By Nason Mutambaneshiri
CHIREDZI – Conveniently located in a high tourist niche market Buffalo Range Airport, a mere 13 kilometres out of Chiredzi, has been identified as a key agriculture and tourism enabler of strategic significance in the low veld.
It is particularly celebrated as the main gateway to three main conservancies – Save Conservancy, Malilangwe and Bubiana as well as the Great Limpopo Trans-frontier Parks on the Zimbabwean side.
The airport was developed from an airstrip formerly owned by the Styles family but donated it to for the construction of the airport which was then commissioned in 1965.
The runway is 1578 metres long and 30 metres wide and can accommodate aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 737-700 executive series.
This airport makes it a boon for even the area’s strong agricultural economy.
While air connectivity is a much sort after infrastructure in other regions with the western parts of the country benefiting immensely from Victoria Falls International Airport while the northern parts are realizing benefits from Kariba’s the southern parts of the country does not seem to be fully utilizing the infrastructure.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe last year refurbished the airport, with extensive renovations being done on the terminal building.
It receives flights mainly from different locations in Zimbabwe, South Africa and other parts of the world. Buffalo Range is a small airport that operates 12 hours per day. It offers customs, immigration, aircraft parking and fueling services.
The airport is however under marketed and disenfranchising the local economy as it could be a finer great selling point for local tourism products.
Three to four international airlines land at Victoria Falls every day and the same could happen at Buffalo Range but it is underutilization.
Even though is famed with receiving such high-profile personalities like Colombian singer, Shakira in 2011 and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates in 2012 not many people are utilizing it as an entry point to the country.
The airport can make the lives of business people, local farmers and tourists easier if sufficiently marketed.
“Tourists and business people should take advantage of this airport and increase convenience to their travel plans
“The airport has to be extensively marketed and improved so that it attracts people who want to do business,” said the airport manager Dexter Chekenyu.
He said business executives often waste a lot of time travelling by road unaware that it had air connectivity.
If travelling hours are reduced between the low veld and the rest of the country, the cost of doing business will also go down and the district will be regarded as more investor friendly.
Various stakeholders called upon the national carrier, Air Zimbabwe, to reintroduce a flight to service the Chiredzi-Masvingo-Harare route, saying the absence of the service is hindering investment and efficient travel.