HARARE – The Airports Company of Zimbabwe (ACZ) plans to develop two new national airports in Mutare and Beitbridge through public-private partnerships (PPPs) in line with the aspirations of the national vision to transform the country into an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
Although Mutare is located in the eastern highlands, which is one of the tourist centers of Zimbabwe, it has no airport apart from two airfields.
Similarly, the border town of Beitbridge in the province of Matabeleland South, independently the country’s busiest port of entry, which is also home to some major tourist attractions such as Mapungubwe National Park, Zingela Nature Reserve and Windpomp Padstal, has no airport.
At the Sanganai/Hlanganani Global Tourism Investment Forum in Bulawayo last Friday, Passmore Dewa, the ACZ Airport Manager for Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport explained how ACZ supports investment in the country:
“The question for the Airports Company of Zimbabwe is how to reach all these other destinations in Zimbabwe, whether as foreign tourists, business travelers or local tourists in the various interesting provinces that we have here in Zimbabwe.
“As the Airports Company of Zimbabwe, we are here to work with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and Department of Tourism to enable the development of tourism through a network of airports that we are developing or have developed.
“What we’re going to look at now is Matabeleland South in Beitbridge, where we’re looking at building an airport there, and we’re also going to look at Mutare in Manicaland, although we have two airfields there; We are developing Mutare and Beitbridge airports through a public-private partnership.”
He said the airports would be upgraded or developed in line with the aspirations of National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1) – the government’s five-year economic plan running from 2021 to 2025 and anchoring the country’s progress towards Vision 2030.
Regarding the air transport objectives of NDS 1, the main objective is to have reliable, safe and world-class air transport infrastructure and services, and to increase the annual cargo handling capacity and the Number of passengers.
ACZ currently operates a total of eight airports across the country, including Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo, Victoria Falls International Airport in Matabeleland North Province, the runway Dete Airstrip and Binga Airfield also in Matabeleland North, Charles Prince Airport and Kariba Airport, all in Mashonaland West Province.
“We operate a total of eight airports in Zimbabwe and will develop further airports. Indeed, as we speak, we are working with the Office of the President and Cabinet and the District Development Fund to deal with runaways in Binga.
“We recently built Buffalo Range Airport in Chiredzi under the same initiative, more like a PPP deal,” he said.
Dewa said Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport is also being developed to improve capacity from 3.5 million to 6 million passengers and will likely be ready in the first quarter of next year.
In an interview, Givemore Chidzidzi, chief operating officer of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, said the first investment conference aims to boost investment in the tourism sector.
“The purpose of this conference was to bring together those looking for investment and those looking for investment opportunities so that it is in line with our national strategy for the recovery and growth of tourism, where we say that we will create new tourism products to be developed.
“We need to broaden our tourism base and encourage investment in the tourism sector. We are very aware that the tourism sector in Zimbabwe is very underinvested in many areas, when we talk about the accommodation sector we are undervalued as a country,” he said.
Some of the tourism and hospitality industry players have hailed the government for investing in upgrading and developing new airports in the country in all provinces, saying this will go a long way in improving Zimbabwe’s air links and attract tourists.
“We see this as a big boost in attracting tourists to all resorts in the country as at the moment some of the attractions are not attracting tourists as they should due to flight connectivity issues.
As such, we are delighted that the government is considering building new airports in areas such as Beitbridge and Mutare,” said Tracy Sibanda, an executive at one of the Bulawayo-based hoteliers.
Meanwhile, ZTA remains optimistic that the $5 billion tourism economy is still within reach by 2025 despite the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously the sector has been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we remain truly committed to making the $5 billion tourism economy achievable.
In fact, we have been challenged by our customers to say why $5 billion and not $10 billion and we are hopeful and very confident that we can achieve the $5 billion tourism economy because our capacity does not is not yet exhausted.
“When we looked at the $5 billion tourism economy, there were serious scientific calculations and projections to see that with the capacity we have, it is possible to achieve such an economy,” said Chidzidzi.
- Editor/ additional report by BH24