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Zimbabwe suspends controversial air travel levy

Aviation authorities in Zimbabwe Monday suspended a controversial levy on air travellers, introduced at the beginning of the month and meant to develop the country’s airports and related infrastructure.

The Aviation Infrastructure Development Fund (AIDEF) came into effect 1 May, and consisted of departure fees of US$30 and US$10 levied on international and local air travellers.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), a state-run air regulator, had planned to raise US$400 million through the levies to revamp the country’s run-down airports and other aviation infrastructure.

But its chief executive, David Chawota, said the levy had been suspended indefinitely, but gave no reasons.

“Passengers who had been charged the levy should approach the relevant airline, travel agent or airport authority for a refund. Airlines and travel agents who had collected the AIDEF levies should not remit funds to CAAZ but refund the passengers,” he said.

The agency had planned to use the levies to mordernise at least five airports in the country, particularly in resort areas such as Victoria Falls.

But the levies, which were introduced without much prior warning, had been met with an outcry by air travellers who said they were too steep.

Zimbabwe is trying to nurse its tourism industry back to high growth after the battering it took from the country’s decade-long political instability, in which major source markets such as Europe and North America imposed travel bans on their citizens.

Last year, the sector earned the country US$770 million, and the government said it was targeting  annual tourism earnings of US$5 billion by 2015

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