in Features / Airports

Livingstone right to presume it could have a great future

Posted 18 June 2018 · Add Comment

Victoria Falls is one of Africa’s greatest tourist attractions and Zambia has been investing in its airport at Livingstone, which bears the name of a national hero. Humphrey Nkonde reports.

Livingstone has attracted thousands of tourists from the time a Scottish explorer became the first European to view the mighty Victoria Falls on November 16, 1855.
Local people called the falls Mosi-oa-Tuny (smoke that thunders) and it was that explorer – David Livingstone – who renamed it Victoria Falls after the then Queen of Britain.
The British Colonial Government constructed the aerodrome near the Victoria Falls in 1952 to mainly serve local tourists and named it Livingstone Airport after the explorer.
It was renamed Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport on September 28, 2011 by the then Zambian President, Michael Sata.
Nkumbula was one of the prominent freedom fighters in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, in the 1950s and in the years leading to up to the former British colony’s independence on October 24, 1964.
Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport has two runways – the main one is 3,000 metres long and 46 metres wide and is capable of accommodating the Boeing 767 aircraft.
Facilities at the airport have been modernised, making Livingstone one of the preferred destinations for major international airlines.
Notable users include British Airways, operated by South Africa’s Comair, whose origin, like that of South African Airways, is Johannesburg. There is also South Africa’s Airlink, whose flights originate from Nelspruit.
Other users include Ethiopian Airlines, which has flights to Livingstone from Addis Abba, and Kenya Airways, which has made Livingstone a transit point on its Nairobi-Cape Town route.
Proflight Zambia, which has several interline agreements with many international airlines in Africa, is the major local carrier.
The Zambia Airports Corporation (ZACL), the state-run company that develops and manages international airports, has spent about $1 billion in its 2012-2017 strategic plan to upgrade the country’s major airports.
An estimated $50 million of that amount has been spent on an international passenger terminal at Harry Mwaanga International Airport, where construction work began on August 16, 2010.
With a floor area of 119,236sqft (11,077sqm), the international passenger terminal has 12 check-in desks and a capacity of handling one million passengers a year.
There are two boarding gates, five club lounges, 30 retail spaces and viewing terraces.
The airport has Wi-Fi and it is possible for travellers to pay for visas using credit cards.
The international passenger terminal, which was officially opened last year, was preliminarily opened in 2013 to receive delegates to the 20th general assembly of the 186-member United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Meanwhile, the Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport’s original terminal building, with an area of 34,768sqft (3,230sqm), has been turned into a domestic passenger terminal.
Although its numbers have not exceeded 50,000 passengers a year in the last five years, it has a capacity of handling 250,000 people annually.
Explorer Livingstone’s statue, and those of his faithful aides, Chuma and Susi, have been erected outside the domestic passenger terminal.
For the past five years, the airport’s international passenger numbers have ranged between 136,000 and slightly more than 150,000, according to ZACL statistics.
The highest figure was recorded last year at 172,662 of which 82,420 were arrivals, while the remaining 90,242 were departures.
As the number of international passengers is slightly below 200,000, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport’s international passenger terminal has an annual utilisation capacity of around 20%. ZACL, therefore, needs to work with tourism authorities to market Livingstone throughout the world.
It should not relax in light of the new developments at Victoria Falls International Airport in Zimbabwe, which also depends on the Victoria Falls to attract international passengers.
The Zimbabwe Aviation Authority has completed upgrades of the airport, including a new international passenger terminal with a capacity of 1.5 million passengers a year, thanks to a $150 million loan from China.
The airport has attracted big airlines in Africa, including Ethiopian Airlines, a new development that could pose stiff competition for its Zambian historic neighbour.
 

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