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East Africa

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

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Wolfgang H. Thome  Jan 18, 2008

Following the market trend and due to constantly high occupancies, SAA has now added a fifth weekly flight between Johannesburg and Entebbe. The flights from Entebbe will operate at 07.25 hrs on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and the timings allow maximum connectivity into the SAA network from Johannesburg, while inbound passengers can now connect from over 90 percent of the international SAA flights back home to Entebbe, arriving in the evening at 19.10 hrs. The new flight will be effective 05th February and undoubtedly support marketing efforts of Uganda’s tourism private sector as well as stimulate further trade between Africa’ economic and political powerhouse nation South Africa and Uganda.

Uganda Investment Authority was at pains to once again reaffirm that the Kingdom Hotels project at the former Shimoni Primary School plot will go ahead. The project was due to start two years ago but besides demolishing the school, teachers training college and staff accommodation – the effects of which are still sorely felt by the affected teachers and pupils – nothing else has happened on the property. In fact, during the Commonwealth Summit an exhibition space was set up on the land. Together with the equally stalled Kampala Hilton project, the two were to inject some 500 rooms of 5 star hospitality quality into the market, but the present glut of hotel rooms, following the near tripling of hotel capacity along the Entebbe – Kampala axis for the summit, does not immediately seem conducive to absorb more top level hotels in a market, where discounts and price slashing presently dominate the trading. This is beneficial for the customers, who long felt overcharged by Kampala hotels, but of course rather not so beneficial for the hotel operators needing a return on their investment to repay their often substantial loans.
UIA in a statement last week said the investor is now ready to start the project in March this year but no one in the industry is holding their breath yet, until really some significant action develops on the ground.

The notorious saga of the so called Kampala Hilton project continues with news just breaking that a major incentive package on duty and tax remission has been granted to the developers. Work has subsequently also apparently resumed at the site, but security is tight and no one allowed inside the compound to verify any building activity. The incentive package will allow for the duty and tax free importation of equipment and materials not available on the local market, keeping the cost increases of the project since its inception in 2006 at more manageable levels. These hotel sector incentives were scrapped, effective December 2007, in the 2007/8 national budget, following its success in attracting the much needed extra investments in the hospitality industry ahead of the Commonwealth Summit in November 2007. The sudden turn around of government to grant the extra incentive package came as a surprise to industry observers and indicates that the strong political backing of the project is continuing after the developers were already given 15 acres of free land in 2006.

Warid Telecom, a company owned by the royal family of Abu Dhabi / UAE, was launched last week by His Highness Sheikh Nahayan in the presence of Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. The company also launched the following day in Congo DR and has already confirmed that it intends to progressively cover all of Eastern Africa. This is the fourth mobile telecommunications provider operating in Uganda and HITS Telecom, the fifth licensed company, is also due to commence operations in the very near future. Warid is now in the final phase of pre-operations with marketing campaigns across the country, after erecting already nearly 400 transmission masts, of which about 100 are in the greater Kampala area alone. The formal network start is expected before the end of January and will offer visitors to Uganda, and her citizens, yet more options for their communications needs, including voice, voice over internet, data and internet access all based on a mobile network. Call prefix has been set as 070.

The car and passenger ferry connecting the mainland at Bukakata near Masaka with the Ssese Islands is presently not operating. The landing sites and ramps are being remodeled and major traffic from and to the islands now only leaves with the bigger ferry from the Entebbe pier, until the building work has been completed next week. Smaller boats and lake canoes however can uplift passengers from the landing sites but no major cargo items or vehicles can transfer between the islands and the mainland. Tourists have been advised to check with the Ministry of Works before travel ling to Bukakata or else use the Entebbe based ferry to reach their intended destination.

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report
Image via dkimages

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