From : Chronicle.co.zw

17 May 2012

THE resumption of domestic flights by Air Zimbabwe after a four-month absence has seen a slight increase in arrivals in Victoria Falls especially of locals coming in for conferences and activities, operators have said.

With the resort town now connected to Bulawayo and Harare by air, conferences have also returned much to the delight of hoteliers, tour and adventure operators and taxi operators.

Only last week, the town was abuzz with delegates coming in for the Chamber of Mines conference that saw delegates chartering an Air Zimbabwe flight from Harare.

Air Zimbabwe resumed domestic flights on 1 May after suspending them in February after workers, including pilots, went on strike over outstanding salaries.

The continued absence of Air Zimbabwe meant that the town was not connected with Harare and Bulawayo thereby negatively affecting arrivals especially of locals.

Tour and adventure operators who spoke to Chronicle yesterday said good times were returning to Victoria Falls.

They said what was now needed was the continued marketing of the airline so that it operated daily flights.

“The returning of Air Zimbabwe is indeed a welcome development to the tourism sector, not just to Victoria Falls, but to the country at large.

“This brand should not be allowed to collapse at a time when we are positively looking ahead to the co-hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly next year,”  said Mr Ben Tesa, managing director of Khanondo Safaris.

Mr Israel Rupiya of Silver Tours said Air Zimbabwe would also have an opportunity to show its strength during the Africa Travel Association (ATA) conference which started yesterday.

“The airline is a timely boast for the town, the sector and the country. Hoteliers, tour and adventure operators all alike will benefit from arrivals and that will also see an improvement in the lives of people around here,” he said.

Taxi operators also said they are now looking forward to Air Zimbabwe flights which they said brought clients for them.

“Local tourists use our taxis as opposed to regional and international tourists who will be having shuttle buses waiting for them on arrival and last week during the Chamber of Mines AGM we also recorded brisk business,” said one of the taxi operators.

The airline, saddled with a $140 million debt, is facing operational challenges and the suspension of domestic flights resulted in a decline in domestic tourism, especially in Victoria Falls.