TRANSPORT minister Obert Mpofu has told the tourism ministry to aggressively market the country’s premier tourism destination to help repay a $150 million Chinese loan to upgrade the Victoria Falls International Airport.
China Exim Bank provided the loan for the expansion work being carried out by China Jiangsu which includes the construction of a new 4km runway, a new international terminal building, upgrading domestic terminal building, new fire station, new control tower and state –of–the art aviation specialist equipment.
The new terminal building will be able to handle 1,2million passengers per annum from 400,000 currently while the new runway would enable the airport to handle wide body aircraft.
Mpofu said government’s ability to repay the loan would depend on the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority’s marketing initiatives.
“The airport is almost complete now and this is the time to start marketing it so that we get more airlines and tourists coming,” said Mpofu during a media tour of the airport.
“The tourism ministry is the biggest beneficiary. It is now up to you ZTA to market the airport starting now because this project benefits you mostly.
“Without that government will not be able to repay the loan because no money will come in if there are no tourists and airlines using the airport.”
ZTA chief operating officer Givemore Chidzidzi said they would continually market the country, with prominence given to new facilities such as Victoria Falls airport.
“There is a lot of work to be done. We have upped the game and will always market the new look airport to lure more visitors,” said Chidzidzi.
The Victoria Falls corporate community, which is dominated by tour operators, has pledged to extensively market the resort town.
Zimbabwe Council of Tourism representative Barbara Murasiranwa said they were prepared to partner government in marketing Victoria Falls.
“As stakeholders we are going to assist,” said Murasiranwa who is also Hotel Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) deputy president.
“We are not going to have an ‘us and them attitude’. At the moment we are working with Zimra, Civil aviation Authority of Zimbabwe and immigration and we have spent $25,000 in three months giving water to clients at ports of entry.
“Temperatures are usually high at this time of the year and we thought we should take care of our visitors. We have five planes landing at the airport at almost the same time and we took it upon ourselves to help with water.”Advertisement
Murasiranwa said they were encouraged by the fact that government is making plans to make Victoria Falls a tourism hub.
“We are already marketing the airport and all our brochures and websites feature the new look facility,” she added.
Construction activity is likely to be complete by June next year, with commissioning expected in August, Mpofu said.