80,000 more tourists a year expected into Vic Falls
By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
AT least 80,000 tourists are annually expected to fly into Victoria Falls as two large international airlines have already committed to the destination, a leading tourism leader has said.
In an interview, Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) chief executive, Ross Kennedy, said the month of March heralded a new dawn for tourism, with the arrival of South African Airways’ A330-200.
He said the South African Airways began operating an Airbus daily to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg on March 1. The Airbus A330-200 is the largest passenger aircraft ever to land at Zimbabwe’s top resort town.
According to Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, the A330-200 has 222 seats, 88 more than the smaller aircraft and so far inbound flights are heavily booked until the end of the month with demand growing daily.
Besides South African Airways, Africa’s largest airline, Ethiopian Airlines, will also begin four weekly flights from Addis Ababa to Victoria Falls on March 26 while Kenyan Airways will begin direct flights three times a week from Nairobi on May 18.
The Ethiopian Airlines flight route will be Addis Ababa – Victoria Falls – Gaborone – Addis Ababa, while Kenya Airways will fly Nairobi – Victoria Falls – Cape Town – Victoria Falls – Nairobi.
Kennedy, who is also African Travel and Tourism Association chairman, said these routes would create new access to Africa’s iconic tourist destinations, with visitors now easily able to visit the Maasai Mara, Serengeti, Victoria Falls and Cape Town in one trip.
“Tourists will also be able to take in the history, culture and birding of Ethiopia with one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls, which is the gateway to the rest of Zimbabwe, as well as Zambia, Namibia and Botswana.
“These new route connections will give the opportunity to innovative members of the travel industry to create new packages and destination linkages for tourists,” he said.
In addition, newcomer low-cost carrier Rainbow Airlines launched its weekly Harare to Victoria Falls flight on January 25.
The new US$150 million Victoria Falls International Airport, which includes a new 4km long, 60m wide runway, enabling long-haul wide-bodied aircraft to land, was opened by President Robert Mugabe last November.
AAT is a Zimbabwe-owned hospitality group, which operates a portfolio of properties in Victoria Falls, including Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls Safari Club, Victoria Falls Safari Suites, Lokuthula Lodges, and Ngoma Safari Lodge in Chobe, Botswana.
Victoria Falls is located in the heart of the Kavango Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area, which boasts of some of the most pristine and diverse wildlife areas left on the planet.