The upgrade of Tanzania’s second largest airport, Kilimanjaro International Airport, is underway. It is expected to give KIA the capacity to handle more aircraft and passengers.
The makeover, which started last week, will see all runways, apron, taxiways and passenger lounges modernised.
Project Engineer Mathew Ndossi said that the$39.7 million expansion works, set to be completed in May 2017, will enable the airport to handle 1.2 million passengers, up from 600,000 passengers per annum.
The government has awarded BAM International of Netherlands the contract to overhaul the facility, financed jointly by Tanzania and the Netherlands government. KIA will have additional aprons for five aircraft and a new parallel taxiway to the west for outbound aircraft.
“The aprons’ capacity will almost double as they will be able to accommodate 11 major aircraft, up from the current six at a go,” Mr Ndossi told The EastAfrican.
The scope of work comprises the refurbishment of the terminal building (built in 1971), the construction of a new parallel taxiway, the extension of the existing apron and taxiways, including repairs on the runway, as well as the drainage and sewage works.
BAM will also install new airfield ground lighting and floodlights along the apron.
KIA is one of four international airports in Tanzania, and is the second largest airfield after Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam. The other two are Mwanza and Songwe in Mbeya.
The airport has been handling nearly 80 per cent of the tourists visiting Tanzania annually, making it a key gateway to the Northern Circuit.
“The idea behind this project is to stimulate air traffic via KIA,” said the managing director of Kilimanjaro Airports Development Company (Kadco), Bakari Murusuri.
It is expected that the project will not only contribute to strengthening of the tourism sector in northern Tanzania, but will also spur economic and infrastructure development.
Mr Murusuri said that since 2010, Kadco had been running promotions overseas, seeking to attract major global airlines to operate from KIA.
The 44-year-old airport, located between the Arusha and Kilimanjaro regions, handled a total of 802,731 passengers in 2014, of which 45 per cent were international, 38 per cent domestic and 17 per cent transit.
Mr Murusuri said that they expect to handle between 800,000 and 900,000 passengers by the end of this year.
“We expect slightly less growth compared with recent years, largely driven by a slowdown in local demand in the run-up to the presidential elections in October and the Ebola scare among international travellers,” he said.
The majority of passengers using KIA are leisure passengers. Latest official statistics show that KIA’s top five international visitor markets from outside of Africa are the US (23 per cent), the UK and Germany (8 per cent) each, Canada (4 per cent) and the Netherlands (3 per cent).
Tanzania Association of Tour Operators CEO, Sirili Akko applauded the facelift but said that Kadco should also develop other tourism-related infrastructure and recreation facilities to attract overseas tourists.
Already, Kadco has developed a comprehensive plan that will see the 110 sq km estates surrounding the airport transformed into a modern duty-free shopping city.
Apart from the air terminal, the KIA area, strategically placed at the meeting point of the Northern Zone regions of Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Manyara, has for many years remained unoccupied.
According to the master plan, the location is to become a “city” located between Moshi and Arusha, where prospective investors were to establish huge shopping centres, high class tourist hotels, duty free ports, export processing zone, educational institutions, custom bonded warehouses, Curio shops, golf courses and a large game ranch.