The Zimbabwe government expects to commission the new Victoria Falls International Airport, funded and built by Chinese, by May this year, a cabinet minister said on Friday.
The airport expansion project funded by China Export Import Bank to the tune of 150 million U.S. dollars started in 2013. It is being done by Chinese firm China Jiangsu International Group.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Jorum Gumbo told journalists after touring the airport that construction was now 85 percent complete.
“We want to commission the whole project when it is a complete project and we hope to do that by end of May,” he said.
The first phase of the expansion project entailed construction of a new terminal building, four km runway, conversion of existing 2.2 km runway into a taxi way and construction of a road network and a car park.
A new fire station and control tower were also constructed under the first phase while the second phase was expected to start in February.
The second phase will entail renovation and upgrading of the old terminal building and convert it into an entirely domestic terminal.
Once complete, the airport will have capacity to process 2 million passengers per year, up from the current 500,000.
The new international terminal building, runway and control tower became operational in December last year.
Gumbo said agressive marketing was now required to market the upgraded airport and lure new airlines.
Currently, six airlines are landing at the airport and the minister said the target was to increase airlines and make Victoria Falls Airport a regional air transport hub.
He said some international airlines including Qatar, Lufthansa and Turkish had already expressed interest in launching flights to the destination which hosts the famed Victoria Falls, the country’s prime tourist destination.
Minister Gumbo said after completion of the Victoria Falls International Airport, government intended to upgrade Joshua Nkomo International Airport in the second largest city of Bulawayo and Harare International Airport in the capital.
Harare International Airport, with a passenger capacity of 2.5 million per year, was commissioned in 2001.
“We have plans to upgrade Harare International Airport. Where it is right now we still want to upgrade it more. Harare is a capital city and we want to make sure that we upgrade that airport to an airport that is bigger than what it is right now in terms of handling visitors,” the minister said.