Ethiopian Airlines resumes Victoria Falls route

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
AFRICA’S largest airline, Ethiopian Airlines, landed at the Victoria Falls International Airport on Tuesday as it resumed flights into the resort town since suspending operations early this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The wide-bodied Boeing 737-800, made its maiden flight to Victoria Falls on March 26, 2017. There were 13 passengers on board on Tuesday amid excitement from the tourism industry players who have been eagerly waiting for the return of flights. The airline departed moments later with 10 passengers.

It will fly twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays between Addis Ababa and Victoria Falls. Ethiopian Airways becomes the first regional operator to land at the giant airport since the start of the lockdown in March. The country is also luring several other regional and international airlines to fly into Zimbabwe.

The airline’s customer services agent, Ms Divine Phiri, said they expected the numbers to grow as they were getting significant bookings.

“As Ethiopian Airlines we are excited as you can see this is our first international flight into Victoria Falls. We are hoping to start having more tourists coming to Victoria Falls,” she said.

Tourism industry players were present to welcome the resort town’s first foreign visitors and said they are convinced the return of regional flights marks resumption of regional tourism.

“We are in the right direction. We have been waiting for over six months now for international flights and this definitely is the first step. We now look to have more flights coming in and this is an endorsement to say we are ready,” said Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) vice-president, Mr Farai Chimba.

He said the industry had put a lot of work into preparing for Covid-19 protocols and keeping confidence of the international market.

“We are calling on other airlines that used to fly into Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe as a whole that we are prepared to welcome our visitors from across borders and this is a direction that we can’t go back on. We are ready, we are part and parcel of rebuilding travel internationally and domestically. So far with what we have seen with domestic flights, we are quite confident that those preparations are bearing fruit and can only now be expanded to the greater market,” said Mr Chimba.

Tourism executive, Mr Jonathan Hudson said the reopening of the skies will steer the country’s economy to growth through tourism.

“We are very excited to have Ethiopian Airlines coming back into Zimbabwe. It’s great, it will do wonders for tourism, business and employment and also assist in boosting our economy again. Opening our skies is the way to go, let’s bring it back to what it used to be.

As an industry we are very ready and understand all protocols,” said Mr Hudson.

Posting on its Twitter handle earlier, Ethiopian Airlines said it had improved travelling insurance after partnering with Sheba Comfort.

The occasion was decorated by a rowing welcome by industry delegates with entertainment provided by a local tradition group, Ilembe Spears, whose isitshikitsha dance was befitting for the return of the giant airliner and probably foreign tourists, who are the biggest fans of local traditional music. There was also cutting of the cake as the airliner hosted the local industry at the airport. — @ncubeleon

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