When at the official opening last weekend of Zimbabwe’s international tourism expo, “Sanganai 2015” the country’s Vice President Mnangagwa made reference to the new international airport, which is now in the final phase of construction at Victoria Falls and due to officially open in December this year. He talked about international airlines flying directly into the city to bring visitors for the Victoria Falls there without the cumbersome change of planes in Harare now necessary. It is patently obvious that the falls are Zimbabwe’s most visited attraction by foreign visitors, and going by information received from staff of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, the present average stay is just two days. This, however, will change, this correspondent was told by Belinda Mutinhiri, who oversees marketing of ZTA for the African countries, when she said that intentions are to raise the average stay to between four and five days.
Apart from the present offerings of river cruises, sundowner cruises and dinner cruises on the Zambezi above the falls and the visit to the falls proper, visitors are presently able to take a helicopter flight over the falls, walk with lions, participate in crocodile diving – in a safe cage it should be added – and do the highest bungee jump in the world from the bridge which connects Victoria Falls and the Zambian city of Livingstone.
Zimbabwe Tourism is, however, keen to link visitors to Victoria Falls to other of the country’s attractions, such as Zimbabwe’s largest national park of Hwange, where an airfield allows for quick access by air from the airport in Victoria Falls.
News which just emerged that Mango, the LCC owned by South African Airways, was looking at a regional expansion to accomplish growth, were met with some considerable excitement by the Zimbabweans. While no details as to planned added regional destinations was available at the time of going to press, there is intense speculation that Victoria Falls, one of Southern Africa’s most high-profile destinations, could be among them.
The new CEO of South African Airways in fact made reference earlier in the week of the need to align destinations and capacity between SAA and Mango to fully tap into the respective markets of the two carriers. Leisure flights from Johannesburg, and other Mango destinations perhaps via Johannesburg, to Victoria Falls would certainly make sense, considering that at one stage nearly 1.5 million South Africans visited Zimbabwe before the fall of the Rand put a damper on things.
The airport construction, as seen by this correspondent, is indeed at an advanced level of construction, and some sources have suggested that work might be completed as early as September this year, although an official opening in December will give the contactors time to iron out any pending issues in good time.