Zim tourism benefits from increased connectivity

HARARE - Zimbabwe's tourism is reaping rewards of increased connectivity brought about by an influx of low-cost airlines following airport refurbishments around the country, NKC Economics (NKC) has said.

In an update on the country’s tourist prospects, NKC said the country, which saw an increase in airlines servicing its various routes after the refurbishment of Victoria Falls International Airport, was poised for a tourism boom.

“From a travel and tourism perspective, increased competition among local airlines is a positive development. At this stage any development that points towards greater connectivity and increased integration with the global society is welcome — not only for locals but for foreigners as well.

“A better-connected Zimbabwe in terms of air transport could facilitate regional travel, unlocking new business and helping to instil a sense of confidence which could attract more foreign exchange inflows.

“Perceptions need to change, and hopefully things will continue to improve politically so that certain important sectors of the economy (such as tourism) can lead the way as the country attempts to rebuild its mismanaged economy,” the think-tank said, adding the proposed refurbishment of Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport was also an added advantage.

This comes as low-cost carrier Fastjet recently announced that it would expand its current Harare-Victoria Falls route by providing daily flights between Zimbabwe’s capital and its second-largest city, Bulawayo.

According to the company’s chief executive officer Nico Bezuidenhout, Fastjet has been pursuing this destination route for several years, adding that recent positive developments within the country have made low-fare connectivity a possibility.

“This move is expected to end the dominance of Air Zimbabwe, with the national carrier currently operating two daily flights between Harare and Bulawayo.

“The beleaguered Air Zimbabwe has debts of more than $300 million and is likely to feel the impact of its new competition, despite reaching a deal earlier in April to buy four additional second-hand Boeing 777s,” NKC said.

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority statistics show that the country recorded more than 2,4 million tourist arrivals in 2017, 13 percent of which was in the form of air arrivals while the remaining 87 percent arrived using some means of land transport.

By comparison, during December 2017 about one third (31,1 percent) of all travellers into South Africa made use of air transport.

Moreover, a 2015/16 Visitor Exit Survey (VES) report found that less than one percent of visitors made use of air travel within Zimbabwe. — The Financial Gazette

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