Tourism sector hails return of domestic flights

Columbus Mabika recently in VICTORIA FALLS

Businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry yesterday welcomed the resumption of domestic flights by Air Zimbabwe saying the development would boost trade, domestic and international tourism.

The flights, four times a week on the triangular route between Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls started yesterday. They had been suspended since January last year for operational problems and then because of the clampdown on intercity movement under Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

Many airlines across the region are coming up with different strategies to tackle the pandemic-induced travel slump, which has led to government bailouts, collapses and huge job cuts.  Association of Zimbabwe Travel Agents chairperson Mrs Mercy Mandevhani said availability of flights would encourage local residents to visit other parts of the country.

“To keep people in their jobs, boosting our trade and tourism, we have got to put planes in the air, and we have got to put tourists on the ground. This recommencement of domestic flights is a step in the right direction towards boosting tourism which has for the last one year plus, been negatively affected by the pandemic,” she told reporters in Victoria Falls. “What we are looking for is an assurance that at a point in time, as the vaccine roll out is gathering momentum, further travel restrictions and border closures will be ruled out, hence the need for airlines to be operational.”

Wenhau Safaris Advisory Group founder Mr Wengai Nhau said the resumption of domestic flights signals the growing confidence in the country’s tourism products and preparedness against Covid-19.

“I am glad to note this progress that we are making as a destination in attracting tourists from different markets. This resumption indicates the country’s preparedness in the face of this pandemic which has wreaked havoc across many business sectors. This is a shot in the arm for the country’s tourism industry,” he said.

“We must ensure that we explore all the available markets and tap into them. This is especially now more important with there being less travel across the globe.”

Perennial Travel chief executive officer Mr Ignatius Matungamire concurred, saying the flights had come at an important time and provided hope for recovery of the tourism sector.

Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport manager Mr Passmore Dhewa said: “We want to get people travelling and supporting tourism operators, businesses, travel agents and airlines who continue to operate through Covid-19, while our international borders remain closed.”

Air Zimbabwe spokesperson Ms Firstme Vitori said the domestic flights which are operating on a triangle  route – Harare-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls initially and will operate four times a week every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday and will act as a feed to rebuild regional and international routes.

“We are deploying the Embraer (ERJ145) whose capacity is best suited for this route as we begin to rebuild a feeder into the regional network. The resumption of domestic flights is expected to bring convenience to the business community boost to the tourism sector.”

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