ETHIOPIAN Airlines yesterday made its maiden flight to Bulawayo as it landed at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport, a key development in the aviation industry that will boost the tourism sector as well as ease international travel.
The airline arrived on schedule to a spectacular traditional water cannon salute.
The airline, which already flies into Zimbabwe through Harare and Victoria Falls, is set to provide service four times a week from Addis Ababa to Bulawayo through Victoria Falls.
The coming of more international airlines is testimony to the positive impact of Zimbabwe’s Open Skies Policy, which enhances the country’s attractiveness to potential investors.
When the Second Republic came into being in 2017, just three airlines were utilising the country’s airspace. Now more than 18 airlines are flying into the country.
Speaking at the welcome ceremony, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Engineer Theodius Chinyanga, said Ethiopian Airlines will aid in increasing economic growth in the country.
“We are cognisant of the critical role that air transport plays in the economic development of our country.
“The coming in of Ethiopian Airlines to Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport will, without doubt, spur on and encourage more exciting ground-breaking investment and trade ventures in other downstream sectors of our economy for the benefit of the nation.”
He stressed the need to embrace and utilise the opportunity provided by Ethiopian Airlines to grow tourism, trade, attract foreign direct investment, and create beneficial business relationships with the world.
Eng Chinyanga said his ministry will endeavour to increase connectivity, not only with the continent of Africa but with the rest of the world in line with the Government’s National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) focusing on the realisation of the country’s vision of transforming Zimbabwe into an Upper-Middle Income Economy by 2030.
Before Ethiopian Airlines came to Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport, the only other international flight in and out of the airport was to Johannesburg in South Africa, which is operated by Airlink.
“Therefore, with the coming in of this flight from Addis Ababa, we now have increased the connectivity between Bulawayo and the rest of the continent and the world at large,” said Eng Chinyanga.
The airline’s chief commercial officer, Mr Lemma Yadesga Gudeta, expressed confidence that the airline will facilitate easy international access by increasing connectivity.
“Our new flight to Bulawayo creates even stronger socio-economic ties between Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. It also has a significant role in international accessibility and boosts the country’s tourism sector.”
In a statement, Ethiopian Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Mesfin Tasew, said the Bulawayo route will enhance international connectivity and facilitate trade within Africa and beyond.
“The commencement of flights to Bulawayo is crucial in connecting Southern Africa to the world with our 130 destinations in five continents. We are glad to serve Bulawayo, the industrial hub of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa, accelerating trade with our cargo and passenger services.
“Our flights to multiple cities in a country indicate our solid commitment to serve our customers and support our continent as the best pan-African carrier,” said Mr Tasew.
He said Ethiopian Airlines’ growing connectivity is backing the utilisation of the huge potential of the continent’s tourism industry.
“The new flight to Bulawayo will add convenience to travellers, thereby activating the trade activities in the industrial hub of southern Africa.”
Recently, Ethiopian Airlines was the official carrier for the international buyers and journalists who attended this year’s Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo, after they entered into a partnership with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
Zimbabwe has witnessed increased interest from various airlines in recent years, with some, including Emirates, increasing flight frequency while others, including Germany’s Eurowings Discover airline and RwandAir, have entered the country’s air space.
The renewed interest in Zimbabwe as a destination is a show of confidence in the local tourism industry, and aviation market in general by foreign airlines and the international community.
Authorities have attributed the growing interest in the country by foreign airlines to improved aviation infrastructure.