Harare International Airport was busier than O.R.Tambo airport, Johannesburg’s international airport, between 1996 and 1998, according to Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi.
Mzembi said this in Parliament last week when he was asked how Zimbabwe would benefit from the coming United Nations World Tourism Organisation summit which it is hosting jointly with Zambia in August.
He said OR Tambo had been upgraded for the 2010 World Cup and was now so big now that it could pass for a capital of an African country.
“When we won the rights to the 28th Session, our vision was to upgrade the infrastructural set-up in the Victoria Falls on the back of those rights. Regrettably, we have not been able to get to that extent because of some other competing national interests,” he said.
But Mzembi said all was not lost. The government had set aside 1 200 hectares of Victoria Falls’ prime land for tourism-focussed investment.
“My vision then, is that we must close the infrastructural gap between Niagara and Victoria Falls so that we can also be a US$30 billion economy just like the Niagara is. Today, Victoria Falls’ gross is only US$1.5 billion between us and Zambians and we are obviously not doing well comparatively but the dream is to do even better when we have closed this infrastructural gap,” Mzembi said.
He said people were also benefitting directly from the improvement of infrastructure in the town such as the upgrading of roads and hotels.
“We have poured in about US$60 million in upgrading hospitality assets there. A new clinic is coming up in addition, obviously to the happiness of the people……
“Let me share with you that the tourism dollar is the only dollar in economics that makes an immediate impact on the lives of the poor. As you pass those tips, people are actually benefiting. As they ask for road directions, people are actually benefiting. I have no doubt in my mind hon. member that come the 23rd when we kick-off with the tourism night at the Victoria Falls High School or stadium depending on the venue that we shall finally decide, you shall see how locked-in the ordinary community of the Victoria Falls shall be with this event going forward for the next six days.”