SOUTH Africa’s Airlink yesterday launched daily service flights between Victoria Falls and Johannesburg, a development welcomed by the tourism industry players who say it will boost arrivals.
Tourism was the hardest hit by Covid-19, which saw industry players shutting down and airlines suspending flights due to international travel restrictions.
The industry is now picking up as evidenced by increased demand for airlines services hence the increased frequencies.
The Victoria Falls-Johannesburg route connects the region’s main economic hub, Johannesburg with the iconic tourism destination of Victoria Falls.
A majority of tourists fly into Victoria Falls from Europe via Johannesburg from where they connect to the resort city. Airlink already operates daily flight services between Victoria Falls and Cape Town except Saturdays.
The 90-seater Embraer E-190 jetliner landed at the Victoria Falls International Airport with 43 passengers and departed with 56 passengers, among them Elephant Hills Resort and Kingdom Hotel general managers Chiku Mulinde and Nkosi Moyo respectively.
“We are happy and excited that this is the first flight to Johannesburg after Covid-19 and it means a lot to the industry,” said Mr Mulinde before boarding the flight.
A regional marketer Mpho Motlhabane who was enroute to Harare from Gaborone in Botswana said the flight ushers in more options for people travelling for business and leisure within the region.
“As a marketer I travel a lot and this is an opportunity to connect to different cities and be able to attend meetings and meet clients,” she said. “This shortens time of travelling and brings options.”
Another passenger Ms Wilma Goiffit from Johannesburg said the flight’s schedule is convenient as it lands in Victoria Falls in the afternoon. Tour operator Ms Yvonne Jandles who is the owner of Routes Through Africa said the route will add to tourism recovery by increasing access into Victoria Falls.
Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe Matabeleland North representative Mrs Barbara Murasiranwa said there is room for more airlines as the industry is picking up from the effects of Covid-19.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) Matabeleland North regional manager Ms Tsikadzashe Mberi concurred: “We are excited as industry because most of our tourists come via Johannesburg. Business is picking up considering what we had focused in 2022.”
Improving access into Victoria Falls is one of the areas of focus by the Zimbabwean Government and tourism industry in line with the Tourism Growth and Recovery Strategy.
This is envisaged to increase arrivals and connect the destination to every part of the world, making Victoria Falls a world tourism hub.
Airlink was established in 1992 and is an independent, privately-owned and premium airline serving more than 45 destinations in 13 countries throughout Southern Africa, Madagascar and St Helena Island.
Victoria Falls Airport Manager Ronnie Masawi said as Zimbabwe’s tourism capital, Victoria Falls should provide enough services for visitors to enjoy.
“We are excited that we now have an additional capacity on the Johannesburg-Victoria Falls route and passengers now have more choices. This is the first Victoria Falls-Johannesburg flight by Airlink and we welcome the development,” he said.
Besides Airlink, other airlines landing in Victoria Falls are Fastjet which flies to Johannesburg, Mpumalanga, Maun and Harare, Mack Air to Kasane, Kenyan Airways from Nairobi to Cape Town via Victoria Falls, Eurowings from Frankfurt via Victoria Falls, Air Zimbabwe connecting Harare and Bulawayo as well as Kuva from Harare.