THE government is considering waiving navigation and landing fees to lure new airlines into the destination, in an ambitious drive to grow the tourism sector.
The tourism sector is considered a low hanging fruit and provides the quickest turnaround ahead of other sectors such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing and contributes 11% to the gross domestic product.
Officially opening the 10th edition of the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo on Friday, Finance and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa said he would propose in Cabinet for the waiver of navigation and landing fees.
“I am undertaking to put to Cabinet for the 2018 budget for serious consideration that those airlines who are not flying to Zimbabwe, we want them to start flying to Zimbabwe. We are going to seriously debate and consider for a period of say 2 to 3 years granting them free air navigation and free landing rights,” Chinamasa said.
“These are incentives that hopefully can attract them to come back. We want to go back to the position which we were in 1999. We are going to make a campaign to all those airlines which used to come here. Sooner or later, we will approach you to tell you what incentives we will give you.”
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, alongside government and the tourism industry has been on a campaign to lure airlines into Zimbabwe following the flight of carriers in the period 2000 to 2010.
At its peak in 1999, 42 airlines used to fly into Zimbabwe. The number included eight cargo planes. Currently 20 airlines are flying into Zimbabwe. Some of the airlines that used to fly into Zimbabwe include Lufthansa and Swiss Air.
Chinamasa said funding has been secured for the expansion of Harare International Airport. Last year, President Robert Mugabe commissioned the Victoria Falls International Airport after a $150 million upgrade.
The upgrade of the airport has given it latitude to land wide-bodied aircraft in the mould of B747, B777 and Airbus, A340 or equivalent.
This upgrade has lured other airlines.
In March, South African Airways became the first airline to fly a wide-bodied aircraft after deploying an A330-200 to the resort town.
In March, Ethiopian Airlines introduced four weekly flights to Victoria Falls. In May, Kenyan Airways introduced three weekly flights to the resort town and Airlink began a six-day service per week to Victoria Falls from Cape Town in July.
Chinamasa said the tourism sector was one of the country’s foreign currency earners alongside mining, agriculture and manufacturing.
“We must look after the goose that lays the golden eggs. Tourism is one such goose,” Chinamasa said.
The sector aims to grow arrivals to 5 million in 2020 from 2,1 million last year. It also projects to grow tourism receipts to $5 billion from $1 billion.
The ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry has been pleading with Treasury to allocate it at least 1% of the country’s national budget.
Chinamasa said he would fund marketing activities and ensure that Zimbabwe was well-represented at international tourism marketing events.0–newsday