ZIMBABWE Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive officer, Karikoga Kaseke has urged the government to urgently order the police to desist from mounting countless roadblocks on major highways, saying they were tarnishing the country’s image and frustrating foreign visitors.
By Brezhnev Malaba in Victoria Falls
Speaking at a ceremony for Kenya Airways’ inaugural flight to Victoria Falls yesterday, the ZTA chief said the roadblocks were making it difficult to market Zimbabwe as a competitive tourist destination.
Kaseke complained that on a 21-kilometre drive from the resort town to the newly-refurbished Victoria Falls International Airport, he encountered four police roadblocks.
“The Vice-President himself, when I talked to him, he said that he was going to call the Home Affairs minister [Ignatius] Chombo, to really talk about this issue. The police roadblocks are making this destination unattractive. We cannot be attractive when, from Victoria Falls town to the airport, you have four roadblocks,” Kaseke said.
Looking directly at Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Joram Gumbo at the high table, who was the guest of honour, Kaseke remarked: “I know, minister, you were not stopped, but you saw the police, you saw them standing by the road. But I am not a minister; I was stopped four times. What were they [police] asking me? They were asking me about things that are not normally asked by any policeman anywhere else in the world. And I am simply saying that this is a big, big challenge.”
Victoria Falls mayor, Sifiso Mpofu, acknowledged the problem of countless police roadblocks.
“I was hoping you would say that the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is going to relocate its headquarters to Victoria Falls, so that we fight the roadblocks together,” Mpofu said.
Kaseke hailed the Department of Immigration, saying its efforts were contributing to the development of tourism, noting that tourists from more than 50 countries, who previously needed to apply for visas before visiting Zimbabwe, could now be issued with visas at the ports of entry.
“The principal director of immigration, the head of immigration at the moment, is doing wonders. He has worked very closely with tourism and he has moved, during the previous year, more than 50 countries from category C to category B, meaning that these countries are now getting visas at the port of entry. We are working very closely.
Transport minister Gumbo commended Kenya Airways for introducing the direct flight to Victoria Falls, whose international airport was recently upgraded at a cost of $150 million, enabling the resort town to attract world-class airlines.
“These newly introduced flights by Kenya Airways will go a long way in further boosting confidence in our country and easing the travel challenges of tourists and investors from Africa and other parts of the world. This is indeed welcome, given that the government of Zimbabwe has declared Victoria Falls a Special Economic Zone,” Gumbo said.
Kenya Airways group chief executive Mbuvi Ngunze, who arrived on the inaugural flight, said it would enhance connectivity, convenience and African integration.
“In addition to enhancing African integration, this new route will provide a boon for Zimbabwe’s tourism industry as it establishes vital links between the majestic Victoria Falls and the tourism source markets in our global network,” Ngunze added.
Victoria Falls becomes the airline’s 52nd destination and its second city in Zimbabwe after Harare, where it operates 21 flights weekly.
The direct route is serviced by a 90-seater Embraer E-190 jetliner and connects Nairobi, Victoria Falls and Cape Town. On its way back from Cape Town, the plane returns to Victoria Falls before proceeding back to its Nairobi base.
Kenya Airways becomes the third major international carrier within a month, after South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, to introduce direct flights to Zimbabwe’s premier tourist destination. Although SAA has been flying to Victoria Falls for years, it recently launched a 200-seater Airbus 330-200, the largest plane to ever land at the resort.