THE Zimbabwe National Tourism Master Plan (ZNTMP) has found that the three major airports in the country, in Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls are underexploited by nearly 75% despite millions of dollars being spent refurbishing them.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
Combined, these three airports should handle at least 5,4 million passengers, but only handle 1,42 million.
The ZNTMP, which was released last Thursday, found the passenger volumes were low despite refurbishments made at the Victoria Falls Airport, upgrades at the Harare International Airport and JM Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo.
“The current cumulative capacity of passenger terminals is 5,4 million passengers per year, while the volume in 2015 was only 1,4 million, only approximately 25% of the maximum capacity. All airports are currently underexploited and have abundant capacity to support a substantial increase in traffic,” the ZNTMP reported.
“Airports are critical access facilities and, other than the three major mentioned above, have the potential to support short-haul domestic or charter flights and support the arrival of tourists in Zimbabwe and quick transfers within the country.”
The government spent millions of dollars upgrading the country’s three major airports that saw the Harare International Airport being able to handle 2,5 million passengers, Victoria Falls airport 1,7 million and JM Nkomo International Airport 1,2 million.
Yet, the ZNTMP report found that the Harare International Airport handles 1 million passengers, Victoria Falls Airport 270 000 and JM Nkomo International Airport 150 000.
The money government used on these airports include a 2017 allocation of $4,6 million for the construction of the air traffic control tower at JM Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo and other upgrades.
An additional $1 million from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe is being channelled towards upgrading the sewer system at the airport.
The JM Nkomo International Airport had an initial upgrade of $25 million back in 2013.
In 2016, the government allocated $33 million towards improving airports.
Of that amount, $28 million went to the Victoria Falls Airport, while $5 million went to Harare International Airport.
The Victoria Falls airport cost $150 million, which was provided for a loan from the China Exim bank.
The ZNTMP reported said since these three major airports were way below capacity, there was a need to improve secondary airports within the 11 tourism developmental zones (TDZs).
The airports that were identified are Charles Prince in the Harare, Thornhill in Gweru, Masvingo, Buffalo Range and the Grand Reef.
Despite the slow growth in arrivals from these major airports the government is set to spend more on further upgrades by the end of the year.
The tourism sector only received an allocation of $2,65 million this year despite sector generating $1 billion in revenue. In the 2016 budget, tourism was allocated $2,72 million.