Face lift ... Victoria Falls airport set for major upgrade

CHINA has agreed to provide US$164 million for the refurbishment of the airport at Victoria Falls, the country’s premier tourism resort.

The deal is part of an US$180 million aid package endorsed by Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu who visited Zimbabwe this week.

The package includes US$12.7 million grant on economic and technical cooperation as well as US$5 million to help the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation acquire outside broadcast equipment.

“The cooperation between Zimbabwe and China has been seen in the construction of the Victoria Falls Airport and runway that we are going to use next year when we host the United Nations World Tourism Organization General Assembly and the Agricultural Demonstration Center launched today,” Vice President Joice Mujuru said.

Zimbabwe is looking to upgrade its dilapidated airports infrastructure to support the country’s resurgent tourism industry. Apart from Victoria Falls, the government is also rebuilding Bulawayo’s Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport.

The tourism sector has registered significant growth in recent years, resulting in some of the world’s major carriers, among them Dubai-based Emirates, launch services to Zimbabwe.

Tourism Minister, Walter Mzembi recently said tourism had overtaken agriculture to become the second largest contributor to Gross Domestic Product after mining.

The sector’s contribution to GDP was expected to rise from 9 percent last year to 15 percent with tourist arrivals doubling to 5 million by 2015.