ZIMBABWE is ready to welcome international tourists and expects those who come first following the re-opening of all tourism activities to be the country’s destination ambassadors.
Tourism industry players have jumped into action amid high hopes after the Government gave them the nod to resume all tourism activities including domestic and international flights.
Business operations in the sector had come to a halt since the start of lockdown measures in March, as authorities sought to contain the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. The re-opening of the sector, however, comes with strict adherence to prevention requirements to ensure travellers’ safety.
Speaking after recent separate meetings with players in the tourism industry in Hwange and Victoria Falls, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu said the Government was satisfied with the state of preparedness to receive a diversity of travellers.
“The tourism industry is ready to welcome back tourists. I met the industry first to update them on a number of developments from a policy perspective so that they can plan accordingly.
“We were trying to encourage each other to continue to improve in terms of our state of preparedness and anticipate opening of international flights from the 1st of October,” said the minister who was in Matabeleland North last week.
“When our first visitors come, they will be our biggest ambassadors in terms of our state of preparedness. I also wanted to learn from them on challenges they have been facing as they attempt to prepare to receive visitors.
“I have heard them and we will be discussing with colleagues (Cabinet) on some of the issues. It was a fruitful meeting and I am quite confident they are ready for both domestic and international visitors.”
International airlines are expected to start servicing the country on October 1. At the weekend, low-cost airline, Fastjet Zimbabwe, confirmed their domestic flights will commence effectively next week Monday.
It said flights between Harare and Bulawayo will operate every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, starting September 21, 2020 while flights between Harare and Victoria Falls will operate every Thursday and Sunday, starting on October 1.
“International flights between Zimbabwe and South Africa are planned to start as from 1 October 2020 subject to the lifting of the travel restrictions by the South African authorities,” said Fastjet.
“On resuming services, the airline will be operating its flights on a reduced frequency, and will be reviewing their programme in line with customer demand.”
The re-opening of flights and sector activities has been widely welcomed by the industry, which expressed hope that the move will catapult tourism back to life by bringing in the much-needed tourists. The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said the re-start of tourism was a great relief to grassroot communities who stand to benefit more from rejuvenated operations.
Zimbabwe’s tourism sector is largely dependent on international clientele hence it was hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to international travel bans.
Government has committed itself to helping the industry promote domestic tourism as an alternative while waiting for revival of international travel.
The industry has also been called upon to review rates to be favourable to the domestic market and affordable to locals.