Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report


Uganda’s latest addition to international aviation, Skyjet, has last weekend received a refurbished Boeing 737-200 from the US. The aircraft, fresh from heavy maintenance, will offer 8 business class and 92 economy class seats. The full-service airline is due to start operations either later in 2008 or in early 2009, once route rights have been assigned by the regulators. From well-informed sources it is understood that the airline will commence flights with routes from Entebbe to Juba and on to Khartoum, before launching flights to Cairo some time later. Sensibly, flights on the competitive Nairobi route are not on the drawing board any time soon. A very familiar face has also joined up with them as Commercial Director, being the former Kenya Airways country manager Emmanuel Okware, who has for the past two and a half years been building up his corporate travel agency in Kampala. Watch this space for more news updates.

The latest domestic and charter airline going into operations just a few weeks ago has now announced its plans for next year. Ndege Juu presently operates among other aircraft a Swiss built Pilatus PC 12, which is available in various changeable configurations. The company will add two more of these modern aircraft to their Kajjansi based fleet in 2009. A pressurised cabin and high ceiling of nearly 30,000 feet makes flights with the PC 12 very comfortable and allows non stop flights across the entire Eastern, Central and Southern African region even into very small airstrips. Location at the Kajjansi airfield is the “Old Terminal,” which was taken over and completely refurbished by the Ndege team. Contact them via fly@ndegejuu.com or visit www.ndegejuu.com

Kampala has again been hit by a fuel shortage, causing panic buying from motorists trying to get some of the available fuel into their tanks. Sources have attributed the repeat shortage on several factors, including but not restricted to outright profiteering, the removal of the fourth axle on fuel tankers by Kenya, repairs to the main pipeline from Mombasa and speculation over the trend of the Uganda shilling versus the US dollar, which has in recent weeks fallen sharply making imports more expensive. The removal directive for the fourth trailer axle, while aimed to protect against overloading and the constant severe damage to roads, was clearly carried out in a haphazard fashion and tankers can now only carry 30,000 liters of fuel instead of previously 42,000 liters per trip to the depots in Eldoret, reducing carrying capacity by over a quarter and leaving fuel companies struggling to import their regular requirements. Once again, it is being stressed that safari operators to hold sufficient fuel supplies to do their safaris so visiting tourists should in no way be inconvenienced.

A British tourist visitor to Uganda jumped to his death at Murchisons Falls, where he appears to have gone with this intent. Uganda Wildlife Authority and security personnel have confirmed that they found a suicide note in the self drive car parked near the site which is open for walks to the falls view points. No body has been recovered by the time of going to press. This is the first known case of a suicide at the falls since the area was declared a national park many decades ago.

Now some years into operation the Kampala Serena Hotel has reportedly been granted membership in Leading Hotels of the World, a global reservations and marketing ‘cooperative’ for up-market hotels, after a period of vetting and quality audits.

Nairobi’s landmark hotel has announced the completion of phase one of their ongoing renovations and refurbishments, which concluded last week with the relaunch of the acclaimed Lord Delamare Terrace. A new look and ambience, combined with much applauded food and service, are bound to not only retain the “old faithful” but win the hotel new clientele. The Norfolk is part of the Kenyan operation of Fairmont Hotels, a member of Leading Hotels of the World and long time favorite of the “Who is Who” from Kenya, the region and around the world.
The Norfolk and it’s sister properties Mount Kenya Safari Club, Aberdare Country Club, The Ark and the Mara Safari Club received a massive refurbishment boost two years ago when Fairmont committed some US$200+ million for refurbishments, renovations and upgrades to retain their five-star ratings.

Porini Safari Camps / Gamewatchers Safaris were the winner of the prestigious Virgin Holidays sponsored ‘Responsible Tourism Awards’. The company, owned by KTB Chairman Jake Grieves-Cook, excelled with their business concept of high revenue / low impact operations and their partnership with the local communities for employment and income generation. Well done Porini! Visit www.porinisafaricamps.com or www.porini.com for more information.

The Kenyan minister for tourism has reportedly sacked the CEO of the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation last week over a range of allegation, none however proven so far. The official reason peddled to the media is “non performance,” but there is intense speculation over the real reasons why the minister resorted to this extraordinary measure, instead of letting Mr. Obondo Kajumbi serve out his present contract. A court case over the contract termination is also not ruled out by some observers in Nairobi. Some of the reasons which prompted the minister to resort to this measure may be vested in the fact that KTDC was subject to rumours about the potential sale of shareholdings in various hotels and tourism enterprises, including the Nairobi Intercontinental Hotel, Kenya Safari Lodges (Mombasa Beach Hotel, Voi Safari Lodge and Ngulia Safari Lodge) and the Nairobi Hilton, but Mr. Kajumbi had earlier on stated that there was no intention ‘at the moment’ to divest from these assets. Ominously, KTDC also owns the Utalii Hotel, which is the training and application facility for the famous Utalii College, causing some concern over the future security of this major institution.

The Tanzanian aviation regulators have now granted an Air Services License to Fly540’s Tanzanian company, which is now going ahead to have their AOC application processed. The unnecessarily expensive, because now triplicate process (in Kenya, Uganda and now Tanzania), is a relic of pre-East African Community separatism, when regulators kept jealous watch over their little fiefdoms, a concept without merit and substance in this day and age of the EAC integrating economically. However, instead of pooling resources, sharing personnel and administering aviation jointly with immediate mutual recognition and acceptance of approvals, licenses and permits, the regulators appear to peddle mitigating reasons for not joining hands rather than putting all their best efforts into achieving a common regulatory regime.

Once the AOC has been issued news will be availed to column readers about the type of aircraft operated from the Fly540 Tanzania base and which routes will be flown. Watch this space.

The Rwanda Tourism University College in Kigali has announced over the last weekend that they intend to add IATA certified courses for aspiring travel agents and agency personnel, starting from early 2009. This development comes after signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nairobi based “Air Travel and Related Studies Centre” on technical cooperation.

During a recent state visit by President Kibaki to Rwanda the Kenyan president announced the immediate shelving of work permit requirements for Rwandan citizens, reciprocating an earlier move by Rwanda to do the same for Kenyan citizens. Ugandans, Tanzanians and Burundian, however, will continue to be subject to work permit applications, until similar bilateral moves are introduced between the member states, in particular in view of the next column item.

While in Rwanda the Kenyan president also expressed his solidarity with Rwanda over what was termed ‘the illegal arrest’ of Rwanda’s Chief of Protocol while on official duty as advance party to the Head of State. Mass demonstrations took place in Rwanda against France and Germany over their ‘conspiracy’ to have Col. Rose Kabuye arrested and extradited to France.

News have emerged during the week of renewed arguments breaking out at the most recent round of negotiations in Zanzibar between the member states. Tanzania was in regional media widely blamed for throwing again a spanner in the works, when reneging on a previously agreed position by the Council of Ministers over the use of national ID cards for citizens when travelling to the sister states. The argument extended also to the rights of residence, rights to acquisition of land and generally the movement of labour within the EAC. Notably, all other four member states formally agreed on the proposals and will in early 2009 launch a joint initiative to move agreements away from unanimous decisions to majority decisions, to avoid a single partners constantly standing in the face of the others. Watch this space.