DAILY NEWS Reporters
BOEING 787-8-Dreamliner touched the Tanzanian soil last evening, confirming the government’s resolve to reclaim the country’s lost glory in the domestic air transport industry.
There are clear indications that Tanzania may soon become both the regional air transport and tourism hub.
According to Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), the new aircraft is scheduled for domestic flights for one month before launching its first international route to Mumbai, India.
ATCL Head of Business Lily Fungamtama said the Dreamliner, with a 15-hour cruise capacity, will initially fly from Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) to Kilimanjaro and Mwanza airports.
ATCL is currently operating domestic routes, including Kilimanjaro, Mwanza, Mbeya, Tabora, Kigoma, Bukoba and Zanzibar.
The airline also flies to Comoro and plans are afoot to launch Bujumbura and Entebbe routes in Burundi and Uganda, respectively. ATCL Business Director Patrick Ndekana said the firm has been performing well in business, substantially increasing its domestic market share.
He said the airline remains convinced on business prospects particularly after the purchase of the extra aircraft.
“I can assure you that business will increase especially after the purchase of new Bombardier Q-400 and Boeing 787-8 Dream liner,” said Mr Ndekana.
With the Dreamliner arrival, ATCL Communication Officer Josephat Kagirwa said, the company looks forward to establish the new route to Mumbai by next September, “We have done a study that has confirmed that the Dar es Salaam-Mumbai route is the best and profitable for us.”
Mumbai, the study has shown, has many businesspeople and tourists who always travel to Tanzania through flight connections. Many Tanzanians too travel to India for business and medical treatments.
“There are many Indian tourists coming to Tanzania, with the direct flight to Mumbai, we believe the number of tourists will increase,” he said.
Indian Ambassador to Tanzania Robert Shetkintong said there are many people travelling between Tanzania and India, embracing the plan for Mumbai route as beneficial to the airline and people from both sides.
“Indian High Commission in Dar es Salaam provides over 20,000 Visas to Tanzanians travelling to India for medical, commercial and educational purposes,” he said, adding the office also releases over 500 Visas to public servants travelling to India for training.
Mr Ndekana said the airline envisages flying to Bujumbura and Entebbe three and four times a week, respectively, hinting that ATCL will fly to Bujumbura from JNIA via Kigoma airport.
The Bujumbura and Entebbe routes will use Bombardier CS 300, which are expected in the country before the end of this year.
The business head said ATCL has strategic plans to expand its network to the Southern African countries and China, “The second phase will involve expansion of our network…with more aircraft, we will fly to China and other countries.”
Interviewed economists, academicians and businesspeople welcomed the purchase of the aircraft, which they said will help the country to easily achieve her social and economic development goals.
University of Dar es Salaam Economist Prof Haji Semboja said with improved air transport, the government will easily finance other development projects like water, roads and health service delivery, among others.
Prof Semboja further argued that reliable air transport will facilitate the movements of investors from one place to another. “The President’s resolve to revive the national flag carrier means a lot to the national economy…the airline will trigger stiff competitions, reducing air travel costs. It will attract more tourists and investors to come to Tanzania,” said the don.
TIB Development Bank Head of Research and Planning Dr Hildebrand Shayo said most people in the world prefer direct flights to save time, among other benefits.
He said improvement of the air transport sector will benefit all Tanzanians, directly or indirectly.
“Direct flight for a patient referred to hospitals abroad, for instance, will not only relieve the patient but also relatives who need quick recovery of their beloved…traders would wish to have their goods reaching the markets, timely…and this is possible with direct flights,” he said.
University of Dodoma Lecturer Dr Paul Loisulie said the well performing national airline stimulates economic growth in any country, citing some Arab nations whose economies rely on their airlines.
He said some neighbouring countries have been benefited from tourism opportunities in Tanzania just because they have strong airlines, saying with the new aircraft, Tanzania will now exploit various opportunities in and outside the country.
Mohamed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (METL) Group President and Executive Director Mohamed Dewji commended President Magufuli for his right decision to recuperate ATCL.
He said the Head of State has realised the challenges in the tourism sector, arguing that the new aircraft means a lot to growth of tourism and other businesses in the country.
“I believe President Magufuli’s efforts will help Tanzania to earn foreign currencies through tourism, tourists will no longer have to connect flights to Tanzania.”
IPP Limited Executive Chairman Dr Reginald Mengi commended the Head of State, writing on his Instagram page: “Congratulation Mr President for bringing Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.”