The Tanzanian government appears set to extend help to TANAPA and inject funds towards road upgrades and improvements of a nearby aerodrome to permit tourist visitors to reach the park with greater ease. Plans to build an aerodrome inside the park were rejected and environmentally unsound and harmful to the game, a lesson which should be transferred to those intent on building an international airport in the Serengeti district. According to statements availed to this column, it is also understood that other highways, linking the area, were due for upgrades as well, to generally open up the vast area for both tourist visitors but more notably also for business opportunities, permitting agricultural produce to reach markets so far beyond accessibility. The government has also invited private investment for the Ruaha National Park and hopes that new safari camps or lodges and related facilities can be put up to increase the attraction of the park.

December 9 was announced by the Kampala office of Brussels Airlines as the date when SN will graduate from applicant status to full-member status in the world’s leading airline alliance STAR. Initiated originally by Lufthansa and the America’s United Airlines, it has since grown in leaps and bounds, offering code-shared operations with partners from around the entire world the use of lounges and a common frequent flier program, among other benefits like seat selection, upgrades, and priority for passengers with “standing” when it comes to select passengers on standby for a full flight. SN has already converted their own “Privilege” program by integrating it into “Miles and More” earlier in the year, giving their faithful passengers a greater range of goodies. Meanwhile, it was also learned that the code-shared flights between SN and LH to eastern and western Africa have already yielded positive results, showing that the full acquisition of SN by LH may well be on course. In a related development, Brussels Airlines also confirmed that Continental Airlines of the US has now joined Star Alliance as the 25th member airline. SN already has an existing and mutually-beneficial partnership with Continental, and this is now set to intensify even further with likely more joined connections and code shares from Brussels to destinations in the US beyond the main gateways.

Following the successful launch of the campaign last month, which drew global media attention to the events and celebrations, UWA has now thanked, in a two-page, centerpiece, four-colored ad in Uganda’s leading newspaper New Vision, some 43 companies and organizations, which contributed money and in-kind towards the launch. Notably, it included such big names like USAID, Emirates, Brussels Airlines, The Uganda Safari Company, Marasa, Pepsi Cola, and also the embassies of Belgium and France, the British High Commission, and banking giant STANBIC, among many others. Well done to all, even those unnamed due to space restrictions, and thanks for supporting UWA’s UN Year of the Gorilla 2009 activities.

As the main draw for the FIFA World Cup next year approaches, now just over a month away, the global football body is displaying the winner’s trophy in the coming days across eastern Africa to promote the event hosted by South Africa and raise interest and attention levels to the biggest sporting event, besides the Olympics. For the first time, the World Cup will be held in Africa, although the lower age tournaments, most recently the Under 20 World Cup in Egypt and now the Under 17 World Cup in Nigeria, have been organized on the continent before to build capacity and promote equality for the award of such events. Ugandans, being soccer super fans with large groups of supporters for in particular the English clubs, will undoubtedly flock in their tens of thousands to the stadium where the trophy will be displayed and the final countdown launched. Sadly, Uganda has once again not qualified for the World Cup finals but will undoubtedly try again for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Anti-poaching patrols of the Uganda Wildlife Authority a few days ago encountered armed poachers inside the park boundaries, and when trying to stop them were engaged in a fire fight resulting in the death of at least two poachers, according to local news sources. The location of the incident was not far off the road towards Pakwach, a township on the river Nile.

Earlier in the week, Presidential Assistant in charge of special duties, Catholic Father Albert Byaruhanga, died following a car accident. Father Byaruhanga, an age mate of this correspondent and regular source of information, and inspiring guidance for that matter, stood out through the clarity of his thoughts and his ability to speak candidly when needed, a virtue now much missed. Rest in peace Father Albert until we meet again.

Umeme, the national power distribution company – presently under increasing public and governmental pressure over a range of allegations – last week advertised some 19,000 defaulters through a public newspaper ad. However, ineptitude manifested itself promptly when it became apparent, that neither were the names in alphabetical order nor were the account numbers given in any form of order, which would permit defaulters to easily identify themselves and make arrangements to sort out their accounts and pay up. Hence, the 56-page supplement was then largely used as wrapping paper and to light fires, as few alleged defaulters took the trouble to meticulously go through 56 pages and 19,000 names. To further demonstrate the mess Umeme is in, this correspondent, paid up in full of course, received his last bill reading ZERO, due to disconnection – the power is of course ON – leaving me bewildered and bemused, but predictably all emails to Umeme for immediate clarification remain unanswered to date. Efforts to introduce prepaid meters, already in use in other parts of Africa, have also so far failed, a measure which could assist the company with its cash flow.

Jack Wavamunno, Skal member, owner and managing director of a leading travel agency in Kampala – besides his involvement in the motor sport in Uganda – last Friday failed in his bid to become FIA’s first African vice president, a position Ari Vatanen had nominated him for. Ari himself came a distant second with reportedly only 49 votes, while favorite Jean Todt, former Ferrari F1 team chief, earned 135 votes and a four-year term as president of FIA. Congratulations anyway to Jack for a sporting effort and the honor to be on the ballot as an African candidate. Well done, even though coming in second this time.

Messages sent to this column from Kenya soundly condemned the recent murder of a British couple, saying it was not characteristic or common that tourists would be attacked like this in the country, and the same sources equally rejoiced in the swift arrest of at least three suspects, who have already been produced in court and charged with the murder. It was pointed out to this column that murder offenses in Kenya are dealt with under the Hanging Act, and if convicted, the culprits may face the death penalty, the ultimate price to pay for their vile crime.

The latest advance in technology has started to take root on Kenya when payment schemes via mobile phones were accepted by several airlines as a method of purchasing tickets, alongside the use of cash and traditional credit cards. Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile phone company, was the first to introduce the service, and some of the Kenyan airlines have already signed up to this option while others are reportedly still considering their own participation.

As mentioned a few weeks ago in this column, when ET was in the final stage of planning their scheduled flights from Addis Ababa to Mombasa, linking the Kenyan Indian Ocean port city with Ethiopian’s global network, this has over the last weekend materialized. The inaugural flight took place last Sunday and received the usual fanfare greetings, with traditional dancers reportedly greeting the passengers, crew, and official airline delegation from Addis. Mombasa has long only seen Kenya Airways and other domestic airlines operate scheduled flights from Nairobi, while inclusive tour charters from predominantly European gateways brought the bulk of the holiday makers to the Kenyan resorts and hotels along the white Indian Ocean beaches. The entry of Ethiopian will now hopefully also turn the attention of other scheduled airlines to the opportunities which direct or nonstop flights to Mombasa may bring to them and serve as a trigger for more such developments. Mombasa would certainly deserve it, and Kenya tourism would undoubtedly get a boost out of it.

Conservationists and leading members of the conservation fraternity are standing shoulder to shoulder in their opposition to clandestine plans to excise a large piece of land from the Nairobi National Park for allocation to individual owners. The plans were unearthed by investigative journalists in Kenya who tracked down inconsistencies in the national park land title and then blew the whistle. Some staff of the Kenya Wildlife Service was reportedly also interviewed by anti-corruption officials, and the investigation is also extending to the land office in Nairobi, according to several sources in Nairobi. A senior manager of KWS is also quoted to have said, the organization would vigorously oppose any plans to carve out any of their park land for either industrial, office, residential, or leisure developments in the disputed area. Much of the park is now fenced, but curiously, the disputed section appears open, where either no fence was ever erected or has been removed by collaborators in the scheme. The national park at the doorstep of Kenya’s capital city is a huge attraction for foreign visitors and residents alike, being home to a range of different game species. The park only recently received an initial 8 more rhinos from the Nakuru National Park as part of a relocation project, making visits even more of a must see. However, the open range of old, when game could migrate in and out of the park from the Athi plains has now been largely cut off, making it an island in an ever-more populated and farmed area, effectively ending the chances of regular migration and a free flow of fresh gene-pool animals.

The crippling power shortage across Tanzania will come to an end, or so the electricity company is saying, by next week when an additional 165 MW will come on line, generated by three power plants. The power cuts added substantial extra cost to the operation of beach resorts and hotels, which needed to run their back-up generators to keep the fridges and freezers cold, the air conditioning units running, and the general guest welfare intact.

Throughout the week, several hundred participants met and discussed matters of mutual concern in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, with extra activities also held in Bagamoyo. Tanzania has been keenly pursuing the creation of a heritage trail, which was appropriately named the “Ivory and Slavery Route.” Both Bagamoyo as well as Zanzibar were previously notorious slave trading posts, and alongside the human cargo, ivory and skins were also transported on the same vessels, normally ancient “dhows” plying the routes between Arabia and eastern Africa. However, the bitter memories of those long-past ages have now been replaced with new optimism to make economic capital out of the opportunity to attract tourist visitors to follow the historical events, as narrated by their guides when they visit these places and sites. Conference participants were drawn from all over the world, and the event was supported, besides generous help from the Tanzanian government, by among others, the Africa Travel Association and the International Institute for Peace through Tourism.

It was learned early this week that the Tanzania Airports Authority is now commencing work towards a technological upgrade of their three main airports in Dar es Salaam, Arusha, and Mwanza and that SITA, the global airline communications and technology platform, will be closely involved in the various work stages. Over US$20 million have been earmarked to implement the projects, which are aimed to improve passenger handling, baggage movement, and the flow of information through SITA’s data bases and information systems, including the installation of common use terminal equipment allowing all airlines to use check-in desks, which can then link into their own data terminals. Terminal 2 of the Dar es Salaam Julius Nyerere International Airport is also due for further infrastructural improvements and will get new baggage handling equipment, although the planned expansion of the terminal seem presently under some doubt due to funding issues remaining unresolved.

A recent one-day, aviation meeting conducted by the East African Community in Arusha focused on a five-year development plan and strategy, while stakeholders from the region, suffering from non-tariff barriers still in place and hindering the regional aviation development, were left pondering. While commitments were made to achieve FAA’s Category One status in regard to international air safety standards, which participants from the regulatory bodies cited as a key to attract more investment in the sector, the aviators would have had them focus rather on what is obstructing air traffic between the member states and to remove those hindrances as soon as possible, rather than looking into the future and forgetting the present. CASSOA, the EAC agency for aviation safety and security, would reportedly not be drawn into such aspects, however, referring the issues to the national regulatory bodies for harmonization and resolution.

The Rwandan national airline has moved a step further to ensure customer loyalty by launching a benefit program for regular passengers, offering a free ticket after every 5 round trips into the region or 10 round trips on their domestic routes. Evidence of any tickets purchased since January 2009 will also be included in the count. This comes only weeks after substantially reducing fares to their regional destinations like Entebbe, Nairobi, and Kilimanjaro.

A former super model, one Veronica Varekova, was in Rwanda last week and traveled to the renowned gorilla national park in the highlands. While there, she reportedly went three times to see the gentle giants of the mountain rain forest, a remarkable task for commitment and sign of fitness, as the strain of trekking in often nearly impenetrable terrain poses particular challenges to the visitors. During a farewell visit to the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation, Veronica met RDB Deputy Chief Executive in charge of Tourism and Conservation Mrs. Rosette Rugamba and accepted to become a goodwill ambassador for Rwanda abroad.

The Seychelles national airline is set to return to Moscow next week after a low-season suspension of flights due to low demand. However, recent promotional activities, combined with Russian naval visits, have raised interest levels once again, leading to the restoration of air services. According to tourist board sources, Russian visitors have overtaken the South Africans, now being the fifth largest market for the archipelago while other eastern European countries have shown marked increases in the arrival statistics. The positive changes are attributed to a more focused marketing and sales strategy by the revamped tourist board, which was partly privatized early this year, a move which seemingly paid off as the country enjoys growing market shares and intense interest from not just their old but also new and emerging markets.

After strengthening the naval and aerial capacity of the Seychelles defense forces under bilateral and multilateral support schemes by friendly countries, the government in Victoria has decided to man some of the outer islands with security personnel to prevent undetected landings of Somali pirates. It is understood that those troop contingents have rather robust orders, mandates, and rules of engagement tailored to deal with any intruders on the spot, attempting to land on any of these often tiny islands. This is the latest measure learned from sources in the capital of Victoria to be taken by the Seychelles government to protect their two mainstream economic activities, tourism and fishing, and not let Somali ocean terrorists freely dictate their sphere of operations in to the waters of a sovereign state.

The capture of a private yacht and seizure of a British couple, sailing from the Seychelles towards Tanzania, has brought about fresh calls for more determined action against pirates. The tourism industry, including visiting yachts and cruise ships, is big business in the Seychelles, and as mentioned in the earlier piece in this column, the government is doing increasingly more to prevent any incidents in Seychelles waters, leave alone any of their islands. The impunity of pirates, operating ever wider out to sea, has now led to demands that the international naval coalition and air forces need to be more determined to create a credible deterrent against pirate mother ships and skiffs and that unmanned aerial vehicles, also often referred to as drones, be armed instead of only providing surveying capacity. It has also been demanded that the area in question be put under notice that unidentified crafts can and will be engaged decisively to stop the ocean terror wreaked on the rest of the world by Somalis resorting to these criminal and terror-like activities. It is understood that the latest series of incidents may now also lead to more forward action to engage and incapacitate the safe havens the pirates have used so far to deny them the future use of land-based logistical support. Such a widening of the mandate of the international naval coalition and change of the rules of engagement may be the only way to draw a line in the sand and make the ocean terrorists understand that enough is enough, and they will themselves become targets the moment they head towards these waters.

Following inquiries by readers, this column can now confirm that the airline will be using MD 87 equipment for their flights from Johannesburg to Livingstone, which are due to commence in a few weeks. The aircraft will operate with 130 seats in an all-economy configuration.

Following the crash of a Boeing 707-320C, owned by Azza Air but leased to and operated by Sudan Airways, the UAE aviation authorities have slapped a temporary ban on the airline banning it from flights in and out of the UAE until clarity has been reached over the cause of the accident. Added information received since then ruled out overloading but points at a piece of the wing, likely to be a flap – crucial to provide lift to aircraft taking off and landing – had detached when reaching rotation speed, then causing the aircraft to veer sharply before crashing. Flight data recorders are already being examined by experts under the leadership of the GCAA based in Abu Dhabi. Other flights by AZZA on Sudan’s domestic routes are said to be operating normally, although travel agents in Juba this column was in touch with, spoke of some apprehension by passengers to be booked on the airline.