Friday, 18 January 2013

Big Spender Tourists

Rwanda will this year market its tourist attractions to Russia and China in a new strategy that is expected to woo more leisure tourists to boost the East African country's tourism revenue.
The move follows the passing of a new tourism marketing strategy last year, which aims at helping the country to target potential markets and consolidate marketing efforts in the existing markets with the view to increase high-end tourists.
Rica Rwigamba, the Head of Tourism and Conservation Directorate at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) which is charged with fast-tracking Rwanda's economic development says that the country seeks to continue increasing the number of foreign leisure tourists who contribute at least 40% of the country's revenue collected from the tourism sector. Mountain gorillas in North West of Rwanda remain the major attraction to most western leisure tourists.
"This year we passed a new tourism marketing strategy and we have identified the need not only to diversify our products but also approaching new markets. Two main markets that we have identified are Russia and China because there are people who have the capacity to travel more and spend more money," Rwigamba said in December 2012.
She says that Rwanda will in 2013 have representatives in the two countries who will particularly be dealing with the markets there.
"We are targeting specialised tourism companies into these markets because they will be able to go and target tourists. We expect them to increase the number of tour operators as well," Rwigamba further explained.
Russia and China are increasingly becoming sources of both high-end leisure tourists and also mass tourists because of the increasing wealth among their populations and also their thirsty to explore new destinations like Africa.
However, Rwigamba added that more efforts will continue to be invested in retaining and developing the existing markets such as the United States, United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany to continue boosting the number of high-spenders from these markets.
More specifically, Rwanda is focusing much on exploiting the Germany and UK tourism markets. Germany continues to be the big spender in Europe whereas UK has developed deep interest and connection with Rwanda which provides a huge potential for Rwanda's tourism sector. But the number of tourists coming from the two countries to Rwanda is still small.
Currently, there are direct flights between Rwanda and some European countries such as Netherlands through KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Belgium through Brussels Airlines and Turkey through the Turkish Airlines.
Rwigamba says that Rwanda will continue to take advantage of these airlines and some European tourists that have developed deep knowledge on the Rwandan tourism market offers as an outstanding advantage for the country to attract more European visitors.
Tourism continues to be Rwanda's leading foreign exchange earner outpacing other export oriented sectors such as coffee, tea and mining in terms of revenue. This year alone, according to the National Export Strategy (NES), tourism revenue is expected to be US$261 million.
But between Jan. and Sept. 2012, RDB says that tourism revenue rose to US$210.5 million, representing an increase of 14% compared to the same period in 2011. The number of visitors also grew by 28% to 800,122 compared the same period in 2011.
Visitors from member states of the East African Community (EAC) and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rose 34% to 639,536 while international visitors rose 4% to 130,586.
However, visitors from what RDB calls key markets such as the U.S. UK. Belgium and Germany are still few in numbers but they are considered big spenders.
RDB's statistics show that the number of Americans who visited Rwanda was higher than that of other individual countries considered as key markets.
At least 18,459 Americans visited Rwanda followed by 10,126 British, 7,675 Belgians and 7,103 Germans. Overall, leisure attracted 70,383 visitors while business attracted 295,322. Leisure visitors rose 19% while business visitors rose 17%.
Tourism bill
Currently, the tourism sector is not regulated by anyone. Whoever has an idea to start a hotel, restaurant and bar or a tour and travel company starts it without a check whether the facility or company meets all the requirements to operate.
However, a legislation that will help to regulate the sector is underway. Rwigamba says that 2013 will see the tourism bill passed and the sector will then have to be regulated afterwards.
"With the tourism Bill, it will be clear in terms of regulating the sector," Rwigamba said, adding that the once the Bill is passed into a law, it will help to set licensing requirements, therefore creating positive impact on the sector especially on the quality of service.
The Bill provides charging of a training levy from the tourism players which will help to build the capacity of the staff in various disciplines but mainly on service delivery. It also provides a timeframe for the existing players to abide by the law once it is in place.
New animal species
This year, Rwigamba says that in order to increase products, the focus has been set on tea tours in Gisovu, and cave tourism.
Also, towards end of the year, a new animal specie will be stocked in the Akagera National park in the east of the country. The animal's name has however been made a secret.
The savanna park, which is home to giraffe, zebras, various bird species, buffalos, elephants and many other animal species, is currently being fenced with the target to complete the exercise in February.
The electric fence is expected to reduce the persistent conflicts between the animals that go outside the park and the people that live around it. Animals have continued to be blamed for destroying crops and killing people while people are also blamed for killing them.
Tourism emerged the highly attractive sector in terms of investment after recording new investment projects worth US$327 million between as of December 19, 2012. These will create at least 2,042 new jobs once they are implemented.
Rwigamba says Rwanda will continue to attract investments in the tourism sector. In this regard, she says that international hotel brands will be sensitised to open up accommodation facilities in the country. Already, some have started while others have shown commitment.
The Kigali Marriot Hotel will be unveiled this year. The U.S. based Marriot Hotel Group has a contract with Chinese and Rwandan five star hotel owners to manage it for over 20 years. Another brand, Radisson Hotels, will also manage a five star hotel that is currently under construction at the upcoming Kigali Convention Center. Hilton has also promised to open a hotel in Rwanda.
Rwigamba says that more local investors will be sensitised to allow international hotel management groups to take over management of their hotels in order to improve on service and brand building for higher returns.

How to Mitigate Human-Wildlife Conflict in North

The recent disappearance of four poachers from Murchison Falls national park, and subsequent attempts by Nwoya district leaders to cut ties with the park, have shed light on the increasing tension and conflict between wildlife and communities in northern Uganda.
Although human-wildlife conflict has existed since time immemorial, the upsurge in northern Uganda presents a paradoxical case study: the relative peace following the defeat of the Lord's Resistance Army allowed residents to return to their land and begin farming again, which put them in direct confrontation with wildlife that had used the vacant land for grazing.
Both commercial and small-scale farmers near the park have suffered huge losses due to marauding elephants, buffalos and wild pigs. As the population in the region increases, long-lasting peace between humans and wildlife is becoming dire.
Finding a lasting solution which controls wildlife transgression into the communities, encourages collaborative game management, and ensures prompt and adequate compensation to affected communities must constitute key priorities to the government and post-conflict intervention initiatives.
There are three main actors whose input and actions are invaluable in this: the citizens of northern Uganda, especially those bordering the game parks; Uganda Wildlife Authority and government.
Citizens of northern Uganda:
Poaching poses numerous negative effects, not only on animal populations but also on the safety of park officials, local community members and the poachers themselves. However, many citizens of northern Uganda, seeing no tangible efforts made by UWA or government to stem the flow of wildlife encroaching on their land, nor compensation mechanisms, see no alternative to defending their livelihoods through lethal means.
The Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) money, having recently been stolen, has left the sub-region lacking in basic infrastructure, service delivery and widespread unemployment. The unemployed youth end up resorting to poaching as their only means of livelihood. But poaching is an unacceptable and shortsighted response. Internal policing mechanisms must be instilled and education on the negative consequences of poaching promoted.
Additionally, many of the community members who spoke to Refugee Law Project (RLP), noted that living so close to a protected national park provided entrepreneurial opportunities, especially in the creation of arts and crafts that could be sold to tourists and potentially offset the negative results of crop damage.
Uganda Wildlife Authority:
UWA lacks the human capacity and resources to effectively monitor wildlife inside and outside the protected areas, which has led to wildlife encroachment onto people's land, as well as animal attacks on the local population. Recorded incidents of human-wildlife conflict have been on the rise following the end of conflict in northern Uganda starting in 2007, and in 2011 there were 229 recorded incidents, with eight deaths registered.
Furthermore, residents of northern Uganda expressed concerns that UWA arbitrarily shoots at trespassers, regardless of whether they are armed. The bodies of those killed are rarely returned for proper burial, but are instead disposed of in the parks.
UWA should take the following measures to ensure safety for both wildlife and local community:
Increasing park staff, both inside and outside protected areas, will allow for more direct involvement with the local community. Presently, park rangers are responsible for 5kms of land at one time. More material resources such as vehicles and communication equipment can alleviate the strain.
With proper funding, long-term studies should be carried out to examine trends in wildlife migration and the best tactics for safely removing animals from local lands. Some of these measures, such as warning shots to scare animals off local land, 80km of trenches to prevent migration and a series of fences to mark park boundaries have been implemented but have proved relatively ineffective.
The collaborative approach to park management under the Wild Life Policy should be comprehensively implemented beyond mere revenue sharing to include community access and promoting local tourism. Currently, revenue sharing with the local government has failed to translate into tangible community benefits, and community members expressed concerns over their inability to visit the game parks.
The government:
As has been seen in other post-conflict situations in the north, the issue of local access to justice, including reparations and compensation for losses of life and property is crucial for peace-building and reconciliation. While the government cannot be held entirely responsible for the actions of wildlife, current laws protect wildlife more than local citizens, and mechanisms to compensate victims of human-wildlife conflict do not exist.
Many of the stakeholders who spoke with Refugee Law Project expressed their concerns that an increase in animal migration is the result of oil surveys taking place close to natural parks. Whereas the negative consequence of oil exploration on wildlife is an unfortunate necessity, funds derived from oil contracts can be used to offset these consequences. These funds can be diverted to additional UWA employees and their training, material resources, and compensation for victims of human-wildlife conflict.
Additionally, current laws should be reformed in order to provide protection for local citizens when they are forced to use lethal force as a last form of protection against encroaching wildlife.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Famous Mountaineer Dies on Kilimanjaro

Ian McKeever, who was 42 and hailed from Lough Dan in Wicklow, was leading a group of climbers when they were struck by lightning.

However, Kilimanjaro Regional Police Commander Robert Boaz could not deny or confirm the incident. "I haven't been informed of the incident because I was in a meeting", the RPC told 'Daily News' yesterday over the phone. Information has it that Mr McKeever was leading members of the Kilimanjaro Achievers Team, a group of veteran climbers, to the top of the mountain.

In 2007, the adventurer scaled Mount Everest. He is also the former holder of a record for completing the seven highest peaks in the world at the fastest time - 32 days fewer than the previous record. In 2009, he was part of a team that attempted to row the South Atlantic Ocean in under 30 days, but his boat lost its rudder and the team was forced to postpone the attempt.

More recently he had been attempting, along with African climbing guide friend Samuel Kinsonga, to break the record for the fastest ascent of Kilimanjaro, as part of their anti-racism Black and White Makes Sense Campaign. Mr McKeever was the author of two books -- Give Me Shelter and Give Me Heroes -- and wasworking on a third book, Give Me 28 Days. On his Facebook page on Wednesday night, a statement said: "It is with deep regret, that we, Ian's family, fiancee Anna and friends, announce his sudden death on Kilimanjaro, today, doing what he loved best." Mr McKeever had been posting messages on the site during the ascent of the mountain.

His last post, on Tuesday, said: "Shira 2, 4,000m. Torrential rain fell all day. Spirits remain good even if drying clothes is proving impossible! We pray for dryer weather tomorrow - the big day. It's the Lava Tower." It is understood that none of the other climbers suffered serious injuries.

Tourism to Save Uganda

"Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, has visited Kigezi region twice in a space of 10 years - the last being two months ago, because he regards it as one of the best places on earth", 

It is not only Bill Gates who thinks Uganda is a beautiful place worth visiting. Uganda was voted as number one tourist destination for 2012 by Lonely Planet (the largest travel guide book and digital media publisher in the world). Virunga volcanoes in South Western Uganda, was identified as one of the top 20 places to visit in the world by National Geographic Channel. Bwindi is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was voted Africa's number one birding site by the African Bird Club, Trip Advisor rated it the best tourism hotspot because it is serene and attractiveness and increased gorilla population.

The tree climbing lions of Ishasha in Kigezi wildlife reserve was voted number one picture in November 2010 by National Geographic. Seguya said Uganda Wildlife Authority has rebranded the national parks in Kigezi region. Bwindi is The Ultimate Gorilla Experience and Mgahinga is Where Gold meets Silver.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Why Uganda should be on your must-see Places in 2013

Uganda, Lonely Planet’s top country for 2012, is a highlights reel of the African landscape. With its dense misty forests, snow-peaked mountains, glassy lakes and sprawling savannahs, it’s no wonder Winston Churchill dubbed this the ‘pearl of Africa’. While mountain gorillas are the allure for many visitors, there is an astounding variety of attractions for tourists.

Having stepped out of the shadows of a deep dark past under Idi Amin and the Lord’s Resistance Army, Uganda is no longer a country to be feared – and widely regarded as one of Africa’s safest destinations. Whether it is wildlife safaris, trekking volcanoes, white-water rafting or just kicking back on the beach, Uganda has the best of Africa covered. Here are four un-missable Ugandan experiences – and where to find them:
Gorilla Tracking
One of the quintessential Uganda experiences is tracking mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and nothing quite prepares you for the first glimpse of black fuzz amidst the dense foliage. The adrenaline kicks in when you’re up close to the imposing figure of a silverback and it’s all very Dian Fossey-like when curious babies peek through leaves and twist, turn and somersault for your entertainment.
Gorilla permits will set you back a hefty US$500 but don’t think twice about forking out for this genuine once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Keep in mind that a portion of the fee goes to the park and gorilla conservation initiatives, helping to ensure their survival.
All the animals, minus the crowds
While it lacks the recognition of its big-name neighbours like Serengeti and Kruger Park, Uganda’s national parks boast all the animals, minus the crowds. Murchison Falls is Uganda’s largest park where you can follow up your morning wildlife drive with a cruise on the Nile to the base of the falls – the perfect way to spy elephants, buffalo, crocs and loads of hippos while you relax with a beer on the boat.
Head to Queen Elizabeth for a better chance of spotting the elusive leopard or otherwise its trademark tree-climbing lions. Few tourists make it as far north as Kidepo Valley, but those who do are rewarded with not only the best selection of animals, but some of the most spectacular scenery in Uganda. And if you are hoping to tick off the Big Five, add Ziwa Sanctuary to your itinerary to get up close to white rhino, which you track on foot.
Adventure by the bucket load
Adrenaline junkies can get their fix any way they like in Uganda. The source of the Nile is a magnet for white-water rafting enthusiasts where you can plunge down Grade-5 rapids or otherwise kayak or try the white-knuckle jet boat ride.
Those who prefer a different kind of plunge can opt for bungee jumping by Bujagali Falls. Trekkers can test their endurance tackling the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Rwenzori Mountains, evocatively described as the ‘mountains of the Moon’ with stunning views of the equatorial mist as your reward at the top. For more treks try Mount Elgon National Park or the dramatic Virunga volcanos where the borders of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda converge. Adrift Adventure can sort out all your white-water needs while the good folk at Rwenzori Trekking Services will assist with your trek to the moon.
Scenery to die for
Once the safari addiction wanes and your body needs some r&r from those bone-jarring bus journeys, Uganda has some beautiful spots for resting up. Magical Lake Bunyonyi has intoxicating views where the mist hangs low over terraced hillsides and dugout canoes glide through the still waters.
Ssese Islands in the oceanic-sized Lake Victoria is where you’ll find some of the finest white sand beaches and burning sunsets – the kind of place you’ll want to seek out a hammock and bring a good book. Then there is stunning Sipi Falls in eastern Uganda, which is earning a reputation for its uninhibited views of the crashing falls. Don’t miss the coffee tours, where you’ll be shown the end-to-end process at a local coffee plantation, culminating with a delicious steaming cuppa while watching the sun set over banana plantations.