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Victoria Falls International Airport has recorded an increase in its capacity utilisation, along with a boom in tourism-related business, which it attributes to consistency by airlines in servicing the route.
A rise from 21% to 26% in the airport’s capacity utilisation, and a 20% boom in tourism-related business, come in the wake of renovations to the airport commissioned in 2016, raising its capacity to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft and 1.5m passengers per annum. Since the commissioning, new routes have been opened by airlines, and the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) is engaging with more airlines to fly into the country.
Currently, British Airways/Comair, Ethiopian Airways, fastjet, Kenya Airways, Air Namibia, Airlink, SAA and Air Zimbabwe fly into Victoria Falls – and players in the industry have commended the airlines for their consistency, which is translating into positive tourism business.
Barbara Murasiranwa, the regional representative for the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism, says: “We had the second-best January this year in 20 years, mainly because all airlines have been consistent and coming in time, while some have brought bigger planes. Without talking about passengers, in terms of business, we recorded 20% above previous similar periods.”
Victoria Falls Airport Manager, Ronnie Masaw, commented in an interview with Business Chronicle: “The airlines have maintained operations and we have seen growth in the number of passengers. Since commissioning we have seen new airlines coming. The airlines – for example Ethiopian Airways and Airlink – have indicated that they are flexible to bring wide-bodied aircraft if numbers require that.”
Fastjet has increased some of its route frequencies, while SAA launched a wide-bodied 222-seat Airbus A330-200 last year, replacing the 138-seat A320. Ethiopian Airways introduced a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft recently, which will occasionally fly into Victoria Falls, to replace the B737-800 on its Addis Ababa-Victoria Falls-Gaborone route four times a week. Kenya Airways operates three times a week between Nairobi, Victoria Falls and Cape Town; while Airlink flies between Victoria Falls and Cape Town.
Murasiranwa said the industry was excited about the developments at the airport and the resultant figures, and looked forward to a continued positive outlook period.