By Norma Tsopo
Government has finally heeded calls to construct an airport for Mutare which is expected to link the eastern highlands with other world famous tourist destinations across the country.
Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Jorum Gumbo told local authorities at a meeting at Holiday Inn Mutare recently that government was doing this to improve access to the region which is still only accessible by road.
“There have been huge calls for the construction of an airport in Mutare and, as government, we are going to construct one. This is something on the cards.
“We are going to do that so that tourists are able to move freely and fast to Mutare to see the Vumba, Nyanga and many other tourist destinations in Manicaland,” Gumbo said.
He however did not disclose the site of the proposed airport but ruled out the demilitarization of Grand Reef airport about 22 kilometres outside the eastern border city which the tourism sector hoped would give them a quick solution.
“That is not my area. It’s now technical but l don’t know if we will be interfering with the military…we just want something that can take small planes with tourists,” Gumbo said after the meeting.
Gumbo also said government was going to prioritise roads that improved access to major tourist attractions across the province.
Gumbo said the government would also improve the road networks that lead to major tourist destinations in the province.
“Manicaland is endowed with tourism opportunities and we will take roads that lead to these tourist destinations as first priority. We will consider the Rusape-Nyanga Highway and the Mutare-Vumba Road,” he said.
Hotel Association of Zimbabwe vice president Clive Chinwada said they welcomed the announcement as a breakthrough to years of lobbying.
“Together with other stakeholders we have clamoured for an airport for Mutare and we welcome with glee the announcement. It will make it easier for tourists to cross over from the west, which is enjoying most of the country’s tourists, to the east and vice versa,” Chinwada said.
Gordon’s Select Bed and Breakfast proprietor Gordon Addams who has for years demanded the setting up of an airport arguing that Grand Reef was a wasted opportunity said he welcomed the announcement.
“We don’t mind where they chose to put the airport but what is important is that the issue is now at cabinet level and we will soon get the air connectivity that we have been calling for to enhance tourist accessibility to the eastern highlands,” Addams said.
Musangano Lodge’s Leonard Bwanya was equally excited about the prospects of an airport for Mutare.
“An airport will make this region attractive to tourists again considering that most shunned the eastern highlands because it was hard to reach and would eat into tourists’ limited time to enjoy scenic attractions,” Bwanya said.