THE multimillion dollar Victoria Falls international airport currently under expansion will change the face of the region, a tourism industry leader has said.
The airport which is going through a $150 million face-lift will be capable of landing and handling, in all conditions, long haul wide body jets.
Victoria Falls airport manager Ronnie Masawi said the new airport would accommodate three times more passengers than it currently handles.
“It would have an annual capacity of 1,2 million international travellers and 500 000 domestic passengers,” Masawi said.
“The developments include the construction of a new international terminal building, and the rehabilitation of the existing one into a domestic terminal. A new 4km runway, capable of landing the biggest passenger planes, including the A380, would be built, while the existing runway was set to become a taxiway,” he added.
Masawi further said a new control tower with state of the art equipment, and a new fire station, would also be built, while the aircraft parking area would be extended, and a new car park built to accommodate 400 vehicles as well as provide for long term parking.
Africa Albida Tourism chief executive Ross Kennedy said: “The Victoria Falls Airport is going to be a massive game changer, not only for Zimbabwe, but for the region as a whole.
“This is so because we will have a new airport capable of landing and handling, in all conditions, long haul wide body jets,” he added.
The airport, funded by a China Exim Bank loan to the Zimbabwean Government, is being constructed by China Jiangsu International Group.
Kennedy added the new airport would turn Victoria Falls into a new regional hub, firstly for tourism and secondly having the potential to become a commercial centre.
He further said Victoria Falls, being one of the seven natural wonders of the world and situated in the middle of Southern Africa, was a natural jump off point for visitors to the continent.
“It is also the hub of several countries, surrounded by incredible wildlife parks, and relatively few people, Kennedy said.
He further said the visitor numbers were already growing, with an 8,7% increase in airport arrivals in the first six months of this year compared to last year, adding with the new airport tourism was expected to boom.
In addition, Kennedy hoped a Univisa, mooted for visitors to Sadc countries would be introduced next year, boosting the ease of flow of tourists across borders.