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Burgeoning Vic Falls airport taking strain Today's News

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The recently built Victoria Falls International Airport (to the cost of around R1.8bn) is battling to meet the burgeoning air traffic demands, with problems of congestion and delays. As traffic continues to grow, with airlines jostling to introduce direct flights to Victoria Falls, the problem is worsening.

The airport's construction began in February 2013 and was carried out by a Chinese firm China Jiangsu International Group through a concessionary loan by the China Export and Import Bank. It had been built to handle around 1.5 million passengers annually, up from the old airport’s 500 000 person capacity. However, it is battling to handle the 310 000 seats currently arriving per annum; a 127 000 seat increase since the 183 000 seats arriving per annum in February 2017 (figures according to estimates from Africa Albida Tourism).

At a press briefing, Zimbabwe Immigration Department principal director, Clemence Masango, said immigration officials reported that the arrivals lounge lacked the capacity to accommodate the deluge of passengers. 

“I have engaged with the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe to find a solution. I want to point out that although the airport is new, the plan for the refurbishment was drawn up 20 years ago. Many things are not right. The arrival lounge can only accommodate 600 people. That is only enough space for about three full planes, carrying, on average, 200 passengers each.”

However, according to Atta, an industry leader said the airport had significant capacity to welcome more flights and the Civil Aviation Authority was working toward a greater spread of arrival times with carriers to limit peak congestion times for passenger handling.

Hotel operators in Victoria Falls are reporting better-than-expected profits, with occupancy levels pushing 90%. 

Africa Albida Tourism ce, Ross Kennedy, said the tourism industry in Victoria Falls was working very closely with all of the public sector departments and ministries to ensure that this demand is matched by service delivery enhancements.

“There was an 19% increase in hotel occupancy in Victoria Falls in 2017 compared with 2016, with an additional 35 730 rooms sold across ten hotels, which together have 1 125 rooms available per night and measure arrivals monthly. A surge in December 2017 saw this year-on-year increase rise to 24% for the month.”

He added that reports from the industry reflected occupancies from January to April this year compared with the same period last year, were up by 30% in advance bookings.

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