THE restoration of British Airways’ flights to Victoria Falls after more than a year of service suspension is a big endorsement to the country’s tourism sector and Zimbabwe’s investment profile, industry players have said.
A special reception was conducted last Thursday when the global airline service landed at Victoria Falls International Airport with more than 90 passengers on board coming to Zimbabwe’s prime tourism destination.
Various stakeholders and tourism players were at the airport by 1PM to welcome back the British Airways, which is operated by Comair.
The airline’s operations were suspended from March 24 last year at the height of the Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Its return comes at a time when more airlines have expressed interest to resume flight services to Zimbabwe, which has made significant strides in ensuring visitors’ safety through rolling out Covid-19 vaccinations.
Victoria Falls has become the first city in the country to attain herd immunity after a majority of its residents turned up for inoculation thereby boosting confidence of tourists to resume visits to the destination.
The airline’s country manager, Ms Karen Tumazos, said the resumption of flights was a big win for tourism operations.
“This is a great introduction for us to bring visitors to Victoria Falls City, which is one of the top destinations in Zimbabwe. It has been over a year since we last flew here and we are hoping to see an increase in passengers going forward,” she said.
“We will be flying twice, weekly in May and from June 1 we are back on daily flights and we hope to keep flying and increase frequencies to Zimbabwe,” said Ms Tumazos.
Some of the passengers who came all the way from South Africa were excited to be back to the resort city and could not wait to experience the adventures and wonders of Victoria Falls including seeing wildlife and sampling other activities.
“I have been coming to Victoria Falls for the past 15 years and l still get the drive to come back for more because l love this place,” said Mr Michael Johnston.
Another visitor Miss Lathitha Gazi said: “I look forward to the best experience in Victoria Falls and have fun through the many activities that I have heard about as we celebrate one of my family member’s birthdays.”
The delegates who came to welcome the resumption of airline services was critical to the revival of the tourism sector.
“This is a highly exciting and important development for Victoria Falls because there is a lot of joy over the arrival of British Airways-Comair. This dignifies another giant step in our road to recovery and we look forward to welcoming back all visitors, whether on BA (Comair) or any other airline to Victoria Falls, the beautiful destination,’ said Independent Consultant for ‘We are Victoria Falls Crisis and Recovery Initiative’ Coordinator, Ms Shelly Cox.
Roots Through Africa director, Mrs Yvonne Jandles, also expressed excitement saying the return of air services would enhance better access to the destination and improve business.
“The return of airlines will cement what the source markets think of us. Having reached herd immunity as Victoria Falls, we now see airlines having confidence in us as they are coming back,” she said.
A representative of the Tourism Business Council, Mrs Barbara Murasiranwa, said following the relaxation of lockdown measures most tourism players were back into business.
“We want to congratulate British Airways for taking this decision to start coming and hopefully more airlines will do the same and a consideration to partial opening of land borders will be made,” she said.