Senior Business Reporter
PLAYERS in the tourism industry have welcomed the ongoing airports rehabilitation programme by the Airports Company of Zimbabwe (ACZ) saying this will complement efforts to grow the tourism sector to a US$3 billion industry by 2023, through improved connectivity across domestic destinations.
This comes after growing calls for the Government to consider upgrading its aviation infrastructure.
During his Independence Day celebrations speech, President Mnangagwa said the country was focused on the rehabilitation of local airports.
“Apart from the international airports, we are also moving forward with local connectivity through the rehabilitation of domestic airports and the works at Buffalo Range Airport are now done. We now move to the other provincial airports to boost our tourism,” President Mnangagwa said.
He said construction was ongoing for a Disaster Recovery Centre and additional office space at Charles Prince Airport in Mount Hampden while other airports would receive different levels of upgrades.
Connectivity of domestic destinations is being serviced by Air Zimbabwe, Fast jet and recently, Kuva Air, which have brought efficiency within the country’s domestic aviation.
Tourism and Business Council president, Wengai Nhau said they were excited about the improved domestic air connectivity saying this would enhance the competitiveness of the country’s tourism destinations.
“The renovation of local airports plus the launch of direct flights into the country will go a long way in helping the country, especially tourism and business from a cost effective perspective,” he said.
Airports Company of Zimbabwe chief executive officer, Tawanda Gusha praised the current competition in Zimbabwe’s airspace saying it will benefit the consumer through fair pricing.
“This is a positive development for Zimbabwe’s aviation industry and the economy at large considering where we are coming as an industry hence we are excited and would want to expand more so that we support our country’s economic development aspirations,” said Gusha.
The move by the Government to renovate domestic airports complements the efforts by CAAZ to lure international airlines as we have witnessed improvement in air connectivity to Zimbabwe through an influx of airlines has been described as a massive boost for the country’s tourism and business activities.
In the last six months, Zimbabwe has witnessed an influx of international airlines, with Eurowings, Airlink and Mozambique Airlines making their maiden flights to Zimbabwe.
This is in addition to increased frequency of daily flights by traditional giants like Qatar, Fly Emirates, Kenyan and Ethiopian Airways.
Zimbabwe currently has about 16 airlines flying into the country from Asia, 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 globally.
This makes it critical to improve domestic standards to the level of other regional airports in order to accommodate more flights and more numbers of tourists.
With tourism being a key economic driver in the country, experts say it is imperative for policymakers to be informed about the sector’s year-on-year performance, in order to maximise its potential.
Whereas the average employment potential of the Southern African Development Community was 7,1 percent in 2012, Zimbabwe had 8,7 percent of its workforce in this sector, reflecting the importance of the industry to national development.
Regardless of the impressive employment record, Zimbabwe still has underutilised capacity in the industry, hence the drive to develop the industry to a US$2 billion industry by 2024.
The coming in of the New Dispensation in 2017, ushered a record $1,4 billion earnings from tourism in 2018, showing the global goodwill the new Government 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 targets to increase tourist arrivals to over 5,5 million by 2023, as well as grow tourism receipts from US$1 billion in 2017 to US$3,5 billion by 2023.