VALUE carrier fastjet Zimbabwe has said it will introduce daily flights between Victoria Falls and Mbombela (Nelspruit) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport this year as it positions the resort town as a regional tourism hub.

The airline will increase the number of flights from Victoria Falls to Nelspruit Kruger Mpumalanga in South Africa to a daily service from early July to the end of September 2024, according to its spokesperson Nunurai Ndawana.

“These two destinations are among Africa’s most sought-after tourist attractions and as fastjet we are delighted to provide a reliable and efficient flight service allowing tourists to explore more of Africa’s attractions,” he said.

This is a vote of confidence in the destination which is Zimbabwe’s window to the world due to the pulling power of Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall.

The resort has seen a number of airlines flying into the destination making it accessible to tourists. These include Lufthansa’s Eurowings Discover, Africa’s largest carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, South African Airways and Airlink, among others.

The plans by fastjet to make Victoria Falls a regional tourism hub are expected to grow the local tourism sector and dovetail into government’s plans to grow the industry by tapping into the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition (MICE) tourism.

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The National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy has positioned the promotion of MICE tourism as an integral component of the tourism recovery plan.

“The hosting of MICE activities such as conferences, events, fairs and festivals has the potential to bring people and businesses together thereby building trust and boosting confidence in the destination. Engagement will be made with the relevant organisations that had cancelled or postponed scheduled international conferences to have them reconvened in the future,” the document said.

These plans are on track with Zimbabwe this week hosting the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) flagship conference of African ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

The 56th session of the ECA Conference of African Finance, Planning and Economic Development ministers runs from February 28 to March 5 in Victoria Falls.

However, all the efforts by fastjet to make Victoria Falls a regional tourism hub will come to naught without accompanying housekeeping issues.

The destination has to step up by providing accommodation facilities to cater for the growing number of tourist arrivals.

Tourism operators in the resort town must be capacitated to build more facilities. The government has made the first step as its company, Mosi-oa-Tunya Development Company, has entered into a joint venture with Old Mutual Life Assurance Company for financing a feasibility study for the development of backbone infrastructure for the Masuwe Special Economic Zone, measuring 1 200 hectares.

Old Mutual will construct a four-star hotel with a 5 000-seater conference facility, medical tourism facilities, a golf estate and a shopping mall on land the government will allocate. The mega project, which will increase the room stocks in the resort, will use green energy in the form of solar.

Operators must be mindful of pricing which has made Victoria Falls the most expensive tourist destination. Victoria Falls-based operators must be sensitive to pricing as the intended benefits will slip through their fingers. Zambia’s Livingstone is next door and can take away a large chunk of the business.