BY STAFF REPORTER STAKEHOLDERS in the tourism industry have welcomed government’s decision to allow domestic and international flights to resume, with passengers being tested for COVID-19 48 hours before travel. Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) chief executive Ross Kennedy said the decision would go a long way in resuscitating the sector after lying dormant since March 30 due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown. The tourism sector is crucial to Zimbabwe’s economic stability and contributes about 6% to gross domestic product. “While there are some operational protocols to introduce and necessary statutory regulations to be published, it is a welcome and very positive decision by Cabinet and ministry,” Kennedy said. “We are collaborating with our air partners in Zimbabwe to get passengers into the skies and enjoy the wonderful and diverse destinations and experiences as soon as possible,” he said. AAT had created fly-in packages for its Victoria Falls properties and was looking forward to welcoming guests stepping onto the tarmac at Victoria Falls airport very soon, Kennedy said. “Victoria Falls Airport is ready to operate effective 10 September, and hopefully the first flights land in the coming days or week. Talks are ongoing about regional airlines' access to Victoria Falls, Livingstone and Kasane airports from South Africa and our regional neighbours. “We are hopeful that borders will open soon to also allow self-drive traffic, with Victoria Falls and Livingstone being obvious travel bubbles over the Victoria Falls Bridge,” he said. “The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association is engaged with fellow stakeholders in this ongoing initiative to get tourism going again. “It is also very good news to see Emirates announce that effective October 1 they will fly into Harare twice per week on their initial schedule,” he added. “Getting other loyal and supportive African carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways to return to Victoria Falls airport will also be a huge boost for tourism in the region.” Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced on Tuesday that domestic flights were set to resume yesterday, with international flights set to resume on October 1. “All travellers will be required to have a PCR COVID-19 clearance certificate issued by a recognised facility within 48 hours from the date of departure, in line with WHO guidelines,” she said. AAT operates a portfolio of properties in Victoria Falls, namely Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls Safari Club, Victoria Falls Safari Suites, Lokuthula Lodges and The Boma.