FINANCE Minister Mthuli Ncube told Parliament a few weeks ago during budget debate that the struggling national carrier Air Zimbabwe will take-off in 2020 and will be having about 4 aircrafts.
Air Zimbabwe is currently operating one aircraft which is said to be old and is constantly breaking down forcing the airline to cancel or delay flights.
The Minister said, “Again on Air Zimbabwe, we are expecting basically four aircraft. We have the two from Malaysia that we have paid for. The Ministry of Transport and infrastructural Development has indicated that they are likely to be in the country by the end of the year.
“Then, we have the one that is already here internally, the big one. Then the fourth one is the Embraer that was brought into the country a few months ago. So, four aircraft in total and I told that there is maybe another one that we could lease from a neighbouring country.
“So, I am hopeful that Air Zimbabwe will take off in earnest in 2020,” he said.
While it is good news that Air Zimbabwe is on recovery path, there hasn’t been strategy that would link its revival to the tourism sector which is said be one of the key pillar of economic recovery in Zimbabwe.
It is an undeniable fact that China is arguably the largest contributor of outbound tourists in the world according to UNWTO and will continue to be so for many years to come.
During the China-Ready-Program that was conducted sometime this year at Cresta Lodge, it was made clear that Chinese tourists enjoy direct flights and the reason they are shunning Zimbabwe was because there are no direct flights between China and Zimbabwe.
One would have hoped that revival of Air Zimbabwe should have been modeled around that strategy since tourism is regarded as one of the low hanging fruits for the economy with quick wins.
There is no basis for the revival of Air Zimbabwe for the sole purpose of ferrying a few locals especially captains of industry, government officials and legislators to Victoria Falls because these people will not spend much because the place is not only expensive but is currently modeled with foreign tourists in mind.
I mean how many of the 350 legislators who went to Victoria Falls for the 2020 pre-budget seminar actually went to do rafting, bungee jumping, boat-cruising or game drives among others, if they did in most cases it was a donation and the country got nothing.
It is also not a secret that the Airline was gone to some destinations carrying only a single passenger because not many locals can afford such luxuries hence it is better to focus on a market that can benefit the country more.
The last time we had good numbers of Chinese tourists coming to Zimbabwe was when Air Zimbabwe was doing direct flights to China and with Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) hoping on increasing these statistics, the revival of Air Zimbabwe is surely an important piece in this puzzle. Imagine all the Chinese delegations that visited the country since the coming in of the new dispensation and if Air Zimbabwe was doing direct flights imagine how much business it would have made from these alone and even also the number of Zimbabweans who are going to Chinese to buy goods and other things should have benefitted the country’s Airline.