Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) is experiencing a 24% increase in passenger traffic this year and expects to handle nearly 1,055,000 passengers, compared with 850,000 passengers in 2013, following the introduction of routes in 2012 from both Qatar and Turkey’s flagship airlines.

As a result of this growth, the airport nicknamed the “Gateway to Africa’s Wildlife Heritage” is poised to surpass the number of both domestic and international passengers passing through Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam.

JNIA currently handles an average of 1.5 million passengers in a year, but with a 24% increase in annual traffic and plans for a $36.4m expansion co-funded by the Netherlands from the end of 2014, Kilimanjaro Airport looks more than set to overtake Dar es Salaam’s passenger flow.

A significant factor in this growth in traffic was the launch by Qatar Airways of a new daily service to the airport in July 2012, followed by Turkish Airlines, which began five weekly services in December 2012 and has since upped frequency to daily.

Mattijs Smith, MD for Kilimanjaro Airports Development Company (KADCO), noted: “The African airport environment is just starting to realise the delicate decision-making that happens when an airline decides to operate on a route. Our success shows all the other African airports that [a route development strategy] works and it’s not just theory.”

KIA currently handles a total of 12 scheduled airlines in addition to many other unscheduled charter planes, but before the end of this year, it is expected that KIA will be a landing site for nearly 20 airlines, and the expansion will increase the length and width of runaways.

The airport has also been celebrated for its management, which has worked with limited terminal facilities built in 1971 to handle 200,000 passengers but now handles upwards of a million and which has secured the ‘Routes Africa Marketing Award’ for two years running.

KADCO’s Mattijs added: “After winning the Routes award for the second year in a row in recognition of our record growth, we are now working hard to further improve our service and become the best airport and terminal of choice in the whole East African region.”

In September, Kilimanjaro will also join Tampa, Abu Dhabi and Bremen airports as Africa’s winner of the regional heats at the World Routes Marketing Awards in Chicago, where all four will vie for the world’s best airport 2014, which KIA came a close second to last year.

Kilimanjaro was also named as the winner from the under four million passengers category, while Durban King Shaka International Airport honoured from the over a million passengers category and Madagascar Tourism Board ranked top in the Destination Marketing Category.

The African regional heat of the Routes Marketing Awards were announced on June 23rd on the last night of the Routes Africa Networking Evening, which took place against the backdrop of the Golf Course at the Elephant Hills Hotel & Resort in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.