BY SYDNEY KAWADZA/TANYARADZWA NHARI
GLOBAL carrier, Emirates has flown approximately 700 000 passengers between Harare and Dubai in 6 000 flights since 2012, the airline said Monday, as it marked its first decade on the route.
Emirates, which first landed in Harare in February 2012, has been enjoying robust demand for air travel by Zimbabwean traders scouting for merchandise in one of the world’s biggest trading hubs.
Tourists originating from about 120 of the world’s most lucrative source markets have also taken advantage of the Harare-Dubai route to fly into the southern African country.
On Monday, the firm said its cargo service, which started after it increased frequency and deployed bigger airliners onto the route, has emerged as a key service provider for the country.
“The airline … as of December 2021 has carried over 692 000 passengers and recorded close to 6 000 flights between Dubai and Harare,” Emirates said in a statement.
“A steady rise in demand in the market over the years prompted the airline to increase its flights between Harare and Dubai and onwards to more than 120 destinations in its network to six times weekly.
“The route was initially serviced by Emirates’ Airbus A330-200 aircraft and later the Airbus A340-300 and then the current B777-300ER aircraft.
“It is a momentous occasion in the market for us and as destinations are opening up, we hope to see more people getting out into the world,” said Nasser Bahlooq, Emirates country manager for Zimbabwe.
“Emirates remains committed to providing the best all-round service and travel experience with innovative ‘industry firsts’ in the form of upgrades and customer centric products for both business and leisure travellers,” Bahlooq added.
Emirates spoke as airlines started trooping back to the Zimbabwean market following a frustrating two years of COVID-19-induced headwinds, which triggered damaging hard lockdowns.
Lockdown effects were felt across industries, but Zimbabwe’s tourism sector was among the hardest hit.
Last week, Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) chief executive officer Ross Kennedy said the industry was poised for a rebound following the return of airlines including Emirates.
The airline has increased frequency to six a week, from three when the route was launched a decade ago.
Kennedy projected a swift tourism rebound to be registered as early as April this year, riding on Emirates and Eurowings, among many international airlines.
Until now, Zimbabwe’s tourism industry had predicted a longer phase of depression before recovery during the tail-end of winter, when COVID-19 waves temporarily fizzle out.
“Access to Victoria Falls and the region has been boosted with a number of airlines resuming flights following suspension when the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was identified by South African scientists in late November,” Kennedy said.
“Airlines currently flying to Victoria Falls are fastjet, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, British Airways (operated by Comair), Airlink, Air Zimbabwe and Mack Air, as well as charter airlines, while Emirates has resumed flights to Harare.
“The Lufthansa Group’s new leisure airline Eurowings Discover will start flying into Victoria Falls from March 30, increasing Frankfurt to Windhoek flights to a daily service, with a Windhoek-Victoria Falls-Windhoek tag flight three times a week.
“In addition, on June 30 fastjet will introduce four flights a week between Victoria Falls and Maun, gateway to Botswana’s Okavango Delta, as well as flights between Victoria Falls and Nelspruit, near South Africa’s Kruger National Park, from March 16, linking the region’s prime tourist destinations,” Kennedy added.