President Mugabe commissions the expanded Victoria Falls airport

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Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe on Friday commissioned the expanded airport at Victoria Falls built using a $150m loan from China.

The country’s president asserted the importance of the upgrade to tourism in Zimbabwe noting that the renovation could turn the airport into a regional tourist hub if aggressively marketed.

The new airport means international tourists can now fly directly to Victoria Falls, a major tourist attraction and a World Heritage site, the president said.

“This airport signifies exciting times for aviation and tourism sectors and paves way for Victoria Falls town to become a tourism hub for SADC and the rest of the African continent,’‘ President Mugabe is quoted to have said.

He urged people to “keep the airport tidy, clean, and let’s not mess it up with litter thrown everywhere,” the state-owned Herald newspaper reports in a live blog of the event.

The president also said China’s financial aid showed the “enduring friendship” between the two countries.

The Chinese Embassy’s Charge D’Affairs who represented the country’s ambassador said, ‘‘I’m grateful to attend this completion ceremony, a milestone in our bilateral relations … it shows the enduring friendship between China and Zimbabwe. This landmark project means a lot for both our countries.’‘

The airport was opened in 1966 as a regional airport and work on the new expansion began in 2013. It is expected to be able to handle up to 1.5 million passengers each year.

With the current expansion, bigger aircrafts like the 747 Boeing will be able to land at the 60-meter wide, 4km long runway, the state owned Herald newspaper reports.

The expansion was done by China Jiangsu International and financed through a $150m loan from China Export Import Bank.

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