- The German carrier will fly three times weekly from Frankfurt to Victoria Falls via Windhoek, Namibia.
- Zimbabwe welcomes the new development as a timely boost for the country's tourism sector, which is recovering from Covid-19 shock.
- Before Covid-19, the tourism sector in Zimbabwe was a billion dollar industry, contributing 8% to GDP.
Eurowings Discover, a German long-haul holiday carrier and subsidiary of the Lufthansa Group, will now fly into Zimbabwe's prime tourism destination, Victoria Falls, three times a week from Frankfurt, providing a much-needed boost to the southern African country's economy.
In a statement, the company said an Airbus A330 would be used for flights into Victoria Falls until the end of November this year. The flight will make a brief stopover in Windhoek, Namibia.
The inaugural flight landed in Victoria Falls on Wednesday morning and the airline said it was targeting tourism traffic into the Zambezi region, encompassing parts of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia.
"With the launch of our brand new Victoria Falls flights, we are now able to offer our customers a direct connection between Europe and the diverse Kavango-Zambezi region. This area is of particular importance to our leisure airline Eurowings Discover as we continue expanding our portfolio into attractive touristic destinations in Africa," said Wolfgang Raebiger, the company's CEO and the captain who operated the first flight.
The airline will operate every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Zimbabwe's tourism minister, Mangaliso Ndhlovu, said the development was a major boost for the country's profile as an international destination.
At the height of Covid-19 global travel restrictions, Zimbabwe's tourism sector was the hardest hit in the country. Hotels and lodges retrenched workers and several businesses shut operations entirely.
In its annual Migration and Tourism Statistics report, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStats) said the number of foreign tourists declined by almost 80% between 2019 and 2020.
"In the year 2020, Zimbabwe had 567 766 visitors, a decrease from the 2 466 183 who visited Zimbabwe in 2019 signalling a decrease of almost 77% of visitors to Zimbabwe. The bulk of visitors to Zimbabwe, 43%, were in-transit to other countries. Visitors who came to Zimbabwe in the year 2020 used road (496 923) to cross into the country, compared to 70 686 who used air as their mode of entry," the report stated.
Tour operators said the arrival of Eurowings Discover was a timely sweetener as the tourism sector, which was a billion dollar industry before Covid-19, contributing 8% to GDP, is on the road to recovery.
Udo Volz, Germany's ambassador to Zimbabwe, said Eurowings Discover would likely contribute to an increase in visitors from Germany to Zimbabwe because of the direct flight.
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