Cape Town – fastjet on Monday, 18 January, announced its newest international routes – from Johannesburg to Harare and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
The launch of these routes comes after fastjet received clearance from the Zimbabwean and South African governments to operate flights between the two respective countries.
Return flights from Harare International Airport and Victoria Falls International Airport to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport will operate using fastjet’s modern Airbus A319 jet aircraft with seating for up to 144 passengers.
The Johannesburg/Harare route will commence on 1 February 2016 and operate daily with an additional daily flight on this route expected soon, the airline said in a statement.
Flights linking Victoria Falls to and from Johannesburg will initially be three times a week on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, commencing 3 February 2016.
Tickets for flights will be on sale this week, with fastjet advising passengers to book early to take advantage of its lowest priced fares on both routes of R1 340* ($80) one-way. This excludes government and airport taxes (R837 [$50] departing Zimbabwe / R586 [$35] departing South Africa)
The initial daily flights will depart from Harare at 06:15 and land in Johannesburg at 07:55, a flight time of 1 hour 40 minutes. The return flight from Johannesburg to Harare departs at 08:40, landing at 10:15 (all local times).
Finalised slots and timetables for the flights linking Victoria Falls and Johannesburg are still to be confirmed by the respective airports.
The flights to Harare and Victoria Falls mark the third and fourth international routes for fastjet from South Africa with the airline presently operating to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.
fastjet also announced that it expects to receive approval for additional international flights to commence from Zimbabwe to further East and Southern Africa markets within the first quarter of 2016.
“The only alternative to flying is to undertake long and uncomfortable journeys by road, which can take up to 20 hours from Johannesburg to Harare or Victoria Falls,” fastjet’s Chief Commercial Officer Richard Bodin, says.
“As has been the case with other routes that we have launched, we expect many of our passengers to be first time flyers who, because of prohibitively high fares, could not afford to travel by air previously,” as recent research undertaken by the fastjet shows up to 40% of passengers on all routes are first time flyers able to afford air travel for the first time.
Available for purchase on these routes will be fastjet’s luggage upgrade option, ‘Freighty’, that allows passengers to transport up to 80kg of checked in bags.
The Freighty luggage option in particular is expected to be popular with traders flying with fastjet to purchase wholesale produce in Johannesburg to transport back to their home markets to sell.
Travelling light can have heavy costs.
A tourist flying economy class from Britain to Kenya and back generates around a tonne of carbon emissions, according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
No matter how many times he reuses his towels or sits on a composting toilet when he is there, he could never hope to offset the burning of all that jet fuel.
Does that mean the very notion of “sustainable tourism” is an oxymoron?
The phrase has three possible meanings. The first is ecological. Given the contribution that transport, especially by air, makes to global warming, on this definition it is almost guaranteed to fall short.
The only truly sustainable holiday would be camping in the back garden eating berries, says Harald Zeiss of the Institute for Sustainable Tourism at Harz University in Germany.
The second is social. Ideally, when cultures meet and gain in mutual understanding, the long-term benefits will be intangible, but real.
The final one is economic. Tourists who step off the beaten track have a chance to help lift the poor out of poverty and encourage them to preserve their environments for financial gain.
The question is how much weight to give to each. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), a United Nations agency, 1.1 billion international trips were made in 2014, a 4.4 per cent increase on the year before.
As popular destinations become overcrowded, more people seek places that remain comparatively unspoilt. But pristine wildernesses don’t stay pristine for long once they are on the holiday trail. The paradox of sustainable tourism is that it can be “both a destroyer of nature and an agent for its conservation”, notes Andrew Holden of Bedfordshire University in Britain.
Keeping resorts small, and perhaps even temporary, can help resolve that paradox of conservation.
Maurice Phillips and Geri Mitchell opened Sandele, an eco-resort, in Gambia in 2008. Locals are too often persuaded to sell their land to developers for less than it is worth, says Phillips, and villages can vanish once the hotels go up.
Instead, he leased the land for Sandele from villagers, and employs them in the resort. When the lease runs out in 20 years’ time, the property will revert to locals, who should by then have the skills to manage it.
The pair also run courses for locals, including on how to make “rocket stoves” that require very little wood for fuel, thereby reducing deforestation.
Those on larger scale ecotourism packages may be doing good in other ways. Concentrating large numbers of visitors in a single location increases their local impact – which can be for the better.
If a resort buys local food, says Zeiss, or invests in renewable energy generation that can be used by those who live nearby, then the surrounding area can receive a boost.
But hotels must seek ways to mitigate their negative effects. Though signs suggesting that guests can help “save the planet” by reusing their towels overstate the case, waterguzzling is one of the biggest evils of mass tourism.
An analysis by Thomas Cook, a large holiday firm, suggests that on average each tourist around the world accounts for around 350 litres of water per day by showering, using the swimming pool and the like – which rises to 6000 litres when indirect use such as food production is added. In Greece, for example, each tourist directly uses around three-fifths more water than a local.
Being more frugal with water can boost comanies’ profits. TUI, another big travel company, says it saved €2.2 million ($3.5 million) in 2014 by cutting energy and water use at 43 of its hotels.
But often it is the guests themselves who kick against energy-saving initiatives. To stop patrons leaving lights and airconditioning on when they are out, many hotels have keycards that control the electrics in rooms.
Yet some report that guests override the system by inserting a business card into the control slot before heading out, rather than waiting to recharge portable devices or put up with a stuffy room for a few minutes on their return.
Overall, the benefits of sustainable tourism outweigh the harms, thinks Dirk Glaesser of UNWTO. And Zeiss argues that the most unnecessary flights are taken not by tourists but by businessfolk who fly abroad for a toe-touch meeting that could easily have been replaced by a videocall, and then fly home the same day.
But it is unclear how many such trips actually occur. Executives already have an incentive to avoid unnecessary business travel – it is less fun than the frivolous sort.