THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) on Friday said the decision by Dutch airline, KLM to discontinue its flights to Harare was regrettable and called for government to subsidise struggling national carrier, Air Zimbabwe to allow it to expand its international routes.
KLM on Wednesday announced that it was withdrawing from Zimbabwe and Zambia services at the end of October.
The Dutch carrier resumed its Harare flights two years ago after having pulled out 13 years earlier.
ZTA chief executive Karikoga Kaseke said the decision will "hit hard" the tourism sector.
"The withdrawal by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines from Zimbabwe is deeply regrettable and the tourism sector will be the major casualty of this under-development, especially as we had started making in-roads into the Dutch market," the ZTA boss said in a statement.
Kaseke said it was "understandable" if KLM, which is one of the 16 airlines currently landing at Harare international airport, was pulling out on profitability concerns.
He said the tourism body was not certain if government had looked into the reasons for KLM's pull-out which might be related to concerns on issues such as air navigation charges, landing and parking fees.
Kaseke said it was such developments which necessitated the need for Zimbabwe to have a viable national carrier.
Air Zimbabwe is struggling after government scratched subsidies for all parastatals, demanding that they operate profitably.
"It is for this reason that we have been saying Air Zimbabwe should still be receiving some subsidies from the state as long as they have a vibrant business model supported by sound operational policies, knowledgeable and competent management," he said.
"We do not see any reason why our government should not subsidise them as it is arguably the norm the world over and for the benefit of the destination in cases where other airlines withdraw services."
Kaseke urged Air Zimbabwe, which is focusing on local and regional routes, to "quickly re-introduce and re-develop" European routes.
"This is quite critical for the revival of our tourism," he said.
At its peak, Zimbabwe had 48 international carries landing in the country.