Delta Air Lines receives rating from Executive Travel Magazine

Executive Travel Magazine has rated delta Air Lines, an air carrier that operates between Africa and the United States.

Executive Travel Magazine’s readers nominated the company as ‘Best Flight Experience to Africa’. The carrier won gold status, which is the highest level award. Other contenders for the award were South African Airways and British Airways.

The nomination was part of the magazine’s Leading Edge Awards, 2012. The awards, which are given annually, honour travel providers that service clients with innovative and high-quality products and services, and this is the 10th year that the awards have been made.

Perry Cantarutti, Delta Air Line’s senior vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said, ‘Delta has flown almost three million customers between Africa and the United States since we launched our first flights to Africa in 2006 and this award shows our customers value the service we offer. We’ll continue to invest in our customers’ experience by introducing more flatbed seats and international Wi-Fi on Africa routes over the coming months.’

Delta Air Lines offers:

Daily non-stop service between Johannesburg and Atlanta

Five weekly services between Accra and New York-JFK

Daily non-stop service between Lagos and Atlanta

Three weekly services between Monrovia and New York-JFK, via Accra

Up to three weekly non-stop services between Dakar and New York-JFK

Passengers using the services to the US can benefit from connections to 160 onward destinations from Atlanta and 55 destinations from New York-JFK.

The company is now offering new, custom-designed flatbed seats on all wide-body aircraft on its international routes. With direct aisle access, occupants of the seats can opt for Delta on Demand in-seat entertainment. By 2014, the company is planning to offer such services on all flights between Accra and the US.

BusinessElite passengers travelling from Accra are offered a personalised escort from check in to security clearance, and lounge pick-up to arrival and baggage collection.

Travelling to Kenya – the smart person’s choice

Tourism is now Kenya’s largest foreign exchange earning sector and has helped to position the country as the largest economy in East and Central Africa.

For the indigenous tribes, tourism has brought the opportunity for employment which has provided a lifeline following the introduction of intensive farming as the tribes were stripped of their lands making it increasingly difficult to follow a traditional nomadic lifestyle as livestock ranching expanded.  Investment in infrastructure has been heavy to accommodate tourists and this has also increased industrial and agricultural growth.

Tourism raises awareness of the declining population numbers of wildlife and funds conservation activity in the region.  This has resulted in increased media coverage building the awareness on a global scale.

The vast influx of tourists and tour operators is not without its downsides though and it is the negative impacts of tourism which are often dismissed but pose a real threat.

In the 1960’s there was only 1 lodge and 100 beds in the Mara ecosystem – fast forward to 2011 and there are now over 100 camps and lodges within the Masai Mara Reserve and along its boundaries which equates to over 4,000 beds.  This figure is still increasing as a safari holiday becomes more and more popular.  The potential to have 4,000 tourists in the region who are all looking to spot the best wildlife has resulted in too many vehicles crowding the animals as well as spoiling the visitor experience.

The reality is no longer the ‘Out of Africa’ experience people expect, rather more a glorified safari park with hoards of tourists and minibuses.

The vehicles erode the land, disrupt and scare the animals and pollute the air.  The luxury lodges leave a permanent blot on the landscape and the swimming pools and hot tubs steal water from an area prone to drought.  Restaurants have altered birds feeding habits and monkeys now scavenge from bins.

The luxury safari camps are owned and run by foreign investors who make a healthy profit from the camps and are under no obligation to plough the money back into local development.  Locals are employed at minimum wage offering them little opportunity to afford education or healthcare.

The current situation is far from the rosy picture often painted of the tourist industry in Kenya however it doesn’t have to remain this way.

Porini Ecotourism is a Kenyan company founded by Kenyan national Jake Grieves-Cook.  All of Porini’s safari camps operate under the ‘Conservancy Concept’.   This is a new model of safari- tourism which benefits the locals, the wildlife and the tourists.

A quick outline is:

  • A conservancy is an area of at least 7,000 acres of community owned land made of individual parcels leased from the owners and set aside exclusively for wildlife
  • Payment to locals is by acre, not per tourist, and is made monthly regardless of tourist numbers and is paid directly to every individual landowner and not via a central committee
  • The lease is paid by the safari operators who operate the tourism activities in the conservancy
  • There is a maximum density of 1 tent per 700 acres and normally a maximum of 12 tents per camp
  • The area is vacated by the owners who remove all homesteads and livestock bomas
  • Grazing of domestic livestock and cattle incursions are controlled.
  • The conservancy is managed by a warden and rangers whose costs are covered by the safari company

The tangible benefits of a conservancy are numerous and offer a real and viable alternative to the current safari-tourism model.  The benefits of the conservancy concept are as follows:

  • The Masai see the benefits of tourism and it provides a profitable alternative to animal husbandry.
  • No more over grazing in the conservancy so grass and vegetation recovers
  • Virtually no poaching or wildlife killing within the community owned conservancies
  • Warden and rangers to protect the wildlife in the conservancy
  • Continued ownership of the land by the community as it is leased
  • Camp staff, guides and rangers are all drawn from the families of the Masai landowners
  • Small intimate eco-camps where the focus is on guiding and the safari experience
  • Wildlife viewing without the crowds or minivans
  • Guiding by KPSGA qualified Masai guides

This concept has been proven to work and in the Selenkay Conservancy elephants have returned after an absence of over 20 years.

If you want to make an informed decision and use your holiday to help support both the wildlife and local community of Kenya then consider one of the four Porini Camps.  If you’re unsure a quick look on TripAdvisor should persuade you as each camp is rated 5 star and Porini Mara Camp won TripAdvisor Travellers Choice 2012.  One customer wrote:

’The Porini Camps Concept of engaging the Maasai in gainfully using their land as a conservancy has allowed wildlife to return in large numbers.  Moreover, it has allowed the Maasai to step into the 21st century whilst staying in touch with their roots and yet earning a modern wage.

From the point of view of the tourist, you get an authentic experience of the African bush and its peoples, whilst staying in camps that have most of the creature comforts that urban mankind has got used to.  The drives are individual and off the beaten track, the guides are English speaking Maasai who naturally have an intimate knowledge of their land.

In brief, the Porini people are the flip side of the parasitic tour operator.’’

As tourists we need to be aware of the impact of our choices, and through a unique Kenya safari experience you can help to support a model which will protect this environment for future generations.

easyGroup Closer to African Airline Launch

The head of easyGroup and the founder of low-cost airline, easyjet, sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, saw his plans to launch a new, Africa-based, low-cost airline take a step closer to fruition today.

The new airline, to be known as Fastjet, is to be developed on Lonrho Aviation’s existing platform, under the Fly540 brand. The brand carried more than 525,000 passengers between October 2010 and December 2011. Investment company, Rubicon Diversified Investments, has agreed to purchase the business from Lonrho for $85.7m, and part of the transaction involves sir Stelios’ easyGroup Holdings owning a 5 percent stake in Rubicon.

The new African airline venture will be headed by Ed Winter, who was previously chief executive of British Airways’ low-cost carrier, Go, and chief operating officer of Easyjet.

A statement said that Fastjet will operate under a licensing agreement with easyGroup, utilising the Lonrho Aviation route network with modern jet aircraft operating to European standards. It will maintain Lonrho’s four-year programme of developing operational hubs in East, West and South West Africa with strategic hubs in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Angola, ‘providing an unparalleled route network and operating platform to launch across Africa’.

Lonrho executive chairman, David Lenigas, said: ‘Lonrho has completed its investment programme into its aviation division and has successfully created a unique aviation network in Africa. The next step in the growth of the business requires a world-class aviation team to develop the business to meet the growing demand for a scheduled regional airline in Africa.

I am delighted that Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and easyGroup have studied this market and concluded that the Lonrho aviation division provides a unique entry platform for the development of a true low cost carrier for Africa, to be branded, FastJet.

The combination of Lonrho’s experience in Africa, the aviation experience of Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and easyGroup, the route network and operations already established by Lonrho Aviation across Africa, and Rubicon’s cash resources will enable Fastjet to quickly develop its low cost airline.’

A caravan of hope

Hundreds of people from all over Africa are joining a “Caravan of Hope”, which is covering more than 4,000 miles and 10 countries en route to the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.

The coach convoy set off from the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, on 9 November, and is picking up people all along the journey’s 17-day route, passing through Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa.

Some of those travelling on the Caravan come from communities affected by the drought in East Africa. They are taking their stories about the impact of climate change to world leaders at the climate talks.

Three of our partners from Kenya are joining the Caravan. One of them, Mark Diba from the Catholic Diocese of Marsabit in northern Kenya, said: “The current drought in East Africa has created a lot of awareness amongst pastoral communities on the impact of climate change on their everyday lives.

“Communities have witnessed the rainfall patterns being disrupted and this has had an impact on their ability to sustain themselves. Marsabit used to have a lot of consistent rainfall which enabled people to farm and to keep livestock.

“Now, we have had no rains for three consecutive years and even the shallow wells have dried up… This Caravan is an opportunity for these communities to tell their side of the story to the world on the impact climate change has had on their lives.’’

The Caravan has been organised by our partner the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance. Those travelling to Durban are demanding the UN talks help produce a just solution to the mounting climate crisis.

Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)’s Mithika Mwenda said:

“This Caravan is very important to us as we want to tell the African story on climate change, and to voice our concerns and aspirations on the impact of climate change on African communities.

“Africa is part of the global community and we would like to show we are responsible in discussing solutions to the problems of climate change. Africa has been doing a lot to address these issues and we feel the industrialised countries are not doing enough and therefore we want to travel to Durban to add our voice at the conference.’’

UK outlines robust measures to tackle piracy

Speaking at the British Chamber of Shipping, Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham today outlined the UK’s ongoing commitment to tackle piracy off the coast of East Africa.

Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham said:

“This government is 100% behind a more robust response to piracy. I am pleased to announce that a UK-funded maritime intelligence and information coordination center will be set up in Seychelles. The FCO and Serious Organized Crime Agency are carrying out urgent work with the government of the Seychelles to take this forward.

“The new intelligence center will coordinate the tracking of financial flows and enforcement operations and will help collate the evidence needed to issue international arrest warrants and prosecute pirates.

“Pirate financiers are the kingpins of piracy, and targeting them effectively will have a huge impact on the ability of pirates to terrorize the high seas.”

In addition, Mr. Bellingham announced UK support for several of the UN’s projects to tackle piracy. This includes work in Somalia designed to prevent people from turning to piracy in the first place.

Mr. Bellingham continued:

“We have always been clear that the problem of piracy cannot be solved at sea when the causes of piracy lie on land. We must also help Somalia and its regions to develop their own capabilities to deter and detain pirates. I am pleased to announce that the UK will support work to ensure that this becomes a reality.”

British aid reaches drought-stricken African region

Planes and trucks carrying crucial British-backed aid have arrived in some of the most drought-stricken regions in the Horn of Africa, Andrew Mitchell announced today.

Aid flights have landed in Mogadishu and Baidoa, with further flights expected in the coming days, and lorry convoys are reaching Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya and the Dolo Ado camp in Ethiopia.

Thousands of people in refugee camps in Kenya have now received crucial basic supplies such as tents and cooking equipment as well as vital medical supplies and safe drinking water.

The efforts are part of a large-scale aid effort targeted at regions in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, with British aid – delivered by aid agencies on the ground – set to get emergency help to over two million people. Thousands more tonnes will arrive shortly.

But emerging figures show that a crucial UN appeal for international help in the region remains 60 per cent underfunded.

The International Development Secretary said that donors who have been slow to respond must wake up to the seriousness of the situation on the ground.

The UN appeal for $2.4 billion to help the 12 million people at risk in the Horn of Africa has raised $1 billion.

New information released today shows that with support from Britain and others:

* Food supplements have reached 24,096 malnourished pregnant and breastfeeding women in Kenya through UNICEF;

* 653 metric tons of Corn Soya Blend and 230 tons of food supplements being delivered to Somalia through UNICEF;

* Nutributter supplements are being supplied to 24,000 babies and toddlers aged from six months to two years in the Dadaab refugee camp through the World Food Programme;

* Latrines (one for every five houses) and water supplies are being constructed to improve sanitation and tackle the  potential spread of disease at the Dadaab refugee camp extension through Oxfam;

* Food has reached 162,000 people in Somalia, including in Bakool and Lower Shaballe;

* Clean water has been provided for 900,000 people in Ethiopia;

* Treatment for severe malnutrition has reached 3,400 children and treatment for moderate malnutrition has reached 16,000 women and children in Ethiopia; and,

* A team of British humanitarian experts are monitoring the situation on the ground and coordinating action with the country governments, the UN and other donors.

With the World Cup Over, Tourists Continue to Visit South Africa

South Africa’s estimated £2.6 billion investment in infrastructure and media for the recent World Cup is paying off. While the games are over and the country’s stadiums significantly more empty (albeit less noisy) the country is experiencing a continued period of high tourism. More travellers arrived in South Africa during the first seven months of 2010 than any year before it, data shows.

It’s easy to point to the World Cub for the country’s success, but doing so ignored the huge amount of long-term planning that went into South Africa’s investments. As one of Africa’s most stable and developed nations, South Africa has immense potential as a major tourism destination. If the World Cup is the ultimate pre-show display, it’s the next decade that will be South Africa’s feature show.

And by all accounts, the nation is up and ready for the challenge. Blessed with an immense variety of cultural attractions and natural areas, South Africa is one of few African nations that combines a close look at nature with accessibility. While the country’s safari culture is bested by its rivals to the north, it’s difficult to fault the country’s combination of Western accessibility and African style.

It’s certainly a healthy transition from South Africa’s past. Although the country still has numerous social issues and a severe HIV problem, it’s turned its ‘crime-ridden’ reputation on its head in a way similar to that seen in Colombia. Once regarded as the world’s most dangerous city, Bogota is now one of the continent’s most popular destinations for North American adventure tourists.

Will the multi-billion pound investment pay off? It seems likely. As travel industry operators know, the greatest barrier to international travel tends to be reputation and perception. With South Africa taking steps to shed its previous ‘violent’ image, we may see a continued surge in travel for decades.