Africa: Increased flights raise hotel occupancy by 25% at Victoria Falls
Hotel operators in Victoria Falls are reporting a better-than-expected half year profit and raising their earnings forecast for the year, helped by a boost in business travel following a recently commissioned $150 million international airport.
This comes after Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways in April introduced direct flights to Victoria Falls from Nairobi and Addis Ababa respectively, attracting increased air traffic.
South African Airways introduced its new Airbus A330-300 aircraft on the Johannesburg-Victoria Falls route after the upgrading.
On the other hand, Rwandan Airlines, which introduced the Kigali-Harare direct flights in April and the Turkish Airlines have indicated that they might soon be flying into the newly-refurbished Victoria Falls International Airport.
Ross Kennedy, chief executive of Africa Albida Tourism — a leading Zimbabwean hospitality group — said room occupancies in Victoria Falls for the six months ended June 30 had seen an increase of 25,4 percent over the same period in 2016.
This equates to close to 19 000 additional rooms sold over that period by 10 hotels, which together have 1 125 rooms and measure arrivals monthly.
The feedback in Victoria Falls shows that this same trend is also evident across the rest of the sector, which represents a further 700 rooms.
The positive impact of these rising numbers on the local economy and the tourism sector is substantial, and very welcome after many difficult years, added Kennedy.
Key to the uplift in tourist arrivals is the new Victoria Falls Airport, which is already playing a major role in the tourist town, with the new airlines, new routes and increased flight capacity from existing carriers all adding to the growing momentum that is so clearly evident across the destination.
Margaret Kinsman, BAComair international sales and interline manager, said the airline is operating larger aircraft on the Joburg-Vic Falls route, and over the coming months will be offering double daily flights on several days of the week.
The BAComair daily schedule is operated by a B737-800 aircraft, which accommodates 162 passengers in a business and economy configuration. Between July and November 2017, three additional flights per week have been scheduled on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, using a B737-400 which accommodates 150 passengers. The airline is also licensed to operate these three additional services per week year-round as required, should there be demand, added Kinsman.
South African Airways is operating an Airbus A330-200 with 222 seats, which is 88 seats more than their previous aircraft capacity.
In addition, Ethiopian Airways and Kenya Airways, link Victoria Falls to North and East Africa. Both airlines have their own hubs and networks for better connections and packaging.
Kenya Airways flies from Victoria Falls to Cape Town, creating a much-needed route linking the three iconic African destinations of Cape Town, Victoria Falls and Kilimanjaro.
The latest arrivals into Victoria Falls Airport are SA Airlink, plying the Cape Town to Victoria Falls route six days a week, and Fastjet, which has now added Johannesburg to Victoria Falls three times a week to their schedule.
In the domestic air space, Air Zimbabwe and Fastjet are now both operating seven days a week, which has been a boost for domestic tourism.
According to Kennedy, new businesses are opening across the industry in the region,with new lodges, hotel rooms, restaurants, bars, and new activities, all of which combine to enhance the draw of the destination, which is a hub for Hwange, Matobo Hills, the rest of Zimbabwe and the KAZA (Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area) region.
KAZA, which is made up of five southern African countries, boasts some of the most pristine and diverse wildlife areas left on the planet.
With both Kasane and Livingstone Airports also having been recently upgraded, the three airports can now handle three million passengers per year between them, and so make this hub, the power house of the KAZA region’s tourism growth.
According to Kennedy, forecasts for July to December 2017 show even more growth, with major South Africa-based DMCs reporting high demand for the region for 2018 and 2019.