BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
THE Kariba Airport has started witnessing growth in passenger traffic following the launch of the African Dream boat in Kariba Dam in 2017, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) has revealed.
“In terms of Kariba (Airport), we have got a programme of just sprucing up that airport. Of course long term is that we have got a new site for Kariba Airport.
There has been marked improvement in terms of tourists that come to Kariba because of the African Dream,” Caaz spokesperson Anna Hungwe told NewsDay Business.
The African Dream boat, owned by a French-based tour operator, boasts of 20 bedrooms that can accommodate 32 people, and also takes on board 360 guests for weddings and conferences.
People are using it for various activities such as conferencing, weddings and leisure as a floating luxury hotel.
“So we have a lot of tourists that come to Kariba and go to the African Dream for three nights and four days and then they come back and then another group goes. So that has significantly improved our passenger movement at the airport,” she said.
As at February 2018, the airport was operating at below 20% of its capacity, according to suspended Caaz chief executive, David Chaota.
Kariba has unique tourist attractions such as game viewing, bird watching and fishing, which are anchored around the world’s largest man-made lake, Kariba Dam.
However, Kariba Airport is currently too small and cannot accommodate bigger planes, hence the need to upgrade the runway.
Hungwe said they were currently sprucing up airports around the country to attract regional and international airlines.
“Currently, we are upgrading Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to accommodate 6 000 passengers. The company doing that is a Chinese company, Jiangsu.
There is fairly good progress going on and we are very pleased. As they are also doing that airport they are also doing the runaway and we believe the next three years that project would be done,” she said.
For JM Nkomo International Airport, Hungwe said they were waiting for funding for the tower.
Maintenance programme is also being carried out at Hwange, Buffalo Range as well as Masvingo airports.
She said Victoria Falls Airport has seen a boom in terms of passenger traffic following its upgrade.
Some of the airlines using the airport include Ethiopian Airline, South African Airways, Rwandan Airline, Kenya Airways, among others.
“A lot of tourists want to come to Victoria Falls from Africa and from as far as anywhere. Victoria Falls is really doing what it is expected to do,” she said.
Hungwe said they would never be satisfied at this point in time because “what we want is more tourists coming to this country, more airlines to come and ply this country, more airlines to come to our airports. We really want more people to come.”
“Our industry is affected by what affects the economy. When people don’t have money, it means travelling also gets challenged. However, what we have noticed is that people now appreciate air travel,” she said.
Hungwe said Caaz was under discussion with other airlines with a view of having them ply Zimbabwe.
“Those that we are talking to perhaps it would be unfair for me to be saying it, before we finish the process, but we continue engaging many of them,” she said.