The launch of Ethiopian Airlines’ new route into Zimbabwe’s top resort town has been hailed as “a significant catalyst for tourism growth in Zimbabwe and across the region” by industry leader Ross Kennedy.
Ethiopian Airlines became the first international airline to launch flights into the new Victoria Falls International Airport, which opened last November, when its Boeing 737 touched down just after midday on Sunday. Mr Kennedy was director of ceremonies at the event.
The African heavyweight will fly to Victoria Falls from Addis Ababa four times a week, enabling tourists from major cities in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa to enjoy hasslefree connections via Addis Ababa.
“For example, American tourists can now fly from Washington to Victoria Falls with a less than two-hour stopover in Addis Ababa,” Mr Kennedy, Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) chief executive, said.
“It was another historic day for the aviation industry in Africa and for the African travel and tourism sector, with additional airlift and new route linkages open,” Mr Kennedy, who is also chairman of the African Travel and Tourism Association, added.
“Victoria Falls International Airport has prepared and increased resources for this important event with more staff, more training, more immigration officials and enhanced IT systems to handle the increased arrivals more efficiently and smoothly.”
There had been a huge commitment from all departments, authorities and individuals at Victoria Falls International Airport to make it a shining success story for the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe and the country, with tourism at the heart of it all, he said.
Mr Kennedy called upon the private and public sectors to work together to ensure new flights were supported and promoted and the destination and region were grown by marketing the new access routes and connectivity offered by the aviation sector.
The board and executives of Ethiopian Airlines must be applauded for having the confidence in the new route of Addis Ababa-Victoria Falls- Gaborone-Addis Ababa, as well as the destination and region, Mr Kennedy said.
On March 1, South African Airways boosted its capacity by 88 seats, by launching an Airbus A330-200 to service its daily route between Johannesburg and Victoria Falls; On May 1 Kenya Airways will launch direct flights from Nairobi to Victoria Falls and on to Cape Town; on July 2 SA Airlink will launch direct flights between Cape Town and Victoria Falls six days a week.
These four flights alone could bring as many as 80,000 additional tourists a year into Victoria Falls, Mr Kennedy revealed earlier this month.
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.