IFC courts airlines in Vic Falls plan

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BY FIDELITY MHLANGA

THE International Finance Corporation (IFC) has moved to help Zimbabwe’s tourism sector bounce back after the COVID-19-induced hard lockdowns triggered a 90% plunge in arrivals last year.

Under the plan, which will involve multiple agencies, the IFC will champion a campaign to attract international airlines back to Victoria Falls, whose world-class airport spent most of last year almost deserted as the pandemic disrupted international travel.

The South Africa-based trade and investment promotion agency will be among organisations that will play a key role in helping government conduct data analysis and facilitate dialogue with airlines to restore the prime resort to its former status of regional tourism and air transport hub.

The parties agreed yesterday to rebuild the sector so that thousands of jobs lost in Victoria Falls as the pandemic tore through southern Africa, frustrating efforts to attract tourists almost turning the resort town into a white elephant, are revived.

British Airways and Emirates have returned to Zimbabwe while domestic carriers — Air Zimbabwe and fastjet — have also resumed their routes.

But experts said competitiveness would only be boosted if flights increased.

“With the right support, Victoria Falls can become a truly competitive tourism entry point for the region,” Adamou Labara, IFC’s country manager for Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe,” said in a statement.

“Establishing this position in the market will help drive tourism through Zimbabwe and support recovery and jobs,” Labara noted.

The globally-acclaimed Victoria Falls city is home to 25 000 tourism sector jobs, all revolving around the waterfall, which is rated among the world’s largest such natural wonders.

Airports Company of Zimbabwe acting chief executive officer Tawanda Gusha said the deal came at the right time as the country was scaling up plans to reposition Victoria Falls.

Theodius Chinyanga, permanent secretary for the Transport and Infrastructural Development ministry said: “A strategic air service development effort is needed to drive recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and ensure long-term growth for Victoria Falls as a regional hub”.

The strategy is part of a broader, multi-year tourism programme called the Zimbabwe Destination Development Programme (ZDDP) that has been rolled out to increase the competitiveness of the country’s tourism industry.

Launched in January 2020, ZDDP is sponsored by the Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry ministry, Transport ministry, IFC and the government of Japan.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets working in more than 100 countries, using own capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries.

In fiscal year 2020, it invested US$22 billion in private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging on the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity.

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