WELLINGTON TONI / MARCUS MUSHONGA
HARARE – AIR Zimbabwe, the national carrier, is confident of a turnaround in fortunes when the raging coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is brought under control.
The airline has earmarked Victoria Falls, the major tourist hub, as central to its revival after years of turmoil besetting the company in recent years.
Firstme Vitori, the Air Zimbabwe Public Relations and Corporate Communications officer, outlined the carrier’s resuscitation plans in an exclusive interview with this publication.
“Post COVID-19, our plan is to develop a hub and spoke network with Harare as the main hub and Victoria Falls as the tourist hub,” she said.
Air Zimbabwe’s fleet shall comprise the B737-200 for domestic and some regional routes.
“A schedules maintenance (D-check) has been successfully completed on the aircraft and it is currently going through test flights and assessments until final certification for serviceability and airworthiness,” Vitori said.
This aircraft, she said, would be deployed to service Harare-Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Harare in the mornings with a second frequency in the evenings.
“This brings the much-needed travel convenience to our business and tourist day trippers including schools and other institutions.”
The same aircraft will also link Victoria Falls and the Tanzanian commercial hub of Dar-es-Salaam on the same day, three times weekly.
Air Zimbabwe also intends to bring the Embraer fleet to operate between Harare, Johannesburg (South Africa) and Harare twice daily as well as Johannesburg and Bulawayo four times a week.
Additional regional routes will include Cape Town (South Africa), Lusaka (Zambia), Lubumbashi, Kinshasa (both Democratic Republic of Congo)
through to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Vitori disclosed the Victoria Falls hub will be operated under Air Zimbabwe’s flagship brand – Flame Lily.
The flame lily is Zimbabwe’s national flower.
The Victoria Falls hub will be invigorated to include the imminent launch of daily domestic scheduled air services between the resort town, Harare and the major tourist destinations of Zimbabwe including
Chiredzi, Hwange, Kariba and the Lower Zambezi Valley.
The plan will also include the launch of daily regional scheduled air services between Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa.
“These flights will initially focus on leveraging the historic tourism links with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region,” Vitori said.
Domestic tourism revenues have always been lower with most locals preferring to travel to Botswana, China, Dubai, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Tendai Madziwanyika, the Rainbow Tourism Group Chief Executive Officer, said the inflows to Victoria Falls would assist in the revival of the tourism sector.
Victoria Falls has been hard hit by the halting of international flights since the COVID-19 broke out last December.
All major hotels in the resort town have shut in line with a lockdown to curb its spread.
“I think there is going to be a lot of demand after this war,” Madziwanyika said in reference to the virus.
Zimbabwe has confirmed over 30 cases and four deaths.
“Our cases are still low. It means Zimbabwe will become a major attraction. We are also experiencing record water volumes at Victoria Falls,” Madziwanyika was quoted as saying.
Air Zimbabwe is marking 40 years of operations, coinciding with the Southern African country celebrating that independence milestone.
– CAJ News