The opening of a new terminal and upgrading of facilities at the Victoria Falls Airport will have a significant positive impact on international arrivals in Zimbabwe’s premier tourist destination, a senior executive with a top hotel has said.Speaking after the recent commissioning of the $150 million Airport, Mr Glenn Stutchbury said it was essential for all stakeholders to take advantage of the development to increase the number of visitors to Victoria Falls and surrounding areas.
“We now have in place an international airport that can handle larger aircraft and greater numbers of aircraft arrivals and departures, so it is important for all stakeholders to examine what can and must be done to make this work for the travel and tourism sector, as well as the Zimbabwean economy as a whole,” he said.
The new international terminal has capacity to service 1,2 million people per annum and a new parallel 4 000m runway to cater for wide body aircraft in the class of Boeing 747.
Victoria Falls, is the epicentre of a 500 kilometre radius, which includes one of the great rivers of the world, the Zambezi, and a diverse number of wilderness areas ranging from the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park in Botswana, Kafue National Park in Zambia, Hwange and Matusadona National Parks and Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe.
“Civil aviation authorities must continue the search for new air services and in this regard we are delighted to hear that Ethiopian Airlines has already committed itself to a new scheduled service direct into Victoria Falls in 2017, using an aircraft much larger than we are used to seeing at the Victoria Falls Airport.
“This will help hospitality operators utilise more of the existing accommodation capacity, which has been underutilised for some time now. Should numbers grow to levels that demand it; operators could start thinking about projects to expand capacity.
This kind of scenario is one that involves increased income generation, greater levels of employment and a direct impact on the national economy,” Mr Stutchbury said.
He said Cresta Hotels had invested in Victoria Falls in 2014 in anticipation of the impact the airport project would have on visitors and now looked forward to increasing business at its Victoria Falls operation, Cresta Sprayview.
The hotel is aimed at the three to four-star market from local, regional and international sources, including leisure, business and conference segments of the source markets.
Mr Stutchbury said developments in neighbouring Botswana also gave cause for optimism about increased business levels in the entire tourist “playground” of northern Botswana, northern Zimbabwe, southern Zambia and eastern Namibia.
“At Maun, which is the gateway
to the Okavango delta, developments are taking place at the airport to transform it into a major service facility for travellers heading
“As a result, we in Cresta are at an advanced stage of construction of a new hotel close to Maun, and this will also take advantage of increased capacity for arrivals from international and other source markets.”
He said Cresta had full confidence in the future of travel and tourism throughout Southern Africa, and was hopeful that obstacles to progress and development would be overcome, resulting in increased international interest in the whole area.
“Cresta has a footprint across three countries in the region — Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia — and is keen to see an increase in travel to the area that involves movement across borders and utilises the travel and tourism infrastructure of all three countries.
“Our marketing thrust highlights the ease and benefits of holidays that, for example, make us offer two primarily leisure hotels: Cresta Mowana in Kasane, Botswana, and Cresta Sprayview in Victoria Falls.
“We support regional tourism co-operation and that is why we have a presence in three different countries at the present time.”
Mr Stutchbury said any impediments to growth in this travel and tourism opportunity had to be identified and eliminated and Cresta would play its part in this process.