Rehabilitation of national airports should boost tourism

the herald

Tapiwanashe Mangwiro
Senior Business Journalist
Stakeholders in the tourism industry have hailed the ongoing airport rehabilitation program by the Airports Company of Zimbabwe (ACZ), saying it will complement efforts to grow the tourism sector into a $3 billion industry by 2023, thanks to better connectivity between national destinations.

It comes after growing calls for the government to consider upgrading its aviation infrastructure.

During his Independence Day celebration speech, President Mnangagwa said the country was focusing on rehabilitating local airports.

“In addition to international airports, we are also making progress in local connectivity through the rehabilitation of domestic airports and work at Buffalo Range Airport is now complete. We are now moving to other provincial airports to boost our tourism,” said said President Mnangagwa.

He said construction was underway for a disaster recovery center and additional office space at Charles Prince Airport in Mount Hampden, while other airports would receive varying levels of upgrades.

Domestic destination connectivity is provided by Air Zimbabwe, Fast jet and recently Kuva Air, which have brought efficiency to domestic aviation in the country.

Chairman of the Tourism and Business Council, Wengai Nhau, said he was excited about the improved domestic air connectivity, saying it would boost the competitiveness of the country’s tourist destinations.

“The renovation of local airports as well as the launch of direct flights to the country will go a long way in helping the country, especially tourism and business, from a cost-effective perspective,” he said.

The managing director of the Airports Company of Zimbabwe, Tawanda Gusha, has praised the current competition in Zimbabwe’s airspace, saying it will benefit the consumer through fair pricing.

“This is a positive development for the aviation industry in Zimbabwe and for the economy as a whole, given the direction we are heading as an industry, so we are delighted and would like to develop further to to support our country’s economic development aspirations,” Gusha said.

The government’s decision to renovate domestic airports complements CAAZ’s efforts to attract international airlines, as we have seen improved air connectivity to Zimbabwe thanks to an influx of airlines which has been described as a boost massive for the country’s tourism and commercial activities.

Over the past six months, Zimbabwe has seen an influx of international airlines, with Eurowings, Airlink and Mozambique Airlines operating their first flights to Zimbabwe.

This is in addition to the increased frequency of daily flights from traditional giants like Qatar, Fly Emirates, Kenyan and Ethiopian Airways.

Zimbabwe currently has around 16 airlines serving the country from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

The consensus among economists around the world is that air transport has become indispensable for the development of the tourism industry on a global scale.

It is therefore essential to improve national standards at other regional airports in order to accommodate more flights and more tourists.

With tourism being a key economic driver in the country, experts say it is imperative that policy makers are informed about how the sector is performing year on year, in order to maximize its potential.

While the average employment potential in the Southern African Development Community was 7.1% in 2012, Zimbabwe had 8.7% of its workforce in this sector, reflecting the importance of industry for national development.

Regardless of the impressive employment record, Zimbabwe still has underutilized capacity in the industry, hence the drive to grow the industry to a $2 billion industry by 2024.

The arrival of the new waiver in 2017 ushered in a record $1.4 billion in tourism revenue in 2018, showing the global goodwill the new government has towed, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.

However, the huge drop to US$359 million in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic on travel and tourism.

Under the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy – Vision 2025, the government aims to increase tourist arrivals to over 5.5 million by 2023, as well as boost tourism receipts by 1 billion in 2017 to $3.5 billion by 2023.

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