While I was paddling up the Zambezi River...
On a boat today, at the confluence of the muscular Chobe river and the mighty Zambezi. Where trucks wait patiently for 3 weeks to board the Kazangula ferry from Botswana to Zambia. Four great countries share a border midstream. Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Divided by culture, language, allegiance and ambition.
I am enjoying the fruits of my labour with a big family trip to Botswana. But what are the lessons for my business?
Coming from a property and teaching background I am not overly familiar with the conventions of the hospitality trade (I don"t really like staying in hotels and I find attentive service intrusive) and this trip has demonstrated a variety of styles. We started in a small intimate lodge with friendly local staff, took a 5* tented stay in the Okavango Delta, a small resort lodge at Chobe and a classy guest house at Victoria Falls.
The thing that made the trip memorable was the connection with the guides, neither the facilities, certificates, star ratings or food really mattered. Whether basic or luxury, it was the sense that someone cared that made the difference. The level of environmental awareness here also really puts us to shame. This presents my little business with something of a challenge. In one place there were 30 staff for a maximum 16 guests so we were appointed a personal guide for the whole stay, I run a similar number of beds with 1 part timer and a cleaning team! Clearly this is not possible in my business model of self-catering hands-off hospitality so I come up with some techie and creative solutions to create the sense of welcome and security for guests.
Arrived in Zimbabwe to find no cash point action as 'the banking system has been suspended" and restaurants serving the 'power cut menu" as power outages are commonplace. All with the added challenge of remote location, extreme climate, multiple bug infestations and the odd elephant in town. If they can achieve great hospitality under these conditions I can certainly make improvements back home. Well rested and ready for the next phase I am looking forward to coming home to Portsmouth and making a few improvements to my accommodation.