African airlines can help unlock the continent’s tourism potential by introducing intra-African flights that enhance connectivity between various destinations and encourage domestic travel, Zambia’s Minister for Tourism and Arts, Sylvia Masebo has said.
“The challenge in tourism has been the issue of connectivity. In Africa, it is difficult to move from one country to another, and this has been a barrier to enhancing intra-African tourism,” Ms. Masebo said at the end of the week during the launch of Kenya Airways’ direct flights from Nairobi to Livingstone.
She added that in its 2013 budget, the Zambian government had identified infrastructural development as a key sector that needed to be improved to develop domestic tourism.
Speaking during the event, Chief Executive Officer and Group Managing Director of Kenya Airways, Dr. Titus Naikuni, said that airlines have contributed towards creating and supporting sustainable development in Africa by enabling travel from one corner of the continent to another.
“The aviation industry is a good facilitator if nurtured well. We need to help the industry to grow by enhancing security and infrastructure and removing obstacles that prevent people from travelling,” Dr. Naikuni stated, adding that airlines are the channels that allow tourists to move into a country.
He called for measures that will allow for the tapping into the growth of the middle class in Africa to promote domestic tourism.
Kenya Airways targets flying to every African capital by 2016. Livingstone, which is Kenya Airways’ 60th destination, becomes the third destination in Zambia that the airline flies to after Lusaka and Ndola. Out of its 60 destinations, over 40 are within the continent.”Do not ignore Africa. It is a huge economy. The day we have free travel within Africa is the day that we will reap the benefits of domestic tourism,” Dr. Naikuni added.
Also present at the event were: Felix Chaila, the Managing Director of Zambia Tourism Board and Muriithi Ndegwa, the Managing Director of the Kenya Tourism Board.Mr Chaila said that the introduction of direct flights to Livingstone would provide connectivity to the iconic Victoria Falls, located within the city.
“The problem in Africa’s tourism sector is that the market is too dependent on the Western market that goes to sleep in winter. In Africa there is no seasonality, and we need to tap into this market,” he added. He noted that the airline is interconnected with the tourism sector, adding that the surge in the number of airlines flying into the country would grow tourist numbers.
Kenya Airways now flies three times weekly – Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays – between Livingstone and its hub at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi via Harare International Airport in Zimbabwe. The launch of the direct flights to Livingstone comes as Zambia prepares to co-host the UN World Tourism Organisation with Zimbabwe. Ms Masebo noted that it would ease delegates’ travel.