The government should take a leaf from Kenyan Airways by reducing its presence in the embattled national carrier Air Zimbabwe and allow it to make commercial decisions.
Tourism and Hospitality minister Walter Mzembi told delegates attending the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe congress that ended on Friday there was no reason for the continued protection of the airline.
The conference was held under the theme, “Rebranding HAZ — Generating Transformational Momentum”.
He said just like the country was rebranding through various processes such as the Global Political Agreement, constitution making exercise and the setting up of a one stop investment centre, the airline had to rebrand.
“We need to have a new look at Air Zimbabwe with a reduced government presence,” said Mzembi.
“Kenyan Airways has enough space to make commercial decisions. It has to take a back seat and let Airzim make commerce-driven decisions.”
Air Zimbabwe acting CEO Innocent Mavhunga a fortnight ago told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on State Parastatals and Enterprise Management committee that the airline was facing a $137,7 million debt, with $112,7 million owed internally and $25 million owed to institutions outside Zimbabwe.
Mavhunga said Air Zimbabwe as a brand was of great value and what it only needed was sprucing up.
“It can be turned around if we implement what we said, like restructuring the company and letting it operate on commercial lines.
“We have a very strong customer support base and our reputation in terms of safety is of great intrinsic value,” said Mavhunga.
Mzembi said there was no need to overly protect the airline as it used to perform better under a competitive environment a decade ago.
“Gone are the days we should protect and this we have done to Airzim. The airline used to perform better in 1996 when there were 45 airlines flying into the country,” he said.
Mzembi said winning the right to host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly was just the beginning and retaining it posed the biggest challenge.
Commenting on the continued poor rating of the country by global institutions such as World Economic Forum, Mzembi said there was a need for the country to ensure that it fed the world with accurate statistics.
“Some of you are feeding world agencies with garbage. There is need to feed accurate information. At times there no statics on Zimbabwe and so it is self-inflicted as you are not providing the information,” said Mzembi.
Former Zimbabwe Council for Tourism president Herbert Nkala said it was time the government implemented the open skies policy to improve the accessibility of the country.