Kenya Tourism Board hosts buyers from around the globe to showcase destinations

October 17, 2013
magicalkenya
BY PROF. DR. WOLFGANG H. THOME, ETN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT

The Kenya Tourism Board, ahead of the much-anticipated Magical Kenya Travel Expo 2013, has decided to tackle global perception about the destination head-on by sending Hosted Buyers across the country to experience Kenya’s star attractions and see for themselves that the destination is fundamentally safe to travel to and for tourists to visit. The buyers who come to attend Kenya’s premier international tourism showcase on home soil, held from October 18-20 at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, has attracted over 150 high-powered individuals responsible for making decisions on which destinations will feature in their vacation programs for the forthcoming seasons, forming basically a panel of “judges” on the future of Kenya’s tourism industry.

Kenya has seen arrivals in the first half of this year decline below last year’s figures by double digits, a trend which the industry says needs reversing, though the opinions are divided on how best to accomplish this turnaround.

Hosting buyers and international media is of course an excellent start to bring the spotlight back to the destination, and a positive spotlight for that matter, as key decision makers gain their own experience on site rather than by googling the destination. Travel writers worth their salt of course also have the ability to attract the attention of their readers to a particular destination and create those images in their minds, vibrant and colorful and enticing, to have them just want to come to a place like Kenya. A unique destination, offering sundrenched beaches along the Indian Ocean shores to the shores of Lake Victoria and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Rift Valley lakes in between, dozens of national parks, game reserves and private conservancies giving the Big Five experience a new dimension and of course Mt. Kenya right in the middle of the country, where the snows fall right on the equator.

Therefore, KTB’s efforts are commendable and targeting the right groups, hoping for returns on this significant investment they are injecting into the generic marketing of the destination.

At home though challenges have arisen too which need urgent attention, and strangely the position is maintained in much of the mainstream media as if the last few weeks would not have had a very significant impact on hotel, resort and lodge occupancies. To the contrary I should say after only a day in Nairobi, as all my calls to contacts in the Kenyan hospitality industry confirmed one thing – a downward trend.

Equally strangely it seems also that industry leaders have not yet come out in force, standing united, and telling government from an open platform what needs to be done on the home front to reverse this negative trend.

When discussing the issue with several key stakeholders yesterday, they all agreed with me that an immediate five point plan may be the start to inject new growth into the vital tourism industry, which for decades has been in the top three of Kenya’s economy in terms of foreign exchange earnings and job creation.

For one, the ridiculous VAT impositions must be reversed immediately. They have added a huge extra cost burden on packages at a time when – just compare Egypt here where resort prices were dropped by over 50 percent from regular contract levels to stay in business – special offers are needed and not higher prices. Tourism, which the same government professes to be an invisible export, must be treated like any other export, made free of VAT, full stop. This the government can fix with ease, and if they do not it will be a harsh lesson when the wake up to reality in coming months.

Secondly, investment incentives, including the availability of affordable low cost loans, is needed to allow in particular the coastal resorts to finally invest in modernization and refurbishments across the board. Some resorts have excelled in doing this persistently, like the Serena, the Whitesands, the Leopard Beach, Hemingways to name but a few, but most still are stuck in the time warp of 20 years ago, same old menus and same old entertainment. Here is a chance for Kenya to in one fell swoop ‘reform’ the sector and raise quality and ratings to the levels of competing destinations like Zanzibar.

Moving on to the next point, the airlines need to be engaged to come on board with joint promotions but also to find a welcome reception when it comes to traffic rights. I am a friend of Kenya Airways, no doubt there, but at times the objectives of one have to take into account the objectives of many. Offer airlines that key access to Mombasa, including where asked for fifth freedom rights, because that is one thing the coast this year lacks, enough seats to bring enough clients to fill those empty beds. Qatar Airways is just one case in point and the ball is firmly in this government’s court now.

Fourth point would be to make a very public and very visible statement vis-a-vis the darned visa fees – I wrote about that yesterday from my own experience where the attitude of the immigration officer was basically telling me – and hopefully she was the one and only rotten apple in that lot at JKIA – to either pay up or get lost. Half the fees like done in 2008, or scrap them altogether. Some might say the 25 or 50 US Dollars are hardly making a dent into the holiday budget of travelers coming to Kenya, but there is a psychological value in such a move when Kenya tells the world, “Hey we are open for business and until whatever date, you can actually come in for free…”

Lastly and perhaps one of the key issues, this government must write a check big enough to take KTB’s fight to the global market places, beyond the home soil like this week at the Magical Kenya Expo, beyond the traditional trade fairs like WTM and ITB. Give KTB the funds to go global, blitz the new and emerging markets hand in hand with those airlines flying there, first and foremost our own flag carrier Kenya Airways of course, and give KTB the ability to allow the private sector to back pack on such activities at a largely subsidized cost. Airlines should be more than happy to extend AD 75 tickets, not as recently seen a frugal 10 percent and expecting a big hug and thank you for THAT, because they will fill their seats to Kenya.

There sure will be other measures one can take, but knowing the attention span of politicians, outside election campaigns that is, a five point plan for now must do. I hope that leading stakeholders will stand up this week and tell their Minister and their President what must be done, as the time for asking nicely seems to have run out. Time to act, time to do it now or carry the burden of induced failure when the sector missed forecasts and targets by a large margin, impacting on foreign exchange earnings and the job market.

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Egypt travel advice: is it safe to go?

August 15, 2013

Egypt Travel

By 

As Egypt reels from the worst violence in decades, the nation’s vital tourism industry seems certain to suffer. Egyptian security officials are forcefully dispersing sit-ins, resulting in a spiralling toll in deaths and injuries, while the country is under emergency law until further notice. So what to do if you’re already booked to holiday there?

The Foreign Office (FCO) currently advises against all but essential travel to the country, except for the Red Sea resorts, such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab. Meanwhile, the Egyptian daily newspaper al Alhram reports that the ministry of state for antiquities has closed all archaeological sites and museums across Egypt.

British Airways says it has altered flights schedules to Cairo so that they do not land in the evening, into the dusk-to-dawn curfew that has been imposed across the capital and other major areas. “We are keeping the situation in Egypt under constant review,” a British Airways spokesperson said. “We are also offering customers the option of rebooking to a later date, or to another destination.”

Britain’s biggest travel operator, Thomson and First Choice, states: “The majority of our customers are in Sharm el-Sheikh which is a considerable distance – indeed, an eight-hour drive – from Cairo. There have been no related incidents in Sharm el-Sheikh or any of the other popular Red Sea tourist areas.” Booking conditions for the resort destinations of Sharm el Sheikh, Marsa Alam, Taba and Hurghada remain “as normal”, with tourists flying into the resorts airports. The operator currently has 11,769 British tourists in Egypt.

The vast majority of travellers heading to the Red Sea resorts fly there directly. EasyJet runs flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, which land outside of curfew hours. A spokesperson for the airline said the company can refund tickets that have already been booked, but added they haven’t seen any demand for this.

The UK travel association Abta also states that conditions relating to travel to Red Sea resorts are continuing as normal, although customers travelling outside of this area “will be offered the option of deferring their date of travel, transferring to another destination or having a full refund for as long as the advice remains in place”. It assures that: “Red Sea resorts are largely self-contained and autonomous with the majority of customers staying in large complexes, often all-inclusive with a wide selection of bars and restaurants.”

But the FCO has further cautions on what travellers should do when they actually get to these resorts. Its latest statement says: “Travel advice for Red Sea resorts remains unchanged but local authorities in Sharm el-Sheikh have temporarily stopped tourist excursions. In Hurghada the police have advised tourists to remain within hotel grounds. We advise British tourists to follow the regulations set by the local authorities and to obey curfews. British tourists should also ensure they keep valid identification with them at all times.”

Travel journalist Matthew Teller, who specialises in the Middle East, says that there is an inherent difficulty around travel advice in such cases.

“What the FCO does or doesn’t say rules the roost in terms of what tour operators can and can’t offer clients.” Even if it doesn’t seem like you can do much while you’re there, major tour operators aren’t likely to let you change plans if you’re booked to travel to an area the FCO has deemed to be safe for travel.

Meanwhile, cruise operators MSC, Costa and Holland America Line are all reported to have pulled their Egypt-bound ships. This latest crisis will be a sharp blow to the Egyptian tourism industry, which is struggling to recover in the turbulent period following the uprising of 2011, which deposed Hosni Mubarak.

In 2010, a record 14m tourists arrived in Egypt and the industry represented 13% of GDP, directly or indirectly employing one in seven workers. But even before the recent crisis, the Egyptian tourism federation estimated hotel occupancy rates in Cairo to be around 15% while in Luxor – the site of the Valley of the Kings, that figure was barely in single digits.


Brazil World Cub 2014 in danger to be cancelled ?

June 24, 2013

brazil-worldcup-2014

Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, New York, Berlin, Australia, among many places with a Brazilian population protested to give  support for what’s happening in their home country Brazil.

More than a million demonstrators marched through Brazil’s biggest cities on Thursday, with many participants calling for fans to boycott the biggest travel & tourism event ever in Brazil – the World Cup.

CBN radio and the website of the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, both respected, mainstream media, carried reports speculating that the eight-team Football’s Confederations Cup tournament, considered a dry run for next year’s World Cup, was in danger. However, FIFA says there are no plans to cancel the tournament. The Brazilian News paper Estado said that two FIFA vehicles were attacked in Salvador, where Uruguay played Nigeria on Wednesday, and its employees had been instructed not to wear uniforms outside their hotel.

World football’s governing body FIFA has asked Brazil’s government to provide security guarantees amid fears that sweeping civil unrest could pose a threat to the Confederations Cup.

Less than a day after widespread rioting in Brazil’s biggest cities, FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke denied speculation the tournament, considered a 2014 World Cup warmup event, could be aborted.

“We have asked for security measures that we need in place for the competition to continue until the end,” Valcke told Estado de S. Paulo.

“I hope that this doesn’t last until 2014. It’s a problem that Brazil needs to resolve, not FIFA. We are the wrong target.”

The protests, which started in Sao Paulo last week over rises in transport fares, have morphed into a nationwide movement against government corruption and the cost of the biggest travel & tourism event on the globe – the World Cup.

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas as protestors attempted to enter the foreign ministry in Brasilia while violent clashes were also reported in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

About 150,000 anti-government demonstrators again took to streets in several Brazilian cities Saturday and engaged police in some isolated, intense conflicts. Anger over political corruption emerged as the unifying issue for the demonstrators, who vowed to stay in the streets until concrete steps are taken to reform the political system.

Across Brazil, protesters gathered to denounce legislation, known as PEC 37, that would limit the power of federal prosecutors to investigate crimes — which many fear would hinder attempts to jail corrupt politicians.


Ethiopian Airlines Awarded Best Airline Staff Service in Africa

June 20, 2013

EAL

The 2013 World Airline Awards were announced at the Paris Air Show yesterday and  Ethiopian Airlines (Ethiopian), the fastest growing airline in Africa, was  awarded as the Best Airline Staff Service in Africa.

The World Airline  Awards are presented by Skytrax, the world’s largest airline and airport review  site. Awards are bestowed based on reviews from more than 180 million completed
customer surveys measuring passenger experiences on the ground and onboard.  Ethiopian’s outstanding customer service propelled the airline to the top of the  Africa category.

“This award is a testament to the hard work of  Ethiopian’s more than 7,000 employees,” said Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of  Ethiopian. “We are proud that the training and development of our staff is being recognized and pledge that we will continue to provide the best possible travel experience to our customers.”

Ethiopian is currently implementing a  15-year strategic plan, Vision 2025, which emphasizes five-star service delivery, along with state-of-the-art technology and a modern fleet. The World Airline Award affirms that Ethiopian is on the right track.

About

Ethiopian Airlines Ethiopian Airlines (Ethiopian) is the fastest growing  airline in Africa. In its almost seven decades of operation, Ethiopian has  become one of the continent’s leading carriers, unrivalled in efficiency and operational success.

Ethiopian commands the lion’s share of the pan-African passenger and cargo network, operating the youngest and most modern fleet to more than 74 international destinations across five continents. The Ethiopian fleet includes ultra-modern and environmentally friendly aircraft such as the Boeing 787, Boeing 777-200LR, Boeing 777-200LR Freighter, and Bombardier  Q-400 with double cabin. In fact, Ethiopian is the first airline in Africa to  own and operate these aircraft.

Ethiopian is currently implementing a 15-year strategic plan, entitled “Vision 2025,” which will see the airline become the leading aviation group in Africa with seven business centers:
Ethiopian Domestic and Regional Airline; Ethiopian International Passenger  Airline; Ethiopian Cargo; Ethiopian MRO; Ethiopian Aviation Academy; Ethiopian In-flight Catering Services; and Ethiopian Ground Service.

Ethiopian is a multi-award-winning airline and a member of Star Alliance since 2011, registering an average growth of 25 percent in the past seven years.


Ethiopia ignores war threat from Egypt in order to ratify Nile Treaty

June 14, 2013

ethiopia nile

By Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

 

The longstanding row over the use of the Nile waters, for which the dictates of the 1929 and 1959 treaties between Britain and Egypt were shoved down the throats of the Nile basin countries on independence, resulted last year in the required number of members of the Nile Basin Initiative to sign on to a new negotiated treaty to make it legally binding, inspite of Egypt and Khartoum Sudan refusing to accept the majority verdict. Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia signed the new treaty while new member South Sudan indicated they too would add their signature, possibly ahead or alongside the meeting next week when the 21st Council of Ministers session will take place in Juba.

In recent weeks did Egypt sound the war drums in an attempt to intimidate Ethiopia not to ratify the new treaty and halt their plans for the construction of a new hydro electric power plant on the Blue Nile, aptly named the Great Renaissance Dam, to which the regime in Cairo vehemently objected. A grand blunder by a national TV station in Egypt then showed live scenes from discussions in parliament in Cairo, where the majority of members advocated strongly for military action against Ethiopia, leaving the Morsi regime in a bind as their intent and purpose became exposed for the world to see.

The 6.000 MW project, which is thought to have the capacity to not only transform Ethiopia’s economy but also provide electricity to neighbours South Sudan, Sudan (Khartoum) and even to Kenya, is a do or die project for Ethiopia and work on temporarily diverting the Nile at the site where the dam is due to be constructed has started last week. Egypt’s Morsi left ‘all options open’ following the publicity debacle his regime suffered when members of his party were outspoken about blowing up the dam to ‘save our water’, with the result that the riparian states upstream have moved closer together to resist such aggression and extortion.

Ethiopa has now formally ratified the new Nile Treaty and the other water producing countries like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have equally left no doubt, that while they respect the right of Egypt to water from the Nile, it will be the framework of the new treaty and not, as Egypt and Khartoum continue to insist, the old agreements of 1929 and 1959 which will henceforth govern the use of the Nile waters and the waters of upstream lakes and contributory rivers.

Interesting were opinions emerging from conservation circles in Kenya, who have been hugely critical of Ethiopia’s plans for the Gibe III dam, which is bound to very likely cause irreparable damage to the Lake Turkana ecosystem: ‘We have no issues at all with the new Renaissance dam in Ethiopia. Perhaps our support for that dam can persuade Addis to review the issues we presented about Gibe III and the impact that has on Lake Turkana. We support Ethiopia’s right to build the new Renaissance dam and their right to decide on how to use their share of Nile waters. With 6.000 MW it will provide enough power for Ethiopia, South Sudan and even for us here in Kenya to purchase from Ethiopia. Our cooperation on the LAPSSET project too should signal to Addis that quid pro quo has its advantages so why not give back on the issue of Gibe III’ said a regular source in Nairobi, who in the past was often making comments when touching on the Gibe III project and its impact on the Lake Turkana ecosystem.

There are strong indications that alongside the meeting in Juba next week, the upstream riparian states will also confer over the threats made against Ethiopia and discuss contingencies and countermeasures, should Egypt continue to show open hostility against fellow member Ethiopia. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also waded into the debate when he commented on the topic while speaking about the budget reading in Kampala. He was quoted in local media to have said: ‘I have seen statements in the media coming out of the government of Egypt about the commendable work of Ethiopia. What Ethiopia is doing is what governments in Africa should do.

The new government of Egypt should not repeat the mistakes of previous governments, the biggest threat to the Nile is not building hydropower dams, the biggest threat is the continued under development of countries in the tropics. No African wants to hurt Egypt, however, Egypt cannot continue to hurt black Africa’ coming out clearly on the side of Ethiopia and setting the stage for a partisan meeting of the Nile Basin Initiative ministers next week in Juba. Perhaps time for the regime in Cairo to sit back and reflect on how they are now perceived among the African upstream riparian states as a war mongering radical country, and to devise ways and means to cooperate instead of confront, to work with the African countries and not against them and how to formulate new partnerships instead of trampling the rights of African countries into the desert dust. Watch this space.


Ethiopian Airlines CEO Elected to IATA Board of Governors

June 13, 2013

EAL pilots

Tewolde-Gebremariam EAL CEO

Tewolde-Gebremariam EAL CEO

Ethiopian Airlines, the fastest growing airline in Africa, is pleased to announce that its CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, has been elected to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Board of Governors.

IATA is a trade association for the world’s airlines. Its 240 airline members comprise 84 percent of the world’s total air traffic and its Board of Governors consists of top executives from 31 airlines from around the world. Mr. Gebremariam will join Presidents, Chairmen and CEOs of some of the world’s largest airlines, further placing Ethiopian Airlines at the forefront of the airline industry.
“I am delighted to join my distinguished colleagues on the IATA Board of Directors,” said Gebremariam. This appointment is recognition of not only Gebremariam, but also of Ethiopian Airlines. With more than 7,000 staff members, one of the industry’s most up-to-date fleets, and service to 72 international destinations, Ethiopian is quickly becoming Africa’s premier carrier.
About Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines, the fastest growing airline in Africa, made its maiden international flight to Cairo in1946 and now provides dependable services to 72 international destinations spanning four continents.
Ethiopian Airlines is proud to be a Star Alliance member. The Star Alliance network is the leading global airline network offering customers convenient worldwide reach and a smoother travel experience. The Star Alliance network offers more than 21,555 daily flights to 1,356 airports in 193 countries.
Ethiopian is a multi-award winner for its commitment and contributions toward the development and growth of the African aviation industry and in recognition of its distinguished long-haul operations enhanced by the introduction of new routes and products. Recently, Ethiopian won the “Airline Reliability Performance Award” from Bombardier Aerospace; “African Airline of the Year Award” from Air Transport Quarterly Magazine; “Transformation Award 2012” from Planet Africa Network; and the “International Diamond Prize for Excellence in Quality” from the European Society for Quality Research (ESQR). Also Captain Desta Zeru, Vice President of Flight Operations for Ethiopian, won an “Africa Legend of Travel” award from African Travel Quarterly (ATQ) magazine and Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam won “African CEO of the Year” from the African CEO Forum as well as “African Business Leader of the Year” from the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA).
With its acquisition of and firm orders for several new modern fleet, the airline is well positioned to pursue aggressively the implementation of its 2025 strategic plan to become the leading aviation group in Africa. for more info contact www.admastravel.com

Arab tourism sector still recovering from Arab Spring

May 31, 2013

arab spring

The Arab tourism sector has recorded a $ 15 billion loss as a result of the Arab Spring, in addition to the loss of around 10 million tourists, according to Bandar Al-Fuhaid, director of the Arab Tourism Organization (ATO).

“We expect that global expenditure on tourism will be around $ 570 billion and provide more than 450 million jobs. We also expect that there will be more than 1 billion international tourist arrivals worldwide by the end of the year,” he said.
“Many people have lost their jobs in the tourism sector as a result of the Arab Spring. This has prompted the ATO to hold conferences in an attempt to arrive at solutions to cut losses in the sector,” he said.

A number of activities were announced on the sidelines of the visit of Mamdouh Aquz, governor of Isparta in Turkey, to the city of Taif. These include an agreement between Turkey and Saudi Arabia to initiate training and educational exchange programs. In addition, Isparta will provide training in the production of rosewater.

“At the beginning, we will invite 10 investors to be trained in the latest technology for the production of rosewater. There are 5 million domestic tourists who visit Isparta every year and we hope that we can get the same number of international tourists,” he said.

“Cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Turkey will not be confined to the rosewater industry. There is also a project in aviation, with a budget of 30 million euros. Another project in the pipeline is to guarantee investments launched by the Islamic Development Bank to protect investor rights in case of political crisis,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia sees investment in Turkey as a strategic step,” he concluded.


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