The Zimbabwe government has been blasted by a local tourism body for banning three airlines from flying into the country.
The government, through the Ministry of Transport, which is controlled by President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party , recently banned one South African and two Asian airlines from flying into Zimbabwe saying it’s trying to protect Air Zimbabwe from competition and loss of revenue.
Malaysian Airlines of Malaysia, Emirates Airlines from United Arab Emirates and Nationwide from South Africa are three carriers warned off services to Zimbabwe by the country’s government.
This comes at a time when Air Zimbabwe is on the verge of collapse as it is completely broke and is being sued by its workers while facing a US$30 million (about P208 million) debt.
Last week, the state owned airline cancelled all its regional and international flights due to shortage of funds to buy fuel and to pay more than a thousand of its workers. More than 700 workers had to be retrenched by the airline.
Air Zimbabwe currently has four planes flying, two Modern Ark (MA) 60s, Boeing 737 and a long haul 767.
However, a local tourism body, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), blasted the government for banning the airlines saying Air Zimbabwe should learn to compete with other airlines and should not be protected.
“Air Zimbabwe should not be protected; they should learn to compete with other airlines. No foreign airlines should be banned as these airlines were helping in the economic growth in terms of revenue. Tourists should also be allowed to visit the country without hassles,” said Karikoga Kaseke, ZTA chief executive officer.
A total of 18 international airlines have left the country since the political and economic crisis started 10 years ago.
Some of the airlines that dumped Zimbabwe include Lufthansa, Qantas, Austrian Airlines, Swissair, Air India, Air France and TAP Air Portugal.
Kaseke said the tourism sector had the potential to be among the leading foreign currency earners in the country.
“Instead of banning airlines, the government should look into areas that need urgent attention in the tourism industry, such as the pricing structure. We are the most expensive in the region. Destinations compete and we could lose out in this regard,” Kaseke added.
Kaseke said 2008 was one of the worst years in the history of the tourism industry in Zimbabwe and “preliminary results so far (2009) are not pleasing”.