash away, leaving a gaping hole covering half the width of the highway. Emergency repairs commenced more or less immediately, this being a key traffic axis into the West of the country but also to the hinterland nations like Rwanda, Burundi and Eastern Congo, all of which depend on free flow of traffic to transport goods and people.

Meanwhile, letters to the editors of the daily newspapers also complain about monster potholes once again opening up in Kampala, some of them notably on recently reconstructed roads. Even the ‘road’ to this correspondent’s residence, graded a few weeks ago after years of neglect, is again converting into a riverbed full of ruts and gullies. The annual long rains, a blessing and a curse all at once.

As the global travel market marked passing the 900 million mark for 2007, according to UNWTO figures released recently, arrivals in Africa still stand at a measly 44 million travellers, in spite of outperforming the rest of the world with a 7+ percent growth rate for last year as opposed to the average growth of about 6.5 percent globally. The UNWTO however expressed their concern over growth rates for global tourism in 2009 in view of the present financial crisis and key economies sliding into a recession, which may influence the travel pattern over the next 12 – 24 months.
Several Sub-Saharan African destinations turned in sterling performances again with double digit growth, including Uganda which added just under 20 percent extra visitors, aided by the Commonwealth Summit being held in Kampala a year ago. The one million arrival mark for Uganda is therefore considered possible over the next two years, which would mark a watershed for tourism in the country – in spite of continued governmental ‘neglect’ as a leading tourism operative put it during the week when discussing the issue. Watch this space for future updates.

The Kenyan national airline has now confirmed that they have added three extra flights to Guangzhou / China, besides the three flights already operating via Bangkok. The additional capacity of the direct flights will cater for greater cargo uplifts but also the additional demand for seats by traders in particular, many of whom have shifted much of their buying to China, whereas previously they imported goods via the United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, no confirmation could be obtained from the airline over the anticipated delivery dates of their ordered B787 Dreamliner in the face of the long strike at Boeing and production problems.

The Dutch airline recently announced the introduction of a larger capacity B777-300 on their route to Kilimanjaro (Arusha) and Dar es Salaam from Amsterdam for flights on Friday and Sunday, adding a further 130 seats a week to cater for risen demand. KLM is flying daily from Holland to Tanzania, bringing in a large number of holiday makers who come to Tanzania for the world renowned wildlife experience but also to visit the beaches and the islands, most notably Zanzibar. The move is an expression of confidence in the destination and bound to have other competitors too look at a suitable reaction.

The plane was renamed ‘Serengeti’ to assist in the global marketing of Tanzania as a tourist destination, which the airline is planning in conjunction with the Tanzanian Tourist Board.

The highly acclaimed ‘Mweka College of African Wildlife Management’ – a centre of excellence within the East African Community’s tertiary educational framework – has last week held its 44th graduation ceremony. The institute has over the years become a magnet for those intending to start hands on training in wildlife management and many of the certificate and diploma holders from Mweka have gone on to attain degrees and even doctorates. Graduates from the institute are much sought after in the region as wildlife management bodies’ aim at further professionalising their workforce.

The owner of the Impala Hotel in central Arusha and the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge, Mr. Mrema, has now formally opened his latest hotel venture, the Naura Springs Hotel. Although the facility had a soft opening ahead of the ATA and Leon Sullivan Summits, more work had to be done before officially cutting the tape last week. The five star facility is conveniently located near the Arusha International Conference Centre, but also offers substantial meeting facilities in several larger and smaller halls, catering for up to 600 delegates at a go.

Personal favourites of this correspondent, when in Arusha, remain ‘The Arusha Hotel’ or the ‘Rivertrees Country Inn’ at Usa River just outside of Arusha enroute to the international airport, both of which are reknown for their personal service and traditional hospitality. Visit or for more information on these two fine properties.

The first ever casino in Kigali, and Rwanda for that matter, did not open as anticipated last week. Usually well informed sources attribute the delay to the non arrival of some vital equipment, which is reportedly still in transit or awaiting customs clearance. Location of the new gambling facility is within the new Top Tower Hotel. This column will however report the opening, as and when it finally happens.

Since filing this report, first published by eTN on 27th/28th October [] confirmation was received that the UN forces commander had indeed resigned his post and ‘off the record’ comments obtained from UN sources in Kigali also mirrored the reasons given in above article as correct. It was also learned that the Kinshasa regime had dispatched a special envoy to President Kagame of Rwanda to seek a bilateral meeting over the volatile situation they caused across Eastern Congo. Regime troops are also said to be in a rowdy retreat from the Eastern main city of Goma, looting in the process with MONUC as usual standing by idle. The UN force is reportedly also in a standoff with the local population who demanded protection from the regime’s rag tag troops and their militia cohorts and resorted to blocking entrances to UN compounds and stoning vehicles and offices in their anger.

After receiving a long overdue mandate from the UN’s Security Council, North Atlantic Treaty Organization naval forces based in Djibouti and operating around the Horn of Africa have commenced their hunt for pirates along the Somali coastline. Regular ship hijackings have caused an outcry by the global shipping community prompting the action by coalition and other naval ships, who joined the operation.

Besides seeking out the pirates nests the ships will now also escort supply vessels heading for the port of Mogadishu, ensuring regular supplies to the city as well as the AU peace keeping forces based in and around the Somali capital. The recent InterGovernmental Authority on Development. summit in Nairobi also endorsed the decision to deploy naval forces to curb and eliminate piracy along the Horn of Africa and the port of Mombasa will likely offer logistical support for navy vessels.

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report
Image via

Premium Partners