BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe's tourism sector is poised for a major boom, following the upgrading of the country's major airports with enhanced passenger handling capacity.
The country's tourism and aviation officials shared their hope at the just-ended Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo, which took place from Thursday to Saturday in Bulawayo, the country's second-largest city.
"Aviation is an enabler, a catalyst in the development of Zimbabwe's economy, more so tourism," said Passmore Dewa, manager of Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo.
During the three-day Expo, stakeholders highlighted that Zimbabwe's tourism sector was poised for further growth, following the upgrading and modernization of the country's two major airports, the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport (RGMIA) and Victoria Falls International Airport in partnership with China.
The upgrading has boosted the country's total airport passenger handling capacity to 9.5 million from 5 million, and given foreign tourists wide options of direct landing at the main airports in Harare, Bulawayo, and Victoria Falls, Tarirai Musonza, chief director for Tourism and Hospitality Management, said.
"The opening-up of the new airport which is capable of landing wide-boarded aircraft has been a game changer within the Zimbabwe destination," she said, as the upgraded RGMIA will be able to handle over 6 million passengers compared to the 1.5 million before.
The upgrading projects are already bearing fruit, with more international airlines flying in, Musonza said.
The upgraded RGMIA was officially commissioned in July by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who hailed the new-look airport as "magnificent" and matching international standards.
African budget airline Fastjet said it has managed to position Victoria Falls, the country's prime tourist destination, as a national and regional tourism hub now that the airport is modernized.
Fastjet has developed new routes connecting Victoria Falls to previously unserviced domestic tourist destinations such as Hwange National Park and Kariba, and to South Africa and Botswana.
"As Fastject our business model is based on robust air connectivity and our focus has been on positioning Victoria Falls as a tourism hub," Vivian Ruwuya, the airline's chief commercial officer, said.
Andrew Makona, Air Zimbabwe's chief executive, said their thrust was on reviving the troubled national airline into a viable entity that can adapt to the changing environment.
He added that the airline's goal is to make RGMIA the country's business hub and Victoria Falls the tourism hub.
Wengayi Nhau, president of the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe, emphasized the need for more airport infrastructure development.
"We need airport infrastructure that speaks to our Vision 2030, world and international best practices. We need to have more airlines coming into the country and to develop new routes to grow our tourism," he said. Vision 2030 refers to the country's long-term development vision of becoming an upper-middle-income society by 2030.
Zimbabwe's tourism is on a positive trajectory after the pandemic, with both tourist arrivals and investment on an upward trend as the government seeks to grow the sector into a 5-billion-dollar tourism economy by 2025. ■