GOVERNMENT is working on re-introducing flights to China as the tourist arrivals from the Asian country continues to increase, Transport and Infrastructural Development Secretary Munesuishe Munodawafa said. Speaking on Air Zim as a strategic partner for tourism and hospitality industry growth, Mr Munodawafa said the Government was in the process of identifying a partner for Air Zimbabwe which would result in the national carrier expanding its route network.
Air Zim, which is grappling with financial challenges is also working on resuming flights to London.
Statistics from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority show that tourist arrivals from China grew 32 percent in the first half of the year, from the previous comparable period. This follows the revision of the Visa regime early this year in which China was one of the countries moved from Category C to B which allows its nationals to apply for Visa at entry points.
Analyst believe direct flights between the countries may further boost arrivals from the Asian country.
“What we are talking about basically is having a modernised fleet. I am pleased to say the approval was given this year by the Cabinet to find a suitable partner for Air Zim,” said Mr Munodawafa.
“The focus is for the operator that will be able to resume the long haul drive. There are some source markets that we want to touch on, such as London and China. I think there is a lot of work that needs to be done there.”
Mr Munodawafa said the Government was aware of the role the airline plays in tourism.
The Harare-London route is one of the most lucrative that Air Zim could tap into but the airline stopped servicing it fearing the attachment of its aircraft by Wordspan which it owes $2,8 million.
Mr Munodawafa, however, said stakeholders needed to look beyond Air Zim as the sole airline.
He revealed there have been no takers for permits to fly the Harare-Kariba route as all operators scramble for the more lucrative Harare -Johannesburg route.
“In terms of access, we should go beyond Air Zimbabwe as a nation.
“The challenge is when we talk of, for instance Kariba, I have not heard any of the operators saying they want to go to Kariba, they only want the Harare-Johannesburg route.
“So I want to challenge the industry to go beyond that lucrative route, let’s have a broader view of the industry,” he said.
Meanwhile, overall arrivals for the six months marginally decreased to 902 435 tourists against 930 277 in the prior year.