By Nokuthaba Dlamini
Tour operators in Victoria Falls have welcomed government’s decision to allow domestic and international flights to resume, amid calls for the sector to remodel their pricing system in order to attract local visitors.
Tourism activities were put on halt in March when the government announced the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
The Employers’ Association for Tours and Safari Operators President Clement Mukwasi said now that the ban has been lifted, operators need to revisit their pricing system until Covid-19 pandemic is over.
His sentiments were also echoed by Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) chief executive Ross Kennedy who said the hospitality group was very pleased domestic air services on commercial and charter aircraft, would soon be active.
“Whilst there are some operational protocols to introduce and all necessary Statutory Instrument regulations to be published, it is a welcome and very positive decision by Cabinet and Ministry,” Kennedy said.
“We are collaborating with our air partners in Zimbabwe to get passengers into the skies and enjoying the wonderful and diverse destinations and experiences as soon as possible.”
With Victoria Falls airport starting to operate on Thursday, AAT has created fly-in packages for its Victoria Falls properties and Kennedy said they are looking forward to welcoming guests stepping onto the tarmac at Victoria Falls airport very soon.
“Hopefully the first flights land in the coming days or week,” Kennedy added.
“Talks are ongoing about regional airlines access to Victoria Falls, Livingstone (Zambia) and Kasane (Botswana) airports from South Africa and our regional neighbours.
“We are hopeful that borders will open soon to also allow self-drive traffic, with Victoria Falls and Livingstone being an obvious travel bubble over the Victoria Falls Bridge,” he said.
The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association said it is also engaged with fellow stakeholders in the ongoing initiative to “get tourism going” again.
Emirates has announced that effective 1 October; they will fly into Harare twice per week on their initial schedule.
Tourism operators are also pinning their hopes at African carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways to return to Victoria Falls airport to boost tourism in the region.
Mukwasi said the opening of the rainforest last month was a positive move but did not result in any tourists traveling.
“The last quarter of the year is an important calendar in the travel industry. If we all follow the rules and promote the new world order rules, we can safely open and forever grow the industry.
“Intercity travel and use of public transport is an enabler that will help the tourists to access various destinations.”
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced on Tuesday that domestic flights would resume on 10 September, while international flights were set to resume on 1 October.
All travellers will be required to have a PCR Covid-19 clearance certificate issued by a recognised facility within 48 hours from the date of departure, in line with WHO guidelines.