The Sunday Mail
Regional and international airlines are beginning to make plans to resume flights into the country as the sector begins awakening after global travel restrictions that followed the Covid-19 pandemic. This is subject to lifting of lockdown restrictions by President Mnangagwa.
Lockdowns and travel restrictions were some of the prescribed health guidelines to stop the spread of the disease, which was first detected in China last December.
However, the measures brought aviation and the tourism industries to their knees.
Statistics from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) indicate that the country experienced a 99 percent decline in passengers from April to date as a result of the coronavirus fallout. Air movement declined by 97 percent, while cargo movement fell 65 percent.
There was also a 70 percent decline in overfliers. As a result of the inactivity, airport revenues went down 95 percent. However, plans by various airlines to resume flights into the country are now underway as countries begin relaxing travel restrictions.
“The figures are not good because there was a total shutdown for the sector as countries closed their borders. There was absolutely no movement at all. There is an opening now beginning to be seen and some airlines that used to fly here are now starting to make plans on how they can resume flights into the country. Eventually, we should see all flights resuming though it may take time and there is going to be a new normal,” said CAAZ acting director-general Margaret Mathiziba.
However, she could not be drawn into disclosing names of the airlines planning to fly into Zimbabwe.
She was responding to questions during the fourth edition of an online Economic Development Outlook-New Normal conference hosted by Global Renaissance Investments (GRI).
The conference focused on transport, logistics and infrastructure, which are identified as key enablers to economic development. For a landlocked country like Zimbabwe, air transport plays a key role in enhancing trade as well as easy movement of tourists within the country and across borders.
The aviation industry contributes about 3,6 percent to global gross domestic product (GDP), with 65,5 million jobs worldwide.
In 2019, 31 000 flights passed through Zimbabwe’s airspace. Also, 47 000 landings and take-offs were recorded during the period.
The sector currently faces a myriad of challenges owing to the significant reduction in demand for air travel, loss of revenue, delays in investments in airport infrastructure projects as well as failure to service capital loans.
As economies are beginning to relax travel restrictions to enable cross-border trade and travel, Ms Mathiziba said there was need for the sector to observe safety measures to protect travellers and ensure confidence is restored.
More Government support for the sector will also be ideal in its recovery strategies.
Government unveiled an $18 billion stimulus package to assist businesses in the wake of the coronavirus. Of this amount, $500 million is for the tourism and hospitality sector, which includes aviation. Ms Mathiziba said while this was a starting point, more support could be directed specifically for the aviation sector for its quick restart and recovery.