A naval ship has been dispatched to Co To Island, off the northern Vietnamese province of Quang Ninh, to bring around 1,500 stranded tourists back to shore, a local official said Thursday.

The vessel was expected to reach Co To, which is a district administered by Quang Ninh, in the early afternoon and will make about five to four such journeys to rescue all of the tourists, who have been stuck there since last weekend, district chairman Hoang Ba Nam said.

Co To, a popular attraction in the province home to the famed Ha Long Bay, was lashed by the heaviest rainfall in 40 years last weekend, and vacationers were thus unable to return to shore as all boat operations were suspended.

Do Van Hung, deputy head of Naval Brigade 170, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Thursday vessel No. 634, specializing in search and rescue efforts at sea, has been deployed for the task.

Those who have to wait until tomorrow to return to the mainland will not have to pay for any extra accommodation costs, Nguyen Cong Hung, an official on the island, said.

Visitors usually stay for a few days on Co To at either hotels or houses that offer homestay service. Food supplies have been scarce in the week to date as transportation from the mainland has been disrupted.

Prolonged downpours have led to flooding which has killed 17 people and left six others missing in Quang Ninh, around 180km east of Hanoi, according to local authorities.

Heavy rains will keep battering Quang Ninh and other northern provinces until next Tuesday, possibly together with flash floods and landslides, the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting warned on Thursday.

Downpours will continue raging in the northern region, especially in Quang Ninh, Hai Phong, Lang Son and Bac Giang Provinces, and mountainous areas from July 30 to August 4, the center said, adding that this rainy weather will also affect the north-central region.

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The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has announced that habituation of a new family is currently ongoing in Kibale Forest National Park. This was confirmed by Mr. Raymond Engena, Deputy Executive Director of UWA at a recent stakeholder workshop held in Kampala. This is good news for tourists wanting to experience a chimp safari.

Habituation entails getting the chimpanzees used to the presence of humans (to remove the fear of humans from the group), a process that takes from 2 years up to 7 years.

Conservation Area Manager of Kibale Forest National park, Mr. Edward Asalu, confirmed in a telephone interview that currently there is a large family numbering 1,000 named “Kanyantale” that is open to tourism with the Buraiga family habituation process ongoing.

However, it is also possible for visitors to track the new family of over 100, because chimpanzees are highly intelligent and adaptable compared to gorillas with regard to being able to quickly distinguish between a ranger and a tourist, added Asalu.

As one of its activities, the park also offers a full-day Chimpanzee Habituation Experience where visitors are able to experience the chimp families as they wake up, hunt, patrol, play, fight, copulate and breastfeed until they build their nests at bed time.

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TOURISM INNOVATION COMPETITION | Budget Rwanda gorilla tours

The Lisbon MBA and Turismo de Portugal jointly launched a worldwide competition of ideas and technology – the Tourism Innovation Competition – which will reward the most innovative solution to measure the behavior of tourists in the countries and / or cities they visit. The competition aims to help design the behavior of tourists and simultaneously promote innovation, entrepreneurship and knowledge sharing in the tourism sector, taking into consideration that the identity of The Lisbon MBA is also based on these three characteristics.

The winning idea will receive a prize of €10,000 or a €18,000 scholarship for the The Lisbon MBA. The other two finalists will receive €2,000 each. The three finalists will be invited to present their ideas at a conference, which will be held in Lisbon in September.

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The slaughter of a female adult and four sub-adult elephants in Tsavo West National Park two days ago triggered an immediate manhunt of a combined KWS and general security services force, resulting in two instant arrests.

Paul Udoto, KWS’s Corporate Communications Director, passed the information, pointing out that the manhunt has been extended across the border into Tanzania with the assistance of Tanzanian wildlife and police officials. While a bloodstained hacksaw and axes were recovered from the two suspects now in custody were no tusks recovered and indications are that several other poachers escaped across the border on motorcycles, carrying the tusks with them.

Tsavo and the adjoining cattle ranches were in the past the scene of major elephant massacres but surveillance and patrols have been significantly stepped up since Dr. Richard Leakey has taken over as Chairman of the Board of the KWS Trustees.

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Jeffery Mong, the General Manager at YTL’s iconic Majestic Hotel – Kuala Lumpur’s answer to Singapore’s Raffles Hotel – has been leading the charge at the group for the past 16 years. Finding himself at the head of one of Malaysia’s leading hotels is not a challenge he takes lightly.

Sitting down for an afternoon cup of tea, in the historic colonial wing of The Majestic, Jeffrey told me he had just returned from Bath in England where he was involved in the opening of another of the brand’s iconic hotels, The Gainsborough Bath Spa.

As we sipped our respective teas he reminisced about his earlier days, starting out with YTL at the Vistana in Penang and gradually becoming a sort of troubleshooter manager for the company. Gaining impressive knowledge and experience in a relatively short time, Jeffrey would be sent in to “open” a new hotel – a challenge in its own right. While opening a hotel in Sabah-Borneo on Gaya Island, there were many obstacles and delays. Taking advantage of those delays, a hotel in Saporro, Japan, had just been taken in under the YTL wing and was in need of a diplomatic, transitional manager to bridge a cultural gap. Jeffery was the man, and management decided it would be wise to send him while awaiting Gaya’s delayed opening. Jeffery garnered immeasurable experience during his Japanese experience and brought it back to Malaysia.

When asked about the advent of new hotel groups entering the Malaysian market, he took that to be a win-win situation all around. A new St. Regis is set to open its doors few hundred meters away at KL Sentral alongside Hilton and Le Meridien that both have well-established properties inside the loop. “There is a market share for all concerned, and the new hotel will only serve to enhance the area,” mused Mong.

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KENYA TOURISM BOARD | Uganda group tours


The Kenya Tourism Board is playing an increasingly active role when it comes to events taking place in Kenya. In fact senior staff of KTB are in Geneva at present as part of a delegation led by Kenya’s foreign secretary, briefing WTO on the level of preparations for the upcoming MC10 meeting in December.

This global meeting, incidentally a resounding endorsement of Kenya’s capital Nairobi as a major MICE destination, is taking place between 15th and 18th of December. Hashtagged as #MC10 will the event bring together the world’s trade ministers and hundreds of delegation members and other visitors in their tow.

The Kenya Tourism Board late yesterday issued the following statement about their involvement:

Riding high at present from a successful visit by President Obama, who was co-host to #GES2015, the Global Enterpreneurship Summit, which just ended last Sunday in Nairobi, is Kenya expected to progressively claw her way back into the top tier of Africa’s most favourite tourism destinations, and MICE events are one key element to accomplishing this.

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While on a visit to Kenya were discussions between Presidents Obama and Kenyatta also focusing on the establishment of direct if not nonstop flights between the two countries, something repeatedly attempted in the past but always fallen foul of security concerns and lack of CAT 1 approval of Kenya’s main airport by the American FAA. Both delegations agreed that the start of direct flights was desirable and would boost both trade and tourism but these political expressions of will and intent require more than just polite applause once the communique is read out.

Previous articles here have highlighted the challenges Kenya faces vis a vis the required FAA audit before a Category 1 certification can be achieved. Strict separation of traffic streams, inbound and outbound, is just one of the major criteria which must be fulfilled and the last audit, while reaching close to the pass mark, was still short by a few points.

It is understood from usually well informed sources that a number of measures have been taken to mitigate the shortcomings of past audits with the aim to cross the threshold set by the FAA and pass the next inspection, which is reportedly due in September.

While political will can fast track such audits must the technical criteria and relevant boxes still all be ticked, if Kenya is indeed to launch flights from Nairobi to the US and in turn an American carrier be allowed to fly from a US gateway to Nairobi, as is permitted under the existing BASA, short for Bilateral Air Services Agreement.

Notably has Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport Category 1 clearance as does Cairo’s International Airport, with among others OR Tambo International in Johannesburg being another such facility cleared for nonstop and direct flight into the US. This alone is a major reason why Kenya is working frantically now towards accomplishing this certification to facilitate in particular exports of flowers and fresh produce to the United States while in turn boosting visitor numbers from the US to Kenya and the region. Presently do travelers need to connect either via one of the European hub airports or travel with one of the main Gulf airlines, all of which of course connect to Nairobi on a daily and even double daily basis

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RWANDA LION PRIDE SET FREE | Camping Rwanda tours

The Rwanda Development Board’s (RDB) Tourism and Conservation Department has confirmed that seven lions relocated from South Africa to Akagera National Park, yesterday left their monitoring enclosure after vets confirmed that they were ready to start roaming the park.

All seven were fitted with radio collars to allow the park management to establish their position at a moment’s notice.

Sarah Hall, Akagera’s Marketing Manager, sent in a report, besides the picture shown, narrating the experience when the seven left their holding boma and made the park their own.

Several regular contributors from Rwanda, when requesting them for feedback, were enthusiastic about the prospect of their clients now once more having the chance to see the lion king in Rwanda. They all expressed their gratitude to the South African authorities for approving the relocation after some conservationists scuttled an almost done deal with Kenya last year amid allegations that Rwanda was not able to ensure the safety of the lions.

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African Parks, which manages Akagera under a joint venture agreement with RDB, had, however, strengthened the fence and made it “lion proof,” and the fitting of collars also now allows to see if any of the seven comes close to the park boundary.

Located in the east of Rwanda on the border with Tanzania, Akagera is approximately 112,000 hectares in size. A river of the same name on its eastern boundary feeds into a labyrinth of lakes that make up the eastern boundary of the park. Rolling grassland and wooded hills make up the western boundary. The park is home to a huge diversity of animal and birdlife, and boasts spectacular scenery.

UGANDA’S U-TURN ON VISA FEES 50 US DOLLAR | Uganda group tours


Tourism operators were swift to react when news emerged that the Ugandan government was making special provisions for citizens of South Sudan, to pay only a 50 US Dollar Visa fee, reversing the decision of last month which raised Visa fees broadly to US Dollars 100 per person, per entry.

South Sudan had apparently issued a strong protest to the Ugandan government about what has been described as ‘unaffordable fees for our people’ triggering an instant review and response that the old fees would apply, made operational in a day or two.

This caused consternation and disbelief among tourism operators, who are still trying to come to terms with the no notice rise in fees at the beginning of July, which caught many tourists unaware at the airport as neither Uganda’s embassies abroad nor the local tour operators had been forewarned.

Insider information however suggests that with upcoming elections there is little chance that either the taxes on upcountry hotels and lodges will be scrapped or will the fees be reversed as the treasury is struggling to meet the expenses of an ambitious pre-election budget aimed to impress voters.

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B.A SUSPENDS ENTEBBE FLIGHTS | Camping Rwanda safaris


British Airways has announced that it is suspending flights between London Heathrow and Entebbe International Airport with effect from October 4, 2015.

According to a press statement signed by Edward Frost, the Regional Commercial manager for East and Southern Africa, the final service will depart London Heathrow for Entebbe on October 2, 2015 while the last flight will leave Entebbe on October 3, 2015.

“British Airways has been serving Entebbe in different forms for a number of years and we are continually evaluating our flight schedules. Sometimes, the outcome of these reviews leave us with decisions like this one that are extremely hard to make,” Frost is quoted by the press release.

The statement adds that customers who had booked to travel after to London October 3, 2015 can opt for a full refund or will be rebooked based on BA’s commercial policy that will be made available on Speedbird club.

The company also added that it will continue to evaluate its route network and therefore trusts that it will be possible “for us to work together again in future.”

It should be noted that in 2013, British Airways also suspended its flights to Tanzania after close to four decades of serving the Tanzania route.

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