By Ntombi Mhlongo
“We have arrived”! This was a bold statement made by the Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs in the Kingdom of Eswatini as the country’s national airline landed at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Friday morning.
For Vilakati, the deal allowing the Eswatini aeroplane to use the Zimbabwean route will be a big boost for the tourism sector of the two countries.
He said this is the beginning of big things as he believes that it started with one aeroplane but there could be more in the coming years. The minister, who was part of the Eswatini delegation that enjoyed the maiden flight to and from Zimbabwe said the deal was a milestone and one that will positively change the tourism sector.
“Just before I came here, I checked the statistics of people who visit Eswatini, and I discovered that Zimbabweans come third. Mozambique is second. I challenge the Zimbabweans to take the second position because there are many linkages between the two countries,” Vilakati said.
He said he has already engaged the Eswatini Tourism Authority to engage with its Zimbabwean counterparts for a possible signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) so that the two countries can use the deal to boost the tourism sector.
He then highlighted some of the biggest events in Eswatini which he said Zimbabweans could come and witness especially now that it will be easier and cheaper to travel.
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“In May, we will have the MTN Bushfire Festival in Eswatini and I urge Zimbabweans not to miss it for anything. All they need to do is bring their dancing shoes. After that, we will have the Standard Bank Luju Festival whose focus is on good food. I hope there will be a stall that will serve simply Zimbabwean food,” Minister Vilakati said.
Meanwhile, the Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe Dr Elijah Chingosho said, “The route will indeed provide important air connectivity for the Kingdom of Eswatini to the growing aviation hub in Southern Africa as well as providing a gateway into the global market. This connection will therefore play a dynamic and pivotal role in tourism, trade, and business for this region”.