THE number of passengers who arrived through Zimbabwe’s airports increased by nine percent to 939 069 between January and August last year, after reaching 861 987 during the same period in 2014, official statistics have indicated.
In its second quarter report for 2015 covering data for various economic and social sectors, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStats) said the rise in the number of airline passengers arriving in Zimbabwe during the period was in line with a significant increase in flights into Zimbabwe, which increased to 26 077 between January and August 2015, from 24 762 flights during the prior comparative period.
The number of flights into Zimbabwe has been rising after more airlines joined the route since 2009 when the country returned to brief stability from the economic and political problems caused by hyperinflation and political violence.
At the end of last year, the ambitious Tanzania-headquartered low cost airline, fastjet, announced it would increase weekly frequencies between Harare and Dar es Salaam from three to five, after which it introduced three weekly flights into Victoria Falls from Harare.
Buoyed by a £50 million equity injection in April last year, fastjet is executing an aggressive Pan African expansion across east, central and southern Africa, which has made air travel a viable alternative for Zimbabwean travellers.
“This (the air service permit) represents a significant step towards the company obtaining the air operating certificate required to launch fastjet Zimbabwe,” said fastjet chief executive officer, Ed Winter, in the airline’s annual report for the year to December 31, 2014.
Another low cost airline, FlyAfrica.com, had introduced domestic and regional flights while passenger numbers have been growing at the global carrier, Emirates, which plies the Harare-Lusaka-Dubai routes.
In June last year, Air Zimbabwe introduced three weekly frequencies into Lusaka, Zambia.
More opportunities for airlines emerged after South Africa introduced tighter visa controls on travellers, with regional countries, including Zimbabwe, capitalising on the frustrations by tourists travelling into South Africa.
The SADC region, the current focus of AirZim’s expansion, has 250 million people, 10 percent of them among an emerging middle class.
If AirZim tapes into only five percent of the 25 million, its share would be 1,25 million, which is far higher than about 186 000 passengers transported in 2014.
ZimStats statistics indicated that the number of air passengers rose to 1,3 million in 2014, from one million in 2011, highlighting the sharp rise in demand for airline services in Zimbabwe during the period.
There has been a rise in conferencing in the country, one of which was the recent Aids conference in December, which attracted more than 5 000 delegates, after government began marketing Zimbabwe as a destination for conferencing.
In 2014, the country also hosted the biggest conference of the Jehovah’s Witness community, which also increased demand for airline service during and after the event.
Last year alone, the country hosted more than 80 business delegations that came to explore opportunities.
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