HomeBusiness DigestTourism bullish as South Africa’s Airlink expands

Tourism bullish as South Africa’s Airlink expands

SHAME MAKOSHORI

THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) says one of the biggest developments for the US$2 billion industry next year will be Airlink’s launch of the Cape Town-Harare flights from January.

ZTA acting chief executive officer, Givemore Chidzidzi told businessdigest this week that Airlink’s flights will rekindle business and leisure travel between Zimbabwe and South Africa after many flights were grounded by a global health scare precipitated by Covid-1.

There is significant business travel between Cape Town, one of the region’s richest cities, and Harare because many of South Africa’s big corporations have units running in Zimbabwe.

But travelers had to connect via Johannesburg.

In addition, thousands of South Africans based in Cape Town troop to Zimbabwean destinations frequently, while international tourists seeking a quick scan of the region’s best attractions from the South African city require direct flights into Harare.

Airlink said two weeks ago that it would launch four weekly frequencies on the Cape Town-Harare route from January 2021, the latest in a series of new and resumed routes across the carrier’s southern African network.

“There has always been that desire to have the two cities connected,” Chidzidzi said.

“Direct flights between cities like Cape Town and Harare, and Cape Town and Victoria Falls bring convenience. The traffic is there and I am sure their statistics are showing that. The major attractions in southern Africa are Cape Town and Victoria Falls. And it will be good for those tourists who only want to look at the highlights of the region,” Chidzidzi told businessdigest.

The airline said flights will connect the two cities on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, as it expands its Zimbabwean route network.

Airlink also operates the Cape Town-Victoria Falls route.

The new flights will mark the first steps towards rebuilding Zimbabwe’s tourism industry, which suffered heavy losses in the past year after global lockdowns implemented by governments to prevent the spread of Covid-19 grounded travel.

The ZTA estimates that arrivals plummeted by 90% between January and October, as the industry suffered US$1 billion in potential revenue.

“Airlink is excited to be launching this important new route, which will provide convenience to business and leisure travelers, saving them precious hours transferring via Johannesburg and also limiting their exposure to potential touch-points, which is a key consideration as we adjust our travelling habits during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Airlink chief executive Rodger Foster said in a statement.

“Airlink’s unique service on the route will also support trade, commerce and tourism between the two cities and their respective markets at a time when it is desperately needed,” he said.

The launch comes immediately after Zimbabwe and South Africa lifted travel restrictions that previously curtailed travel between the neighboring countries, as they worked to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

Airlink is a privately-owned regional airline serving a comprehensive network of smaller destinations throughout southern Africa.

It says it is one of southern Africa’s busiest airlines “and also its largest, measured by the number of flights we operate, carrier”.

In 2019 the Airlink fleet of more than 50 modern commercial jetliners carried two million customers on more than 63 000 flights, on 55 routes to 39 destinations in nine African countries and St Helena Island.

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