While inbound tourism numbers to Victoria Falls are limited, due to the lockdown and limited air access, tourism suppliers have focused on ensuring they are ready to welcome tourists once the restrictions ease next week.
This is according to Africa Albida Tourism team members who hosted a webinar updating industry on tourism in Victoria Falls last week. Panellists discussed the need for improved air access to the city as well as availability of COVID-19 testing.
More flights needed
On February 1 the level four lockdown restrictions in Zimbabwe were extended to February 15. “We are looking forward to the lockdown being reviewed so that more flights to Victoria Falls become available,” said GM of Africa Albida Tourism’s Victoria Falls properties, Anald Musonza.
He noted that the city was currently accessible by a Fastjet flight that operates between Harare and Victoria Falls three times weekly. Fastjet’s flights to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg will be reinstated from March 16, and will operate three times weekly. This flight was suspended in January over COVID-19 concerns.
Other airlines expected to resume their flights to Victoria Falls from South Africa are BA Comair, SAA and Airlink. BA Comair said as yet it has no confirmed date for its return to the Falls and SAA currently has no schedules for flights.
Airlink’s Karin Murray, Marketing and Sales Manager says resumption of the Cape Town to Victoria Falls service depend on whatever travel restrictions are in place and on demand. “At this stage May looks likely and Airlink will ramp up its schedule to match demand,” she told Tourism Update.
There are two direct international flights from outside the region currently operational to Victoria Falls: Ethiopian, from Addis Ababa (this flight returns via Gaborone) and Kenya Airways, connecting to Victoria Falls via Nairobi.
In keeping with COVID-19 travel restrictions, guests have access to testing at the Africa Albida properties in Victoria Falls as well as at the airport. “We are working with a lab in town that sends technicians to our properties so that guests can be tested on-site,” said Musonza.
He said the results of these tests were available within 24 hours.
The organisation facilitating the tests on-site for Africa Albida also had a facility at Victoria Falls airport, said Musonza.
Increase in domestic tourism
The Victoria Falls properties have been encouraged by the growth in the domestic market.
“At the moment we have seen a huge increase in domestic bookings but there are also a lot of international bookings coming in,” said Musonza. He explained that international guests had made provisional bookings and sought more flexibility with cancellation policies.
“We hope that the vaccine roll-out across the world will restore the confidence in travel and enable us to pick up our businesses,” said Africa Albida Group Sales and Brand Manager, Bryony Acutt.
She highlighted travellers working from their holiday destinations as a potential post-COVID travel trend for which the Africa Albida properties were well suited. “People have embraced the mentality of ‘if I have WiFi I can work’, and we can accommodate that at some of our properties,” she said.
“We have a guest who has booked to stay with us for three months,” said Musonza, adding that the guest could complete their work while enjoying tourism activities at the Falls.