Hotels Online

I liked this by Melanie Nayer on 4Hoteliers not surprising, I suppose, considering the amount of time I spend on line! Here’s the piece:

“As more consumers move online, it’s becoming more important for business to maintain trust and respect on social channels. Without face-to-face conversation, your consumer needs to rely strictly on your word. Bottom line: if they don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you. So, how can you ensure you’re building trust through social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and FourSquare?

I consulted a few hoteliers to get their thoughts:

“We view social media as a powerful channel to build consumer trust and deliver on our brand promise, which is to surprise and delight our guests by providing service that is gracious and sincere,” said Mac Joseph, Social Media Marketing Manager for Mandarin Oriental Hotels, which currently has 8100 followers on their main Twitter page @MO_HOTELS. “We focus on building genuine relationships with consumers on Facebook and Twitter by engaging in two-way dialogue. Through listening first to our audiences, we are able to add value to their experiences with our brand online.”

Joseph told me that Mandarin Oriental recently came across a tweet from a guest at Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, wanting a guestroom with a bathtub. Joseph said his team connected with the hotel, who were able to move the guest to the desired room type that same day. “Through this open dialogue, the guest and our audiences witnessed first-hand that we are not simply pushing content through our social media channels but also listening, in the hopes of making a difference in the guest experience,” he said.

InterContinental Hotels
, which also has various twitter accounts for individual hotels but one main channel, @InterConHotels, with over 7,200 followers, recently made headlines with their new mobile platform and iPad accessibility in worldwide hotels. The hotel group also uses social platforms to introduce guests to local information before they check in, giving them a sense of environment before they arrive at their destination. “Even though we are interacting with our guests and our friends as a brand, we try to be as human in our interaction as we can,” said Charles Yap, Director, Global Brand Communications for InterContinental Hotels. “This means being conversational with our approach, highlighting some of the fun discoveries our guests have made in their travels, providing local assistance through our InterContinental Concierge teams to those who need it, and taking every opportunity to help should things go wrong.”

As a consumer and industry expert, I’ve found a few things to be beneficial when working with hotels online:

    Constant tweeting and Facebook messages are great ways to promote the hotel and converse with guests, but it’s also a great idea to post testimonials from your clients. These reviews are coming from the guest themselves, and other potential guests will rely on the feedback of their peers before making a purchasing decision, especially when it comes to travel.

    Keeping it personal adds a level of emotion to your conversation. By putting a name with a Twitter account or Facebook post, you’re introducing your guests to other hotel employees, allowing guests to learn a little more about the hotel and destination on a local level.”

The picture? The stunningly beautiful Lake Malawi, I worked there some time back!


MV Liemba

I liked this piece from the BBC. At home we have a watercolour picture of this boat painted by late Trevor Ford better known as Yuss the famous cartoonist, some of whose cartoons grace the walls of the restaurant at Chanters Lodge.

Ships don’t come with much more historical ballast than the MV Liemba. The steamer still shudders and belches its way across Lake Tanganyika every Wednesday and Friday, a century after it was built as a warship in Germany. In its time it’s been a pawn in the colonial scramble for Africa. It’s been scuttled and then raised again from the deep. It may have been the model for the warship sunk by The African Queen, a steam-powered launch in the film of the same name, starring Katharine Hepburn as a prim spinster and Humphrey Bogart as the rough captain.

And now it’s a ferry on Africa’s longest lake, invariably packed with hundreds of people plus their jumble of bundles and baskets as it churns the water between Kigoma in Tanzania across the lake to Mpulungu in Zambia. But for how long? Such is the ramshackle, dented state of the vessel that the company which runs it has asked the German government to help with refurbishment. The basis of the appeal is that this is a piece of German history. The steamer that serves the citizens around Lake Tanganyika was once the Kaiser’s gunboat.

A spokesman for the Marine Services Company told the BBC: “We have requested that Germany help in its rehabilitation. This is because of financial constraints but we have not had a concrete commitment.” The Liemba started life as the Graf Goetzen in 1913 when she was built as a warship in Papenburg on the River Ems in northern Germany. It is said that the Kaiser himself ordered the construction to further his imperial ambitions. The Graf Goetzen was then transported in parts, in 500 crates, from Hamburg to Dar es Salaam on the coast of East Africa – and from there over mountains to Lake Tanganyika where Germany, Britain and Belgium were all engaged in colonial jostling.

Britain did not take the presence of the vessel easily. As the Admiralty put it: “It is both the duty and the tradition of the Royal Navy to engage the enemy wherever there is water to float a ship.” So London decided to send two gunboats and by an equally difficult route. The British ships were sent down to South Africa and then up the continent as far as they could be taken by rail, and after that by the sheer human power of 2,000 labourers who hauled and cut through the jungle, eventually getting them to the lake which became the site of imperial contest.

The two British boats, by the way, were initially to be called Cat and Dog but that was thought to be too flippant – the Admiralty in London at the time was not into flippancy. The names Mimi and Touto were chosen instead, the French terms used by children for cat and dog. Colonial rivalry and conflict then ensued, and, in the face of a British attack, the Germans abandoned the port of Kigoma, scuttling their ship, the Graf Goetzen, to stop it getting into British hands.

The Goetzen then remained at the bottom of the lake for nearly 10 years until she was raised to the surface. Amazingly, the engines still functioned after minor repairs – possibly because the German engineers who had done the scuttling were the ones who had taken it out from Germany… and they took care to encase the engines in grease so that their baby could one day live and steam again.

It is not clear who raised it, perhaps the Belgians or perhaps the British – but whoever did it, the old German gunboat ended up in the hands of the British. Clearly, a vessel of the Royal Navy could not be named after Count Gustav Adolf von Goetzen, who was a German explorer and governor of German East Africa. So the ship was renamed as the Liemba – which is how she has stayed ever since.

And so may she stay for much longer if she can be renovated. The request for financial help has fallen between the governments of Lower Saxony, in which the ship was built, and the federal government in Berlin. The president of Germany has added his voice. The ship, said President Christian Wulff, had a “singular history” and performed an “indispensable service” to the people of East Africa. The government of Tanzania joined the clamour for salvation.

A study has been done by the German authorities but it is thought to have concluded that the costs might well be higher than actually building a new ship. But would a new ship be quite the same as an ancient steamer, dented and bulging with history?


Wendy Harawa

George da Soulchild, our regular contributor and co-presenter of our Sunday night radio show writes:

Zambian artists Owen Mwaka aka OC, Chishimba Chama and Afunika’s dancing queens are set to grace Wendy Harawa’s album launch and a special ladies’ concert in Lilongwe. According to a statement, Harawa, a renowned raga-dance hall artiste who has worked closely with several Zambian musicians says the show is to showcase female talent in Africa and to strengthen relations between Zambia and Malawi.

“The show is basically to expose women’s talent and more so to launch my new project. I am also expecting other female artistes from other countries like Wahu from Kenya to join me. It is something big and Zambian music is doing fine here, that’s why I have involved OC and of course, Chichi who have been here before and featured on my songs,” said Harawa.

She added that the show will also be supported by Malawian artistes Tigris, Riandy and Mablacks. Meanwhile, both OC and Chichi have expressed confidence in delivering a good show especially that they are both promoting their latest works.

OC has been instrumental in the production of Chichi’s music who is releasing her debut album Owema after several years of being a back-up singer and cabaret performer.

OC through his Obama Record label has produced some songs for Harawa and is also completing work on his album set for release next month.


Viviana Sorrentino & Diego Girotto on 107.7 fm, Zambia

From memory this was the first time we’d entertained Italian guests on The Chanters Lodge Experience with the Milli Jam Ingredient featuring George ‘Akufela’ Soulchild, so Viviana Sorrentino and Diego Girotto, pictured above, were especially welcome! The Experience is our regular Sunday night radio show airing live from 20.30 to 21.30 hours Zambian time on Zambezi FM radio 107.7, Livingstone’s leading local radio station. The programme is also supposed to stream live on the internet but we understand that the connection ‘times out’ at the moment, so there’s work to be done by the station in this regard. Sorry to anyone trying, but failing, to hear us last week.

Diego is a doctor, a general practitioner in Turin and Viviana’s just completed her Phd in Natural Sciences. They met 9 years ago in the library of the University of Turin in Italy. “Married”? Asked Milli Jam. “No”! Replied Diego. “Not yet”! answered Vivi! We laughed and speculated that Dr Diego might have a problem on the horizon! When asked if they’d travelled much in Africa Vivi told listeners she’d spent a long time in Madagascar studying lemurs. During their present trip this vivacious (geddit?), entertaining couple told us they’d spent time in Malawi and then in the South Luangwa National Park staying at Flatdogs – they’d absolutely loved the lodge, the park and the masses of game they’d seen!

From Flatdogs Vivi and Diego had moved on to the Lower Zambezi where they’d spent 3 days canoeing which they also loved. The day of the show they had just returned from one night in Chobe – they’d been disappointed that on seeing lion during this trip, one fellow traveller had become scared and they’d had to drive away prematurely.

The music on the show was super as usual. We played the UK top 2 at the start of the show ‘How We Roll’ by Loick Essien ft Tanya Lacey and ‘Louder’ by DJ Fresh ft Sian Evans. George’s local selection were ‘So Simple’ by Lupo ft T-Boy and ‘Walilowa’ by Naked Face. (‘So sweet’ – we were told this meant). Milimo chose two Nigerian artists Wizkid with ‘Holla At Ya Boy’ and Naeto C with ‘Ten Over Ten’. We introduced a new feature on the show ‘oldie of the week’ – this week ‘Don’t Pay The Ferryman’ by Chris de Burgh. ‘All About Tonight’ by Pixie Lott and ‘Cherry Bomb’ by Justin Kramer wound up the show.

Diego told listeners that although he lived in Turin he supported Inter Milan and not Juventus and that his favourite band was U2 while Viviana liked REM, also recommending an Italian group called Negrita. Milli Jam asked them how they’d come to choose Chanters Lodge and they explained they’d met a Dutch couple in South Luangwa (Rein and Jeanetta Coppens) who’d told them if they were going to Livingstone they must stay at Chanters Lodge. I loved it!

We gave away the usual dinner for 2 to the first listener to text telling us where Vivi and Diego were from and there was a great response. We greeted Guests and staff at the lodge. Our lovely Italian couple told listeners that 10 years from now they hoped to be owning and running a guest lodge in Tuscany! They would ask for my help! I think I’ll hold them to that!



This would make a lot of sense

The fate of a single tourist visa for the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) member countries will be determined in June this year. Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ezekiel Maige, says that single visa is top on agenda of the SADC ministerial meeting slated for June, 2011 in Lusaka, Zambia.

Billed as a ‘grand debate’, the ministerial meeting is expected to evolve a ‘grand action plan’ that will lead to the establishment of the SADC single tourists’ visa. “A single visa will go a long way in easing travel arrangements for those intending to sample tourist allure in SADC member countries,” Maige said in Arusha.

SADC member countries are Tanzania, Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Bring it on!


Ann Fagan & Gavin Dempster Rock 107.7 fm!

The most recent edition of the Chanters Lodge Experience with the Milli Jam Ingredient was super. Our Guests, Ann and Gavin pictured above, were lively, interesting and amusing – they rocked the house and so did the music! Our show airs every Sunday night between 20.30 and 21.30 hours on Zambezi 107.7 fm, Livingstone’s popular local radio station and is a mixture of music and chat.

Gavin and Ann, Guests at Chanters Lodge, told listeners that they came from Perth, Western Australia but had been travelling the world for the past 18 months. They’d arrived in Livingstone a few days previously, having taken an overland truck from Nairobi to Victoria Falls, visiting the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Zanzibar and Malawi before arriving in Zimbabwe. Gavin was delighted to be back in Livingstone and told listeners that for him anyway the highlight of their overland trip had been Ann’s joy in seeing the sights and sounds of Africa for the very first time! “Awwwww” we said!

Gavin had been in Zambia for a month in 2010 exploring Livingstone for houses where he’d lived as a child in the 50’s – his dad had been an engine driver on the railways in Zambia at that time. He’d also taken a 9 day canoeing trip on the Lower Zambezi, describing it to listeners as one of the best things he’d ever done in his life! This year Ann and Gavin had enjoyed their cycle trip around the city the day after they’d arrived, visiting Linda Community Orphanage School for whom they’d brought various goodies!

The music on the show was hot! We featured Jennifer Hudson’s ‘Gone’ back to back with ‘Next 2U’ from Chris Brown and Justin Bieber at the top of the show. Milli Jam’s local selection of Dalisoul’s ‘Musunge Mushe’ (take care of her) and Kay’s ‘Kanyelele’ (ant) had the Chanters Girls rocking back at the lodge. We dropped ‘Boom’ the latest from Snoop Dogg featuring T-Pain, coupled with Tiesto’s UK smash ‘C’mon’ featuring Diplo and Buster Rhymes. We closed with Britney Spears – Until The World Ends. A great selection from Milli Jam also included Ne-Yo’s ‘Hello’ and Jay Lo’s popular ‘Run This World’ featuring The Dream and Rick Ross.

Gavin and Ann told listeners how much they’d enjoyed their recent two day, one night safari in Chobe National Park, Botswana to celebrate Ann’s birthday, where they’d seen a lot of elephant, buffalo and hippo though they’d missed out on big cats – they weren’t all that worried as they’d seen these in the Serengeti during their overland trip. Milli Jam asked this lovely couple if they’d retired – Gavin said ‘very much’ and Ann replied ‘semi’. They’d met when they were both working for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a large charity organization in Australia. “Was it love at first sight?” I asked. “We kind of grew into each other” Ann replied. “Yes” we said, laughing.

Our guests described their musical tastes as ‘eclectic’ but told listeners about concerts they’d recently attended in Perth given by Lionel Richie and Jo Cocker, making us very envious in the studio! We had a great response to our question when we asked those wanting to win a dinner for 2 at Chanters Lodge where our Guests hailed from. Gloria won. Our Guests greeted the staff at the lodge, praising them highly and thanked Zambians listening for giving them such a warm and wonderful welcome to the country.


Ras Mbisi, Mafia Island

I’ve never visited Mafia Island in the Indian Ocean (more’s the pity) but there’s only one place I’d stay of I did and that’s Ras Mbisi – just check their terrible location in the photo above…Yesterday I checked Michelle’s (the owner) blog and found this:

“Friends and links and things

Long overdue this post, I/we have had so much support from friends ‘in the biz’ or with links to it I think it’s about time I tell everyone about them

Richard Chanter of Chanters Lodge, Livingstone, Zambia – @livilodge was one of my first followers on Twitter and a staunch supporter of the Ras Mbisi ethos, we love him and can’t wait to visit – also he used to run one of my fav places in Malawi, Nkopola Lodge, I have yet to dare ask him if he remembers a 6 year old and her 3 year old brother attempting to head out onto the lake on one of the pedalo’s!

Rachel Hamada of Mambo Magazine – Mambo is an online mag for coastal Tanzania in general and the islands in particular and it’s FAB, she is also a travel journo a former political journo and has an involvement with Mustaphas Place in Bwejuu, Zanzibar – we have met a couple of times in real life and she is a fun person to spend time with as well as being quick and well informed on her specialist subjects (not to mention vocal on any subject you care to mention).

Sally Mckenna from a great resource for TZ residents and tourists alike, Sal-gal has bigged us up, given us exposure, put us up and generally been an all round good egg.

Matt Bell from we luurve Matt (and Adam) they maintain our website, explain complicated internet stuff (well ok not complicated just make it simple for idiots) and run our reservations system.

Ulric Charteris and his team from Roots Marketing, Dar es Salaam, the AV, the brochure all their work, we don’t just love them we want their babies.

Elizabeth Cook Tell ‘em PR in Nairobi another Twitter mate and the first to visit Ras Mbisi – we first met over (many) a glass of wine in the Level 8 bar at the Kempinski in Dar – btw I still have your mates swimming costume lovely.

Jane Alexander @exmoorjane on Twitter, follow her and read her blog, her pieces in the Telegraph, The Lady et al, she has done so much to raise awareness of us and has earned a special place in our hearts – I am still trying to combine a tour of the specialist beer producers plus ‘alternative’ health destinations in TZ so we can get her and hubby here to visit in a ‘work’ scenario.

Stay tuned – we are waiting for the photos of last Saturday’s wedding here at Ras Mbisi – an amazing and beautiful day such a treat to be involved (although I did have a few sleepless nights!!) “

Thanks Michelle for the great promo, you rock!

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