THE Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) is expected to start refurbishment and expansion of the Victoria Falls Airport at a cost of close to $1 billion, businessdigest established this week.
Caaz chief executive officer David Chawota said this week his organisation would soon issue a tender for the refurbishment and expansion of the airport.
The tender will be valued at $600 million, Chawota said, refusing to give additional costs.
Chawota said Caaz had already contracted a company that had already begun clearing land at the airport ahead of the planned expansion programme.
“Contractors have moved on site to start clearing the ground and carry out the enabling work before the actual contraction of the runway begins,” Chawota said.
“We will soon be going to tender to invite bids for the actual construction of the runway. We expect the company that is clearing the land complete by the end of the year.”
Last week, government injected $600 million for the project, part of a programme meant to spruce up the image of old airports around the country before 2010. Completion of the expansion programme is expected before 2010 when South Africa hosts the soccer World Cup.
President Robert Mugabe’s government has indicated that it would want to take advantage of increased tourist traffic during the hosting of the World Cup in South Africa.
Tourist arrivals have declined significantly from a peak of 2 250 000 in 1999 to 1 560 000 in 2005 as a result of an unstable political and economic environment in the country. Victoria Falls International Airport was opened in 1966. It had had a number of refurbishments over the years.
The last refurbishment was carried out in 1990.
After the completion of the current expansion and refurbishment programme, the existing building will become the domestic terminal.
The Victoria Falls airport is a key port of entry for tourists visiting the Victoria Falls by air.
It handles one domestic and four regional scheduled flights daily as well as commercial non-scheduled and private charters.
Caaz projects that after the expansion and modernisation of the airport, it will attract larger airlines with bigger planes. This will increase accessibility to the resort town by international tourists.
Several airlines had previously indicated willingness to fly tourists directly to Victoria Falls but had been inhibited by the size of the airport.
Caaz has also carried out expansion and refurbishment programmes at the Harare International Airport and similar work is underway at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport in Bulawayo whose commissioning is scheduled for December.