Tourism sector all smiles as airlines resume flights

06Aug 2020
Marc Nkwame
The Guardian
Tourism sector all smiles as airlines resume flights

TANZANIANS whose livelihoods depend on tourism have a reason to smile following the resumption of flights by major international airlines.

This comes after months of grounding of planes due to the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs especially in the tourism sector.

A Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) plane is the latest to touch down at the Kilimanjaro International Airport with over 100 passengers.

The plane landed on Tuesday night, signaling the company’s resumption of flights to the northern zone’s tourist circuit after the four-month long hiatus.

The Boeing 777 aircraft PH-BQB taxied at KIA with 117 passengers, mainly Asian and European tourists onboard who will be touring, among other destinations, the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park,the first KLM voyage here after 16 weeks of travel freeze

Previously, KLM used to have daily and essentially full flights between Amsterdam and Kilimanjaro, but upon the outbreak of Covid-19 infections, KLM planes like other airlines were grounded as companies crawled into global lockdown.

Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner Anna Mghwira was present when the large aircraft landed at the airport and used the occasion to tell the world that Tanzania was safe - and already tourists from overseas who have started to jet into the country can attest for that.

Twitting from his account, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Khamis Kigwangalla said the arrival of KLM to resume its usual country flights is an indication that the global travel industry is opening up and Tanzania becomes among the first destinations to benefit.

A number of airlines are already landing in Tanzania after the coronavirus driven global lockdown is loosened, among them KLM, RwandAir, Ethiopian, Qatar and Emirates airlines.

Acting Executive Director of Kilimanjaro Airports Development Co. (KADCO), Christine Mwakatobe, said that the plane arrived at KIA at about 20:15 hours on Tuesday, with passengers from France; Germany; England and parts of Asia.

Two days earlier, the air terminal received a RwandAir plane with registration number 9XR- WL, while earlier in June KIA saw the landing of an Ethiopian Airlines Crystal P4-XTL and Qatar Airways crafts.

Getrude Boldemann, a traveler from Germany said they intend to sample Tanzania’s wildlife filled national parks after learning that the country was safe from Covid-19.

Geographically KIA is the leading connecting point for flights flying from terminals located in the region, heading to overseas destinations of South Asia, Europe and the Far East, officials said.

The airport was beefed up with new runway ground lighting and floodlights along the aprons, resurfaced  runaways, and continuous loop linking runways and taxiways to eliminate delays in landing and take-off, they explained..

Despite its modest size, KIA can handle aircrafts as large as Boeing 747 and Antonov 124, featuring the largest aircraft hangar in the sub-region.

Before the pandemic, the airport was handling 15 international scheduled arrivals along with ad-hoc private and commercial chartered planes. KIA lists 1.2m passengers per year, with over 45 percent of travelers being international passengers, 38 percent domestic and 17 percent on transit.