Walter Nyamukondiwa Kariba Bureau
Air Zimbabwe (Airzim) is set to resume domestic flights linking Victoria Falls and other tourist destinations, including Kariba and Buffalo Range by the end of the year.
This is viewed as an important step in the development of the tourism industry and lays an airline backbone for envisaged increased demand for air travel – of people and cargo – as the country moves towards upper-middle income status.
Government has committed to supporting Airzim in acquiring suitable low capacity aircrafts in the short to medium term to complement the partnership.
Negotiations to iron out regulatory hurdles for the operationalisation of a partnership between Airzim and Mack Air of Botswana are underway.
Speaking at a Kariba marketing and strategic development plan workshop here, Airzim marketing, ground handling and airport services manager Mr Tafadzwa Zaza said the partners were in discussion with Government through the regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ).
“We are planning to start operations mid-December to January 2020,” said Mr Zaza.
“This will depend with the regulatory issues which are being worked on by Government through the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe.”
Turning to the revival of tourism in Kariba where Airzim is expected to play a leading role through improved accessibility, Mr Zaza said the aircrafts that the national airline was using were not compatible with the Kariba Airport.
“Government has agreed to acquire new and modern equipment for the national airline which will be able to service this route. Our planes cannot land in Kariba at the moment,” he said.
Traffic at Kariba Airport declined from a peak of around 14 000 arrivals in 1999 to around 3 000 in 2018.
The plan, Mr Zaza said was to use smaller planes of between 12 and 20 passengers with Victoria Falls as the fulcrum, feeding priority destination Kariba, Hwange and Buffalo Range,” he said.
Outbound passengers from Kariba will be able to do so through Victoria Falls International Airport.
To that end, Airzim has scheduled meetings with the Zimbabwe Tour Operators Association (ZTOA) in Victoria Falls to prepare for the successful launch of the project.
Kariba Airport manager Mr Shupikayi Maramwidze said the airport would also be a hub where passengers from scheduled flights are taken to camps along the Zambezi Valley through Bumi Hills, Mana West, Mana Pools, Chirundu and Gache Gache airstrips.
“Kariba Airport is an International Airport because we have customs and immigration services available.
“In terms of expanding the airport, there is limited scope because we have Nyanyana River to the east and to the west we have pylons so we cannot extend the runway,” he said.
The workshop was organised by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry and brings together tourism and hospitality players from Kariba.