London Stansted announces new Air Senegal service to Dakar

London Stansted has announced the launch of UK’s only direct service to the Senegalese capital, Dakar, by Air Senegal starting this summer.

Dakar is the latest destination recently announced by Stansted, after Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Amritsar, Istanbul and Reykjavik. The city known for its long-distance rally, Dakar is located on the Cape-Vert peninsula on the Atlantic coast and is the westernmost city on the African mainland.

Air Senegal is set to operate its first ever UK service from London Stansted, and will operate three flights a week starting on June 26. Operating on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, flights will leave Stansted at 7.50am, arriving at Dakar’s Blaise Diagne International Airport at 2.05pm. On the return they depart Dakar at 12.15am and arrive at Stansted at 6.25am.

The route will also benefit the 400,000 people in London Stansted’s catchment area who currently travel to Dakar and other key African cities from other UK airports. The flight times will also allow passengers to connect to several countries across Africa, including the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Mali, Republic of Guinea and Nigeria.

London Stansted’s Chief Commercial Officer, Aboudy Nasser, said: ‘We are delighted that Air Senegal has chosen London Stansted for their first and only direct service from the UK to Dakar. It’s another new long-haul destination to add to London Stansted’s departure boards which will connect people and businesses from the region to a new and important market.

‘We know that 400,000 people in London Stansted’s catchment area currently travel to Dakar and other key African cities every year from other UK airports, so this new service will not only provide greater choice but help cut down unnecessary journeys.

Air Senegal will use an Airbus A321 on the route offering economy seats and fully reclining flat beds in business class. The flight will also provide people and businesses the opportunity to connect onto flights to several countries across Africa via its Dakar hub, including the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Mali, Republic of Guinea and Nigeria.

RwandAir launches non-stop flights from London Gatwick to Rwanda

Rwandan airlines RwandAir is planning to launch the first non-stop flight from the United Kingdom to Rwanda, one of the emerging tourism destinations in Africa, on May 26, Gatwick Airport said in a release.

Operating three times a week from London Gatwick to the Rwandan capital Kigali, the service is scheduled with UK passengers in mind. The flights will be operated on a new Airbus A330-200, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The flight time is 8 hours 40 minutes, with return fares starting from £372.00. Passengers travelling on the new RwandAir service in Business Class will have the facility of fully-flat beds on overnight flights.

With the new service, British travellers can explore Rwanda’s incredible scenery and the rich ecosystems in its three national parks. Volcanoes National Park, along the Congo border, is known for its mountain gorillas as well as the endangered golden monkey. The Nyungwe forest in Southern Rwanda offers travellers rich biodiversity, with over 300 bird species, over 75 species of mammal and 12 primate species. Akagera in eastern Rwanda is home to all of Africa’s most famed game animals. With the arrival of the new black rhino, in addition to elephants, African buffalo, leopards and lions, Rwanda offers an exciting safari experience in Africa.

Guy Stephenson, Gatwick Airport Chief Commercial Officer, said: ‘This new service makes the adventure of a life time in the heart of Africa a real possibility for more people than ever before, be they spotting gorillas in the wild, game animals on safari or visiting the beautiful tea plantations.

‘Rwanda is the latest long haul destination Gatwick serves and we know proudly boast more than 50 long haul routes in total – a claim few other international airports can make. Only last week Gatwick became the world’s top low cost airport, a ranking helped by our growing low cost long haul services to North America and the Far East.’

Ms. Belise Kariza, the chief tourism officer at the Rwanda Development Board, commented: ‘Rwanda has seen a transformation in recent years and is now becoming one of the most sought-after destinations for premium travellers. With the new non-stop RwandAir flights to Kigali, and the opening of several premium lodges, Rwanda will be making a big impact as a must-visit country.’

Leading travel brand One&Only will launch a new lodge in Nyungwe this year, while Wilderness Safaris is planning to open Bisate Lodge near Volcanoes National Park, the airport said. Tour operators like Red Savannah, Expert Africa and Wild Frontiers are also offering personalised holidays and tours in the country, it added.

Fastjet losses cause shares to nosedive

The value of shares in budget airline, Fastjet, fell yesterday after it reported deepening losses and a reduction in its cash pile.

The negative results reported by the British-based holding company for a group of low-cost carriers that operate primarily in Africa are believed to be the result of the failure of its ambitious drive to fly more planes.

The airline reported operating losses for the first half of this year of $31m, almost three times as high as its $12.8m loss in the same months last year. This meant that its pre-tax profit of $6.4m in the first half of 2015 has translated to a loss of $15m for the first six months of this year.

As a result, the company’s stock fell by more than 17 percent to £0.2095p following the announcement. The company’s reduction in cash has also caused concern, falling from USD71m in June last year to $3.9m by the end of the first half of 2016. However, the company has since raised a further $20m to gain some breathing space.

Gerald Khoo, an analyst with Liberum was quoted in The Telegraph, saying: ‘Challenging economic conditions in Tanzania and overly ambitious capacity growth resulted in a collapse in load factors. Neither passenger numbers nor revenue kept pace with the additions to seat capacity, and losses have grown.’ He added that that the airline’s ‘substantial’ 61 percent increase in seating capacity in the first half ‘was not a commercial success’. This was due to a reduction in its load factor.

BA to use new Heathrow slots for Africa routes

British Airways, a UK-based air carrier, is to use the slots at Heathrow that it recently obtained with its purchase of low-cost airline, Bmi, to increase its flights to Africa.

The new Africa services will include an extra flight each week to Sierra Leone and Liberia, giving the airline a total of four weekly flights to the two countries, as well as additional flights to Nairobi in Kenya and Johannesburg in South Africa. North African destinations will benefit from increased services to Agadir and Marrakech in Morocco from next winter, and a fourth weekly flight will be added to Tripoli in Libya from September 2 this year.

BA’s general manager for Africa and Europe, Gavin Halliday, said, ‘The acquisition of Bmi has enabled us to expand our flying programme in Africa to serve 18 routes in 15 countries. We now fly to more places, more often than we ever have before in the 80 years we have served the continent. These flights link growing African destinations to London and provide onward connections to the world’s business capitals.’

The Moroccan flights will increase from 7 to 10 per week for Marrakech, and from 2 to 3 per week for Agadir, both from October this year.

The additional flight to the West African destinations of Freetown in Sierra Leone and Monrovia in Liberia is to commence from October 31. It will complement the three existing flights that were launched to those destinations in November last year. Three extra flights from Heathrow to Johannesburg will operate on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, in addition to the present twice-daily service. The new Sunday flight to Nairobi means that the route now has eight flights per week available from BA.

Saharan tourism affected by Algerian gas plant attack

Tourism in the Algerian region of the Sahara Desert, an area that has traditionally been popular with foreign tourists wishing to experience the desert at close quarters, has been affected by the recent terrorist attack on a gas plant.

During the attack, workers at the plant were taken as hostages and a number were killed before soldiers liberated the installation. Before the attack, the awe-inspiring dunes and wild mountains had drawn foreigners to Algeria’s desert regions for decades. However, the latest attacks, which were apparently carried out by factions sympathetic to Muslim terrorist Group, Al Qaeda, could possibly put an end to tourism, as tourists are now considering the area too risky to visit, and new local government controls will impose more restrictions on tourism.

Chris Scott, a Sahara guide, said, ‘The Sahara is an iconic wilderness much like the Himalaya or Antarctica and most agree that Algeria, the ninth biggest country in the world, is the best place to experience the full range of desert landscapes, authentic Tuareg culture, pre-historic rock art, adventure and so on,’ ‘It’s all there and the people of the south have decades of experience in delivering what tourists want.’

The tourist count already indicates that tourists are reluctant to visit the area. The numbers of tourists visiting the deep south of Algeria dropped from 1,807 in 2011 to 643 last year, and in Tamanrasset, the main Saharan city, 70 of the 76 tourist companies have closed. Cancellations are common, and with many nations issuing travel advisories, tourists are few and far between.

In the past, the region was especially popular with Europeans who were keen to visit the vast deserts, palm-fringed oases and rugged mountains that feature wall paintings that are close to 10,000-years-old.

Kenya opens luxurious safari camp

Kenya has opened a luxurious safari camp for those wishing to enjoy comfortable accommodation while experiencing nature in the wild.

Last week, the nation opened the doors of a new safari camp to travellers, which has luxury as its main theme. The Olare Mara Kempinski Masai Mara offers a chance for luxury seeking safari-tourists to enjoy modern amenities while enjoying Africa’s experiences. The safari camp has 12 tents, five of which have twin beds and seven have been designed for double-occupancy. It is located within the Olare Orok Conservancy, known for its large number of lion prides.

The tents are built on a vast swathe of land and have an elevated deck with a private balcony. Visitors have access to unobstructed views of the Mara Plains and the Ntiakitiak River. The tents have been designed so that visitors do not lose track of their surroundings even when they are in their rooms. Each tent has bathrooms with a hair dryer and bath salts for use when soaking in the bath. There are also plush seating areas with sofas and rugs, and a comfortable four-poster bed. Newly married guests can opt for a honeymoon suite that has a private plunge pool.

The camp’s visitors can watch the resident hippos and take daily chauffeured drives into the Mara. They can also opt for authentic local food that is prepared in true African style. Many of the meals offered at the site are made from ingredients harvested from the on-site organic garden, and about 70 percent of the camp’s energy is harnessed from solar power, an added bonus for those who are eco conscious.

A three-night/four-day stay starts at $435 per night, per person. Olare Mara Kempinski Masai Mara is a one-hour flight from Nairobi, or 90 minutes from Mombasa.

Kenya Attracts British Travellers

With the withdrawal of a travel advisory for Kenya by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), a UK government agency that is responsible for the interests of UK citizens overseas, more British holidaymakers are travelling to the African country.

Tourism in Kenya had suffered badly last summer, but now visitors are returning from all over Europe, and especially from the UK.

According to the FCO, around 203,290 British nationals visited Kenya in 2011, based on Kenya Tourist Board figures. Most visits are trouble-free, and only 94 British nationals required consular assistance in Kenya between April 2011 and March 2012.

Stuart Britton, the managing director of Somak Holidays, a company that operates tours to Kenya, said, ‘It’s a new generation, five-star beach resort and we’re getting superb feedback. Our customers are also pleased with their experiences at the smaller boutique hotels, such as the Tijara Beach and Afrochic.’

However tourists to the country are advised against travelling to within 60kms of the Kenya-Somali border; or to Kiwayu and coastal areas north of Pate Island; to Garissa District; to the Eastleigh area of Nairobi; and to low income areas of Nairobi, where the threat of crime, terror attacks and kidnapping still exists.

The cost of travelling to Kenya is likely to fall with the launch of the Fastjet budget airline, which will be flying to Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The national airline, Kenya Airways, is also set to launch its own budget brand, JamboJet, which is expected to commence operations in the second half of the year.

Kenya organises cultural festival to promote tourism

Kenya is holding a cultural festival in Mombasa to attract tourists.

The event, which was launched on Wednesday, would run for four days and would provide a platform for various groups to showcase cultural events. It is expected that the event would provide a window to the rich cultural legacy of the nation and also boost tourism in the coming years. The festival is being organised by the Research Institute of Swahili Studies of Eastern Africa in association with the Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association (MCTA). The events are to be held at the Fort Jesus Museum.

The theme of the festival is ‘towards peaceful co-existence through culture to promote tourism’. Authorities devised the event in order to beat falling number of tourists and also to address concerns that the culture of the nation was not adequately being highlighted to tourists.

MCTA executive officer, Millicent Odhiambo, said, ‘What we want to spread is a message that Mombasa is safe for tourists. We are all aware the numbers into Mombasa has taken a nose dive and businesses are suffering. This will directly impact on the lives of people living in this region. The Cultural Festival, we hope, will express to the world, Coast is safe and like Lamu build it to an annual festival that attracts the world into the Mombasa county.’

The cultural festival will include more than 15 activities including a fishing competition, henna designs, poem reciting competition, traditional dances and others.

Tourist firms in Botswana said to be aiding poachers

Tourist firms in Botswana are said to be abetting poachers in the nation.

The finding has raised concerns as an industry that should have encouraged wildlife is expected to lead to the end of many species of plants and animals unique to Botswana.

A spokesperson for the Botswana Defence Force said that the unit uses force only in self-defence and that it has been arresting suspected poachers who are then sent to jail. However, conservationists feel that law enforcement agencies are not having the necessary impact needed to curb poaching in the nation. Unlike nations such as South Africa, poaching is afforded much leniency that could lead to the decline and ultimate extinction of plants and animals.

As law enforcing agencies are combating poachers who kill for both commercial reasons as well as to appease hunger, Botswana is yet to prosecute a commercial poacher. On the other hand, many Botswana citizens who hunt for food are reportedly routinely jailed and released. Analysts feel that Botswana’s prosecution record is poor despite several law enforcement agencies being involved in anti-poaching operations. In spite of the activities of intelligence units of the Department of Wildlife, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security and BDF units, rhino poaching is common and authorities seem to be powerless in bringing to book organised commercial poaching syndicates.

There are allegations that commercial poaching in the Chobe National Park is mainly sponsored by big names in the tourism industry. It is believed that several tourist facilities take pride in serving game meat obtained through poaching. Some tourist locations have reportedly gone a step further and have kept exotic animals in farms to be killed when the need arises. These animals are sourced from the forests.

There are also allegations that tourism promoters are offering counter intelligence to commercial poachers to help them operate better in the forests. Poachers are also said to have ample insider information, which helps them immensely to counter the government’s conservation efforts.

Fastjet Offers New Routes on Sale

Fastjet, a new airline offering low cost services to Africa, is offering airfares from its first base in Tanzania.

The airline is expected to commence its operations from November 29, 2012, from Dar es Salaam, to Kilimanjaro and Mwanza.

The airline has recently acquired three Airbus A319 aircraft, that will be operated by Rubicon Diversified Investments, a UK-based holding company, in consultation with Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of Easyjet, a UK-based low cost airline.

Fastjet chief executive officer, Ed Winter, said, ‘Air travel is no longer an exclusive option for a small minority in Tanzania. Fastjet will make flying an affordable option for more Tanzanians than ever before, bringing new opportunities for trade, leisure trips, and family visits.’

We have had a great response to our first tickets going on sale with over 100 seats sold within the first two hours for flights departing from November 29.’

The airline tickets are currently available on sale through its newly launched website, fastjet.com, as well as through local travel agents in Africa.

Fastjet has also announced its new brand, which replaces an existing logo with an African Grey Parrot. The new logo echoes the mission, ethics and target audience of the airline.

Winter added, ‘The African Grey is renowned for its intelligence and is therefore a perfect personification of Fastjet’s motto; smart travel. We are delighted to be unveiling this new branding today, which better reflects our individual corporate identity and speaks to our key audiences.

We hope that our friendly new mascot and logo will soon become universally recognized as symbols of reliability, efficiency and safety.’

The airline chairman, David Lenigas, said, ‘We are excited that the launch is now imminent and that Fastjet will be turning from a concept into a reality.’

However, responding to media scrutiny, he added: ‘A recent story emanating from East Africa and picked up by the Daily Telegraph contained material inaccuracies regarding disputes with two Fly540 (Kenya) suppliers. Whilst we are not able to comment directly on these specific cases, we can confirm that the amounts in dispute are not deemed material, and that we will vigorously defend the company’s interests as these cases progress. Our shareholders would expect us only to settle invoices that are accurate and appropriate.

The launch of Fastjet has generated enormous interest in East Africa and we are delighted with the strong partnerships being forged with suppliers and Governments across the region.’