Zimbabwe Tourism: African Sun Boss Shingi Steps Down

Long time African Sun chief executive Dr Shingi Munyeza yesterday stepped down from his position at the hospitality group after a 13-year stint. The announcement of the mutual disengagement from the group was made at the company’s AGM yesterday. The group also announced that businessman Mr Herbert Nkala will assume the chairmanship after Mr Bekitemba Nkomo stepped down from that position.

Mr Nkala is a former chairman of competitor Rainbow Tourism Group.

Company secretary Mr Eddie Shangwa will be acting CEO.

Having joined the then Zimbabwe Sun Limited in 2002, Dr Munyeza together with businessman Mr Farai Rwodzi led a consortium of indigenous business people in acquiring 35 percent of the company. He spearheaded a regional expansion programme and re-branded Zimsun Leisure to African Sun.

Speaking on his decision, Dr Munyeza said he was pleased to have left the group in a good position following the advent of new shareholders Brainworks.

“During my term at African Sun we faced challenges and also enjoyed many successes and I am happy to say that I leave the group in a good position where with the advent of new shareholders, the short-term debt has been rationalised and heavy interest rates are no longer a burden to the operations of the group.

Nigeria: What Is The Way Forward For The Tourism Industry?

The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC], apex tourism agency in Nigeria will no longer receive public funding by 2018. Sources confirmed to African Travel Times magazine that this is contained in a government document and recommended by the Orosanye Panel. This was part of government gradual reduction in public funding of some of its agencies and institutions.

This is in sharp contrast to what obtains around the world where the equivalent of the NTDC and its like are consolidating their relevance and getting more public funding for their operations and activities.

Industry watchers say severing funding for the only tourism marketing and promotion agency in the country amounts to poor understanding of the sector as well as its relevance to the economy as a whole.

Surprisingly, the NTDC has not been able to properly articulate and continuously make a case for its usefulness as to why it deserves public funding.

Countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Egypt, South Africa as well as the developed countries of Europe, Asia and the Americas are constantly increasing budgetary allocation for marketing and promotion of their various countries as preferred destinations.

The Supreme Court Judgement of 2013 that ceded registration of travel and tourism establishments, grading and classification to states, has made the tourism agency to run into financial difficulties, just as the quality of services in the industry across the country has dropped significantly.

Today, the entire tourism industry is on its knees due to paucity of funds. The fact must also be told that lack of funding is not peculiar to tourism alone, but because of the service nature of the tourism industry, it is most affected.

The Director-General of the NTDC Sally Mbanefo has tried to generate maximum support from the private sector to no avail, which clearly shows that the step the government is following would not work.

Regrettably, the NTDC boss is running out of luck, as there are very few organisations and individuals she can run to for funding of the apex tourism body.

Nigeria is not a destination yet and the government must understand that it is counter-productive to cut funding to the tourism agency.  At best, it must put in place and empower the NTDC to henceforth begin the collection of Departure Tax from everyone travelling out of the country to fund its operation and activities.

Presently, the broken down of relationship between the supervising Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation orchestrated by the Minister, Edem Duke; is an aberration on his personality for someone that has headed the tourism private sector before becoming a minister.

The minister who is from Cross River State and the directors in the ministry who are from his part of the country have not shown competence and purposeful leadership in the last four years.

Despite being from Nigeria’s prime destination state, they have shocked analysts and cast doubts on the ability of Cross River people in successfully running the tourism industry.

The tourism industry in their home state has also slumped and as tourism administrators at the federal level, have led the industry into the doldrums through the unacceptable denigration of the NTDC and its leadership.

Back in Cross River State, the minister has not added any value to the once fledgling tourism sector. The much talked Obudu Mountain Resort is now a shadow of itself, with  TINAPA leisure packages also running out of steam.

Unbelievably, the famous Carnival Calabar, Nigeria’s most famous domestic tourism product is gradually fading away as some its core contents, the BANDS are no longer what they used to be.

Ultimately, the federal government and the states that are genuinely promoting tourism must redouble their efforts in deploying more resources as well as man power that are lacking across the country.

As for the NTDC, the agency must continue to dialogue with the private sector on the way forward by enacting what the Director-General Sally Mbanefo did three month into her tenure when she called a stakeholders’ summit in Lagos. It was an event she used her goodwill in the private sector to get sponsors for, without any financial implication for the NTDC where she unfolded her plans, vision and action.

At the summit with the theme: “Rebranding the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation,“ Mrs Mbanefo,  leveraged her experience in the private sector to explore opportunities in the sector.

Her words: “Tourism is a serious business which must be approached with all sincerity of purpose, diligence of mind and optimal clarity for the betterment of the nation’s economy and not just for its glamour, noise  and paparazzi intent. I don’t want to play to the gallery as my mission, according to the President Goodluck Jonathan who appointed me, is to do all things humanly possible to link the sector with the mainstream of the economy, not by making noise on the pages of newspapers but by ensuring there is a strong connect between NTDC and the private sector.”

Then, she revealed that “for the sector to grow and align itself perfectly with the mainstream of the economy for the benefits of the stakeholders and practitioners, there should be a paradigm shift from the ways NTDC as an entity used to conduct business and interact with the private sector and this could only be done if the corporation itself is reinvented and restructured in line with contemporary dictates and demands, which many people are still waiting for.

Hotel Presidential, Is Still The Old Lady Of Nigeria South

Hotel Presidential is located in the heart of the Garden City – Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State, Nigeria. Being centrally situated within the business districts and the main shopping areas of the city, Hotel Presidential is an ideal choice for both leisure and business travellers. With its 241 tastefully furnished and functionally equipped rooms and 53 spacious suites including rooms and suites on the executive 5th floor with access to the executive lounge.

The Hotel is supplemented by our conference and banqueting facilities comprising of four Conference rooms, Royal Banquet hall, Main Banquet hall and the largest, the Atlantic hall with a capacity over 500 persons, all of them just perfect for holding conferences, conventions, seminars, workshops, weddings and other events. In addition, the hotel also boasts a Conference and Banqueting Tent ideally designed to accommodate 2000-2500 guests.

Hotel Presidential also has a variety of restaurants offering a wide selection of international cuisine and distinctive styles ranging from African and Asian to Lebanese Cuisine specialties.

In this interview with Lucky Onoriode George, the General Manager, Joseph Rennie, reveals some of the secrets for the success so far. Excerpts:

What is the secret that after almost four decades, Hotel Presidential still ranks among the very best in this part of Nigeria? 

It’s been very difficult, but with a lot of hard work and lots of support from my directors. Just recently, we have completed the full renovation of the Rivers Restaurant, several floors now; the fourth and fifth floors, I don’t know if you have seen it. 

Renovation or refurbishment is all about money, how are you funding all these? 

Yes, it’s all about money and that is why there is a slow down at the money because of the negative impact of Ebola. Lots of our guests cancel lots of functions and bookings because when Ebola hits Port Harcourt, our business dropped from 65 per cent to 22 per cent. Without doubt, the last two months has been a very difficult period for us.

How did you receive the news by the World Health Organisation [WHO], declaring Nigeria free of Ebola? 

During the outbreak, we worked closely with the Ministry of Public Health here in Rivers State and we attended several meetings where the procedures and prevention measures were laid out. Thereafter, we put in place the aforementioned in the hotel and we worked closely too with some of the oil companies; Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC], Saipem and Total among others. 

Are you very optimistic that business will climb to normal before the end of the year?

Yes, we are very hopeful that business will get close to normal before the end of the year. Already, some of the cancelled bookings are now being reconfirmed for this November and December. In the last few days, business has been booming…with lots of activities going on.

What lesson have we learnt from the way the federal and state governments handled the Ebola out breaks, and if business that most affected like the hospitality industry be given palliatives? 

We have all learnt hard lessons. As for me, I am keeping all my practices in place…sanitisation and washing of hands in every department regularly will remain in place. As for everyone entering the hotel, they will also continue to observe this simple, but very important exercise. 

What impact would the renovations and refurbishment exercise do to your operations? 

Ohhhh! It would surely have good effect because we have got good reports. Gladly enough, we have just secured a new contract with an international airline that would henceforth put their crew here. Besides, the oil companies are also very impressed with the exercise done so far and we hope this will be followed up with more businesses for us.

From November 1st, 2014, we, now have an international airline that would be staying with us. Sincerely, we are now generating extra business in addition to our oil and gas clients that have been around with us for a while now. 

What other deal are you expecting because you are capable of surprises? 

At present, none! However, the pool area will be given attention because I hope to transform it into something very different. I hope to have a small café where users can easily buy small chops; and that would start early next year.  

Sustained peace in Port Harcourt, how has this affected your operations? 

We have no problem security wise in the past few years and I can tell you that we have though wonderful working relationship with the various agencies in the city.

Now that you are modernising, what is your training programme like now? 

We are investing in the training of our staff. Every Tuesday, we hold a health talk which is mandatory for all departments. Before the Ebola outbreak, we had routine training programmes for our staff; most especially, food handling, restaurant and room division that are at the core of our operations.

Very recently, we have also upgraded our front office, with the introduction of Opera System. With this, guests checking in would spend less time, especially our regular ones that the new system is capable of capturing holding guest information. 

How is your community relationship like? 

Our community relationship is very good. I have just recently received an award from the local community because we do take care of some of their issues. Only recently again, we also got our HSC awards from Total which was excellent. We have never received anything like this in the hotel.

Hotel Presidential is one of the two recipients of the award, this award for me is the highlight for this year because my background is HSC and I strive for it.

Sustainable Tourism Is A Tool For Poverty Reduction

A milestone resolution recognizing the contribution of sustainable tourism to poverty eradication, community development and the protection of biodiversity has been adopted by consensus by the United Nations General Assembly. Emphasizing the need to optimize the economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits stemming from sustainable tourism, particularly in developing countries, the resolution entitled “Promotion of sustainable tourism, including ecotourism, for poverty eradication and environment protection” calls upon the UN System to promote sustainable tourism as an instrument that can contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The resolution, significantly broader in scope than previous ones on the subject, builds on a 2012 UN resolution on ecotourism and draws on a report prepared by UNWTO. In line with UNWTO recommendations, it underlines the importance of appropriate national policies, guidelines and regulations for promoting sustainable tourism, including ecotourism, and encourages UN Member States and regional and international financial institutions to support sustainable tourism projects, enabling the creation of small and medium-sized enterprises, promoting cooperatives and facilitating access to inclusive financial services, including microcredit initiatives for the poor, local and indigenous communities.

The resolution was adopted by consensus and sponsored by an impressive total number of 107 Member States, including Morocco, which, as on previous occasions, was the lead sponsor and in that capacity had steered the whole negotiating process to a successful conclusion.

“UNWTO welcomes this remarkable acknowledgement of tourism’s ability to advance sustainable development across the world”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “The wide-ranging support to this resolution mirrors the increasing awareness of the vital role tourism plays in a sustainable future for all and opens the doors for supportive national policies and international financing for sustainable tourism.”

The resolution places sustainable tourism firmly on the UN post-2015 agenda as it requests UNWTO and other United Nations agencies to develop “… recommendations on ways and means to promote sustainable tourism, including ecotourism, as a tool for fighting poverty and promoting sustainable development …” to be submitted to the seventy-first session of the UN General Assembly in 2016.

Akpabio, Mbanefo Win African Travel Times Magazine Tourism Awards

African Travel Times, Nigeria and West Africa only monthly travel and tourism magazine has announced the institution of an annual award. According to its Publisher/Editor, Lucky Onoriode George, the award is to annually recognize ‘Excellence’ in the travel and tourism sector in Nigeria, saying that, a genuine and respected award in the industry was long overdue, especially in an industry that is service based.

He noted, “asking the travelling public that lack the technicality and experience of how the travel and tourism industry works to select the best hotel, restaurant and even the best airline in an operating environment annually is wrong”.

George posited that, it is the process that differentiates the new awards from others, as awardees will be selected by professionals in the various subsectors”.

For the 2014 and the inaugural edition, the magazine is recognizing organisations and individuals that made giant strides in the industry in the out-going year.

“Based on the decision of our panel industry experts, the following organizations and individuals emerged winners”.

God Is Good Motors – Best Emerging Transport Company in Nigeria.

Eko Hotel & Suites – Most Supportive Travel and Tourism Organization.

Carnival Calabar – Best Domestic Tourism Product.

ABC Transport Plc – Best Family Friendly Transport Company in Nigeria.

Other winners are:

Sally Mbanefo, Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC] – Tourism Personality of the Year.

Gov. Godswill Akpabio – For Transforming Akwa Ibom State into an emerging Destination In Nigeria.

Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt – Most Resilient Performance Award in the Hospitality Industry.

So far, some of the winners have received their awards in private while others have been notified and presentation will be done at a later date.

Meanwhile, Mr. George said that from this year, the awards ceremony will form part of his publication’s annual travel and tourism dinner, a special event to bring together industry practitioners, suppliers and related establishments.

African Travel Times hit the newsstand in 2011 and has grown to become the most widely and authoritative travel and tourism publication in Nigeria, with an online presence that can be access everywhere in the world.

African Travel Times apart from being a core travel and tourism industry magazine, the coverage also includes ‘Insider’ a destination piece written from a local or native point of view [can also be written ‘as told to], as well as fascinating people, an article profiling a person of interest in the industry in any part of Nigeria and Africa.

Starwood Hotels Finishes 2014 Strong With 74 Openings

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide today announced it opened 74 new hotels in 2014, representing approximately 15,000 rooms in 26 countries.  The company also signed 175 new hotel management and franchise agreements in 2014, a 15% increase over the prior year, marking the fifth consecutive year of increased signings and the most new deals in one year since 2007.  Starwood anticipates another year of solid growth in both mature and emerging markets in 2015, fueled by hotel openings and high-quality deal signings.

“With more than 1,200 hotels in 100 countries, we’re on the frontlines of global change and continue to see increasing demand for innovative, design-led brands, playing to Starwood’s strength,” said Frits van Paasschen, President and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.  “Our nine lifestyle brands continue to attract owners as does our loyalty program, Starwood Preferred Guest [SPG®], which brings high-value guests to our hotels from around the world, driving more than half of our occupancy on any given night.”

Hotel Opening Momentum Continues

Building on its strong signing year, Starwood continues to grow in all corners of the world across all of the segments where it operates with plans to reach the following milestones in 2015:

–              300th hotel in Asia Pacific and China

–              150th hotel in China (with all nine brands represented)

–              90th hotel in Africa and the Middle East

–              175th Luxury hotel

–              750th Upper Upscale hotel

–              300th Mid-Market hotel

“Our balanced growth approach continued in 2014 with consistent, organic signings across all nine of our brands,” said Simon Turner, President of Global Development for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.  “Looking ahead, emerging markets remain a focus for us, but recovering economic conditions and increased availability of financing have also led to strong growth in North America and Europe.”

Turner continued: “North America accounted for more than one third of our signings last year, and the availability of new construction lending resulted in a more than 50% increase in new-build hotel signings over the previous year.  Globally, we renewed or extended 76 of our existing agreements with owners in 2014, underscoring the strength of our brands, loyalty program, operating teams, and systems.  We remain focused on working with the right partners, on the right properties, in the right places, and our agile development approach allows us to adapt our growth strategies based on specific geographies and brand needs for both new development and conversion projects either managed or franchised.”

Starwood Widens its Lead in Luxury

With one of the fastest growing luxury portfolios under its St. Regis, The Luxury Collection and W brands, Starwood is lengthening its lead in luxury hospitality.  Building on its base of more than 170 of the world’s most beautiful and iconic hotel experiences, Starwood expects to open more than 25 luxury hotels over the next two years adding to the 12 new luxury hotels which debuted last year.  This pace continues to accelerate to meet increasing demand for luxury in all corners of the world.

In 2014, W Bogota marked the brand’s entry into Colombia, while The Luxury Collection brand added seven new hotels to its portfolio including La Posada de Santa Fe in New Mexico, Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan and The Castle Hotel in Dalian, China.  In 2015, Starwood is on track to add more than 10 luxury hotels to its portfolio, including St. Regis hotels in Istanbul, Macao, Dubai and Mumbai, The Luxury Collection properties in Nanjing, China; San Antonio, Texas; and Broumana, Lebanon, and W openings in Amsterdam, Netherlands and Goa, India.

Demand Accelerates for Upper Upscale Brands 

Starwood opened 27 hotels across its Sheraton, Le Méridien and Westin brands last year, with over 150 under active development.  The iconic Sheraton brand, on track to open its 500th hotel in 2016, continues to serve as a growth leader for Starwood and pave the way for the further development of all of Starwood’s brands in fast growing markets. This year, the brand will debut in Samoa and Romania and re-enter Iraq, following last year’s launch in Tajikistan. Sheraton accounts for nearly 40% of all Starwood hotels in Asia Pacific and is leading Starwood’s growth in Africa, where the brand will open six more hotels by 2018.

Le Méridien opened flagship hotels in Chicago – Oakbrook, Bahrain, and Bangkok in 2014, and signed 18 new deals, a meaningful increase over the previous year.  Building on this momentum, in 2015, the brand will open more new hotels than in any other year since Starwood acquired Le Méridien in 2005. The brand continues to expand in established markets primarily through conversions, while also extending its reach in emerging markets, with openings planned for India, Bangladesh and Bhutan this year.

Westin opened its 200th hotel worldwide in 2014 and demand continues to rise driven in part by the phenomenal success of its distinctive wellness positioning.  In 2015, Westin will open its 125th hotel in North America and its 50th hotel in Asia. The brand will also debut in Qatar with the opening of The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa – the brand’s fourth hotel in the Middle East.

Mid-Market Brands Drive Pipeline Growth 

Starwood’s mid-market segment continues to gain considerable momentum, with 35 openings and 100 new deals signed in 2014 across the Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft and Element brands.  The segment accounts for approximately 40% of Starwood’s global growth pipeline and will comprise nearly half of the company’s new hotel openings in 2015, amid rising demand for strong global brands at an affordable price point in both major metro and secondary markets around the world.

Four Points by Sheraton signed 50 new hotel deals in 2014, the most in company history, and will surpass 200 hotels in 2015, with more than 25 planned hotel openings this year.  The ‘best for business’ Four Points brand boasts Starwood’s second largest and fastest growing development pipeline, fueled by its widespread, global appeal to guests and flexible development options.

Aloft Hotels signed 31 new deals in 2014, the most signings in one year since 2008. Designed for the next generation of travelers, Aloft will cross the 100th hotel milestone in 2015 and expand its portfolio in Greater China to ten hotels by year end. Aloft will also enter numerous new markets this year, including both Munich and Stuttgart, Germany.

Starwood’s eco brand, Element Hotels, signed 19 deals in 2014 and is on track to triple its portfolio by 2017. On the heels of opening its first hotel outside of North America in Frankfurt, Germany, Element will open its first hotel in China in 2015 followed by new hotels in London, Amsterdam, Boston and Philadelphia, signifying the global appeal of this brand.

Africa Hotel Investment Forum Returns To Addis For 2015

Bench Events, the organiser of the Africa Hotel Investment Forum [AHIF] today announced that the conference will return to Addis Ababa in 2015. It will take place again at the Sheraton Hotel on September 30 October 1. There has been much speculation about location of the next AHIF, after more than a dozen governments sent delegations to last year’s conference and a variety of African tourism ministers made public statements about wanting to attract the event to their capital cities.

The appeal of AHIF is that it is attended by the highest calibre group of international hotel investors of any conference in Africa and that is an important audience for governments seeking inward investment to develop one of the most important economic sectors, Travel & Tourism. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, 8.5% of Africa’s GDP and 6.9% of jobs are attributable to Travel & Tourism and the industry is forecast to grow across Africa at 4.9% per annum for the whole of the coming decade.

Matthew Weihs, Managing Director, Bench Events, said: “AHIF 2014 was such a great success that we felt compelled to return. We were honoured by the presence of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister; we were inspired by the accomplishments of Haile Gebrselassie, one of the world’s greatest long distance runners; we were impressed by the media attendance [76 journalists on day one]; and we were delighted by the level of interest shown by the business community, with a record number of delegates, sponsors and many of the major global hotel brands announcing new initiatives and hotel openings.”

Addis Ababa is an appealing destination for commercial reasons too. The city has a shortage of internationally-branded hotel rooms (fewer than 1,000 according to W Hospitality) and increasing demand. Ethiopia’s economy is growing at more than 7% per year and is forecast to be the third largest economy in Africa by 2015. Addis Ababa now has the fourth largest international diplomatic community in the world, partly because it is the seat of the Africa Union, which was launched in 2002.

Samuel Tafese, President, Sunshine Business said: “Considering the considerable interest from other countries to host the Africa Hotel Investment Forum, to have secured the event for a second year is a huge opportunity for Ethiopia. Sunshine Business were delighted to sponsor the event last year and look forward to supporting again. To have the chance to welcome international money and expertise to our country should not be missed.”

AHIF is the premier hotel investment conference in Africa, attracting many prominent international hotel owners, investors, financiers, management companies and their advisers. It is organised by Bench Events [www.benchevents.com] which is known for producing, alongside Questex Travel + Hospitality and MEED Events, several top-level hotel conferences around the world including Berlin [IHIF], Dubai [AHIC], Istanbul [CATHIC] and Moscow [RHIC].

Sponsors of AHIF 2015 are: ACCOR, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Hilton Worldwide, Mangalis Hotel Group and Marriott International as Platinum Sponsors; Areen Hospitality Design, Colliers International, Hotel Partners Africa, HVS, Movenpick Hotels & Resorts, Starwood Hotels and Resorts International, STR Global and Wyndham Hotel Group as Gold Sponsors.

Ethiopian Airlines Is A Pan African Airlines And Carrier For Many Countries – Yadeta

The International Air Transport Association [IATA], a trade association of the world’s airlines with 240 primarily major carriers that carry approximately 84 per cent of total Available Seat Kilometres air traffic in its report said Ethiopian Airlines is the fastest growing and most profitable airline in Africa.

This year, IATA also ranked Ethiopian Airlines as the largest airline in Africa in revenue and profit. Recently, Solomon Yadeta, General Manager, Ethiopian Airlines, Nigeria revealed in an exclusive interview with Lucky Onoriode George, Editor, African Travel Times magazine why the airline has been so successful and prominent on the continent of Africa.

May we meet you?

I am Solomon Yadeta, General Manager, Ethiopian Airlines here in Nigeria. 

Ethiopian Airlines is no doubt a power house in the aviation industry, how did it all start?

Ethiopian Airlines started with just one dash aircraft that has grown over the years to a respected continental and international airline.

What was it like in the beginning?

 From what I have been told and read since I joined the reputable organisation, it was Transworld Airlines that helped established Ethiopian Airlines that has grown to what it is today.

Again, Ethiopian Airlines first flight was to Cairo, Egypt. In the beginning, the airline could only take limited passengers and cargo, as you will understand that the aviation sector was still at its rudimentary level at that time on the continent, if not globally.

Succinctly put, that 1945 bold step is in fact the beginning of African aviation as an aircraft technology leader providing the first jet service in the continent since its establishment; availing the first African B767 in 1984, the first African B777-200LR in 2010 and the first African and second only to Japan B787 Dreamliner in 2012.

ET has enjoyed many years of success, what is responsible? 

The reason behind the successes of Ethiopian Airlines can be attributed to the vision of the management through the years. It’s been on record that over the years, the airline has been blessed with good management and structure that has enhanced its operations ability.

These factors have helped the day to day operations of the airline to be mirrored and planned ahead, doing the needy that has made very competitive by introducing modern aircrafts and venturing into new destinations based on the standard in the aviation industry.

Today, Ethiopian Airlines has been in the forefront of major innovations and is a standard bearer for all other airlines to follow in Africa.

Ethiopian commands the lion share of the pan-African passenger and cargo network operating the youngest and most modern fleet to international destinations across five continents. 

When did ET start coming into Nigeria? 

Based on available records, Ethiopian Airlines started the Nigerian route immediately after her independence. One month after. We have been operating into Nigeria in the last 54 years.

On your website, its published there that Ethiopian Airlines is owned 100 per cent by the government of Ethiopia and surprisingly, it’s been successfully and profitably till date, what is the secret? 

It is true that the airline is fully owned by the government and the secret for its successes so far has been that its management has been given full authority over its day-to-day management without government interference.

The free hand given the airline enables it to put in place good governance for the company that is today one of the factors that has made it very successful.

Another reason is the dedication of the employees that are making so much commitment in their various tasks and that has also helped in making the airline what it is today. 

How many flights does your airlines operates into Nigeria?

Currently, we operate daily flights into Lagos and Abuja; and four flights each into Enugu and Kano respectively. Arithmetically, that would give you about 14 flights; technically it’s about 18 flights weekly.                                                        

How many destinations worldwide? 

Presently, we operate international destinations and 18 domestic destinations as well. Out of the 83 international destinations, 49 of them are in Africa and the rest 34 destinations cut across Europe, Americas and Asia. In all, Ethiopian Airlines operates to five continents. 

You have been here for sometimes now, what would you say have been your challenges?

 The major challenge we are facing which we expected though, is that there are many operators in Nigeria and many more are also coming, this a major challenge for the airline industry in the country and becoming very competitive. As a challenge, we accepted it and we are prepared for the competition and our share of the market.

 How do you handle it? 

Because of the stiff competition in the Nigerian market, we started to find other means of making us more competitive by improving on certain aspect of our operations. Especially incentives for the travelling public for Ethiopian Airlines to be their choice by providing more services that value added to the passengers to choice of modern aircrafts that we deploy on the very important market.

 How would you describe the aviation industry in Nigeria?

 The aviation industry can grow a lot, many more passengers and cargo flights are queueing up to enter into the market every day.

As a member of the Star Alliance, what does ET gain?

 As a member of the Star Alliance which we joined in December 2011, Ethiopian Airlines gives its customers seamless a travel experience allowing them access to 21,900 daily departures, 1329 destinations within 194 countries.

There are additional free baggage allowances and lounge services among others wherever they are travelling to.

 If an airline does not belong to either Star Alliance or One World, what do they stand to lose?

Ohhhh! There is so much to lose.

Like I said earlier, the benefit seamless connectivity and baggage allowances, a passenger flying any of the airlines that does not belong to either of the groups, you most likely to face delay and an unpleasant travel experience should there issues with the airline they are flying.

As for Ethiopian Airlines, our passengers travelling on any of our Star Alliance members’ airlines, they also stand the chance of additional baggage allowance. The benefits are enormous.

Ebola is ravaging West Africa, how does this affect your airline?

Ebola has really affected us, especially following a ban of flights to and from some of the worst affected countries such as Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Besides, some passengers on their own decide to put off their travel plans on hold pending the containment of the outbreak of this deadly disease.

Until the travelling public regains the confidence and the convenience of travelling, airlines like us will continue to experience a lull in the industry. However, we hope the situation will improve very soon with the global efforts and mobilisation for Ebola containment.

What measures put in place by Ethiopian Airlines?

As you are aware, we got full information from the World Health organisation [WHO] on how the Ebola Disease can be transmitted and the detailed information was laid out to our employees on all our routes especially that they have to take precaution.

Before passengers are boarded, we take their body temperature, in case of any suspected case and with that, we protect our passengers and employees. This is apart from other measures put in place by the various governments of the destinations we fly to expectedly.

How much has the Ebola outbreak affected your airline, percentage wise?

Sincerely I cannot say categorically, but between July and now, it has affected not just Ethiopian Airline, but all the international schedule operating into Nigeria.

Apart from Ebola outbreak, the recent incident at the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed building that killed some pilgrims, is also another blow for an airline like yours, how are you shaking this off?

Once again, you are right, most of the pilgrims coming from east and southern Africa travel with us regularly and this will also affect our volume temporarily and again we hope that the situation will normalise very soon.

 

What is the relationship between ET, travel agencies and tourism in general?

We have excellent relationship with the travel agencies in Nigeria. They like our airline and this relationship can only get better.

How come there is no relationship between Ethiopian Airlines and your country’s national tourism agency selling your local destinations here in Nigeria like some African countries are doing?

Before now, we were not really doing that, but Ethiopian Airlines has established its own holiday company [ET Holiday]. The sole purpose of the initiative is to bring in African passengers into our country with sole aim of holidaying.  In no distant future, you will see our efforts and visibility.

One notable factor of ET that most aspects of your operations are manned by Ethiopians, how is ET able to do so?

From conception, it was not long before an Ethiopian team assumed the management of the airline from our initial foreign expats. Ever since, the airline has been taking students directly from the universities that were eventually groomed in our training centre and over the years, they gained experience and that has been continuously passed on.

Within a short time, those trained too also took over the airline’s key operational positions which we have sustained till date and that is one of the reasons Ethiopian Airlines has been very successful over the years.

Ethiopian Airlines has been adjudged for some years now as world’s 7th most profitable and Africa’s most successful airline, what is your airline doing to sustain this achievement and what package do your airline have for the Nigerian travelling public?

One of the best ways we are doing this is the continuous improvement by constantly adding modern aircraft to our fleet, limiting transit time at our Addis Ababa hub as well as ensuring that our Nigerian and other passengers’ baggage and cargos arrive their various destinations on schedule.

Good enough, we have the capacity and ability to deliver on all these.

How is the travelling public responding?

They have been responding very well and which is why today we fly into Lagos, Abuja, Enugu and Kano.

What else are we expecting from Ethiopian Airlines?

Ohhhhh! Ethiopian Airlines is being restructured and we are currently implementing a 15-year strategic plan called Vision 2025 that will see it become the leading airline group in Africa with seven strategic business units: Ethiopian International Passenger Service; Ethiopian Regional Service; Ethiopian Cargo; Ethiopian MRO; Ethiopian Aviation Academy; Ethiopian In-flight Catering Service and Ethiopian Ground Service.

Again, the academy will not only train staff for our airline alone, but also train for African airlines. As you aware, Ethiopian Airlines is a multi-award winning, including SKYTRAX and Passenger Choice Awards in 2013 and has been registering an average growth of 25% per annum in the past seven years.

How is ASKY, an airline that Ethiopian Airlines has a major interest that is based in Lome, Togo?

ASKY is doing very well and within a short period of time, it has reached 20 destinations airline in West Africa. Together with Ethiopian Airlines, we are trying to cover the whole continent.

Apart from the European and the Middle East Airlines, you also have the likes of Kenya and South Africa Airways to contend with; now the Nigeria government is planning a national carrier of its own with an European airline as technical partner that we have experimented and failed twice in the past, what advise can you give to the authority on the best way out?

Ethiopian Airlines has operated here in the last 54 years and we have become part and parcel of this country and Nigeria and Nigerians can consider Ethiopian Airlines as the national carrier or national airline.

What is your message to Nigerians?

We are a pan African airline; we are growing fast and operating some of the best aircrafts on the continent and the best safety record. Without mincing words, we know Africa better than anyone. We want more Nigerians to give us the opportunity to fly them either within Africa, Asia and the Americas; we are in the best position to serve them better.

Uduaghan, Where Is Our $317m Million Delta Leisure Resorts?

Some years ago, the Delta State Government unveiled what it called, ‘Delta Leisure Resorts’, a tourism and leisure facility to be built at Oleri and Ogwashi-Uku, in Udu and Aniocha South local government areas respectively, but African Travel Times Magazine can authoritatively confirm that the projects have not been executed.

The project which was officially unveiled at the Event Centre in the state capital, Asaba was expected to gulp N49 billion [$317m] as part of efforts by the state to diversify its economy and cut over-dependence on oil.

However few months into the project, African Travel Times discovered that the supposed financier of the project, one Sarner PFM [Africa] was a non-existent company at the time the project was launched. This was the first hint that the project was a scam.

The colourful ceremony which preceded the long term investment project aimed at broadening the economy base of Delta state attracted both foreign and local investors, including the governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke, who said he was in the state to support the idea of building a strong and sustainable regional economy.

Though, the ground breaking ceremony of the ‘Delta Leisure Resorts’ was performed by Prince Sam Obi, erstwhile Acting Governor of Delta state during his short stay in office after the annulment of the 2007 Delta governorship election by an Appeal Court.

The project, according to the Managing Director of Sarnar PFM [Africa], Princess Abiodun Oyefusi, whom this magazine interacted with for several months and the Managing Director, Sarner UK Limited, Mr. Ross Magri, is a purely private concern with amusement parks, animal reserve, commercial waterfall and culture resorts to further boost the already improved socio-economic base of Delta state and provide good resources to the Nigerian economy.

The project as it was then touted would be ‘first of its kind in Africa’ and have its main park located at Oleri village in Udu local government, while the animal reserve and wild park would be located at Ogwashi- Uku in Aniocha Local Government Area Council.

Speaking then, High Chief Abel Ubeku, retired Managing Director of Guinness and Chairman of the investment group now late said , the successful unveiling and the state government’s determination to allow genuine investors embark on the project clearly defines the infrastructure, human capital development and peace and security programme of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration that can ‘provide jobs for children today and yet unborn’.

In a succinct keynote address presented by Delta state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, he reaffirmed that the state’s development strategies are geared towards attracting investment opportunities and enjoined Deltans to show true commitment through support and encouragement rather than unnecessary criticisms.

Uduaghan who said the project would be West Africa’s first world-class resort when completed disclosed that the state government is partnering with African PFM Resorts Limited to develop an ideal place for vacation for families, friends and associates for relaxation.

Also, Mr. Richard Mofe Damijo [RMD], renowned actor and Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Delta state who hypothesized that ‘the equity built through tourism cannot be quantified financially’ disclosed that the Certificate of Funding has been presented to Delta state government by the Board of sponsoring investors.

The project which was expected to fully take-off in June 2011 and completed in December 2012 while the official opening will be in April 2014 at the twilight of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s second tenure in office as at today is still at the level of sand filling.

After several months of  consistent and persistent media enquiries and faced with the fact that Sarner PFM lack the ability and the capacity to manage and fund such a huge project, African Travel Times magazine was taken on a tour of the location of the resort at Oleri by Princess Adefusi.  When she was confronted with facts, she opened up and pleaded for this publication’s understanding and support.

Despite attempts to sweet talk the publisher, who incidentally hails from Delta State hit a brick wall, the publication has had a running battle with Sarner PFN and the Delta State Government.

After several months of more thorough investigation and confrontation between this magazine and RMD’s office, they eventually succumbed and opened up that a resort was not going to be built, but instead that the location would be turned into a housing estate.

Authoritatively, African Travel Times Magazine can also confirmed that the Resort at Oleri that is still at sand filling level has gulped over N50 billion of state money. Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and RMD need to urgently tell Deltans where this money went.

As for Princess Abiodun Oyefusi, who used her relationship with the governor to terrorise the ministries of tourism, works, justice and even finance officials in the last four years, she must be made to account for her role in this huge scam.

Over 1.1 billion tourists travelled abroad in 2014

International tourist arrivals reached 1,138 million in 2014, a 4.7% increase over the previous year, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. For 2015, UNWTO forecasts international tourism to grow by 3% to 4%, further contributing to the global economic recovery. The number of international tourists [overnight visitors] reached 1,138 million in 2014, 51 million more than in 2013. With an increase of 4.7%, this is the fifth consecutive year of above average growth since the 2009 economic crisis.

“Over the past years, tourism has proven to be a surprisingly strong and resilient economic activity and a fundamental contributor to the economic recovery by generating billions of dollars in exports and creating millions of jobs. This has been true for destinations all around the world, but particularly for Europe, as the region struggles to consolidate its way out of one of the worst economic periods in its history,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, opening the Spain Global Tourism Forum in Madrid.

By region, the Americas [+7%] and Asia and the Pacific [+5%] registered the strongest growth, while Europe [+4%], the Middle East [+4%] and Africa [+2%] grew at a slightly more modest pace. By subregion, North America [+8%] saw the best results, followed by North-East Asia, South Asia, Southern and Mediterranean Europe, Northern Europe and the Caribbean, all increasing by 7%.

As in recent years, the growth in international tourism receipts in 2014 is expected to have followed that of arrivals fairly close [the 2014 results for international tourism receipts will be released in April 2015]. In 2013, international tourism receipts reached US$ 1,187 billion, US$ 230 billion more than in the pre-crisis year of 2008. 

Positive outlook for 2015

For 2015, UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to grow between 3% and 4%. By region, growth is expected to be stronger in Asia and the Pacific (+4% to +5%) and the Americas (+4% to +5%), followed by Europe [+3% to +4%]. Arrivals are expected to increase by +3% to +5% in Africa and by +2% to +5% in the Middle East.

“We expect demand to continue growing in 2015 as the global economic situation improves even though there are still plenty of challenges ahead. On the positive side, oil prices have declined to a level not seen since 2009. This will lower transport costs and boost economic growth by lifting purchasing power and private demand in oil importing economies. Yet, it could also negatively impact some of the oil exporting countries which have emerged as strong tourism source markets,” added Mr Rifai.

The positive outlook for 2015 is confirmed by the UNWTO Confidence Index. According to the 300 tourism experts consulted worldwide for the Index, tourism performance is expected to improve in 2015, though expectations are less upbeat than a year ago.

Europe consolidates its position as the most visited region in the world

Europe [+4%], the most visited region with over half of the world’s international tourists, saw an increase of 22 million arrivals in 2014, reaching a total of 588 million. Thanks to these results, tourism has been a major contributor to the European economic recovery. Northern Europe and Southern and Mediterranean Europe led growth [both +7%], while results were more modest in Western Europe [+2%]. Arrivals in Central and Eastern Europe [0%] stagnated after three years of strong growth.

International tourist arrivals in Asia and the Pacific [+5%] increased by 13 million to 263 million. The best performance was recorded in North-East Asia and South Asia [both +7%]. Arrivals in Oceania grew by 6%, while growth slowed down in South-East Asia [+2%] as compared to previous years.

The Americas was the best performing region in relative terms with growth of 7%, welcoming an additional 13 million international tourists and raising the total to 181 million. Growth was driven by North America [+8%], where Mexico posted a double-digit increase, and the Caribbean [+7%]. Arrivals to Central America and South America [both +6%] grew at double the rate recorded in 2013 and well above the world average.

International tourism in the Middle East [+4%] shows signs of rebound with good results in most destinations. The region attracted an additional 2 million arrivals, bringing the total to 50 million. Africa’s international tourist numbers grew by an estimated 2%, equivalent to an increase of one million arrivals. The region reached 56 million tourists. While arrivals to North Africa were weak [+1%], Sub-Saharan Africa saw international tourist numbers rise by 3% despite the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in a few West African countries. Data for Africa and the Middle East should be read with caution as it is based on limited and volatile data.

Demand from traditional source markets picks up

A pickup in expenditure on international tourism from traditional source markets compensated for the slowdown of the large emerging markets, which had been driving tourism growth in previous years.

The total number of trips abroad from China is estimated to have increased by 11 million to 109 million in 2014. Expenditure was up by 17% in the first three quarters of 2014, a strong result but slower than in previous years [40% in 2012 and 26% in 2013, respectively). China is the world’s largest outbound market since 2012 with a total expenditure of US$ 129 billion in 2013.

Among the other two main emerging markets, the Russian Federation [-6%] clearly lost strength in 2014, while Brazil still grew by 2%, despite the appreciation of the US dollar against the Brazilian real and slower economic growth. Beyond the top ten, some smaller emerging markets saw expenditure grow substantially, with Saudi Arabia, India, the Philippines and Qatar all reporting increases of 30% or over.

A pickup in demand from traditional source markets compensated for the slowdown of the large emerging markets. Expenditure from the United States, the second largest outbound market in the world, grew by 6%. Noteworthy is also the rebound of France [+11%], Italy [+6%] and the United Kingdom [+4%].