HomeBusiness DigestZim’s airline passengers to rise 80%

Zim’s airline passengers to rise 80%

FREEMAN MAKOPA
AIR passenger numbers into Zimbabwe’s airports will rise above pre-pandemic levels this year, as traffic improves in the aftermath of hard lockdowns globally, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) director general Elijah Chingosho told businessdigest this week.

Chingosho arrived at Caaz in August last year from the African Airlines Association, where he served as secretary general, a position that gave him stronger insights into how the region’s airlines perform.

He said passenger numbers from 17 international and local airlines servicing Zimbabwean destinations will rise by 80% compared to 2019, when the carriers moved 1,5 million people.

This represents growth to almost three million passengers this year, a big positive trajectory for an industry that was battered by pandemic curbs at the height of the Covid-19 scourge between 2020 and 2021.

Airlines carried 430 000 and 740 000 respectively during the two years, according to Caaz data.

The Caaz boss said Zimbabwe’s performance was expected to be better than the African average this year.

However, across the continent, the outlook would be positive, he said.

“Africa’s passenger traffic prospects are somewhat weaker in the near-term, due to slow progress in vaccinating the population, and the impact of the crisis on developing economies,” Chingosho said.

According to the International Air Transport Association, African passenger numbers are expected to recover more gradually than in other regions, reaching 76% of 2019 levels in 2022 and surpassing pre-crisis levels only in 2025.

“Zimbabwe aviation industry prospects for recovery remain very high above regional average,” Chingosho added.

“Zimbabwe passenger traffic is expected to reach over 80% of 2019 levels by year end, making the future bright. Rising demand for air travel following removal of Covid-19 travel restrictions by several

states will drive traffic. The coming of new airlines into the Zimbabwean market (including) Qatar Airways, Eurowings Discover, Eswatini Air, Kuva Air operated by Executive Air and the return of Air Botswana into the Zimbabwean market (will also increase passenger numbers),” Chingosho noted, adding that several airlines had increased frequencies on domestic routes.

“The aviation industry is poised to grow just as the global aviation industry is growing as we position ourselves according to the dictates of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.  This drive puts the industry at par with other players,” he added.

Air passenger numbers will track a projected rise in the tourism industry.

Zimbabwe’s tourist arrivals rose by 93% during the first quarter of this year as international holidaymakers trooped back to the country’s resorts in response to relaxed pandemic curbs worldwide, Tourism minister Mangaliso Ndlovu told businessdigest recently.

He said arrivals increased to 126 955 during the period, from 65 882 during the same period in 2021.

Business travel has also increased in the past few months, and more conferences have been held, driving hotel occupancy levels.

Ndlovu said domestic tourism also rebounded during the period, pushing hotel occupancy rate to over 30% from about 14% previously.

The steep rise marked the first real growth of the industry, which crashed by 90% in 2020, the sharpest such plunge in 40 years.

Operators said at the time this was one of the darkest patches in the country’s tourism industry, which was triggered by governments’ decisions to ground airlines and restrict international travel to stem contagion as the Covid-19 scourge tore through the world, toppling hospitality empires and leaving millions out of employment.

“There have been many positive developments in the tourism sector starting at the beginning of the year and the performance of the sector continues to be positive,” the minister told businessdigest.

“As of the first quarter of the year, international tourist arrivals have risen by 93% to 126 955 from 65 882 in the same period in 2021. There have been positive performances in all areas including domestic tourism and accommodation facility utilisation. For example, the average hotel utilisation has risen by 20 percentage points from 14% in 2021 to 34% this year.

Based on this positive performance in the first quarter the tourism sector is expected to fare much better in 2022 compared to 2021,” he said.

He said Zimbabwe must improve its tourism products in order to compete with regional peers and global players.

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