Written by Farai Masawi Top Stories Aug 26, 2009
GOVERNMENT last year refused three airlines permission to fly into Zimbabwe in what aviation experts said was a move to protect the national airline from competition and loss of revenue, it was revealed this week.
Speaking to tourism players (ZTA) chief executive Karikoga Kaseke said three airlines, Nationwide from South Africa, Malaysian, and Emirates from the United Arab Emirates, had expressed a desire to fly to Zimbabwe but were not allowed to, as authorities said they wanted to protect Air Zimbabwe.
“The benefit the airlines could have brought to the economy in terms of traffic, revenue and tourists telling the true Zimbabwean story could have been very significant,” said Kaseke.
“Reasons such as ‘we are protecting our airlines were cited. What are we protecting it (Air Zimbabwe) from? They should learn to compete with other airlines. That is the only way they can remain competitive,” said Kaseke.Kaseke said it was not wise to treat the national airline as if it started operating last year when it has been in existence for a long period.
“Tourism ambassadors go out to market Zimbabwe. For example, in China they cannot come by rail or road. The presence of many airlines in the country also increases the amount of traffic, revenue and flexibility as to when one wants to fly to Zimbabwe,” said Kaseke.
Kaseke said tourism was a sensitive and fragile sector and “once we (tourism industry) lose we would have lost. It is easy to lose many tourists than to convince a few to fly to a destination which has been receiving negative publicity. With the World Cup in South Africa next year, the decision did not make sense,” said Kaseke.Air Zimbabwe currently has four planes flying two Modern Ark (MA) 60s, Boeing 737 and a long haul 767.A total of 18 international airlines have left the country since the economic crisis and negative publicity about Zimbabwe started 10 years ago.
These include Lufthansa, Qantas, Austrian Airlines, Swissair, Air India, Air France and TAP Air Portugal.African airlines that are no longer fly into Harare include Egyptair, Air Mauritius, Linhas Aereas de Mocambique, Air Namibia, Royal Swazi Airlines and Air Seychelles. Air Tanzania, Ghana Airways, Air Uganda and Air Cameroon have also pulled out of the route.
Kaseke said the tourism sector had the potential to be among the leading foreign currency earners in the country.He said every Zimbabwean had a duty to market and tell the “real Zimbabwean story, not painting a wrong picture about the country which is always negative”.
“Areas that need urgent attention in the industry are its pricing structure. We are the most expensive in the region. Destinations compete and we could lose out in this regard,” said Kaseke.Kaseke said 2008 was one of the worst years in the history of the tourism industry in Zimbabwe and “preliminary results so far are not pleasing”.
“Events last year after the March elections and the cholera outbreak were some of the major contributors to the setbacks. A total of 17 conferences were cancelled last year alone including the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) summit,” said Kaseke.