Wolfgang Report on Tourism in East Africa

Wolfgang's East Africa tourism report

By Wolfgang H. Thome |  


It was just confirmed by the sanctuary's executive director

Angie Genade that the recently-born rhino baby is,

as has been speculated, a little "boy" and that

his given name will be "Obama."

The reason for this was the similarity in both cases,

whereby the father of little Obama was from Kenya,

brought to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary from Kenya's Solio

Game Reserve, while the American mother was donated

by Disney's Animal Kingdom in the United States and

sent to Uganda a few years ago.

This correspondent welcomes the little "fellow" and

expresses his joy in having our own Obama in Uganda,

who undoubtedly will become a visitor magnet

in the coming years in his own right.

It is in fact, hoped that the real Obama might,

during his term of office, visit Uganda,

as the previous two American presidents have done,

and then make time to also see his namesake

on the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary – what a PR coup

that would be for rhino conservation in the country.

Maybe someone can tip off the White House staff?


In their efforts to establish the Sheraton Kampala Hotel

as a premier meeting place, the F&B team of Eric Wendel

and James Rattos come up with a once-a-week

meeting platform for corporate ladies.

Being able to meet a cross-section of other

senior ladies working in management, combined

with free and secure parking, free nibbles,

reduced prices for drinks and an appealing

a la carte menu, will undoubtedly attract

the up-and-coming female executives from Kampala.

Meanwhile, as the main holiday season for

the expatriate community is in full swing,

corporate meetings at the Sheraton will attract

a substantial rebate until the end of August,

when "business as usual" is expected to resume.

Finally, in view of recent reports about the latest

developments at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary,

it is worth mentioning that the Sheraton Kampala

Hotel has long been a staunch corporate sponsor

of the rhino sanctuary, the rhino enclosure at

the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe,

and conservation efforts in general.


The Arua airfield is being upgraded under a CAA work

program for upcountry aviation facilities.

The runway is due to be extended by 150 meters

to facilitate landing and takeoff by larger aircraft and

will be tarmacked for a length of 2.5 kilometers.

A new passenger terminal is also under construction.

Figures available from the CAA give annual passenger

numbers of around 10,000, with just under

1,800 aircraft movements for 2008.

Once the new facilities are completed,

the aerodrome will be able to handle up to

70,000 passengers per year.

Other aerodromes selected for upgrade are located

in Kasese and in Soroti, where

the national aviation training facility is located.


According to international maritime rules,

which are now more strictly enforced in Uganda,

the MV Kalangala is due for its annual inspection

for the rest of July, during which time

the ferry services will be irregular and only possible

when alternate ships are available.

Visitors intending to travel to the Ssese Islands

should seek early advice regarding their travel plans

and, if necessary, make other arrangements

for their lake journey, such as traveling by road

to Masaka and taking the shorter ferry trip

from there to the main island.

Full services are expected to resume

by early August from the Entebbe pier.


Kenya Buzz, found on the world-wide web

via www.kenyabuzz.com, has established itself

as the leading e-guide for Kenyan residents

and also for intending visitors, wanting to know

what is happening where and when.

Having this information can add some real spice

to their lives or enhance the visiting experience

to Kenya for all age groups, from children,

to adolescents, to adults, to seniors.

Kenya Buzz provides readers with a

wide range of details, including salsa dancing,

pottery classes, life-enhancing workshops,

sporting activities and events, fundraising

and community festivals, hot tips of

where to stay, the latest restaurants entering

the eating scene, and lots more.

Subscription to

the weekly mailing is free

via thebuzz@kenyabuzz.com.


Reports are trickling in that dozens of

elephants have died in recent weeks,

most of them suspected to be victims

of the severe drought presently experienced

in parts of eastern Africa.

In several regions, the long rains have again

failed this year, already causing

a hydro-electric power plant in Kenya

to be taken off the grid due to a lack of water,

and the populations, of course,

are also suffering from failed harvests.

However, it is the death of the wildlife

which is capturing the headlines,

rather than the growing woes

of the human populations.

Veterinarians from UWA have apparently

ruled out anthrax as a cause of death

but are reportedly looking into other possible causes,

too, as the number of mostly young

elephant deaths within a short period

of time may have other reasons than

the shortage of water in rivers and water holes.

Poaching has also seen an upward trend in Kenya,

attributed to the relaxing of the ban

on the trade of ivory and related products

by Southern African states,

following the last CITES meeting,

a change, incidentally, heavily criticized

and opposed by the Eastern African Elephant Coalition.

Meanwhile, ivory worth nearly a US$1 million

was confiscated while in transit from

Mozambique to south Asia earlier in the week,

courtesy of vigilant security personnel from

both Kenya Airways and other agencies

routinely patrolling the international airport.

The cargo, hidden in crates, also contained

rhino horns, thought to have originated

from other parts of Southern Africa,

where poaching in some countries is

an ongoing serious problem.

In particular Zimbabwe is suffering from

wide spread poaching of wildlife, including

the endangered rhinos, with security forces

suspected to be part of the poaching

and smuggling rings.

From usually well-informed sources, it was learned

that while the official destination of the cargo

was Laos, the likely end destination was more likely

to be China (see related column item in

the Tanzania section), which has been at

the forefront of criticism by animal rights

and conservation proponents for

their endless hunger for "blood ivory."


Another British visiting student was diagnosed last week

in Dar es Salaam as infected with the H1N1 virus

(swine flu), making Tanzania the third country

in east Africa to receive the unwelcome "gift" from

British visitors to the region.

The student was admitted to hospital, subjected

to more tests, and then given treatment,

to which reportedly he was responding well.

Like in Kenya and Uganda, this flu type is not thought

to pose a major problem to the country and

in particular, the tourism industry is

not expected to suffer because of it.

Medication, mainly Tami Flu, has been received across

eastern Africa by the health authorities to

allow prompt treatment of any further cases.

No reports of H1N1 were received from Zanzibar, Rwanda,

and Burundi, nor has the southern Sudan found

any cases within their territories

at the time of going to press.

It was also learned that Britain is the country with

the third-highest number of infections – a clear

indication that the initial containment measures

across the UK by the health authorities have

miserably failed, making Britain one of the

key sources of spreading the disease further

around the world.

The latest information from the UK is that

the NHS intends to vaccinate EVERYONE across

the country to arrest the spread of the disease.



While opening the new Bilila Serengeti Safari Lodge

last weekend, owned and managed by Kempinski Hotels,

the president spoke out strongly against

the immediate addition of new and more properties,

not just in the Serengeti but the other national parks,


While apparently a study commissioned by government

a few years ago indicates that the Serengeti could,

with ease, absorb more accommodation,

it was the president's counsel to TANAPA

to wait and study the impact of new lodges first,

and if at all, only add more accommodation

very gradually to avoid overcrowding and

a negative impact on the environment

and the prized wildlife found in the park.

He also warned of dubious investors wanting to put up

second-rate facilities, which were not

in the interest of the government

and wildlife conservation.


Confirmation was received earlier in the week that

the Hilton Corporation is apparently set to open

a new hotel in Tanzania's commercial capital

of Dar es Salaam, adding over 250 rooms

in the 5-star bracket into the marketplace.

A second property is due to open in Zanzibar,

which has over the years positioned itself

as a very posh upmarket destination with

the addition of a number of luxury properties

along its white, sandy beaches.

The hotels are due to open under the Doubletree

by Hilton brand. Watch this space for updates.


The long-serving TANAPA CEO Gerald Bigurube reportedly

resigned earlier in the week, according to reports

from reliable sources in Tanzania.

While no specific reasons for the sudden resignation

could be obtained, the same sources spoke of

a series of recent investigations and

allegations over financial issues within TANAPA.

The matter was even raised in parliament recently,

when the opposition in the Tanzania demanded answers

over allegedly unauthorized payments

and contracts for advertising, while the report

of the controller and auditor general also highlighted

a range of financial irregularities.

The development could not have come at a worse time

as Tanzania is struggling with a downturn

of tourism arrivals and all hands should be on deck

to turn the trend around.

Mr. Edward Kishe was immediately installed

as the acting director general until the position

will be filled again with

a substantive CEO in the coming weeks.


In a surprise move, customs at Dar es

Salaam's international airport thwarted the efforts

of a Chinese man trying to take illegal ivory

out of the country.

His baggage was searched after an apparent tip off.

Three accomplices were also arrested

at the same time for allegedly trying

to prevent a thorough screening of the bags.

"Blood ivory" has in recent months made headlines

across eastern Africa and is often attributed

to the softening of CITES' stand on the trading

of legal ivory from Southern Africa, which has

in the past, time and again, led to a prompt

increase of poaching in eastern Africa and

an upsurge in smuggling attempts.

It is hoped that the full force of the law will come

down on the four accused in order to give

them many years of thought

about their crimes and hopefully

some rehabilitation behind prison bars.


Effective August of this year, a 5th flight will be added

on the Kigali-Johannesburg route,

following rising demand for more seats

from both markets.

The airline's head of marketing and corporate

communications Michael Otieno has also confirmed

that RwandAir is planning to eventually go daily

on this key continental route, probably

as early as the end of 2009 or early 2010.

The airline will offer attractive tour packages prior,

during, and after the FIFA World Cup 2010,

which is, of course, hosted by South Africa.

Visit www.rwandair.com for more information

on destinations, schedules, and other points of interest.


The third edition of 2009 is now available both in print,

across the usual Rwandan outlets, and more importantly,

on the web via www.theeye.co.rw for

the overseas community of east Africa fans.

Like the Ugandan sister publication found

at www.theeye.co.ug,

The Eye Rwanda offers topical articles

on Rwanda's tourism attractions and is

the most diverse guide for restaurants, hotels, inns,

and safari lodges while also offering airlines,

embassies, doctors, and related contacts

along with phone numbers.

Any intending visitor to Rwanda should seek

out a copy on the web before

then obtaining a printed copy on arrival in Kigali.


July 1 saw both Rwanda and Burundi formally join

into the EAC customs union, further aligning

the two countries to the economic integration

so far experienced by the initial

three member states of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.

The customs union will allow trade of

regionally-manufactured goods at

reduced duty tariffs, which in fact should,

after a 5 year timeframe of gradual tariff reduction,

come to zero at the beginning of next year.

The customs union has driven regional

trade volumes up by an estimated 40 percent

over the past 5 years, and a full integration

of the 120+ million citizens into

a single domestic market is likely

to further boost economic development

across eastern Africa.

Tourism integration, however, is still some way off,

as the financially most sought-after domestic

target group – the expatriates working

in the region – are still required to pay

for a visa to cross the borders, arguably

denying neighboring countries tourism revenues,

as often this group rather travels

to other countries like South Africa

or the UAE, where most of them need no visa

and can spend the saved funds

on personal expenditure.

Only when a regional tourist visa is in place

for visitors from overseas and

expatriates registered in one country

can freely travel in the region,

will the full benefit of the East African Community

be thought of as producing

the best possible results.

Non-tariff barriers, as continuously seen

in cross-border tourist traffic by road and air,

is also considered an impediment

to the free movement of tourists across

the region to make the most out of their visit

to east Africa.

Hence, while there is hope, there is also still

a long way to go to make

the east African dream come true.


Listen up Africa, "YOU CAN, too" ...

President Obama's speech last Saturday afternoon

in Ghana to the African continent had scores

of the Ugandan and arguably much of

the continental population glued to

the television screens to hear about

America's new policy towards the African countries

under his administration.

A significant shift was observed, geared to assist

capacity building on the continent,

help restore crumbling primary health systems,

and make it possible for farmers to grow enough

food to eliminate hunger and famine.

This column also appreciated the candid words

about dictatorships, genocide, and strife in Africa

and the need to root out corruption from the day-to-day

life while building democratic institutions.

President Obama's words, "We do not need strong men,

we need strong institutions," will undoubtedly echo

across Africa, and it is hoped the bell will toll sooner

rather than later for those well-known despots

who continue to smear Africa's image around the world

on a daily basis.

President Obama offered the friendship of America,

as well as assistance, while demanding accountability

and transparency from the current breed of African leaders.

Meanwhile, the ICC's chief prosecutor visited Uganda

recently from The Hague to discuss matters

of mutual interest and concern with the government,

ahead of a planned visit to Kampala

by Khartoum's regime leader Bashir,

to attend the Smart Partnership Dialogue set for

late July at the lakeside resort and conference

center in Munyonyo.

Uganda presently holds the presidency of the United

Nations Security Council, and the Ugandan action

will undoubtedly be keenly watched across Africa

and the world as it sends out signals

to other African nations reluctant to cooperate

with the ICC.

It is understood that the ICC arrest warrant

is now in the possession of the Ugandan government,

and information from reliable sources confirmed

that the arrest warrant will be served and executed

by the Ugandan police should Bashir indeed come to Uganda.

The prosecutor's visit also prompted immediate

threats from Khartoum to the government in Uganda

not to cooperate with the ICC and respect

the AU's recent non-binding resolution

to desist from arresting the alleged war criminal.

These threats, previously considered empty,

may now carry more substance as reports

also emerged earlier in the week

that China had sold the regime medium to long-range

rocket systems, probably in violation of UN sanctions

in place against the regime.

The new weapons cannot reach Ugandan territory o

utright from the regime's military positions but,

of course, constitute a serious military threat

against the southern Sudan,

which will vote on independence in early 2011

and has long complained about i

ntimidation and threats from Khartoum.

The latest information available at the time of going to press,

speaks of intense diplomatic efforts to avoid

an incident – with speculation pointing in the direction

that Bashir may be persuaded NOT to come

to Uganda any time soon.

Watch this space for updates.

By Wolfgang H. Thome |  

             J-L K.
Procurement Consultant
Gsm:    (250) (0) 78-847-0205 (Mtn Rwanda)
Gsm:    (250) (0) 75-079-9819 (Rwandatel)
Home:  (250) (0) 25-510-4140
    P.O. Box 3867
  Kigali - RWANDA
    East AFRICA
Blog: http://cepgl.blogspot.com
Skype ID: kayisa66

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