Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi has said the country needed a strong national airline to promote domestic tourism.
In a speech read on his behalf by Tourism ministry permanent secretary Margaret Sangarwe at the launch of Fresh Air, a new airline that commenced its operations in Zimbabwe last Friday, Mzembi bemoaned the absence of a national airline following the grounding of Air Zimbabwe.
Fresh Air’s inaugural flight was on Friday where it flew from Johannesburg to Harare before going to Victoria Falls.
Mzembi said the airline had brought a huge relief to his ministry.
“The absence of a Zimbabwean airline in the development of our tourism industry was a serious indictment on all of us who have been given the responsibility to develop the tourism sector of our business.
“It is very pleasing that the tourism ministry and some private sector players got together and gave birth to this new baby called Fresh Air which will soon be flying to local destinations,” Mzembi said.
He added that the country needed a strong national airline in order to promote domestic tourism.
“A strong national airline or airlines are vital for taking our people to the various parts of the country. Operations like Fresh Air stimulate economic activity and business entrepreneurship, which constitute our domestic tourism,” the minister said.
Mzembi urged locals to be tourists in their own country.
“We are determined to move away from the narrow conceptualisation of tourism as arrival of, for instance, British nationals on British Airways, visiting the Victoria Falls and flying back to the United Kingdom.
“We need to migrate to a conceptualisation of tourism that includes the peasants of Binga arriving at the Marange Diamond fields on Fresh Air together with foreign nationals visiting our iconic tourism destinations,” he said.
“It is through such developments that Africa can raise its share of global tourism and travel earnings from the current 4% to possibly 10% by 2020.”
In a speech read on his behalf, Transport minister Nicholas Goche said: “This is a demonstration that as government we have opened up the airways to deserving indigenous entities that seek to complement national efforts to effectively service business generally and promote the tourism sector and travelling public in particular.”
Fresh Air is jointly owned by Nu.Com (Pvt) Ltd of Zimbabwe and 1Time Holdings Ltd of South Africa in a 51-49% arrangement.
The airline, which is expected to start operating in three weeks, would service a number of domestic and regional routes, including Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Harare, Kariba, Masvingo and South Africa.
The airline will be using two types of planes, the 132-seater Macdonald Douglas 87 that made the inaugural flight and the 157-seater Macdonald Douglas 87 plane.