Senior Economic Reporter
PLAYERS in the tourism industry have welcomed the Airports Company of Zimbabwe’s (ACZ) ongoing airport rehabilitation program, saying it will complement efforts to grow the tourism sector to a $3 billion industry by 2023 through improved connectivity between domestic destinations .
This comes after growing calls for the government to consider upgrading its aviation infrastructure.
During his Independence Day speech, President Mnangagwa said the country was focused on redeveloping local airports.
“In addition to international airports, we are also driving local connectivity by redeveloping domestic airports and work at Buffalo Range Airport is now complete. We are now moving to the other provincial airports to boost our tourism,” President Mnangagwa said.
He said construction of a disaster recovery center and additional office space at Mount Hampden’s Charles Prince Airport was underway, while other airports were receiving various upgrades.
Connectivity to domestic destinations is served by Air Zimbabwe, Fast Jet and more recently Kuva Air, which have made the country’s domestic aviation more efficient.
Tourism and Business Council President Wengai Nhau said they were excited about the improved domestic flight connection, saying it would improve the competitiveness of the country’s tourism destinations.
“Renovating local airports and introducing direct flights to the country will greatly benefit the country, particularly tourism and the economy, from a cost-effective perspective,” he said.
Tawanda Gusha, chief executive officer of Airports Company of Zimbabwe, praised the current competition in Zimbabwe’s airspace and said it will benefit consumers through fair prices.
“This is a positive development for Zimbabwe’s aviation industry and the economy in general given where we are going as an industry, so we are excited and would like to continue to expand to support our country’s economic development aspirations,” said Gusha .
The government’s move to refurbish domestic airports complements CAAZ’s efforts to attract international airlines, as we have witnessed an improvement in air connections to Zimbabwe from an influx of airlines, which has been described as a massive boost to the country’s tourism and business activities .
In the last six months, Zimbabwe has seen an influx of international airlines, with Eurowings, Airlink and Mozambique Airlines making their maiden flights to Zimbabwe.
Added to this is the increased frequency of daily flights by traditional giants such as Qatar, Fly Emirates, Kenyan and Ethiopian Airways.
Zimbabwe currently has about 16 airlines flying to the country from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
Economists around the world agree that air transport has become indispensable for the development of the tourism industry worldwide.
Therefore, it is crucial to improve domestic standards to the level of other regional airports in order to accommodate more flights and larger numbers of tourists.
With tourism being a key economic driver in the country, experts say it is essential for policymakers to be informed about the sector’s annual performance in order to maximize its potential.
While the average employment potential of the South African development community was 7.1 per cent in 2012, Zimbabwe employed 8.7 per cent of its workforce in the sector, reflecting the industry’s importance to national development.
Despite the impressive employment record, Zimbabwe still has underutilized capacity in the industry, hence the quest to grow the sector into a $2 billion industry by 2024.
The enactment of the New Dispensation in 2017 resulted in a record US$1.4 billion in tourism revenue in 2018, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, showing the global goodwill of the new government.
The huge drop to $359 million in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic in travel and tourism.
As part of the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy – Vision 2025 – the government aims to increase tourist arrivals to over 5.5 million by 2023 and tourism revenue to $3.5 billion from $1 billion in 2017 to increase by 2023.