Modernisation of Tanzania’s main airport is back on course after more than a year’s delay, a project likely to reduce Dar es Salaam’s reliance on Nairobi for transit flights by some of European airlines.
Authorities in Tanzania have announced the construction of the new passenger terminal at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) will be completed in June 2019.
The $300 million (Sh30.27 billion) project had been delayed over a funding stand-off after President John Magufuli questioned its costs and implementation timeframes in February 2017.
The airport’s terminal 3 – which includes construction of 24 parking lots, access roads and a taxiway — is designed for expected growth in international traffic.
The capacity of the airport is set to more than double to six million annual passengers from the present 2.5 million once the project is completed, Reuters reported, quoting a statement from Prime Minister’s office.
Emirates, KLM, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Swiss International Airlines are some of major international airports that fly to Dar’s main airport.
Tanzania, however, still relies on Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to get some of its international guests, largely tourists, because some of the major airlines such as British Airways do not fly Tanzania.
Tanzania’s reliance on Nairobi for some of its tourists came to the fore following an outcry from tour operators when Nairobi banned Tanzanian-registered vans from accessing the JKIA for 25 days from December 22, 2014.
The move was in retaliation to a similar decision by Tanzanian authorities to deny Kenyan-registered vans direct entry into her national parks, requiring them to drop tourists at the border.
The two neighbouring nations, which have a longstanding on-and-off trade feuds, are the main rivals in the multibillion-shilling regional tourism industry.
Tanzania controls the largest share of regional tourism revenue with $2.3 billion (Sh233.07 billion) receipts in 2017, a 15 per cent rise over the previous year’s $2 billion (Sh201.80 billion).
Kenya’s tourist receipts, on the other hand, were slightly more than half Tanzania’s at $1.2 billion (Sh121.08 billion), a growth of 20 per cent over a year earlier despite prolonged presidential electioneering period.
Tanzania made clear its plan to invest heavily in upgrade and expansion of her major airports – including JNIA, Kilimanjaro International Airport and Songwe International Airport – in May 2015, citing an annual average growth of 20 per cent in passenger traffic.
“President Magufuli has been a relentless, fierce and oftentimes underestimated adversary when it comes to our ‘’transit state’’ status. Clearly, he is seeking to prise some of this transit traffic away from Nairobi and to Dar es Salaam. It is not a straightforward thing,” chief executive of investment advisory Rich Management Aly-Khan Satchu said.
The Kenyan government has in recent years invested heavily in upgrade of the JKIA, built in 1978 and which is more developed, making it the indisputable aviation hub in the region.
The latest investment in the six-million-a-year-passenger airport is building of a second runway, largely funded through a $160 million(Sh16.14 billion) loan from African Development Bank last November.
The runaway at the busy JKIA is 90 per cent utilised, Transport secretary James Macharia said last year.