The Sunday Mail
Leonard Ncube in VICTORIA FALLS
VICTORIA Falls faces a massive knock on tourist arrivals as major international airlines suspend flights or reduce frequencies into the resort town due to the continued threat of coronavirus.
The pandemic has affected most airlines and a majority of them have grounded their planes as passenger volumes decline after most governments across the world ordered their citizens to minimise travel.
Victoria Falls records an average of 200 000 tourists a year.
During major holidays, visitors rise to around 6 000 per day, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.
The worst affected will be hotels and other tourism service providers that rely on tourists for business.
South African Airways (SAA) and its sister carrier, Airlink, as well as Air Namibia and Ethiopian Airlines have suspended flights to the resort town.
British Airways/ComAir, which had initially announced its intention to stop flying into Victoria Falls last Friday, said it will now stop flying into Victoria Falls from tomorrow.
Kenya Airways also announced it would stop flights into the country’s prime resort destination from yesterday.
In a statement, SAA said it suspended all international and regional flights until May 31.
SA Express, which had daily flights to Bulawayo, also indicated on its website that it had suspended all flights.
Fastjet, which had two daily flights between Johannesburg, South Africa and Bulawayo, indicated that it would now have a single flight.
The British Airways had daily flights into the country, Air Namibia had five flights per week, while South Africa’s Airlink was flying to Victoria Falls daily except Saturdays.
“South African Airways has announced that it will immediately suspend all international operations until 31 May 2020 in response to a Government travel ban aimed at stopping the transmission of coronavirus,” said the airline in a statement.
The suspended regional flights are to Accra in Ghana, Lusaka in Zambia, Harare and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Windhoek in Namibia, Lagos in Nigeria and Entebhe in Uganda.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter chairperson Mr Arnold Musonza said the tourism industry had been hard hit by the coronavirus.
“The industry is bleeding and we need all stakeholders to come on board to ensure survival. The hotel occupancy rate is now at 7,3 percent per day, down from around 45 to 55 percent that is usually the case during this time of the year,” he said.