GRUMETI Community and Wildlife Conservation Fund has pledged 3m US dollars (4.7bn/-) for construction of the proposed Serengeti International airport.
The airport is one of the major promises that the Fourth Phase Government, which is led by President Jakaya Kikwete, made to Serengeti residents. The airport is designed to speed up economic development in the district.
Singita Grumeti Reserve (SGR) confirmed in its latest press statement that Grumeti Community and Wildlife Conservation Fund has agreed to provide the money for construction of the airport.
"Grumeti Community and Wild Conservation Fund has agreed to earmark funding of up to $3 million (4.7bn/-) for upgrading of the existing airstrip facilities", SGR said in the statement.
Serengeti District Council has set allocated enough land for construction of the airport at Uwanja wa Ndege Ward on the outskirts of Mugumu town centre, approximately 40 kilometres away from the western fringes of Serengeti National Park (SENAPA).
Construction of the airport is meant to transform Mugumu town, Serengeti District's headquarters, into a tourist hub. "Improvements to the travel infrastructure is seen as vital to responsible development of high yield and low impact tourism in Tanzania," the SGR statement said.
SGR operates luxurious lodges in Western Serengeti which were a few months ago named the best by Travel Leisure Magazine of the US for 2012 from a list of top 100 hotels in the world for the second time in a row. The lodges included Sasakwa, Farufaru and Sabora, all belonging to a US businessman, Mr Paul Tudor Jones, who is said to have been impressed by the Serengeti eco-system, hence investing heavily on tourism and conservation in Western Serengeti in the recent years.
According to the SGR statement, construction of Serengeti International Airport will also have significant economic benefits for the local communities in Western Serengeti due to jobs creation and increased revenue as a result of increased tourism activities. It also noted that the envisaged airport is not meant to compete with the Kilimanjaro and Arusha International Airports.
"The new Serengeti International Airport will be designed to facilitate convenient tourism access to Western Serengeti for aircraft already used for flights into the Serengeti. "Currently safari operators in the area utilize Seronera airstrip which is situated in the heart of Serengeti National Park", the statement said.
Mugumu is located outside Serengeti National Park hence, it provides a more sustainable eco-tourism alternative. Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) and the Ministry of Transport have already given Serengeti District Council a green light to go ahead with construction of the airport, according to Serengeti officials.
A team of experts have also visited the project area and stayed in Mugumu for a number of days conducting Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in the recent weeks. The Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) is backing the project fully, according to authority's officials. Mara Region and Serengeti District leaders are now urging local investors to start investing in the hospitality industry citing construction of classic tourist lodges.