Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
ZIMBABWE’S tourism sector is poised for major pickings this year going forward on the back of renewed interest shown by players in the aviation industry.
Players in the tourism and hospitality industry told Business Chronicle they were upbeat the coming in of new airlines will transform the whole sector and bring the much needed revenue to the country.
Ethiopian Airlines landed for the first time in Victoria Falls on Sunday after South African Airways made its maiden flight a few weeks ago. Kenyan Airways is also expected to fly for the first time into Victoria Falls next month with Air Link of South Africa coming in the following month.
Africa Albida Tourism chief executive officer Mr Ross Kennedy said the coming in of Ethiopian Airlines was a significant catalyst for tourism growth in Zimbabwe.
“It was another historic day for the aviation industry in Africa and for the African travel and tourism sector, with additional airlift and new route linkages opening. Tourists can now fly from Washington to Victoria Falls with a less than two-hour stopover in Addis Ababa,” he said.
Hospitality Industry of Zimbabwe (HAZ) chairman for the Victoria Falls chapter Mr Chris Svovah said the resort town was ready to meet demand with a number of eateries having been established since the commissioning of the airport by President Mugabe last year.
“This is a sign of approval of our destination by players around the world and a sign of better things to come,” said.
“There are a lot of engagements and inquiries since we commissioned the airport, which can now land wide bodied aircraft. We now expect more numbers into the country and specifically into Victoria Falls. Soon we will be having bigger conference centres and hotels and we have a lot of restaurant establishments such as — KFC, Lookout Cafe, Shearwater Restaurant, Three Monkeys and River Lodge among others,” said Mr Svovah, who is general manager Rainbow Victoria Falls.
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge general manager and HAZ past chairman, Mr Jonathan Hudson, said the coming in of new airlines will improve access to the country.
“This is improving access into Zimbabwe and shows that we are a preferred destination. We are ready to meet demand because we have transport facilities, hotel space and other facilities,” he said.
Mr Hudson, however, said the sector would benefit more if trend in Vic Falls spreads to other resorts such as Kariba, Mana Pools, Matopos and Eastern Highlands.
Love for Africa proprietor Mr Blessing Munyenyiwa, who is also Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) board member, said Victoria Falls was now an improved attraction since the completion of airport.
“This is very exciting for Victoria Falls because it makes it accessible from anywhere in the world. We have sporting events such as the Jameson Victoria Falls Carnival, which this year will be a big event as it celebrates five years and this year we started hosting the Kwese Rugby Sevens, which also brought in numbers. All these sporting events are becoming possible because of the airport and this is good because these events have livened our quiet months,” said Mr Munyenyiwa.
Ethiopian Airlines became the first international airline to launch flights into the new Victoria Falls International Airport when its Boeing 737 touched down on Sunday.
It will fly to Victoria Falls from Addis Ababa four times a week, enabling tourists from major cities in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa to enjoy hassle-free connections via Addis Ababa.