BILL GATES BACK IN KENYA
It was reported last weekend that Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, was back in Kenya for a combined safari holiday and to visit some of the projects his foundation has been sponsoring. The visit was reportedly arranged either as very low key or with all possible discretion, with only the few people coming face to face with him. Kenya Tourism will undoubtedly have been happy to see this high-profile visitor back on the safari circuit as a repeat guest, while the many beneficiaries of his and his wife’s foundation will be equally happy to see the direct interest their principal is showing in their endeavors.
AFRICA AVIATION MAGAZINE PUBLISHER TO BECOME NEW AFRAA SECRETARY GENERAL
Nick Fadugba, best known in African aviation circles as the publisher and editor of the African Aviation Magazine and as a tireless advocate for African airlines in its struggle against both short-sighted policies, as well as restrictive regulatory regimes, has been elected at the recent Maputo annual conference as the successor to Christian Folly-Kossi, who served in this capacity for the past 10 years. AFRAA brings together the African airline members of IATA to represent the continent’s aviation sector on the continental and global stage and is planning a major strategic rethink in coming months to decide on ways and means to stem the onslaught of global airline giants trying to carve out larger slices of passenger and cargo traffic at the expense of the smaller airlines in Africa. Africa Civil Aviation Commission (the Africa Union’s aviation policy platform) president, Kenyan Charles Wako, made an impassioned appeal to the AFRAA annual general meeting participants to open the African skies for African airlines by fully applying the Yamoussoukro Declaration and other relevant agreements like the COMESA aviation rules as a key measure to defend African market share and help the smaller national airlines survive in today’s competitive environment, where not only private airlines but also the offspring of global players is taking its toll on home-grown companies. However, going by the defensive stonewalling even within the east African community, where some member states are still rooted in an aviation stone-age mindset when it comes to treating their EAC neighbors as foreign and preventing them from flying across the (diminishing) national borders to game parks and secondary aerodromes, global competition may well overtake whatever little measures national regulators may eventually agree on with their pondering, dithering, and fiefdom protection coming back to haunt them in coming years. Meanwhile it is a hearty congrats to Nick and all the best in the new appointment.
JACKIE ARKLE-OKUTOI TO TAKE OVER AS FLY 540 COUNTRY MANAGER
Fly 540’s current group sales and marketing manager, Jackie Arkle-Okutoi, appears set to move from Nairobi to Kampala to take over as new country manager in the New Year, serving notice to the competition that Fly 540 is serious in further expanding its traffic base from Entebbe. It is understood that the airline, which already has aircraft based in Uganda, is seeking to add additional aircraft to increase market share, add new routes, and bring a hue of orange into the skies over Uganda.
PRESIDENT FLIES HOME IN ECONOMY CLASS
While returning from the Commonwealth Summit in Trinidad and a subsequent state visit to Cuba, Ugandan President Yoweri K. Museveni reportedly took a commercial flight home with his entourage in economy class. The unusual mode of travel for a head of state was thought to serve the political motive back home to prepare the ground for further austerity measures, which may, according to media speculation, soon lead to reduced travel privileges for government officials and ministers and a cut of other benefits, like large capacity 4x4s. Depending on the individual official’s status and standing, air travel can take place in First Class, Business Class or Economy. This, however, may soon be a thing of the past, as government is seeking to reign in expenditure and shifts focus on developmental areas rather than consumptive expenses. In Kenya for instance, government ministers recently had to hand in their Mercedes limousines and are now driving Volkswagen Passat vehicles with a 1.8 liter engine capacity, and across the east African region, similar savings measures are being considered to lower the public expenditure and have more funds available to finance poverty eradication programs and support job creation. Uganda owns a state-of-the-art Gulfstream jet available to the President and other select officials on duty travel, making the statement of flying in Y-class even more remarkable. A bouquet of kudos for our President for his remarkable decision and major barbs for the NGO Transparency International, which portrayed this action as a cheap publicity stunt, and more barbs for the local newspaper, which tried to make political capital out of it.
EMIRATES TO GO HEAD ON WITH KLM AND KENYA AIRWAYS ON AMSTERDAM ROUTE
Information has been received that Emirates, the award-winning airline of Dubai, is set to commence daily flights to Amsterdam, using B777 equipment on the route. Flights from east Africa to Amsterdam, the main European hub of Kenya Airways, for their joint KLM/KQ flights, have been a backbone for KQ’s long-haul European traffic. The added competition serves the two Sky Team member airlines with notice of intent by Emirates that it will aggressively pursue a greater traffic share out of eastern Africa, where it serves Nairobi, Entebbe, Addis Ababa, and Dar es Salaam on a daily basis already. Come May 1 next year, they will undoubtedly offer attractive rates on the Amsterdam route via Dubai, which is becoming a truly global hub for air traffic, including from and to Africa.
KIDEPO FLY CAMP OPEN OVER FESTIVE SEASON
An 8-tent temporary fly camp in the wilderness of the Kidepo Valley National Park will be open between December 24 and January 7, and a number of nights still appear to have space at a cost of US$ 200 for each tent, large enough for two clients sharing, on full board. (December 27-31 are taken up already.) However, game drives, park entrance fees, and transport to and from the park will be an added expense. The best (and really strongly recommended) way to reach this remote park is by air, and the Kajjansi air operators KAFTC and Ndege Juu will be happy to avail quotations for charters if so required. As it is in the nature of such fly camps, the tents are not self contained, but 4 bush showers and two long drops will be available. Water for the showers is, of course, heated to the temperature preference of the clients and chain-regulated shower heads of the traditional kind then disburse the water from an overhead canvas container. The camp will be located at one of the regular public campsites available inside the park. The company in question is called Alternative Adventures and can be reached for details via this contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.thefarhorizons.com . Those in search of some added accommodation can also use the rest camp operated by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and visitors with a taste for the extraordinary must, of course, stay at the Apoka Safari Lodge, which provides top of the range accommodation, airstrip transfers, game drives, bush walks, and superb cuisine, as in the past experienced by this correspondent. Visit www.wildplacesafrica.com for more details.
COAST PACKAGES AT THE MOST AFFORDABLE
Air Uganda last week launched beach holiday packages with the 5-star Leopard Beach Resort and Spa at Mombasa’s famous Diani Beach (south coast), for a 2-night, half-board stay, inclusive of tickets, all taxes and surcharges and airport transfers in Mombasa from US$ 424.50 per person, staying in a twin. A full week’s stay is on the market for US$674.50, again per person, staying in a twin. These are some of the best deals available from Uganda to one of the Kenyan coast’s leading resorts and prices are valid until December 20 inclusive. If you do not travel now, you never will.
LIVING DANGEROUSLY WHEN USING BUSSES
Another major accident involving a long-distance passenger bus last weekend in Eldoret/western Kenya cost the lives of at least 8 Ugandans traveling on the vehicle, which was enroute from Kampala to Nairobi. Many other travelers were injured. Busses at this time of the year are packed as people living across the region aim to either travel home for the holidays, and before fares are raised a few days prior to Christmas, or else conduct some last-minute business or doing some shopping for their extended families. The bus was, according to sources, speeding – a menace long criticized, but the regional governments have largely given in to the economic interests of bus owners rather than enforcing laws, which would install speed governors, limiting the race to 80 km per hour. As a result of several bus accidents in recent weeks, the Ugandan police have also started to crack down again on unroadworthy vehicles, set up speed traps, grounded overloaded vehicles, and demanded that bus drivers must now leave photocopies of their driving permits at checkpoints to ascertain their identity in case of an accident.
KIDS TRAVEL TO FRANCE TO LEARN AND PROMOTE UGANDA
A group of children from the Children for Sustainable Livelihood Project were invited to France by the French Embassy and flown there by Brussels Airlines, to participate in a series of events, some of which are also connected to the UN Year of the Gorilla 2009 campaign, which they aim to promote while in Europe. A valuable learning experience for young Ugandans, undoubtedly.
THE EYE UGANDA YEAR-END EDITION NOW ON THE WEB
The December/January end-of-year edition, always much awaited by Ugandan residents, is now available again on the web, and in print, of course, giving valuable advice of where to go and what to do over the festive season. Visit www.theeye.co.ug for the web edition and read all about what is new and what to do while on visit to Uganda over the next few weeks. One word of caution though, the word luxury is probably much over-used, if not misused, and often overstates in articles and copywriting for ads in Uganda the true picture and should, therefore, always be taken with a degree of caution, in particular by those readers well acquainted with proper luxury.
GLOBAL MEDIA STAND UNITED AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
The Ugandan New Vision, available around the world via www.newvision.co.ug , joined many of their more illustrious colleagues around the world to highlight the impact of climate change as already widely evident for instance in eastern Africa. Some 55 newspapers offered a common editorial for their readers as they united to speak with one voice ahead of the climate summit in Copenhagen, which started this week. This column commends this remarkable effort and will continue to highlight the impact of ongoing climate change in eastern Africa, where it has sped up the melting of the equatorial ice caps on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya, and the Rwenzori Mountains and has quickened the cycles of drought and floods and aided desertification into previously productive semi-arid areas. Records at hand show that 11 of the past 14 years were among the hottest on record, causing the biggest negative fallout among the developing countries of Africa and prompting calls by African governments on the developed nations to not only commit a very substantial carbon emission reduction in Copenhagen but also avail compensation for the African continent now made to suffer by the sins of the past, when these countries industrialized and developed, leaving the dirt and fallout for Africa to deal with. The US, Europe, China, Russia, India, Brazil ,and others will be judged by our generation and the next generation on how they behave and act in Copenhagen, and they frankly owe it to the future of our planet to once and for all stand up and be counted.
EAST AFRICA CLASSIC SAFARI RALLY ENDS WITH KENYAN WIN IN MOMBASA
The Kenya Airways sponsored East African Classic Safari Rally ended last weekend with an impressive win by the Kenyan rallying team of Ian Duncan and Amaar Slatch, driving a classic Ford Mustang. Ian had in his heydays, of course, already won the Safari Rally and this time took the Classic title from former world champion Bjorn Waldegaard, who had won the last edition of the Classic edition. Ian led the pack from the start in Mombasa back to the finishing line at the Sarova Whitesands Resort, after traversing challenging territory in Kenya and Tanzania, reminiscent of the good old safari rally days when participants had to regularly cover between 4 to 5,000 kilometers from start to end. Kenya Airways contributed some US$150,000 to the rally organization and has already committed to also sponsoring the next edition, which brings rally enthusiasts from around the world to Kenya, promoting the country as both a sporting nation as well as a tourism destination. Congrats to Ian and his navigator and all who made it to the finishing line.
CHRISTMAS SEASON AT KENYA COAST BACK TO AS IT WAS
The forthcoming high season for the Kenya coast has been described by hoteliers and tour operators as back to as it was before the sharp downturn in early 2008, and all resorts do expect to be fully booked for the Christmas and New Year period. Domestic tourism, which threw a lifeline to the country’s tourism industry during the global economic downturn, continues to play an important role, while international arrivals have edged back to the pre-crisis levels once again and are expected to establish new records next year. The concerted activities of the Kenya Tourist Board, Kenya Airways, and the private sector at large have managed to make headway in new and emerging markets while restoring consumer confidence in the existing source markets for tourists. This development must be the best Christmas present for the Kenyan tourism industry and is undoubtedly well deserved.
KENYA PROMOTION KICKS OFF IN DUBAI
A week-long Kenya promotion is underway in Dubai, the first such initiative featuring the east African nation to this important source market for tourist and business visitors. Both the Foreign and Tourism Ministers from Nairobi came to Dubai to underscore the seriousness of the promotion as a series of workshops and seminars kicked off earlier in the week to present Kenya as a desirable tourism and investment destination. A food festival, supported by the Utalii College executive chef, is also taking place alongside the activities at the Le Meridien Hotel in Dubai, availing potential visitors the chance to sample some authentic Kenyan meals with fresh ingredients, flown in daily. Kenya Airways and Emirates operate daily nonstop services between Nairobi and Dubai while Air Arabia flies to neighboring Sharjah, providing enough seats and cargo capacity to cater for the present demand.
FORMER TOURISM CHIEF BLAMES HIS WOES ON ABSENCE OF BOARD
While speaking in his defense during his court proceedings, former KTB CEO Dr. Ongonga Achieng, stands trial together with the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism – he attempted to apportion blame for his action on the absence of a substantive board of directors, to whom he claims he could have addressed his plans to pay a former KTB director nearly 9 million Kenya Shillings. His opponents, however, were swift to point out to this correspondent that it was, in fact, the absence of the board, which gave the former CEO the room to maneuver the deal through the standing orders and regulations for payments, denouncing the attempted hand washing as a blatant and visible effort to shift blame for what he had done. That was based on the fact that the moment the new board was finally appointed, it immediately started to investigate the rumors over the deal, which had swept the tourism industry, eventually suspending Dr. Achieng, then firing him, and ultimately taking him to court. The hearing continues in the Nairobi High Court where Dr. Achieng, Ms. Nabutola, and Mr. Muriuki are being tried on 11 counts of criminal indictments, including conspiracy to defraud and abuse of office.
SAFARI NEWSLETTER ANYONE?
This correspondent is never getting enough information on the goings on and the latest updates from the east African safari circuits, and the more information comes through the better. Many readers, in fact, keep asking for more information still in this column, and in particular more specific happenings about new lodges, camps, and tourism-related developments, but space is not nearly enough to publish it all here, nor is all such information availed for publication.
However, safari aficionados and those with hunger for more information about Kenya and the wider region can write to Concorde Safaris to be put on its mailing list for its regular Bushmail via: email@example.com – it gives the right appetite to get out into the bush and enjoy the many new and well-matured and very familiar old places.
KENYA GOVERNMENT FORMALLY GAZETTES TOURISM CRISIS COMMITTEE
The national tourism crisis management committee at last has some formal and more important legal standing in Kenya, after the composition of the team was last week gazetted in a legal notice. Chairperson of the committee, formed initially in 2007, will rest with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Ms. Eunice Miima, while the Chairperson of the Kenya Tourist Board Mr. Jake Grieves-Cook has been made deputy chair. In total, the crisis team will comprise 20 persons drawn from the public and private sector and will substantially deal with any crisis affecting tourism and tourists in the country as a one stop center. The Kenyan tourism private sector was, however, still somewhat cautious in commenting, but those asked acknowledged that this development would concentrate the sector’s crisis and emergency response under one roof, strengthening Kenya’s reputation abroad as a country willing and keen to do all possible to ensure the safety and protection of foreign visitors.
SITA TO UPGRADE PASSENGER PROCESSING AT NAIROBI’S JKIA
The Kenya Airports Authority recently unveiled plans to upgrade the processing of passengers under a contract signed with SITA, the global airline communications and technology giant. Travelers using JKIA can expect to even find automated check-in terminals, similar to the ones used already in many parts to the world, from mid 2010, but a long-term, 10-year development program entails much more than just that. Common check-in terminals will be introduced over time, which permit airlines to link directly to its own systems without the need to purchase and deploy its own dedicated terminals, making operations for airlines cheaper and smoother without interruption to its flow of check-in data. The roll-out will initially start in Nairobi and extend to Mombasa before other airports with international status like Malindi, Kisumu, and Eldoret will be considered.
KENYA UTALII TO OFFER DEGREES – AT LAST
The world-renowned Kenyan tourism and hospitality training institution, Utalii College, is now at last set to offer degree courses, initially in hospitality management, as well as travel and tourism, starting with the new academic year in 2010. Presently, these courses will be offered in cooperation with the University of Nairobi, while the institution is being transformed into a specialized university for the hospitality, travel, and tourism sector. Utalii, originally built and managed by the Swiss in the early 1970s, was soon afterwards handed over to the Kenyan government as a gift from Switzerland and has since grown into the best-reputed, sectoral training institution arguably on the whole African continent. It is recognized by the East African Community as a center of regional excellence and has regularly taken the lead by reshaping course contents and introducing relevant additional courses related to the new technologies. Utalii is also a member of AHSSA, the Association of Hotelschools in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has chaired it on several occasions. Sadly though, back at home in Uganda, the integration of the national Hotel and Tourism Training Institute in Jinja into the new public university in eastern Uganda, Busitema, has so far faltered in spite of having been on the drawing board, and preparations had largely been completed by HTTI’s management and board while still under the Ministry of Education and Sports. The holdup under the Ministry of Tourism, Trade, and Industry is attributed to lack of funding and arguably the lack of expertise and understanding in governmental circles now responsible for the institution, after it was excised from the Ministry of Education and Sports two years ago. This deserves some of the rare barbs dished out by this column for letting our neighbors run away with our ideas and implementing them while our bureaucrats are sitting on their hands.
FLY 540 TO ADD BUJUMBURA
Following the arrival of more CRJ 200 aircraft, Fly 540 will add Bujumbura/Burundi to its regional network beginning January 7, 2010, initially offering 3 flights a week to be operated on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and leaving Nairobi at 1040 hours local time and returning by 1520 hours local time. Stand by for more breaking news announcements about new routes and additional frequencies in the coming weeks and months.
KENYA AIRWAYS AND ETHIOPIAN TAKE FRESH HOPE ON B787
Latest reports from regular Boeing observers give a ray of hope to the east African customers for the new B787, now delayed by about 3 years. It appears that Boeing is currently looking at December 22 for the first test flight, which indeed would be an unexpected Christmas present for the long-suffering clients waiting more or less patiently for the new aircraft. It was, however, also swiftly pointed out to this column that a first test flight, while a milestone, would not necessarily spill over into success at the production line, where other problems may still unfold, considering the wiring issues emerging for the A380, when production went on line. In fact, only recently did Airbus admit that the rate of production for the giant airline is again being reviewed and slowed down to ensure the highest quality. In a related development, the equally-delayed B747-8F is apparently also due to be flown for the first time on the same day. This progress may be associated with the Boeing Commercial Airplane president recently bringing together a group of former senior employees under a loosely-structured advisory group, tasked with assessing the shortcomings of recent years and devising solutions and strategies to overcome the problems.
LAKE MANYARA SURVIVAL UNDER THREAT
Researchers in Tanzania rang the alarm bells when they recently presented a report on the long-term survival chances of Lake Manyara, which was only last week in this column for the commendable effort by the Tanzanian government to double the national park area to include the entire lake in the future. The scientists involved in the research have pointed to silting as a major cause of concern and apportioned major blame on the poor farming methods in the vicinity of the park, which they claim contribute to top soil being washed off during the rainy season and carried into the lake, making it ever shallower. In the report, it was also pointed out that during the dry season, in particular when drought conditions prevail for longer periods, more than three quarters of the lake dries, and some put this figure above 90 percent. This leaves a relatively small patch of water for the hippos, birds, and other animals found in the national park as a source for drinking water. Lake Manyara National Park, located below one of the escarpments of the African Rift Valley near Mto Wa Mbu, is a major stopping point on the northern safari circuit, which also includes Tarangire, Ngorongoro, and the Serengeti, and one of few places in eastern Africa, besides Ishasha (QENP) and Kidepo, where tree-climbing lions can regularly be observed. Also in the report is the detail that the lake dried up completely for the last time in 1923, but with increased population and the tourism industry depending heavily on the lake staying as it is, there is much more at stake now than there was then.
TOURISM CONFEDERATION DECRIES SECTORAL PERFORMANCE
The Tourism Confederation of Tanzania last week bemoaned the fact that the sector is not performing to its fullest potential, a fact also stated by President Kikwete who made the remarks while visiting Jamaica ahead of the Commonwealth Summit in Trinidad. The TCT, the national apex body of sectoral associations, made it plain that changes are needed in policy, legislation, and regulations.
TANAPA BLOCKS HIGHWAY PROJECT THROUGH SERENGETI
Angry residents of areas adjoining the world famous Serengeti National Park have complained that the Tanzania Wildlife Authority has blocked the construction of a highway through the park, denying them access to the rest of the country. Environmental studies, however, show that a major highway running through the park, would cause severe disruption of the migration pattern of game, endanger wildlife, and in its proposed routing and format, pose a major threat to the fragile ecosystems it is supposed to pass through. Road access to the rest of the country is possible, but via a detour, something the district managers apparently find unacceptable and prompting them, according to usually reliable sources, to wind up residents and incite them to protests. TANAPA has not publicly commented on the rabble rousing, but it is considered most unlikely that a highway would be approved through the park, which is one of Tanzania’s tourism highlights and, therefore, most unlikely to be ultimately sanctioned. Transit traffic from Arusha into the western Tanzanian areas along Lake Victoria is possible at present from Arusha via Mto Wa Mbu, Karatu, Ngorongoro, and the Serengeti on partly tarmacked and otherwise murram roads, but other roads lead around the protected areas to the same destinations.
TANZANIA AIR OPERATORS COMPLAIN ABOUT HIGH COST OF FUEL
Information was received from Dar es Salaam that several air operators have complained to governmental authorities, including the Energy and Water Utility Regulatory Authority, about the recent rise in aviation fuel prices, now reportedly even dearer than at the land-locked Entebbe International Airport. Fuel companies were guarded in their response and the two respondents requested anonymity, before pointing towards the rise in global crude oil prices ahead of the European and North American winter season, currency fluctuations, and the risen cost of transporting fuel from the source markets due to the Somalia piracy problem affecting shipping all over the eastern African seaboard and beyond. The delays for vessels having to use longer routes, the rise in insurance premiums, and the added costly security measures now seem to hit home through the pockets, while the “problem from hell” persists.
RWANDAIR TO LAUNCH INFLIGHT MAGAZINE
A quarterly in-flight magazine will be launched soon by RwandAir, coinciding with the arrival of its recently-purchased CRJ aircraft, which marks another milestone for the national airline of Rwanda. Called Inzozi, the reading material will be available for all RwandAir passengers and will promote tourism and business visits to Rwanda, showcasing the country’s culture and also periodically feature highlights of all the destinations RwandAir is flying to. Visit www.rwandair.com for more information on the airline and its latest innovation.
250 HOSPITALITY STAFF GET FURTHER TRAINING
Staff already employed in the hotels, safari lodges, and restaurants in Musanze and Rubavu districts have last week completed training courses arranged by the Workforce Development Agency on behalf of the Rwanda Development Board/Conservation & Tourism, as part of its long-term strategy to improve the skill levels in the hospitality sector and match the service levels of Kenya and Tanzania. The focus of the training courses was on customer care, aimed to improve knowledge and presentation by staff already employed. A range of such training activities is presently going on across Rwanda benefitting not just staff but also the owners and managers of hospitality establishments by providing better skills and knowledge required in the workplace.
GOVERNMENT AND RDB MEAN BUSINESS
Announcements in the recent past by the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation to the effect that hospitality standards must be improved or else, have now shown teeth when authorities began to close down restaurants and several local hotels over hygiene and neglect in Rusizi district. The culprits were also fined and can only reopen once they have made the required improvements and started to operate according to the RDB’s guidelines related to the hospitality industry. It was pointed out that no tourism-rated facilities were affected by the crackdown.
RAILWAY MEETING IN KIGALI DECIDES COURSE OF ACTION
The ministers responsible for their national railways from Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda will once again meet to discuss and monitor progress of their plans to link the Tanzanian railway head of Isaka with Kigali and Bujumbura. On the agenda is a review of the consultants plans and proposals and a feasibility study, which no one doubts, however, will be positive. The so called central corridor will link the Indian Ocean harbor of Dar es Salaam with the inland nations and may, in fact, extend to eastern Congo as well, should the regime in Kinshasa show interest to pay for its portion of the railway link, something which cannot be taken for granted considering its record on infrastructural developments in the east of the country over the past decades. It is hoped that a formal tendering process for the workscope can go underway next year, so that after the selection of a contractor, work can commence and the envisaged deadline of a 2014 completion be kept realistic. Meanwhile, similar bilateral and multilateral meetings with a similar agenda are scheduled in the region to progress the new railway plans in Kenya and Uganda as well.
EASTAFRICAN ACCUSES CERTAIN KENYAN AIRLINE OF COMPLICITY IN CONGO PLUNDER
In a front-page, headline article, the region’s leading weekly newspaper, The EastAfrican, has lambasted the ongoing plunder of resources from the eastern Congo, accusing officials from the region of conniving to smuggle gold and other precious items from the country and shipping it onwards to recipients far abroad, quoting a UN internal report. Much of the plunder and associated crimes are laid at the doorstep of the FDLR, the former Rwandan killer militias never contained since the 1994 genocide, whose leaders appear to live a life of luxury on the back of peasants and forced labor in mines across the area under their control. According to the UN report, much of the smuggled loot finds its way to the UAE, Thailand, and Malaysia through conduits across the eastern African region, where well-connected businessmen and politicians are alleged to be part of the ring. It should be mentioned that investigative reports in the past by BBC undercover reporters have also pointed fingers at the UN troops as being involved in certain aspects of exploiting the region’s rich mineral resources, something discreetly omitted from the UN’s current report. Visit www.theeastafrican.co.ke for more information and to read the article in question.
ETHIOPIAN BAGS AIRLINE OF THE YEAR AWARD FROM AFRAA
Some of the rather rare information received from ET sources confirmed that AFRAA, the African Airline Association, has bestowed its top award this year to Ethiopian Airlines during its annual meeting at the end of November in Maputo/Mozambique. This was apparently done in recognition of ET’s contribution to African aviation while maintaining standards, safety, and schedules in times of global economic downturn, during which the airline still managed to turn a sizeable profit. If only now its PR and publicity department could shed the yesteryear mindset and become more proactive in telling the world what is happening at Ethiopian.
FIRST A350 STRUCTURE COMPLETED
Ethiopian Airlines, which recently placed an order for the A350 in a radical departure from former practice when they were only buying Boeing jets, will have been relieved when learning that Airbus completed its first mono-bloc structure of a center wing box panel last weekend. The new jet is made from more than half of carbon-fiber material, the composite structures of which the new jet will be largely constructed. The A350 is expected to substantially lower the weight of the aircraft and reduce fuel burn way below present levels. Airbus already has over 500 orders for the revolutionary new aircraft on the books, and with physical progress towards the first test aircraft now being made, it is expected that this number will rise substantially in coming months and years.
FORMER SEYCHELLES CIVIL SERVANTS TURN TO TOURISM
Over twenty former civil servants who left government service last year under a voluntary retrenchment scheme, have completed a course at the Seychelles Tourism Academy in hospitality security operations. The success of the course graduates was hailed by both the STA and the management of the tourism board on behalf of the private sector, while handing over certificates to them. A number of the graduates have already secured employment in hotels and resorts and all of the former students are expected to be absorbed into employment soon.
FRENCH AGENTS TOUR SEYCHELLES
Under an ongoing educational program by the Seychelles Tourist Board,10 French travel agents visited the archipelago last week and got firsthand knowledge about hotels, resorts, and tourism attractions in Mahe, Praslin, La Digue, and St. Anne as guests of the tourist board and private sector. The agents also underwent additional training, which saw them graduate at the end of their induction under the Seychelles Smart Program as official sales agents for the islands in France, accreditation and all being part of it. The Seychelles Tourist Board director of marketing, Mr. Alain St. Ange, presented the official certificates to them during their farewell dinner at the Beachcomber Resort on St. Anne in the presence of other tourism board staff, representatives of Air Seychelles, and invited guests from the participating resorts and hotels. DMC on this occasion was Creole Travel Services, a leading agency handling incoming business across the islands.
NEW STRATEGY FOR AIR SEYCHELLES
The international conference center in the Seychellois capital of Victoria was the venue last week for the long-awaited strategy presentation, following a series of audits and reviews of the airline’s operation over the past few months. Present were the board, management, and selected staff of the airline, senior government ministers, and Civil Aviation Authority managers, all of whom attentively listened to the company’s executive chairman and CEO David Savy, who presented the new outlook. This development followed hot on the heels of weeks of speculation and rumors over the financial status of the airline, after opposition members of parliament had alleged the airline was broke, while, in fact, the government provided a loan guarantee for recently ordered and delivered aircraft. One of the measures to be taken will be an enhanced premium-class configuration where new seats will be fitted in the Pearl Class on all B767-300 used by Air Seychelles. The airline maintains an international network to key regional and international target markets and also offers the all-important, trans-islands domestic flights linking the outer islands with Mahe and providing links for tourists, locals, and speedy cargo deliveries.