Chanters Lodge – The Ben Reed Interview (2)

Here’s the next part of my interview with Ben Reed from Adventures With Ben

“Managing a Social Media Marketing Strategy

With nearly 800 followers on twitter, regular posts on his Lodge Blog and an active Facebook Fan Page, Richard has embraced social media and leveraged it to make Chanters Lodge the most visible hotel in Livingstone and on the Internet.

For a gentleman who always wanted to be a writer, blogging was the perfect platform. “I blog about Zambia, family, the lodge and anything else that takes my interest. One of the reasons I keep on blogging is because it brings new content onto the site. We’ve re-marketed the hotel through other parts of Zambia through Facebook.”

He continued by saying, “It’s about social interaction. Loads of clients said they check the blog before they arrive and continue reading it after they leave.” [Very true as Chanters Lodge Blog is downloaded into my Google Feed Reader every morning.] His eyes lit up as he recalled the power of twitter, “I can be talking to a llama farmer in Devon [England], a lady in Brooklyn called Cookie talking about what Rihanna’s doing. Twitter reaches further.”

For Zambia Tourism, social media is important now more than ever. In Richard’s opinion, “[Zambia] is over-hoteled and under-marketed.” In addition, visa fees for travelers are increasing and Zimbabwe is slowly regaining a foothold in appealing to more tourists. Zambia has some competition ahead of them. “If you’re not in the top three or four [in your hotel category], you’ll have some bad years ahead of you.”

While this may be a concern for Richard, he doesn’t show it. Chanters Lodge has expanded considerably since it first opened. Current renovations include converting a standard room into a suite with more plans on the way for additional rooms. Updates are posted on his blog regularly. He never stops working.”

Thanks Ben and for the great picture!


Udaipur Times

Udaipur, also known as the City of Lakes, is a city, a Municipal Council and the administrative headquarters of the Udaipur district in the state of Rajasthan in western India. It is the historic capital of the former kingdom of Mewar in Rajputana Agency. Lake Pichola, Fateh Sagar Lake, Udai Sagar and Swaroop Sagar in this city are considered some of the most beautiful lakes in the state.

Apart from its glorious history, culture and scenic location, it is also known for its Rajput-era palaces. The Lake Palace, for instance, covers an entire island in the Pichola Lake. Many of the palaces have been converted into luxury hotels. It is often called the “Venice of the East” and is also nicknamed the “Lake City”.

My friend Zazo has a new blog – Udaipur Times! Check it out, it’s great!


Social Media Minus A Budget!

This from Hotels Mobile by Adam Kirby made me really sit up and take notice!

“Just because an individual hotel lacks a big budget for social media does not mean it cannot compete for followers and fans—even in a hyper-competitive market like Las Vegas. The marketing budget for Las Vegas Hilton is miniscule when compared to multi-property powerhouse rivals like MGM Mirage, Harrah’s Entertainment and Wynn Resorts. And despite being relatively late to the social media party, the hotel has picked up enough incremental business from Twitter and Facebook to convince once-skeptical executive management to fund a full-time social media coordinator position.

The Hilton’s first “tweet-up” last year drew 130 participants to the hotel—the vast majority of them as first-time guests. “It caught the attention of our executives—they said, ‘Wow, you did this with nothing?’” says Peter Arceo, executive director of casino marketing. “These have become loyal customers spending money at the bar, talking about the hotel. That was the buy-in [the executive team] needed to fund this.” Monthly tweet-ups keep growing in size.

In less than a year, @LasVegasHilton has accumulated more than 23,000 Twitter followers. While other properties in Vegas complement social media marketing with heavily promoted contests, viral videos and even digital Twitter billboards, the Hilton has no social media budget, so it instead focuses on building personal relationships with brand advocates that extend beyond the computer screen into real life. “We’re trying to build solid, loyal fans and followers—people who want to come here,” Arceo says.

A shoestring budget is no excuse for a hotel not to jump into social media, Arceo says. Very likely, an existing hotel employee would be willing or even eager to champion the property in the social media realm. “Nine times out of 10, I promise you there is someone on property—it could be a housekeeper, your greenskeeper, your valet—they could be your best voice for your property, and they might not even want to be compensated,” Arceo says. “They might just want to be known as the social media voice on your property.”

Why did it make me sit up and take notice?
– It shows that working with Facebook and Twitter can eventually bring you business.
– We’re a small lodge with no budget for things like social media.
– 23,000 followers on Twitter? And I thought we were doing well with 500+!
– I love the idea of “Tweet-Ups” and have a new goal to host the first one in Livingstone!
– I like the idea of one or two of the Chanters Girls being involved in our social media thing!

The picture?
Alice (centre) Acting Head Cook, Shupiwe (left) her number two, and Sandy (right) a trainee, having fun at Chanters Lodge in Livingstone.


Livingstone In Perspective

Probably the last guest blog from Ruth Binney for a while, that’s Ruth with my wife Ireen pictured above in the latest fashion at Victoria Falls!

“Back now in grey and rainy England, my mind is full of memories of Zambian warmth – not just the sunshine but the smiles and generosity of everyone who made my recent visit so enjoyable. Particular thanks must go to Richard and his family, and to all the staff at Chanters Lodge who looked after me so well.

As a ‘regular’ tourist, the highlights were the rhino walk and the one day safari to Chobe (reported in previous blogs), as well as the sunset cruise on the Lady Livingstone and the visit to the Falls which, full of water after the rains, were awesomely powerful – and wet. If you are reading this and anticipating a visit soon believe me (as Richard will undoubtedly tell you) you WILL get soaked. Even with a hired raincoat and the umbrella of my guide, I was wet through. The Knife Edge Bridge was a river and the spray so intense that it was like being in a rainstorm. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

As for everyday experiences, writing this on a Saturday afternoon I am recollecting the gathering around the TV to watch the football last weekend – a great way to share a sporting experience with fellow Arsenal supporters!

Shopping in Livingstone included the new Shoprite supermarket which is well stocked, bright and cheerful, but also visits to the fishmonger, butcher, chemist and stationer. Out with Melinda I also met her friends and members of her family and visited the market packed with stalls selling vegetables and fruit of all kinds. There – and on every street corner – ‘talk time’ for the mobile can be bought. This is definitely the most prized commodity for young and old alike.

To visit the home of Susan, one of Richard’s senior staff, was a privilege and a pleasure. For her, saving means buying cement and having bricks made so that her home can be extended. She is one of many young women acting as sole supporters of their families.

The food at Chanters was as good as ever – I specially recommend the Bean Curry and the Bream. At a family meal I followed Zambian tradition and ate nshima and chicken with my hands – it was delicious! The pool is inviting and warm and the garden carefully tended. As well as the many geckos I was also happy to spot a chameleon fly catching.

The downsides? Very few, but the internet is expensive and sporadic and business wise enterprises such as Richard’s suffer from the monopolies of banking, TV and other utilities in terms of both price and service. It makes some of our complaints seem trivial in retrospect.

Should you visit? Yes certainly – it is an experience that no one should miss and will surely give you a new slant on life. I can’t wait to be back in Livingstone and at Chanters Lodge again.”

Thanks Ruth, it was great to see you!


African Economy

Continuing yesterday’s post from Reuters

“That is not to say it will be a smooth ride. Eric Chirwa, a 40-year-old Zambian miner, can tell you what a tough year it’s been in Luanshya: its century-old copper mine was mothballed in the depths of the global slump, leaving 1,700 miners out of work and at the mercy of the banks with whom they had racked up huge debts in the boom years. He’s been tracking world copper prices on a daily basis, and has seen them rebound: “In the past, we never used to know the copper price,” he said. “Now I’m checking the price every day in the internet cafe.”

Internet access is one aspect of the technology driving changes in Africa that go far beyond letting a miner anticipate fluctuations in copper prices. In central Africa, Rwanda has invested heavily in broadband and is promoting itself as a business services hub. Far more visible, of course, is the cell phone. One person in three has one: in 2007 Africa had 270 million of them, according to industry association GSMA, up from 50 million in 2003. The uptake shows little sign of slowing as five years of annual growth above 5 percent swell the middle classes.

Mobile money transfer systems such as M-PESA from Kenya’s Safaricom (SCOM.NR) have allowed people with no bank accounts — still the vast majority — to ping money to each other for a fraction of the cost of transfers or a bus ride to deliver cash. The system has evolved to incorporate an array of payments from taxi fares to food, drinks and movie tickets, making it possible to spend a whole day in Nairobi without carrying cash. Cities, towns and villages are cluttered with billboards advertising the latest cell phone service or gimmick.

The macroeconomic effect is huge.

A World Bank study released in November suggested half the 5 percent growth Africa enjoyed from 2003-08 was due to improvements in infrastructure, mainly telecommunications. “Cell phones have already transformed many economies in Africa,” said Arthur Goldstuck, head of Johannesburg-based technology research firm World Wide Worx. “But the cell phone will become far more important than it is now.”

Researchers of M-PESA’s impact on Kenya say it is boosting rural incomes by as much as 30 percent, allowing small farmers to diversify out of subsistence agriculture. As browser-enabled “smart” cell phones go mainstream in the next 5-10 years, Africans will gain access to the internet-based services and information that have driven huge productivity gains in the rich world.”

In Zambia pity then that internet services are still so unreliable and expensive, and that the cellphone network also grinds to a halt so frequently. We’re told that more Africans have access to a cellphone than to running water. How’s that for ‘development’?

The Picture
A Kenyan enjoying Victoria Falls on the Zambian side!


Livingstone Sights & Activities

With the invaluable help of Edward Chanter at Collaborative Connections in UK we have been updating the Chanters Lodge website in recent weeks. Here’s a look at the page detailing:

Sights and Activities

Livingstone has recently become known as the adventure capital of Southern Africa, and given the number of activities available it’s hardly any wonder! Take a look at the following:

Steam train Walking with Lions
The Walking with Lions experience is being run by Lion Encounter in association with ALERT (African Lion & Environmental Research Trust). The lions are based at Thorntree, next to the Elephant Back Safaris. Please note that no children under 15 yrs old are allowed and clients must be over 1.5m in height. Transfers and park fee are included in the price of US$135 pp. The park fee is payable in cash seperately.

rafting Whitewater Rafting
The Zambezi River below the Victoria Falls is widely considered to be the very best white water rafting river in the world. A deep channeled, high volume river. Availability is seasonal. Full day including lift out is US$145, morning half day is US$120 (no lift) and afternoon half day US$130 (with lift).

elephant Elephant Riding
An elephant back safari is not just a ride on the largest animal in Africa, it’s an unforgettable experience where clients get to interact with the elephants. As with the lion encounter the elephants are based at Thorntree, and the price is US$160 pp including transfers and a US$10 park fee payable seperately.

lion Chobe National Park – 1 Day Safari
Chobe National Park, named after the Chobe River on its northern boundary is home to an exciting variety of large mammals and over 450 bird species. Clients leave at 07.00 hrs after an early breakfast and are transferred to Kasane in Botswana. A morning river safari, buffet lunch and an afternoon game drive are included in the price of U$$150 pp – so too is the transfer back to the lodge in the early evening.
A great day out!

canoe Canoeing
A Canoeing Safari on the Upper Zambezi River, is a relaxing way to enjoy the astonishingly beautiful scenery that lines the river. The Canoeing Trail operates above Victoria Falls in Zambia, running between Simonga and the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. Full day is US$120 pp, half day: US$95 pp.

bungee Bungi Jumping & Other High Adrenaline Activities!
Bungi must be the ultimate adrenaline rush, as you leap into space, free as a bird, saved from the swirling water below by the rebound of the cord. There are other rushes too in this ‘scary’ section!

Bungi: US$110
Bridge Swing: US$80
Bridge Slide: US$35
Abseil: US$95
Gorge Swing: US$55
Flying Fox: US$35

lady livingstoneSunset Cruise
In the fading twilight hours, take a sunset cruise. Heed the call of Africa while sipping traditional cocktails and enjoying light snacks on the Lady Livingstone, a three tier and the newest boat on the river. Current price is US$55 including transfers.

jetx Jet Extreme
Jet boating is a thrilling adventure on the Zambezi River in the Batoka Gorge below the Victoria Falls. Powering through the rapids of the mighty Zambezi River, buzzing rocks and jet spinning all in the spectacular setting of the Batoka Gorge, one of Zambia’s natural treasures. US$95 pp inc lift out.

lislan Livingstone Island
At certain times of the year you can visit Livingstone Island right on the edge of the Main Falls and even swim in the famous Devils Pool scarily near the rim! Morning, lunch and tea visits are available and prices vary from US$60-US$110 pp excluding transfers to/from the Royal Livingstone Hotel where the boat leaves for the Island.

heli Helicopter Ride over The Falls

An exhilarating 15 or 30 minute flight over the amazing Victoria Falls. US$130/US$260 pp. The helicoptor gives passenger’s a superior view of the Victoria Falls as it flies slower and lower than the fixed wing aircraft offering an excellent viewing opportunity.

The 15 or 30 minute microlight has an open cockpit for the ultimate adrenaline ride over the Falls at US$120/ US$240 pp. (You cannot take your own photos on the flight for safety reasons, but you can buy photos taken from a fixed camera on the wing).

rive safRiver Safari
Take a river safari on the Zambezi in a small highly maneuverable boat. Morning, lunch or sunset available at US$85 pp including snacks and drinks.

rhino walkRhino Walk
Take a walk on the wildside and view the rhino in our Mosi-o-Tunya National Park. Morning or afternoon at US$85 pp.

game driveGame Drive & Game Walk
Game drive is US$50 pp. Game walk is US$70 pp.

museumLivingstone Museum
Visit Livingstone’s excellent museum and see David Livingstone memorabilia, and a brilliant history of Zambia and the general area. Open daily.

curio marketCurio Markets
There are two curio markets, one less than a 15 minute walk from the lodge and the other in the car park above Victoria Falls. Don’t forget to haggle the price!

vic fallsFalls Tours
Zambia: US$35
Zimbabwe: US$60 (exc transfers)

Other available activities include:
Tandem Skydiving
Horse Riding
Quad Biking
Crocodile Farm
Village Tour
Bicycle Tour

Steam Train Dinner
Raft Float
Cheetah Encounter
Volunteer with local schools
River Boarding


The C-Nile Virus

I thought you would want to know about this e-mail virus. Even the most advanced programs from Norton, McAfee or even Nod 32 can’t take care of this one! It appears to affect those who were born prior to 1960.


1. Causes you to send the same e-mail twice. Done that!

2. Causes you to send a blank e-mail ! That too!

3. Causes you to send e-mail to the wrong person. Yep!

4. Causes you to send it back to the person who sent it to you. Aha!

5. Causes you to forget to attach the attachment. Well darn!

6. Causes you to hit “SEND” before you’ve finished. Oh, no – not again!

7. Causes you to hit “DELETE” instead of “SEND.” And I just hate that!

8. Causes you to hit “SEND” when you should “DELETE.”




Tnooz is a new site that you should definitely follow if you’re in this hospitality business:

Tnooz is a provider of news, analysis, commentary, data and business services to the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. Launched in September 2009, Tnooz focuses on technology, digital distribution, media and marketing, web strategy, start-ups and financing in the travel sector. The Tnooz team of reporters and editorial nodes based around the world will bring the latest news and analysis to travel and the sector’s many related and diverse industries.

Tnooz Execs

Gene Quinn – president and chief executive officer
A pioneer in digital media and a well known figure in the travel industry through his role as chairman of research company PhoCusWright.

Kevin May – editor
A journalist of 16 years in newspapers and business magazines, Kevin May was most recently editor of UK-based business publication Travolution.

Frederic Lalonde – chairman
Is the founder and chief executive of OpenPlaces, based in Montreal, Canada.

Tnooz board directors

Philip Wolf
Founded PhoCusWright Inc. in 1994 and serves as president and CEO.

Tnooz Geography

Tnooz has assembled a diverse team of editorial nodes around the world, all with years of experience and expertise in travel technology and online distribution.

I have an RSS feed from Tnooz and so far it’s interesting, topical and very relevant!


Thanks to TravelWires for publishing this online interview this morning:

“Hot on the heels of fellow Zambian internet entrepreneur Sara Brown from is Richard Chanter, the owner of Chanters Lodge in Livingstone (Zambia). He shares with us his journey to launching Chanters Lodge and how I hope other operators within this space could learn a thing about keeping an active presence on the internet (it does not cost a cent, just dedication)…

When were you born and where are you based?
I was born in Tiverton, Devon, UK and I am based in Livingstone, Zambia.

Can you educate my readers about Chanters Lodge, what exactly inspired the business?
The obvious need in Livingstone in 1997 for a good restaurant – the rooms were an afterthought!

What were you doing before launching your business and when was it launched?
From 1979 – 1992 I was GM of what is now Southern Sun Ridgeway in Lusaka. From 1992-1995 I was a transporter and market gardener. From 1995-1997 I was in unsuccessful business partnerships in the catering trade in Lusaka. This business was launched in 1998.

How much was invested in launching your business and how was that capital financed?
Total invested on launch was US$100,000 but there has been additional investment of US$200,000 since. The initial capital was loan followed up by investment from a maturing pension fund and from profit.

What planning did you engage before launching?
Probably not enough!

Are there any major challenges that you had to overcome in launching your business?
Wow! So many! Development and management in Livingstone in the late 90’s was a challenge in almost every respect you could think of!

I notice your property has numerous reviews on, do you also generate bookings through that website?
Very many, I also respond to every review.

Do you use any booking engine for your property?

You’re an active blogger, does this helps your business in generating bookings?
Hard to say, it certainly doesn’t do any harm!

What are your short and long-term business goals?
Short term to finish the ongoing construction of two additional rooms and to maximize revenue in 2010 (World Cup). Long term to be able to semi-retire in 2012 with a good self-fulfilling management structure in place.

What is your opinion of country focused portals like

Which industry events do you exhibit your business?
None so far

Which sector of the Zambian tourism industry do you feel still presents untapped business opportunities?
Development of infrastructure generally and specifically in Kafue National Park and on Lake Tanganyika
What are your three preferred industry blogs that you read daily?
Hotel Blogs and Best of Zambia – I write more than I read also Hotel Interactive

Is the tourism industry in Zambia involved with the forthcoming 2010 Soccer World Cup?
It needs to be!

Is your occupancy rate affected by the current economic climate?
So far not really

What does responsible tourism means for your business and do you subscribe to it in your operations?
It means care of the environment, training and development of Zambian personnel, maintenance of our assets and first class public relations and yes we try to!

What does the internet means for your business?
80% of our reservations and almost 100% of the feedback. It also brings Facebook, Twitter and TripAdvisor. Everything?
Has your property ever fell victim to the cheque and credit card fraudsters?


#followfriday or #traveltuesday

I take myself to be pretty dull on Twitter, and it’s taken me ages to understand #FollowFriday. So for those of you like me, read this from Mashable.

“What is #followfriday? Every Friday, you’ll see thousands of people on Twitter using this phrase, so we thought we’d take a moment to explain what Follow Friday is, and how you can join in with this Twitter game.

Here is a quick guide to the FollowFriday phenomenon:

1. #followfriday is a game in which people suggest who to follow on Twitter. It helps everyone find interesting Twitter users. You list the users you recommend following and add “#followfriday” anywhere in the Tweet so others can find it. The “#” is very important – don’t forget it!

Example Tweet (feel free to copy this and replace the Twitter names with your friends’ Twitter names and reasons to follow): #followfriday Team Mash: @mashable @adamostrow @sharonfeder @jbruin @adamhirsch @benparr @brett @tamar

2. You can find everyone’s #followfriday suggestions on Twitter search.

Then there’s this from Retnev
“When I started using Twitter one of the first uses of hashtags that I saw was #followfriday. What a wonderful idea! It was started by @micah and it is so easy: every Friday you use #followfriday to suggest people to follow. Simple, easy, and fun. An excellent idea!

But why do I say don’t do #followfriday? I started doing #followfriday and sent out my first #followfriday tweets just like some of the examples I saw: After doing a few #followfriday’s I realized that it is not really working. You write a tweet with the #followfriday hashtag and add people you think should be followed and you feel good because you did #followfriday and even better when you receive a recommendation.

But take a good look at the tweet. Why would you follow any of the people mentioned? Because I said so? Or because you like their usernames? And if you receive a lot of tweets like that, who do you follow? A tweet like that does not give you any reason to follow the people recommended.

@SharonHayes started doing #followfriday in a completely different way. She writes a post on her blog with her #followfriday recommendations and tweet about it. She is doing it this way because “I think that a simple 140 character recommendation isn’t enough. Like many others that use Twitter, I believe in quality over quantity” If you see one of her #followfriday posts you will understand what she means by quality!

There you are! I’m not so much into #followfriday yet, or#traveltuesday for that matter, but I’m certainly learning!

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