QATAR Airways new Route to Zimbabwe set to Boost Tourism

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Today, the state-owned flag carrier, QATAR Airways is landing in Zimbabwe on its inaugural flight to Harare as it is expected to re-boost the tourism industry and the nation’s economy which has been grappling with the unprecedented spread of the global Covid-19 pandemic effects.

Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) president Wengayi Nhau said the coming in of QATAR Airways to take Zimbabwean skies will go a long way in reviving the country’s economy.

He added that having a reputable airline with a solid track record of safety that was just named “Airline of the Year 2021” by Airline Ratings, a leading airline safety and product rating review website, will go a long way in mending the country’s image which has taken a hammering for more than two decades by countries that accuse it of human rights abuses.

“As you may be aware tourism has key enablers. Air transport is a key enabler of tourism. For any destination to be competitive and sustainable, it needs air connectivity. The more air players come, the more the competitiveness of the destination from a pricing perspective to a product quality perspective.

“The coming of Qatar Airways on top of Emirates Airways means we now have global airlines that carry a big brand world over with quality air service.

“This is an endorsement of the destination and brand Zimbabwe. This means job creation, more revenue through consumption of fuel, catering and accommodation services. The benefits will cascade to the whole value chain,” said Nhau.

Nhau also explained that this is an international brand that has direct connection right across the globe.

“By having Qatar Airways coming into Zimbabwe, it means instantly Zimbabwe is now connected with the world as people can now travel from their home destinations to Zimbabwe,” Nhau said.

He stressed that Qatar Airways’ arrival should help facelift the image of the country and for this to happen, government should do everything in its power to ensure that those who wish to visit the country do so with ease.

We believe the government should seize this opportunity and capitalise on this development. Government should also consider tax concessions to make sure that Zimbabwe sheds its persona of being a highly taxed nation if this has not been done already. These concessions should not just be accorded to the airline, but to locals too who use the airline’s services.

Government should also ensure the ongoing national tourism campaigns promoting the country are leveraged on the arrival of such an esteemed airline.”

Supporting this, Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (Zida) boss Douglas Munatsi told delegates at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe winter school that there are still significant challenges in paying taxes, enforcing contracts, getting electricity connected and in protecting investor rights.

There are still perceptions and realities that suggest we are not doing as well as we should,” he said,

“The coming of various airlines from all over the world to the country’s airports will be negated by the failure by the government to inspire confidence in investors through concrete structural reforms particularly around the issue of property rights which continue to be a major challenge.

“Government must show seriousness in addressing concerns of investors for the country to fully benefit from the reintroduction of such airlines,” said Munatsi.

Effects of riots in South Africa, it has been highlighted were felt in the Zimbabwean tourism industry because flight disruptions were experienced as clients were connecting through that country, but with Qatar Airways coming directly to Zimbabwe, such disruptions will be minimised.

According to a report by Newsday, last week in his mid-term fiscal budget review statement, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube projected a 6,4% tourism growth this year underpinned by destination branding and country image transformation, domestic, regional and international tourism promotion, establishment of a tourism revolving fund, opening up of skies, establishment of the tourism satellite account and tax dispensations on tourism capital goods.

The report further stated that growth projections are despite that international travel into the country during the first half had been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This, coupled with the general fear on the global tourism market, and general travel restrictions in some source markets such as the United Kingdom, among others, contributed to undermine international tourism performance in the country.

In view of the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on overseas arrivals, the hospitality industry has been relying more on domestic tourism in order to remain afloat.

The national average hotel bed occupancy fell by 8 percentage points from 22% in 2020 to 14% in 2021. All regions experienced declines except for Nyanga.

But authorities feel that the global vaccination programme currently underway is expected to mitigate against loss of lives and any further economic disruptions.

The launch of Harare and Lusaka supports increased demand for trade between Zimbabwe and Zambia and destinations on the Qatar Airways network such as London, Frankfurt and New York and from multiple points in China,” the airline said when announcing the new routes in June.

The International Finance Corporation, a unit of the World Bank in June said it would provide technical and advisory support towards the Zimbabwe government’s plan to attract more airlines and flights to Victoria Falls and help the tourism hub recover from the impact of COVID-19.

Eurowings, a unit of Lufthansa, announced on June 16 that it would be adding Victoria Falls to its routes starting June next year.

Arrivals plummeted 90% last year as governments closed air spaces and grounded airlines to contain the deadly contagion. According to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, the industry lost US$1 billion potential tourism revenue last year, throwing several operators out of business.

According to its website, Qatar Airways has more than 130 destinations on the map everyday, with a fleet of the latest-generation aircraft of approximately 205 aircraft.


By Joyce Mukucha

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