Wilson Dakwa, Business Reporter
THE growth of Zimbabwe’s tourism sector in Victoria Falls has been catalysed by the upgrading of the Victoria Falls airport as it has resulted in a new face for Zimbabwe’s prime tourism destination.
The airport has a capacity to handle 1,5 million passengers per annum, which is triple its previous volume. It is also capable of landing some of the world’s largest aircrafts, ushering in a new era of tourism in the region and beyond.
Airlines such as Emirates and British Airways have flights to the Victoria Falls airport.
In a telephone interview, Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president Mr Clement Mukwasi said the airport had largely contributed towards the growth of tourism in Zimbabwe.
“Tourism in Africa can be likened to oil in the Middle East, it is not exhaustible. The US$150 million loan facility from the China Exim Bank has catalysed the revitalising of the tourism sector as it resulted in a new face for Zimbabwe’s prime tourism destination, Victoria Falls.
South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways’ decision to fly to Victoria Falls is estimated to bring an additional 80 000 tourists into the resort town annually.”
Mr Mukwasi highlighted on the growth of the private sector.
“The private sector is booming as the city council (Vic Falls) is running out of stands due to high demand and there are foreign investors willing to invest in the country. Easier accessibility has been created as new airlines are landing at the airport.
“Prior to the upgrade, there were restrictions which hindered international flights from landing at the airport, this has since changed.”
He also said the tourism sector is growing regionally although lack of funding is the major challenge.
“Tourism is also growing regionally as most tourists want to see and understand Zimbabwe from other town’s perspective. Lots of tourists also visit places such as Hwange and Matopos.
This has resulted in the construction of hotels and lodges although the major hindrance is limited funding,” he added.
The tourism sector in Africa has seen the number of international tourist arrivals rising by 8% to reach 58 million.
However, Zimbabwe is losing millions of dollars in potential revenue to regional tourism markets as locals are shunning expensive local products.
According to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)’s 2017 first quarter tourism performance highlights, the disparity in figures shows that locals are shunning domestic products in favour of other destinations.
However, tourism authorities have embarked on various strategies to improve the appetite for domestic tourism in the country which has resulted in most hotels and tour operators reviewing the pricing models on their packages to attract locals.