Once longest runway Hwange National Park Airport need rehab

21 May, 2022 - 00:05 0 Views
Once longest runway Hwange National Park Airport need rehab Hwange National Park Airport

The Chronicle

Leonard Ncube, in Hwange National Park
HWANGE National Park Airport, located on the outskirts of the game reserve near Cross Mabale, needs urgent rehabilitation to attract airlines and generate revenue.

For many years, the airport had the longest 4,6km runway in Zimbabwe until the rehabilitation of the Robert Mugabe International Airport whose runway is now the longest at 4,7km.

Victoria Falls International Airport runway is 4km while the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport one is around 3,8km. The domestic airport was built in 1965 and to date has no capacity to handle night flights because of lack of lighting. It has a functional control tower and terminal but needs upgrade on sewer and water reticulation as well as lighting to be able to handle night flights.

Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport

It is underutilised because of lack of traffic, with about 10 airlines using the facility per month on average, according to authorities. The aircrafts use only about 2km of the runway while the rest is not in use.

This is despite thousands of tourists that privately fly into secluded conservancies in the Hwange National Park for tourism activities and the country could leverage on the facility if properly upgraded and marketed. The facility has capacity to handle any type of aircraft including wide-bodied ones.

Hwange National Park

The surface on the runway has developed cracks which need rehabilitation and an estimated US$5 million is needed for preliminary work on the runway, according to the Airports Company of Zimbabwe (ACZ). There is need for a perimeter electric fence to keep away wild animals and initial plans to have a trench around the facility failed as elephants destroyed the ditch.

The total budget needed to refurbish the airport is yet to be determined. Tourists visiting Hwange National Park are the facility’s low hanging fruit.

Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona, who was accompanied by ACZ chief executive Mr Tawanda Gusha and other staff, toured the airport and said plans are underway to upgrade it.

Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Felix Mhona

“We are here at Hwange National Park Airport which has the second longest runway we have as a nation and it’s underutilised. We are saying we need to synchronise activities of tourism especially in this region and we need to rehabilitate the runway for large-bodied planes to land here,” said Minister Mhona.

He said the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa has created a conducive business environment in the country through the ease for doing business mantra which needs to be leveraged on.

“If we market ourselves, we have the potential because we have natural resources. Not getting business is because we did not advertise. We need to have state-of-the-art infrastructure here so that we attract business. The moment we have state-of-the-art infrastructure they will start flying into the airport,” said Minister Mhona.

He said upgrading airport facilities will promote tourism and trade.

Minister Mhona said the runaway is still solid and needs another layer of asphalt and erection of a perimeter fence.

“This is in the game park and initially they were pursuing trenches but because of elephants they abandoned that. We need to resort back to the electric fence which will be one of the cost factors and we are planning with the ACZ so that we factor those costs as we do our budget,” he said.

Mr Tawanda Gusha, CEO of Airports Company of Zimbabwe

Mr Gusha said initially, about US$5 million will be required. He said one of the services needed at the airport to attract traffic is aircraft fuel while rehabilitation work will also include upgrading the terminal, water and sewer infrastructure.

“The airport needs touch-ups to modernise it and what is needed is an asphalt overlay to rejuvenate it. The 4  600m runway is long and requires a lot of resources and we are doing a lot of mobilisation,” said Mr Gusha.

He said there is potential business from private camps within the park.

“If we modernise the airport including facilities like fuel we will find that all the camps will be flying into the airport for fuelling. This is a low hanging fruit and we have been talking to fuel service providers for a win-win situation,” he said.

Rehabilitation of the Hwange National Park Airport is part of Zimbabwe destination programme which is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry.

Zimbabwe will next week host an inaugural African Elephant Summit a few kilometres from the airport and if it had been refurbished, delegates would fly directly to Hwange from the international airports in the country. [email protected]

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