Longacres Lodge, Lusaka

Lusaka Times reports:

Government has approved a plan to re-develop Longacres Lodge in Lusaka into a five star hotel. Finance and National Planning Minister, Situmbeko Musokotwane said the development of the Longacres Lodge will start in the next six weeks and will be financed by Thukuka Zambia Limited, a South African company with its Zambian partners at a cost of US$35 million.

Mr Musokotwane said the project will be done under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) concept and will be run by a special purpose entity where the developer will be allowed to man the asset for a concession period of 20 years.

Dr. Musokotwane further stated that the developer will be paying Government US$32 million every year while Government will also maintain 15 percent shareholding in the asset until the concession period when it will completely take over.

He also disclosed that the developer will also pay all the employees at the lodge their benefits while those who wish to continue will be re-engaged by the same developer and also noted that the re-development of the lodge into a five star hotel will create an employment opportunity to hundreds of Zambians who will be employees in various capacities during the construction period.

The five star hotel will also house a shopping complex, offices and a spacious parking space.


Hotels v B&B

This is a fascinating piece by Daniel Craig (above) on B&B’s v Hotels, I came across the article on HotelInteractive – I’ve added some comments on our own behalf.

“Social media, the great equalizer, has allowed bed-and-breakfasts and independent boutiques to compete for the attention of travelers online with big-box, chain hotels. And when it comes to creative content and compelling stories, small, independent properties have emerged with some of the strongest voices. Recently, the Professional Association of Innkeepers launched a campaign called “A Better Way to Stay” to convince travelers to choose inns and B&Bs over hotels. PAII’s President & CEO Jay Karen calls it “a true grassroots campaign” that will feature “fresh and edgy content—perfect for social media—never seen from our industry.”
(Pity the powers that be in Zambia don’t do something similar!ed)

To find out more, I caught up with Jay. Here’s a condensed version of our Q A session.
Some wear boxers, others brief; some prefer B&Bs, others hotels. Convince us: Why choose a B&B over a hotel?

That’s easy! Do you prefer your breakfast made from food off a Sysco truck or hand-picked by an innkeeper (most likely sourced locally)? Do you like never having to pay for wi-fi? How do you feel about free parking? Historical settings? Beautiful properties? Afternoon or 24-hour free snacks? Sometimes wine and cheese hours or afternoon tea? Local knowledge of the best places for recreation and dining? Also, B&Bs are considered by many women business travelers as safer than hotels. Guests at B&Bs aren’t just a room number and a stat that adds to the RevPAR and occupancy charts – they’re people looking for more than just a room, and innkeepers enjoy delivering more than an electronic key card.

(We still have to charge for wifi though we do give one free hour, we provide free parking, safety for single women travellers is definitely a selling point for us and we value the personal attention we can give to Guests – ed.)

Do B&Bs compete more against hotels or other B&Bs? Should hotels be worried?

When someone chooses a B&B, it’s safe to say they likely chose that B&B over another B&B, not a Hilton or Marriott. We compete with hotels every day of the week. I firmly believe that the loyalty index among B&B guests is much higher than hotel guests. And in the new world of social media, more and more loyal guests will be telling their friends and families about their fantastic experiences. I’m not saying hotels should be shivering with fear, because our total room volume is incredibly modest by comparison, but the playing field has certainly been leveled in this new age of connectivity. I have no doubt we will be stealing some market share.
Lately there’s been a lot of controversy over the authenticity of online reviews. What’s your position on this?

My belief is that the vast majority of online reviews on travel sites are legitimate – at least in our neck of the woods. Travel websites that do not authenticate reviews by verifying that reviewers actually stayed at the properties in question have an inherent weakness. But the concept they rely on is that the law of large numbers will overcome that weakness … the wisdom of the crowds. There’s going to be the occasional fool or fake in the crowd, but the thought is they will be drowned out.

There is a problem with that in the B&B world – we don’t have the large numbers that hotels do. A good B&B that is actively soliciting reviews from guests will still only have a few dozen reviews over the course of a year – not a few hundred. A few bad apples can spoil things a hell of a lot faster for a B&B with 5 rooms than a hotel with 500 rooms.

To me, the bigger problem is review sites claim little or no responsibility when it comes to the details within the review and won’t get involved in the veracity of the reviews. When it comes to negative reviews that have been embellished or falsified, the property owners have everything to lose. Joe Schmoe Reviewer has nothing to lose, and that’s still very troublesome at times.
(So much of our business is now initiated from online reviews – ours are genuine as far as I know -ed)
TripAdvisor: friend or foe of innkeepers?

On balance? Definitely a friend. While we still suffer from second-class-citizenship on the site (we’re mostly found behind the “hotels” moniker instead of beside them, like vacation rentals, in the most visible areas of the site), the site allows the smallest of inns to compete with the largest of hotels in the same city. TripAdvisor is a great site for those who love doing their homework when deciding where to stay.

TripAdvisor reviews can work really well for local, independent players. The rest of the commerce on the site, i.e. banner ads, booking, etc., is no friend to the innkeeper. Nine out of ten B&Bs do not participate in the GDS system, so when someone is searching for availability, we are left out almost completely. It would be good to build a bridge with the off-GDS platforms that most B&Bs use and the TripAdvisor availability search tool.

Over the past few years, we have gained a good bit of attention through our high-profile discussions with TripAdvisor. I believe we have been the only lodging organization that is persistently meeting with their senior staff about parity, fairness and responsiveness with their very powerful system. I’ve been blogging about it since 2008.

(Friend – ed)

Given such limited resources, which social media tools and resources if any do you recommend B&B owners engage in?

Facebook – no doubt. There is no better tool that allows a happy B&B guest to tell their hundreds of friends and family what a wonderful time they had. We haven’t even seen the beginning of the fruits Facebook will produce for innkeepers. I’m encouraged greatly by the social buying sites out there – especially LivingSocial. Twitter is great, but only if you’re posting content that is relevant to Twitter users, and if you look at it as a search engine.

(Find us on Facebook – ed)
How is 2011 looking for the innkeeping industry?

The only weak point in our industry as a result of this recession has been the transaction market. Our RevPAR, occupancy and revenue numbers have remained steady. Changes in travel preferences have benefited our industry – the desire to stay closer to home, long weekend trips, smaller, boutique properties (duh), etc. Therefore, we are generally poised for strong performance in the coming months and years, as long as the economy doesn’t tank again.

Our biggest challenge seems to be that more and more gets added to the plate of innkeepers each year, but nothing gets taken off. Innkeepers pine for the days when SEO was the only internet-related marketing game they had to keep up with. Keeping all the plates spinning in an ever-more-complex world is a big challenge. But that’s where PAII comes in, right Daniel?

(Not brilliant in Livingstone, Zambia at the moment. We’re waiting for a decision about the addition of VAT on accommodation and forward reservations don’t look great. Expenses ever increasing – ed)

Daniel Edward Craig is a former general manager turned hotel consultant specializing in social media strategy, storytelling, and reputation management for the lodging industry. He is the author of three hotel-based novels, a popular blog, and various articles about issues in the hotel industry. His new e-book, The Hotelier’s Guide to Online Reputation Management, is now available. Visit www.danieledwardcraig.com or email dec@danieledwardcraig.com. Twitter: dcraig. Copyright © 2011 Daniel Edward Craig. All rights reserved.


Chilli Pickle, Brighton

Our vacations in UK are usually spent, for the most part in Brighton, where my son Ed is based – a fair amount of eating out is usually involved! So, this piece on HotelChatter caught my eye – the name too – chilli pickle happens to be brilliantly made in Zambia by Rivonia and was the subject of a previous blog post. Can’t wait to try the restaurant next time we’re in Brighton.

“The ever-burgeoning London hotel scene may have most of our attention at the moment, but we’re far from immune to the charms of Brighton, especially with the news that one of our favorite fun hotels there, myhotel Brighton, has just opened a restaurant devoted to one of our favorite foods: curry.

Not just any restaurant, either – it’s the new site for The Chilli Pickle, which won the prize for most innovative restaurant at last year’s British Curry Awards, and received two AA rosettes and a Michelin BiB Gourmand thing too. The restaurant got all its plaudits (and rave TripAdvisor reviews) in its old location in Meetings House Lane but it’s now upped sticks to the hotel, and opened its doors Monday.

It’s owned by the same team and will have the same menu as before, as well as introducing some new dishes from a recent trip to India.

Prices are really reasonable, too: vegetable dishes from £3.50, mains from £6.95 and thalis for £9.95 for lunch and from £12.95 for dinner. The one to go for? The new Mutton Laal Mans – pieces of mutton in hot red chilli gravy from Rajasthan, courtesy of their latest trip.


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 Africa-beat.com 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 receptionbook.com 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!


Elias ‘E-Vibes’ Limwanya

It’s no good pretending that all was well on the latest edition of The Chanters Lodge Experience with The Milli Jam Ingredient featuring George Soulchild, our regular Sunday night radio show airing at 20.30 hrs on 107.7 fm, Zambezi Radio, Livingstone’s popular local radio station. Why? Well three of us, including our Guest Elias Limwanya, pictured above, are Arsenal supporters and we were still in a state of shock following our team’s defeat in the Carling Cup Final about half an hour before we went on air. Even George Soulchild’s team Liverpool had lost. Anyway, we all tried our best!

Elias is better known as ‘E-Vibes’ and is a full time presenter, disc jockey and newscaster on Zambezi fm, for whom he’s worked for almost 3 years. He told listeners that he’d had a tough upbringing losing both his parents in a road accident on the Copperbelt in 1998 when he was 8. He’d been brought up by an uncle, completing his Grade 12 at Linda Secondary School – our second consecutive weekly Guest educated at that Livingstone school I pointed out. How had he got the name ‘E-Vibes’? We wondered, and Elias explained that George Soulchild was the person who’d helped him find a good name to use on radio. In fact it transpired that George had helped Elias at almost every stage of his career and that was a source of pride for us on the show!

Still single, Elias told listeners he’d never been bungee jumping and had no intention of doing so and had not walked with lions but would quite like to do that. His main work project at the moment was co-hosting the Breakfast Show on 107.7 fm with George Soulchild which he was enjoying. He’d been on Facebook since 2008 and was a regular contributor. What did he think of Arsenal losing that vital match? He was quite philosophical about it and said he was looking forward to their upcoming FA Cup replay and of course the return leg against Barcelona in the Champions League.

We played Adele’s number one UK smash hit ‘Someone Like You’ at the top of the show back to back with Ne-Yo’s ‘Give Me Everything’. We dropped C.R.I.$.I.$ featuring Nalu ‘I Wanna Live My Life’ – informing any listeners who didn’t already know that C.R.I.$.I.$ had won the best international act at the recent BEFFTA awards in the USA. Moving on to Exile’s ‘In Love With You’ and Alesha Dixon’s ‘Breath Slow’ the mood in the studio was slowly improving, the music taking hold. Lady Saw featuring Eve ‘He Is At My House’ and Wizkid’s smash ‘Holla At Ya Boy’ rocked the house. We were happy at that point to get a call from Swithin Haangala the owner of 107.7 fm saying how much he was enjoying the show, even if we weren’t sure that we were! ‘Why did he call now”? I asked the guys. George quipped “he heard the track ‘Holla At Ya Boy’ and decided it was time to give you a holla!” We laughed!

I had a surprise when we offered a prize of a dinner for two at Chanters Lodge to the first listener to text us Elias’s radio name. One of the many people to send us an answer, (some before I’d even finished asking the question!) was a former Ridgeway Hotel worker and Ridgeway Raiders (our football team) goalkeeper – Emmanuel Malunga. Seeing goalkeepers were very much on the mind of we Gunners, for all the wrong reasons, we gave him the prize!


Dinner at The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

A long, long time ago I did my bar training at the Hyde Park Hotel in Knightsbridge. It is of course now known as the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park (above) and is home to Dinner Heston Blumenthal’s latest restaurant. So, this piece in Hotel Chatter obviously caught my attention – more especially as my son Jan is the newly appointed Head Chef at The Penny Black restaurant in Fulham Road London, opening next week. We certainly hope his advance bookings are as good as Heston’s!

Heston Blumenthal’s new restaurant Dinner has already been named “best new restaurant in the world” by restaurant critic Giles Coren in The Times. London’s most eagerly awaited restaurant located in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park only opened its doors last week but it’s already fully booked until the end of May.

Not surprising as the reviewers and bloggers have wasted no time gushing over the medieval menu which features Meat Fruit – a chicken liver dish shaped like a plastic mandarin, Powdered Duck, Spiced Pigeon and Tipsy Cake, a “spit-roast pineapple” (ooh-err). To see the full menu, head over to the restaurant’s website. Yes, a lot of it sounds pretty gross, but then, so did most of his molecular gastronomy stuff that we tried at the Fat Duck (his flagship restaurant in Bray, Berkshire), and it was nothing less than amazeballs. Plus, there’s always chips for those who like to play it safe.

The Telegraph’s critic rated it 10/10, Londonist agreed with Coren, Time Out gave it four out of five stars, and even the Guardian thought the food was worth paying for.

Which leads us on to the price. Dinner at Dinner isn’t cheap, but it’s not half as bad as we feared. Starters run from £12.50 and most main courses are around the £30 mark. Desserts are from £8, and sides are a ridiculously cheap £4. The wine’s not horrific, either: from £35 a bottle. As we said, not a night out for when the budget’s tight, but the prices are in line with other posh London restaurants. And by way of comparison, the famed 13 course tasting menu at the Fat Duck costs £160 per head.

But there’s an amazing deal if you can’t splash out on dinner: a three course set lunch for just £28. Yup, £28. Available Monday to Friday, 12-2.30pm. There are two choices for each course: lemon salad or “ragoo of pigs’ ears” to start, cured salmon or roast quail for your main, and chocolate wine or orange buttered loaf for dessert.

You need to plan ahead, though. According to the website, Dinner is now booked up until the end of May, and they’ll be opening up reservations for June on 1 March. If you need to get in before then, you can apply to be on the waiting list or, if desperation calls, you can buy other people’s rezzies on eBay. When we checked, the highest price was £62 although one sold last week for just short of £100.


Shadreck Mulilo – The Singing Chef!

I loved this story from The Post – a collision of my interests if ever there was one! We wish Shadreck all the best with his album and will certainly try and feature a track on our local radio show – The Chanters Lodge Experience with the Milli Jam Ingredient ft George da Soulchild which I co-host and which airs every Sunday at 20.30 hrs on Zambezi FM.

A Lusaka based chef says the release of his debut album Wilasakamana is the fulfillment of a childhood dream. Shadreck Mulilo, 30 of Lusaka’s five-star Taj Pamodzi Hotel says he has been singing since he was a child.

“Basically I will say I was born with music within me,” says the married father of three. “My father used to sing, though he was not a musician, but he loved playing guitar, and traditional instruments, and sometimes he would sing to my mother. Then I picked it up from there. In 1997, I met a friend named Joseph Chanda. He was singing and looking for a partner to sing with. We used to sing, rap…we blended so well, and we started from there.”

The duo featured on ZNBC TV’s ‘Sounds Good’ programme, before Mulilo decided to pursue his vision to do a solo project. Upon joining Pamodzi in 2005, Mulilo collaborated with the hotel’s resident band on working on his album. “The band had been in music for over 20 years, had retired, and they were singing jazz and blues music. I talked to them, they heard my vision, and they were excited. So we rehearsed for about a year and a half, then we were ready to go to the studio where we recorded all the instruments live.”

Wilasakamana, which was released last year, comprises ten songs of praise, worship and inspiration. Among these are the title track, Exalted, Twalipalwa, Ba Lesa wandi, Libe Iyacindikwa, Ewingansunga, Ba Neighbour and Tumulumbanye. Abstinence, which features two of Mulilo’s children, warns against the dangers of HIV/AIDS. Mulilo says the song, which talks about a high-achieving student who used to go nightclubs and later discovered that he was HIV positive, is based on a true story.

Mulilo has so far shot four music videos. He says there is abundant music talent in the country and condemns the rampant piracy that’s affecting the local industry. Mulilo, who has been a chef for over ten years, says music and cooking are his passions. “I’ve only chosen two things in my life: that is singing and cooking. So if I’m not singing, I’m cooking. If I’m not working, I’m at the studio, at church, or attending some shows. Cooking is demanding, but I think cooking is art as well as music,” Mulilo says.

Having previously also worked at Arabian Nights and Hotel Intercontinental, Mulilo says he is planning to write a book on cookery. “I am a worker of God, so minister Mulilo means working for God. I looked at how God wants me to work, which is to win souls to him and I looked at also vulnerable people, like the orphans, the children who need help … I said I could impact a small, a young generation, so that we leave an inheritance for them, and show them the good way,” says Mulilo.

Best of luck Shadreck! Keep on cooking and rocking!


Hands On Hotel Management

I enjoyed this from thonline

People like to complain: the weather, the economy and that old standby, the boss. But at downtown Portland’s Hotel Monaco things are different. Craig Thompson (above), the general manager of the 221-room property, is rarely in his office enjoying the perks that come with being a big shot. At 60, Thompson hustles like an intern striving to impress. If need be, Thompson checks in guests, parks cars, inspects rooms, hauls bags, delivers room service, works in the laundry and helps make wake-up calls. When guests offer a tip, he politely declines. But if the guest presses a few bucks into his palm, Thompson gives it to his employees, many who have worked with him for years.

He arrived in Portland nearly 20 years ago to be general manager at the Vintage Plaza. Five years into the job, leaders at the Kimpton Hotels chain, which runs Vintage Plaza, asked Thompson to walk a few blocks to 506 SW Washington St. to take control of what is now called the Hotel Monaco, another company property. He has a cluttered and unpretentious office — exposed telephone lines snake out of one wall — in a room behind the front desk. But unless Thompson is making calls, checking something on the computer or finishing paperwork, he’s out helping the bellhop, the clerks, the waiters and anyone else who makes the hotel run smoothly.

“He’s amazing,” said Hannah Sloan, who works the front desk. “I used to be in housekeeping, and he’d step in and clean rooms. The first time I saw him, I was shocked. We’re talking about the general manager.” Thompson has a simple philosophy: “Being a good boss isn’t about writing great reports,” he said. “It’s not about how fast I respond to corporate. It’s not about having a rule book or trying to control everyone. It’s about people. If you understand people, you’ll be a good boss. If you don’t, you may have power, but you’ll never be a great boss.”

He would make a poor candidate for “Undercover Boss,” the TV show that puts bosses to work among their lowest-ranking employees. Thompson is already there. “A good boss works side by side with the employees,” Thompson said. “It keeps me young.” In addition to managing the hotel, Thompson checks in guests, parks cars and helps make wake-up calls, among other tasks. Raydell Denton, the room service manager, says Thompson helps her crew when it’s busy. “You see the head boss here, and it means something,” she says.

Thompson was raised in Spokane and got his start in the hotel business at 16, when he was hired at a local hotel as a busboy, bellhop and room service waiter. He eventually earned a hotel management degree from Washington State University. “My first job was when I was hired for a hotel bar,” he said. “I thought I was going to be the bar manager. I was the bar back. I ended up hauling bags of ice, setting up glasses and mopping the floors at 2 in the morning. I learned the hotel business from the ground up.”


Cresta Mukuni Safari Lodge

This from pr.com caught my eye – as you’d expect! Don’t know where it is to be situated but from the sound of it, somewhere in Chief Mukuni’s area. Now there’s a surprise! (There he is above).

Capital Corp Merchant Banking is pleased to announce that it has signed on for a $15.4 M project with Zambian corporation Playland Limited to create the Cresta Mukuni Safari Lodge Victoria Falls. The aim of the project is to build an internationally recognized 4-star Safari Lodge with modern facilities: amenities and conveniences which will cater for incentive groups from Europe and America with facilities that can also be used for local and regional markets in the European off-season. Apart from hotel accommodations, the project will offer other timeshare facilities that will cater to both local and foreign clientele.

The business concept of the project is strong, given the significant gap in the market for Safari and wilderness type high-end hotels in the Victoria Falls area where only 70 hotel rooms exist on the Zimbabwean side, and with limited conference facilities. In order to have a quick impact on the market and to enhance its position, Playland Limited has signed a management contract with Cresta Hospitality which is one of the biggest hospitality groups in southern Africa managing and operating 13 properties in 3 countries (Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Nigeria), to manage its property. This will provide the development with the key personnel, marketing strategies, and implementation strategy needed to insure a smooth and efficient development.

Cresta Mukuni will be twinned with the famous Cresta Mowana Safari Lodge situated in the Botswana National Park, which has won major international awards.


Hotel Art

I loved this from Hotel Chatter

“Is the WiFi free? Does the gym have good machines? All these things get noticed when checking into a hotel, but what about the atmosphere of the place—specifically the art on the walls or on the floor? We’re highlighting properties around the world that do their artwork right, and the specific pieces you should stare long and hard at when next you drop by.

Today: The The Peninsula Tokyo’s “Void” by Ben Jakober and Yannick Vu.

You’ve just checked in to The Peninsula in Tokyo and you head up in the elevator to your room floor, and the first thing that greets you when the elevator doors open are several windows that look out into….nothingness. You’ve just discovered one of the many artworks tucked around the Peninsula, but this is a major guest favorite. It’s called “The Void” and it’s literally the center of the hotel, the space they couldn’t develop but could turn into an area for suspended sculpture.

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