Freeman Razemba–Senior Reporter
GERMAN airline, Eurowings Discover, yesterday flew its maiden flight from Frankfurt to Victoria Falls, becoming the first direct passenger flight between Zimbabwe and Europe since Air Zimbabwe discontinued its flights to London, the United Kingdom, in 2011.
The move is likely to boost tourism with Germans and others in the middle of Europe now having a direct route to the country.
Zimbabwe is among 24 destinations that Eurowings Discover, a subsidiary of the large German Lufthansa airline, plans to fly into the country this year and Victoria Falls will be its fifth destination in Africa after Mombasa in Kenya, Windhoek in Namibia, Zanzibar in Tanzania and Mauritius.
The German airline, head-quartered in Frankfurt, has a fleet of 10 aircraft and mainly serves long-haul leisure destinations.
Speaking during the launch of the service in Victoria Falls yesterday, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona, applauded Eurowings Discover and the board and management of its parent company, Lufthansa, for their remarkable leadership which has enabled them to explore the airspace between Europe and Southern Africa.
“We are grateful to Eurowings Discover, the Airports Company of Zimbabwe, the Aeronautical Authority of Zimbabwe and the whole aviation industry in Zimbabwe for this smart collaboration which has made this occasion a success.
“We have no doubt that visitors who will patronise the Eurocentric wings will savour the splendid sights of the tranquil, refreshing deep blue waters of the upper Zambezi, as they touch down in this resort city.
“The magnificent city of Victoria Falls, coupled with its amazing one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Mosi-a-Tunya or the ‘Smoke that Thunders,’ welcomes you with openness and generosity. The thundering, cascading waters down the Zambezi escarpment are no mere natural wonder, but a depiction of the love and warmth of the people of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa,” he said.
Minister Mhona said Zimbabweans were elated that this new scheduled flight has the ability to enhance connectivity from all over Europe into Zimbabwe and specifically, into the Victoria Falls resort city.
“This will greatly drive the development of tourism in Zimbabwe and the Kavango Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area.
“Under the New Dispensation led by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Cde, Dr ED Mnangagwa, which seeks to grow Zimbabwe to be an upper middle-income economy by the year 2030, air transport plays a critical role in enabling this endeavour as it opens and connects markets, facilitates trade and enables industries to link into global supply chains.
“It is our hope therefore that, as this new destination will be facilitating tourism, cultural and business exchanges, economic opportunities will boom in this city and the trans-Mediterranean people to people relations between our citizens will improve,” he said.
Minister Mhona assured Eurowings Discover as well as other airlines of continued support from the Government of Zimbabwe.
“Evidence of Government’s commitment to supporting the air transport industry is abundant. The launch of this flight today has coincided with the rehabilitation and up-gradation of our airports to accommodate long and wide aircrafts such as those which the Lufthansa group is endowed with.
“We are also working on substitution of equipment to enhance passenger facilitation, modern check-in counters, baggage handling access control and installation of modern navigation equipment.
“Air transport, leveraged by robust airport infrastructures as we thrive at our airports, is pivotal to the economic growth of our country.
“The aesthetic glamour and attractive splendour of airport infrastructure is a guaranteed nectar of tourism leading to other positives such as trade, and regional integration. It improves the movement of people and goods in a more cost-effective way,” Minister Mhona said.
The introduction of new aviation companies in the market is in line with Government policy of backing away from overregulating the air transport sector, which is a key enabler to economic development.
The minister said he hoped that this will have a net effect of reducing air travel times and improving access to a wider marketplace.
“As Zimbabwe, we believe that increased connectivity between Zimbabwe and other continents such as Europe is mutually-beneficial. It is therefore paramount that we continue to enhance air connectivity between Zimbabwe and the continent of Europe.
“As a testament to our commitment to the open skies policy, the Government of Zimbabwe has been granting fifth freedom traffic rights to non–African states. It is our hope that this will bring about improved global connectivity for the country as evidenced today by Eurowings Discover flying into Victoria Falls via Windhoek.
“The story of Zimbabwe’s newly conferred city and Southern Africa’s Tourism capital, the majestic Victoria Falls, continues to be told far and wide, reverberating into the ears of our global citizenry.
“Eurowings Discover has automatically become a player in connecting this city to more friends and new business partners. We treat the introduction of air services by Eurowings Discover as a seal of approval of our tourism destinations; as a bold endorsement of our Government’s ease of doing business and promotion of investment policies in line with the country’s mantra ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’,” Minister Mhona said.
The flight also signified a milestone and demonstrated the resilience of the travel industry in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is therefore heartening that against such odds, Eurowings Discover is still standing tall by this demonstration; wherein they are increasing their network by opening new destinations. I am informed that Zimbabwe is Eurowings Discover’s 5th and latest destination into Africa.
“We also attribute this remarkable recovery to growing passenger confidence on the current and ongoing Covid-19 prevention and control practices.
“We thus, urge the Airports Company of Zimbabwe to continue ensuring safety of our airports by adhering to the Covid-19 guidelines. I also urge all in this sector to seriously embrace the World Health Organisation guidelines and our domesticated regulations and administrative precautions in order to curtail the spread of this highly contagious disease,” Minister Mhona said.
He said his ministry will continue to support the aviation industry as it is an essential service which drives economic, social and cultural development through the promotion and facilitation of trade and tourism.
Minister Mhona said aviation contributes to the national GDP and creation of employment, thereby contributing immensely to the attainment of the objectives of the National Development Strategy 1 (2021-2025).
The event was attended by senior Government officials and Eurowings representatives.