THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) and District Development Fund (DDF) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) whose aim is to improve access to tourism facilities and resorts through seamless air travel countrywide.
The two Government entities signed the MoU at a colourful event at Hwange National Park Airport on Monday with Falcon Air making its inaugural landing.
Falcon Air, a strategic business unit of DDF, has four 14-seater planes and two of them are operational while the other two are being serviced.
It is expected to complement the local tourism drive under the banner of ZimBho campaign as well as complement national airliner Air Zimbabwe and other domestic service providers with the grand aim of capacitating domestic tourism in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
Access to facilities and tourism resorts is key to revival of tourism.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu presided over the signing ceremony.
DDF director water supplies and maintenance Mr Edwin Toriro, representing the Permanent Secretary for DDF in the office of the President and Cabinet Mr James Jonga and ZTA acting chief executive Mr Givemore Chidzidzi signed on behalf of the two parastatals.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks), by virtue of managing the country’s game parks, is also part of the partnership.
Minister Ndlovu said the partnership is a milestone achievement which should help to identify strategic areas that facilitate tourism development and promotion in Zimbabwe.
He said it will augment Government’s thrust to revive and grow the tourism sector in line with the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy that was launched by President Mnangagwa in August last year following the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This period has been difficult for tourism, more so for our private sector players and I applaud the ZTA and DDF Management teams for this initiative, which shows an admirable resilience as we continue to battle with the downturn while looking forward to bouncing back strongly from this temporal yet devastating setback.
“This strategic partnership is an exciting development in the history of tourism in Zimbabwe that should act as a catalyst for tourism development. It also bears testimony of the strategic thinking and determination by various public institutions to take bold decisions and lead the industry in our march towards vision 2030. On behalf of the tourism industry, I wish to express our gratitude to the Government led by His Excellency, President Mnangagwa, for opening up our airports for international arrivals in support of the tourism sector.
“I also wish to acknowledge the establishment of the Tourism Support Facilities put in place by Government to enable the sector to refurbish, expand and modernise facilities in line with international standards as we prepare to receive significant tourist volumes in future,” said Minister Ndlovu.
He said the Government will continue to avail investment incentives designed to attract more investments into the tourism sector.
Minister Ndlovu said the initiative will go a long way towards spreading the geographical tourism benefits in Zimbabwe.
He said Falcon Air as one of the leading charter flights service providers in Zimbabwe will complement the services of Air Zimbabwe and other domestic airlines so as to improve destination connectivity locally, regionally and internationally.
“Access to our key source markets is as equally important as access within our destination.
“This new Falcon Air service to Hwange National Park and its planned expansion into other National Parks and other tourism destinations which have hitherto not been connected will go a long way towards amplifying all our efforts towards tourism infrastructure development and maintenance and improving destination access in Zimbabwe.”
The Minister reiterated the need for adherence to Covid-19 protocols to prevent spread of the coronavirus and expressed hope that recovery and unprecedented growth of the tourism sector was just around the corner.
Falcon Air will be using the Caravan 11 which can carry eight executive and 14 economy passengers.
The inaugural flight yesterday had tourism executives.
The airline is expected to introduce holiday packages which will be spread to selected tourism areas to promote travelling and make Zimbabwe a destination of choice.
In a speech read on his behalf by Mr Toriro, Mr Jonga said DDF operated 72 airstrips countrywide and was striving to improve destination connectivity through all-weather road access and airports.
“This strategic partnership will help further strengthen synergies that we have in the sector in particular tourism development and promotion through infrastructure development.
“The tourism industry is in dire need for accessibility to the product and revitalisation hence DDF and ZTA have recognised the necessity of joint efforts in tourism development as testimony of efforts being made towards tourism recovery and growth,” he said.