Zim tourism suffers a blow as two airlines suspend flights

Zimbabwe’s tourism sector, which is still recuperating from the effects of Covid-19 pandemic has suffered another blow following the suspension of flights into the country by Emirates and Rwandan Airline (RwandAir).

As part of efforts to enable the sector to recover from the effects of the pandemic, the government did not shut its international airports when it imposed the 30-day lockdown which came into effect January 5.

However, the latest pull-out by the two international airlines comes as a setback to the sector’s recovery efforts.

The RwandAir suspension came into effect Monday while that one for the Emirates comes into force Friday.

In 2020 Zimbabwe’s tourism sector lost to close US$1 billion in revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The other countries affected by the RwandAir, which cited the more contagious South African coronavirus variant, as the reason for withdrawal, are South Africa and Zambia.

“In view of the global concerns on Covid-19 variants prevalent throughout Southern Africa, RwandAir announces the suspension of its flights to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lusaka and Harare effective February 8, 2021,” said the airline in a statement, adding that the flights would resume once there was clarity on the situations.

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused. Affected customers can rebook and fly at a later date at no additional cost or request a refund.”

Emirates in suspending flights to Zimbabwe cited “operational reason.”

The airline said the suspension will be for two weeks between February 13 and February 28.

“Emirates flights to/from Harare, a linked service with Lusaka, will be temporarily suspended,” said the airline.

“Flights to/from Lusaka will continue to operate as four weekly services. Emirates regrets any inconvenience caused. Affected customers are advised to contact their travel agent or Emirates contact centre for rebooking options.”

The airline said customers holding tickets with final destination as Harare will not be accepted for travel at their point of origin.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) national vice president, Golden Muoni, told CITE the suspension would negatively affect tourism.

“That is a nail on the coffin especially when you are looking at our Victoria Falls and other tourist destinations because tourism is still open,” he said.

“If such decisions are made it then means no one is going to come.”

He said that was going to affect the country’ tourism recovery plan, adding unless something was done about Victoria Falls many businesses would fold.

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