Rwanda’s Festival of the Gorillas becomes annual tourist destination

May 23, 2013

Gorillas
By Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Correspondent, Africa

(eTN) – When the Rwanda Development Board’s (RDB) Tourism and Conservation Department holds their annual Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony on Saturday, June 22, at Kinigi, outside Volcano National Park, exactly a dozen newborn gorilla babies will be named this year. One of them was only born two days ago to the joy of the park staff and the conservation and tourism fraternity at large. It was Muganga of the Isabukuru group who has given birth to a baby of yet to be determined sex.

Namers selected by RDB to perform the actual naming during the high-profile ceremony are normally given a choice of two names, at times three, proposed by the rangers and wardens looking after the gorilla groups, and reflect often the circumstances of the birth, make reference to the location, or reflect the mood of the group at the time.

Kwita Izina has, over the years, developed into a week-long celebration, during which conferences and workshops dedicated to conservation take place, community projects benefiting the people living around the Volcano National Park are handed over or launched, and where sporting and society events are used to mark Rwanda’s unwavering commitment to looking after the gentle giants of the Virunga mountains.

Travelers from around the world are now regularly planning visits to Rwanda to coincide with the annual Festival of the Gorillas which is unique in the range countries where mountain gorillas are found. Visit http://www.rwandatourism.com for more information about the country’s tourism attractions, how to get there, and how best to travel across the “Land of a Thousand Hills.”


Ethiopia’s Booming Hotel Industry

May 18, 2013

Hotel-Ethiopia

VENTURES AFRICA – The Sheraton Hotel is doing another good day of business on a Monday morning. The hotel, run by Sheik Mohammed Ali Al-Amoud, is Ethiopia’s most recognized hotel. It fills with business travelers from London and diplomats from all over Africa. It also offers similar services and accommodations expected from any major hotel in America or Europe. And for those who find the prices of the bigger international brands too expensive, Jupiter International Hotels, run by a young Ethiopian expat Benyam Bisrat, offers a quality local alternative.

The central parts—Kazanchis and Bole—of Addis Ababa resemble a construction site. New malls and hotels are being erected throughout these areas. These new constructions are mostly locally funded. Jupiter Hotels, as one of those locally funded constructions, has only been running for 5 years. In that time, the company has boosted occupancy rates above 80 percent to match international brands in the market.

Until recently, schmoozing with businessmen of all stripes and African diplomats involved sitting by the bar in the Hilton or lingering around the Sheraton lounge area. During the last African Union meeting, the lobby of the Jupiter Hotel in Kazanchis jammed softly with local Ethiopian jazz crowded out by Africa’s numerous local languages and the usual assortment of romance languages spoken on the continent.

This type of growth is usually the result of growing demand and stalled supply. But the supply of hotel beds in Addis has tripled in the last three years to around 6,000 hotel beds. Competition in this market could potentially push the number over 10,000 hotel beds in the next few years. Jupiter International Hotels will actively expand during this time to more than 1,000 hotel beds to capture approximately ten percent of the market, says Mr. Bisrat, who is also vice president of the Hotel Association of Ethiopia. International brands, including the Marriot, will also help the local hotel industry to reach that number.

Hotel groups are expanding in this capital because the amount of diplomats and corporate clients are growing. Yearly tourism, at approximately 500,000 tourists in Ethiopia, still has a ways to go before it matches other emerging African economies. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has stated its aspirations to make Ethiopia a top five tourist destination in Africa by 2020.

During this rapid growth phase, quality service-oriented business will win out at the end of the day, say Mr. Bisrat, or customers will walk out. He believes Jupiter International Hotels is positioned as top competitor in this space, especially as it plans to develop a value hotel chain. A hot shower, good mattress, and strong internet goes a long way to make a quality value hotel. But Jupiter International Hotels plans to also add a yoga studio, art gallery, and technological add-ons, including iPod docking stations and quality data and voice streaming capabilities in the rooms.

So many foreigners are coming now and more and more are not Ethiopian Diaspora, says Dawit, a local Ethiopian tourist operator. A sense of change has descended upon the country. Gone are filmmakers for aid videos on famine. Rather conference facilities and lobbies bustle with the growing presence of investors and government officials. Hotel groups, says Mr. Bisrat, still have a long way to go to meet the needs of a growing business and diplomatic hub. As Ethiopian Airlines expands its routes to meet the geographically diversifying clientele of the Ethiopia, expect the hotel industry to do the same.

 


LUX Ile de La Reunion takes Leading Island Hotel award at WTA

May 15, 2013

ADDIS LAX Hotel

LUX Ile de La Reunion won the Leading Island Hotel award tonight at the World Travel Awards (WTA) being held in the Maldives. The award was accepted at the WTA Indian Ocean gala dinner this evening.

Located on the lush volcanic island of Reunion, LUX Ile de La Reunion presents a glistening beach by day and the shimmering Saint-Gilles lagoon by night. Gardens scattered with charming Creole villas, coconut palms, and filao trees provide the perfect setting for this unique beach hotel in Reunion, with exclusive views of the coral-sheltered lagoon at L’Hermitage. The only 5-star hotel on Reunion Island, this stunning property balances a unique fusion of Creole energy and colonial elegance.

The hotel offers tennis and volleyball courts in the gardens, a spacious swimming pool, yoga in the gardens, and private in-room spa treatments. Fresh, locally-sourced seafood is on offer at the beach resort’s various restaurants and bars.

On the island of Reunion, the World Heritage sites of the Pitons, Cirques, and Ramparts, showcase the island’s rugged beauty, dramatic volcanic peaks, and tumbling waterfalls.

For more information about LUX Ile de la Reunion, visit: http://www.luxresorts.com/en/reunion-island/lux-ile-de-la-reunion/welcom…


Traveling with the lions

May 10, 2013

lion-feeding

Zambia is fully engaged in the rehabilitation and subsequent release of lions back into the wild. This is not just an opportunity for the country to lend a hand to Mother Nature by helping to preserve these majestic animals, it is also a tourism opportunity for visitors to have an up-close and personal experience with the lions.

Lion Encounter operates stage one of the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust’s four stage Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Program. The first stage of the program involves the young lions being taken out into the Bush, allowing them to build confidence in their natural habitat and practice their hunting techniques before being released into stage two of the program.

Joining the lions walks, participants are actively assisting in the pre-release training for the cubs as well as giving funding for ALERT to develop all stages of the release program, implement conservation and research programs to protect Africa’s precious habitat and wildlife, and engage in a variety of community development and empowerment schemes for those living in and around wildlife conservation areas.

For Lion Encounter Zambia, guests are collected from their lodges and comfortably transported a short distance to the Boma – a hospitality suite overlooking the Zambezi River within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park – where a friendly hospitality team is waiting to greet participants with a welcome soft-drink or teas and coffees for the early risers, after which they are shown to their seats.

Guests enjoy a short film to give them information on the lion release program, and the film explains why it is necessary to facilitate such a project. It also shows guests some behind the scenes footage regarding ALERT’s others efforts, which benefit communities bordering conservation areas run by the ALERT Communities Trust (ACT) and its other wildlife conservation and research programs through the Conservation Centre for Wild Africa (CCWA).

All participants of the walk then receive the all-important dos and don’ts in a safety talk delivered by their guide. Guests are then ready to meet the lions who are already waiting for them in the Bush.

During the walk itself, guests will be accompanied by experienced guides, handlers, and scouts that ensure rigorous safety procedures are upheld, allowing guests to enjoy watching the lions play, hunt, and enjoy their natural habitat. At times, the lions may rest, allowing guests for some close encounters and opportunities to get a photo with the lions. Guests’ experiences will be enhanced by hearing about the lion as a species as well as receiving the latest updates on the progress of the release program.

For more information, visit the Zambia Tourism Board website: www.zambiatourism.com .


Seychelles is the place for honeymoons – just ask Prince William and Kate

May 2, 2013

Honemoons

Chi, the known people’s magazine from Italy, has come out with a feature on honeymoons in what can be considered the nicest destination on Earth, the Seychelles. The magazine speaks about special or secret honeymoons, and this is exactly what the Seychelles has become known and respected for because of their ability to keep press photographers away and allow the new brides and grooms the freedom to be alone. Seychelles has the added advantage in being blessed with 115 secluded islands and many managed as private sanctuaries to newlyweds.

The island’s tourism authorities did not want to comment on the long list of stars flying to Seychelles for their honeymoon. The most famous who made news right across the world was Prince William and Kate Middleton of the UK, but from the Seychelles itself their visitors’ privacy has always been their guiding rule.

Seychelles does provide what can be considered equal to none as the dream holiday destination.  This also true of Seychelles as a honeymoon destination for these islands promote themselves as having a style of tourism they call personalized tourism. This is away from charter business and from mass tourism.

Seychelles offers the best in turquoise blue seas that remains clean and clear. Seychelles prides itself with its clean and white sandy beaches that are lapped 365 days of the year with warm and pleasing seas. With conservation remaining top of the island’s Government agenda, over 50% of the total land area of Seychelles is today protected as natural reserves.

Source: Seychelles Ministry of Tourism and Culture

Boeing 787 Dreamliner returns to service in Ethiopia flight

April 27, 2013

Addis-13 months in Ethiopia.docx-2
An Ethiopian Airlines 787 Dreamliner has flown from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, the first commercial flight by the Boeing aircraft since all 787s were grounded in January.

The 50 planes around the world were grounded due to battery malfunctions that saw one 787 catch fire in the US.

Over the past week teams of Boeing engineers have been fitting new batteries to the aircraft.

This was after aviation authorities approved the revamped battery design.

The Ethiopian Airlines plane took off at 09:45 local time (07:45 GMT) and landed in Nairobi, Kenya, some two hours later.

Engineering team

Each 787 has two of the lithium-ion batteries which caused problems.

In addition to new versions of the batteries which run at a much cooler temperature, the batteries are now enclosed in stainless steel boxes.

These boxes have a ventilation pipe that goes directly to the outside of the plane. Boeing says this means than in the unlikely event of any future fire or smoke, it would not affect the rest of the aircraft.

Boeing said it put 200,000 engineer hours into fixing the problem, with staff working round the clock.

On Thursday, the US Federal Aviation Administration issued a formal “air worthiness” directive allowing revamped 787s to fly.

Japanese airlines, which have been the biggest customers for the new-generation aircraft, are expected to begin test flights on Sunday.

A total of 300 Boeing engineers, pooled into 10 teams, have in the past week been fitting the new batteries and their containment systems around the world.

Boeing is expected to complete repairs on all 50 of the grounded Dreamliners by the middle of May.

In addition to the Dreamliners in service with airlines, Boeing has upgraded the 787s it has continued to make at its factory in Seattle since January.

The Dreamliner entered service in 2011. Half of the plane is made from lightweight composite materials, making it more fuel efficient than other planes of the same size.

The two lithium-ion batteries are not used when the 787 is in flight.

They are operational when the plane is on the ground and its engines are not turned on, and are used to power the aircraft’s brakes and lights
Flight ETH 801 between Addis Ababa and Nairobi wasn’t exactly a run-of-the-mill flight.

For starters, it was full of Boeing executives and the boss of Ethiopian Airlines. Several passengers on board asked me what was going on, why was the BBC on a routine flight in Africa?

Many didn’t realise that they were the first passengers to fly in a Dreamliner since it was dramatically grounded in January. There were plenty who knew about the safety scare surrounding the plane, although only a couple that we spoke to said it had made them a little more tentative about flying.

Boeing still has a huge job on its hands, convincing passengers that its most high-profile, most hi-tech airliner is safe.

Two senior Boeing executives went out of their way this week to tell me that they’d happily put their family on the plane. It’s the kind of quote that sounds good.

Still, Boeing will be desperately hoping that its Dreamliner nightmare doesn’t come back to haunt it

Source BBC


Swiss school to build hotel training facility in Rwanda

April 24, 2013

Roches
By Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome,

(eTN) – A regular source from Kigali has sent information that Rwanda’s Workplace Development Authority (WDA) has apparently entered into an agreement with Swiss-based Les Roches International School of Hotel Management, one of the world’s best-reputed hospitality training institutions, to create a training facility, and an attached application hotel, in Kigali. Jerome Gasana, Director General of the WDA, reportedly last week told the media in Kigali that they were planning to establish a campus of Les Roches in Kigali, where Rwandan hospitality students could get a top-quality education before joining the workforce.

According to the source, the project cost was given at around US$20 million, which would include a 60+ bedroom application hotel attached to the campus, though it was not made clear if both partners would share the financial burden or if Les Roches would only come onboard to operate the facility, which would extend their presence to Africa for the first time. The project implementation was given as 24 months, once all permits and licenses have been secured, which would put a potential opening of the hotel school into the mid- to late-2015 timeframe.

Hospitality training has been prioritized by Rwanda, and the Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Department has over the past two years, undertaken a series of initiatives to train hospitality staff and support programs aimed at improving service quality in the tourism and hospitality sector.

A number of regional tertiary training institutions have in the past scouted Rwanda with the view of opening either a campus or else recruiting Rwandan students for their institutions, a sign that the fast growth of the tourism industry in Rwanda is being backed up by measures to train young Rwandans in the field before starting their careers in the workplace. The opening later this year of the region’s first Marriott Hotel in Kigali has also seen a number of staff taken to sister hotels of the group in the Gulf region, where they are trained to become the backbone of personnel.

Tourism, besides agriculture and increasingly mining, is one of Rwanda’s key economic activities and has over the past years recorded annual double-digit growth, providing foreign investment opportunities, earning the country foreign exchange, opening job opportunities, and improving the image of the country abroad through excellent visitor experience.


New Victoria Falls City to beef up tourism

April 24, 2013

Kruger
ZAMBIA (eTN) – During a ceremony at Victoria Falls Airport, Walter Mzembi, Minister of Tourism, stated that land had been allocated for a new Victoria Falls City. The city was to be modeled on Niagara Falls City and be home to hotels, theme parks, and casinos. 1,200 has been allocated to the project on the road to the airport. There are also plans to develop Kariba and Masvingo for tourism.

I think we have heard all this before. When the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) meeting was announced to take part at the Victoria Falls, to be shared between Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe government pledged to build massive infrastructure. It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen for two reasons. Firstly the government has no money, and secondly the private sector would not take on the challenge. The situation has not changed.

Until Zimbabwe sorts out its political situation and tourists feel comfortable visiting Zimbabwe, the tourism industry cannot be revived. So, the plan to build a new Victoria Falls City will be a pipe dream and maybe is just being mooted for political means.

Meanwhile Victoria Falls Town is gearing itself up for the UNWTO. According to reports, the private sector has spent around US$16million in upgrades for their hotels. The government is working on the airport and roads; electricity and waterworks have been improved, as has Internet connection and medical facilities.


Ethiopia Dreamliners first to fly again

April 24, 2013

Ethiopian Airline-2
Ethiopian Airlines is set to become the world’s first carrier to resume flying Boeing Co’s 787 Dreamliner passenger jets, with a commercial flight on Saturday to neighbouring Kenya, two airline sources said.

Boeing’s Dreamliners have been grounded since regulators ordered all 50 planes out of the skies in mid-January after batteries on two of them overheated. US regulators approved a new battery design on Friday, clearing the way for installation.

An Air India source told Reuters in New Delhi that commercial operations should start within a week or so, immediately after approval from the local regulator DGCA.

“Ethiopian Airlines will be the first airline company to resume 787 Dreamliner flights in the world. Saturday’s the date,” a senior Ethiopian Airlines source told Reuters. “We’re flying to Nairobi, Kenya on the normal flight schedule.”

Another source, who also declined to be named, confirmed the plan to resume flights on Saturday by the airline, the first African carrier to purchase Dreamliner planes. It ordered 10, has received four, and started flying them in August.

“It should be a matter of days, not weeks. I think one week or so,” the source said, without giving further details.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which grounded the planes, is expected to issue an Airworthiness Directive on Thursday. This applies to US airlines, but other nations are expected to follow suit immediately.

The grounding has cost Boeing an estimated $600m (R5b), halted deliveries and forced some airlines to lease alternative aircraft. Several airlines have said they will seek compensation from Boeing, potentially adding to the plane maker’s losses.

Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president for marketing, said in the Ethiopian capital that the planes for all airlines would be modified and they would then work with their own regulatory authorities to determine when flights would resume.

“Each airline will be a little bit different,” he told reporters, adding that Boeing expected to meet its target of delivering more than 60 of its Dreamliner planes in 2013.

“The timing will change a little bit but we will be able to meet our commitments to our customers in terms of delivery this year,” Tinseth said.

Ethiopian Airlines previously said its fleet did not suffer any of the technical glitches experienced by other Dreamliner jets, though it withdrew the planes from service to undergo special inspection requirements mandated by the FAA.

– Reuters


Exodus abandons Omo Valley tours

April 18, 2013

Ethiopia-Newtrivbe
By Oliver Smith
The tribes, known for their tattoos, body paint and lip plates, are a big draw for tourists to the region, but Exodus said the recent construction of a new road has had a negative impact, bringing in too many visitors.
“In the past the Omo Valley was hard to reach, and only a handful of more adventurous tourists would make the journey to visit the tribes,” said a spokesperson. “Many more people have started visiting and tourism to the region is becoming negative – rather than going for a special experience, the Omo Valley has become a place for tourists to simply gawk at the tribes who live there, without respecting their lifestyle and traditions.”
Any holidaymakers with existing bookings will be allowed to complete their trip, but no new ones will be accepted, it said.
In an article written before the recent completion of the new road – which links the southern towns of Konso and Jinka – Susie Grant, a tour guide for Exodus, said: “[The road] will bring more infrastructure to the Omo Valley – better medical and educational facilities, trading and many associated benefits – but, of course, it will mean that some of the tribal culture will be lost.”
She added: “The tribes largely welcome us but unwittingly we can sometimes behave in a culturally unsuitable way. It is important that as travellers we visit sensitive regions like this in a responsible, open-minded way.”
The Omo Valley is home to eight different tribes numbering around 200,000 people in total. A number of other operators continue to offer itineraries to the region, including Wild Frontiers and Explore. Marc Leaderman, head of group tour operations at Wild Frontiers, said he understood Exodus’s decision, but said his company would continue to visit the area, offering tours that provide an “ethical” and “authentic” experience.
“The region has long been a concern,” he said. “Visitors to the Omo are often overwhelmed, and the trading of money for photographs can feel awkward. We’re running just one tour this year, and are working hard to offer something that takes visitors away from the busy villages, and that attracts tourists who are respectful.”
He admitted that a lack of regulation and growing visitor numbers meant “the tide is against us” but said pulling out entirely “would help no-one”, including the tribes who now rely on the income that tourists bring.
Justin Francis, managing director of Responsible Travel, an agent that specialises in ethical holidays, said: “Exodus has clearly given this a lot of thought and I respect their decision – many tourists and travel companies find this a difficult dilemma.
“The real question is what do the tribal communities want? This becomes complex as the communities often do not share the same opinion. Some see tourism as an intrusion from which they see little benefit, others see it as one of the only ways to earn an income and improve their lives.
“I would limit tourist numbers and consult with the communities to determine which would like tourism, and which would not, and on what terms.”
According to human rights groups, the welfare of the tribes is also threatened by the construction of the Gibe III hydroelectric dam and “land grabs” by the Ethiopian government.
Elizabeth Hunter of Survival International, which campaigns on behalf of tribal groups around the world, said: “The Ethiopian government rides roughshod over the rights of the Omo Valley tribes, and is now embarking on a disastrous programme to forcibly resettle them. The decision by Exodus to pull out of the region sends a strong message to the Ethiopian government and aid agencies that the world is watching.”
Source the Telegraph


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