The tourism industry in Mkhanyakude is expected to grow exponentially in the near future, thanks to a planned multi-million rand facelift for the Mkhuze Airport unveiled by the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mr Sihle Zikalala on August 15. Zikalala launched a R32 million upgrade project for the Mkhuze Airport said the facelift would see the airport creating its own globally recognized identity as safari enthusiasts would now fly into the King Shaka International Airport and thereafter take a direct flight to Mkhuze.
“We have taken a decision upgrade the airport because it is strategically located in the prime tourism destination of the uMkhanyakude District which boasts the highest concentration of game reserves in the country including Thanda, Phinda, uMkhuze, Pongola, Hluhluwe, Leopard Mountain, Rhino River, Bayete Zulu, Tembe Elephant Park to mention but a few,” added Zikalala.
The upgrades will see the Mkhuze Airport following Skukuza airport model which serves not only the Kruger National Park but many of the other surrounding reserves. Zikalala said the grand vision for Mkhuze was for that airport to achieve the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Category 3 status where the aerodrome could accommodate up to 100 seater aircrafts. Once completed, the airport will also cater for freight aircraft, fuel supply to aircraft, pilot training, firefighting training, anti-poaching exercises and other related aviation activities. Zikalala also urged the private sector to play an active role in the development.
“I am glad to hear that already some potential investors are showing appetite for services at the airport. We want to get the airport to a state that makes it attractive for investment in the area. The airport is surrounded by vacant developable land that makes provision for non-aviation activities. However, we do want to say that such development must not be to the detriment of our environment or the wildlife which is abundant in this area,” the MEC said.
The launch was also attended by tour operators, hoteliers, bed and breakfast owners and business people. Ghost Mountain Inn manager, Jean Toucher, remarked that the upgrade was a welcome for tourism in Mkhanyakude. “We welcome government’s decision to invest in our airport. I have no doubt that the airport will make it easier for tourists to access our world class tourism sites.”