HARARE – East Africa’s rapidly expanding airline, RwandAir says it is working out a strategy to increase tourist traffic from that region into Zimbabwe following a tremendous rise in load factors since introducing connections on the Kigali-Harare route 18 months ago.
Twinned with this ambition, said RwandAir country manager for Zimbabwe Ada Magezi, will be a plan to expand the airline’s network into the resort town of Victoria Falls.
Zimbabwe’s premier resort has been a magnet for major African airlines since government completed the US$150 million expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport in 2016, reconfiguring it to handle intercontinental jetliners.
The country projects that tourist arrivals would rich three million this year, from 2,5 million in 2017.
This optimism has been driving a wide range of investments and airlines into Victoria Falls.
“We have been pleased with the levels of business on Rwandair services to Zimbabwe to date and we are hopeful of sustained business and increased levels of support in the coming months and years,” Magezi told reporters in Harare on Monday.
“We are very much part of the effort to increase the levels of business and leisure tourism into Zimbabwe, and it is our hope that the growth in interest in this destination will maintain its upward momentum during 2019 and beyond. We are hoping to expand in Zimbabwe,” she said.
“We are hoping to expand into Victoria Falls as well, although we are still a new airline in Zimbabwe,” added Magezi.
She was fielding questions after introducing a team of ten leading travel agencies from Uganda invited to sample Zimbabwe’s attractions.
Passenger numbers have been rising on RwandAir’s flights since introducing the Kigali-Harare flights in April 2016.
The airline has deployed the 150-seater Boeing 737 aircraft on the route to replace a 74-seater plane first used on the route, according to Magezi.
She said during peak periods RwandAir had recently operated the much bigger Airbus A330.
Underpinning RwandAir’s confidence in Zimbabwe is high demand for business class seats on the Harare-Cape Town leg of the four weekly flights, which she said had defied expectations.
“It is amazing how we have so many business class seats from Harare to Cape Town,” she told reporters.
She said RwandAir projected that following the visit by the Ugandan travel agencies, traffic from East Africa would be robust in the coming months, benefiting Zimbabwe’s tourism industry.
Ethiopian Airways also operates frequencies into both Harare and Victoria Falls from Addis Ababa and the two giants are expected to compete fiercely, with several benefits to passengers including improving fares.
“This visit was part of our ongoing efforts to create greater interest in business and leisure travel to Zimbabwe from East Africa. We have been keen to increase the level of traffic into Harare from East Africa, where there are a large number of nationals and expatriates who wish to visit other parts of Africa, and for whom Zimbabwe is an appealing destination.
We know that Victoria Falls is the country’s premier tourist attraction, and it is to there that most tourists travel. But we also wish to see tourists undertaking visits to all the other wonderful attractions across Zimbabwe, from Hwange and Lake Kariba to Mana Pools and the Eastern Highlands, and from Great Zimbabwe and the Lowveld to Bulawayo and the Matobo Hills,” Magezi told reporters.
Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) said on Tuesday Air Tanzania would be introducing flights between Dar as Salaam and Harare on Friday.
The airline would be operating three weekly frequencies using an Airbus 220-300, according to a statement from CAAZ.