AFTER British Airways (BA) decision to close shop in the country for failure to operate profitably, the government has started looking for options on direct flights to London.
The Director of Tourism, Mr Ibrahim Mussa, told the 'Daily News' in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the government has initiated talks with Virgin Atlantic, one of the biggest airline companies in Britain.
"The Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport had initiated preliminary talks with the UK carrier, Virgin Atlantic, with hopes of reaching an agreement to take over the route left by the BA," he said.
He said Virgin Atlantic, the biggest UK private airline closed the five-times weekly route to Nairobi in September 2012, after operating for the last five years. He said the closure of BA business in the country was not good news because it will not only cause loss of revenues and other social benefits but also inconvenience some travellers who were taking direct flights to Heathrow Airport in London from Dar es Salaam.
Although assessment on how the withdrawal of BA business in the country will affect the tourism industry has not been done, Mr Musa said surveys show that large number of tourists from UK were already using other airlines like Emirates, Qatar and Ethiopian which have daily flights to Tanzania.
Credible sources in the airline industry said the BA was among the few airways that was shipping sensitive cargo including light weapons, local and foreign banknotes and minerals such as gold, diamond, Tanzanite to the international markets.
A statement issued recently states that customers booked to fly with British Airways after March 31, the official day of closure of business, will be offered a full refund or be re-booked onto flights to or from Nairobi, Entebbe or Lusaka. Swissport Tanzania Limited Chief Executive Officer Gaudence Temu said that his company will suffer from the airline's decision to stop flights to Dar es Salaam because they have been providing cargo handling services since 1985 when the firm was incorporated.
"We will definitely lose considerable revenue not only for the nation but also for Swissport (T) Limited that has been handling all BA cargoes for many years," remarked Mr Temu. Mr Temu, who is also Chairman of the Tourism Confederation of Tanzania, pointed out that the United Kingdom is one of the biggest tourist markets for the country and the suspension of the flights directly to and from the country would affect the flow of tourists and hence the badly needed foreign exchange from the sub-sector.