Tourism up as flights increase

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The Sunday Mail

Tapiwanashe Mangwiro

The tourism and hospitality industry is optimistic about improving business prospects this year as more airlines continue to serve local routes, attracting tourists who could boost the sector, especially after two years of restricted travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

South African airline Airlink recently launched direct flights between Victoria Falls and Johannesburg, while Ethiopian Airlines launched Heathrow-Bulawayo flights.

The new Ethiopian Airlines route will allow tourists to travel directly from the UK to Bulawayo, which is a gateway to Matobo National Park and a transit point to Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls.

Bulawayo is the third largest airline destination in Zimbabwe along with Harare and Victoria Falls.

“Tourists will now be able to explore Bulawayo, with Ethiopian Airlines connecting four times a week from London-Heathrow from October 30, 2022 and connecting on the new additional service on Saturdays from Manchester Airport from November 5, 2022” , Ethiopian Airlines said in a notice. . Ms Tsikadzashe Mberi, representative of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) in Matabeleland North Province, and Ms Barbra Murasiranwa, representative of the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe, believe that the new flights will improve air connectivity between Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and source markets.

“These flights increase capacity as most of our tourists connect via Johannesburg, and the addition of Heathrow and Manchester is an added bonus. We are really pleased as this will help with connectivity to Victoria Falls, Bulawayo and Zimbabwe in general,” Ms Mberi said.

The representative of the Airports Company of Zimbabwe, Mr. Ronnie Masawi, said the new routes will help boost tourist arrivals.

“We used to get a lot of airline passengers before others moved. These have arrived and are very exciting. It means we are building where we were before Covid-19,” he said.

Hotels in Victoria Falls operated at more than 80% capacity during the Heroes’ Day and Defense Forces Day holidays, buoyed by the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

While the country is keen to welcome foreign visitors again, the sector is also increasingly attracting domestic tourists.

The chairman of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Matabeleland, Mr Anald Musonza, told the Sunday Mail Business that the sector has seen buoyant activity this year as there are no travel restrictions.

“More hotels were actually trading around 80% over the Heroes holiday weekend.

“This business was a mix of local and international travel,” he said.

“The easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions has helped to stimulate some holiday demand.”

The country continues to open its airspace to provide competitive service to travellers.

“With improved air access to Victoria Falls International Airport (VFA) from major source markets, this is also helping to boost international arrivals,” Mr Musonza said.

Most hotels, he added, run promotions to regain market share.

He now expects a “big recovery” in the sector this year.

“We have strong forward bookings.”

Meikles Limited, a listed diversified group, in its latest quarterly update as of June 30, 2022, said hotel room occupancy for the hospitality segment increased from 11% to 35% as customers were reacting to the easing of travel restrictions.

Of the total number of guests in the group, foreigners made up 90% of the mix.

“Growth of 24 percentage points year-on-year benefiting from the continued easing of local and international Covid-19 restrictions.

“The average room rate and revenue per available room increased by 36% and 327% respectively in US dollars. The customer mix for the period was 90% foreign and 10% local,” the group said.

Tourism is vital to the economy.

As part of the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy, the government aims to boost tourist arrivals to over 5.5 million by 2023, as well as boost tourism receipts by $1 billion in 2017 to $3.5 billion by 2023.

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