THE upgrading of the $150 million Victoria Falls International Airport has stimulated a huge appetite for investment from local and international private sector players who want to set up businesses in the resort town, industry officials have revealed.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
The new-look airport which is a gateway to the mighty Victoria Falls — one of the Seven Wonders of the World — was officially commissioned by President Robert Mugabe last year in November.
Following the upgrading of the entity, the resort town of Victoria Falls has experienced positive growth in terms of infrastructural development as well as attracting a huge appetite for investment from local and international players.
Industry players and municipal authorities told Standardbusiness good things had started showing up in the town.
“In the food industry, we have KFC which has become a popular restaurant in town. We also have Three-Monkeys Restaurant catering for both local and international tourists,” said an industry official, Clement Mukwasi, who is also Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president.
“We have a number of snake parks that have been opened. We had not been having this kind of business in Victoria Falls.”
Mukwasi said companies such as Shearwater Adventures had invested thousands of dollars in accommodation facilities to meet the overwhelming demand.
The group constructed a facility christened Explorer’s Village which has the capacity to accommodate 120 people. The facility has 16 chalets as well as a 200 seater restaurant.
Lodges such as Ilala and Batonga also expanded their capacity, Mukwasi said.
“The [tourist] destination is growing and we have received quite a number of enquiries from people wishing to invest in the resort town. Currently, there are two companies, one from here and the other from South Africa, wishing to establish helicopter businesses in Victoria Falls,” he said.
“These are some of the developments that occurred during the course of the year following the commissioning of the Victoria Falls International Airport.”
Mukwasi also said the United Nations World Tourism Organisation was sponsoring the development of a public swimming pool.
“Construction has started and we believe by end of January it will be completed. The structure [Victoria Falls Airport]added value to the city in terms of infrastructural development and employment creation. It has also increased attractiveness of Victoria Falls as a tourist destination,” he said.
Victoria Falls mayor Sifiso Mpofu said the airport was a game-changer and they had received quite a number of enquiries from people wishing to establish businesses in the resort town.
“The airport is a game-changer, though we haven’t seen much development. We have received many enquiries about investment opportunities from companies and business people,” Mpofu said.
The completion of the project was a major milestone for the country given the resort town’s potential to transform and steer growth in the country’s economy by attracting more tourists and investors into the country.
The airport is capable of handling around 1,5 million passengers annually and its smooth new runway can accommodate some of the world’s largest jets — raising the prospect of new direct international flights to Victoria Falls.
Africa’s largest airline group, Ethiopian Airlines recently revealed that it would start flying into Victoria Falls in March. Rwandan airline, RwandAir has also indicated plans to start flying into Victoria Falls this year.
The state-of-the-art Victoria Falls airport’s features include the new international terminal building, a new four-kilometre long runway, a new control tower and a refurbished domestic terminal with a capacity to handle 1,5 million passengers per annum.
The apron area has a capacity to handle aircraft in the class of the B747 and equivalent. The airport has modern passenger facilities which include a compatible baggage handling system, Flight Information Display System and Common Use Passenger Processing System.
The expansion of the airport comes as government has designated Victoria Falls a special economic zone for tourism, which means that investors will get incentives to put their money in the resort town. It also comes at a time when Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi has plans for a $300 million “Disneyland” in Zimbabwe.