HELLO MALAWI!

KumbaliI was recently a guest at the beautiful 4-star equivalent KUMBALI COUNTRY LODGE, 9 klms from Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi and I was quite mind-blown at the standard of hospitality, the high level of professionalism, exceptionally well trained staff and the very nature of Malawi’s people.

Guy and Maureen Pickering who own KUMBALI COUNTRY LODGE are the most welcoming, warm, caring and friendly folk who are available 24/7 during one’s stay at their lovely home-from-home Lodge in the country.

What stood out for me is the superior and professional manner of their staff, who clearly love what they do and who love where they are. Smartly attired at all times, always willing to go the extra mile, polite and who made our stay at their lovely lodge a total indulgence in luxury!
Lilongwe Airport – 9 klms from the Lodge is an international airport, with flights from OR Tambo, Johannesburg several times a week – a mere two hour journey, no visas required, merely your passport. An easy flight on SAA.

Landscapes
This landlocked country is filled with a variety of picturesque landscapes from north to south. Its highest peak stands at 3,000 meters while the lowest point lies just a little above sea level. Malawi, in the spring and summer, is lush and green with plains, forests, mountains, plateaus, and exhilarating river valleys. In the Highland areas and forest reserves there are great options for accommodations, Kumbali Country Lodge being one of these.

Wildlife
With diverse flora and fauna, much of which is in more than10 wildlife reserves and national parks the climate in this little country is the perfect setting for tropical vegetation. Although Malawi’s population of large mammals is not as high as those of its neighbouring countries, wildlife viewing is still enjoyed by visitors, both locally and those from away. We visited in their winter which has a climate much like that in Durban on the warm winter days. To me, this is perfect! .

THE GREATEST ATTRACTION …..
LAKE MALAWI lies between Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi – the 9th largest freshwater lake in the world. Here, in this rural, peaceful and natural area, fishing is quite a busy industry amongst the local folk, in their simple but practical fishing boats – These areas are where most of the Malawian population will be found.

Lake Malawi is, I would guess, the most visited tourist attraction in Malawi, as this large body of freshwater with its golden sand beaches is a magnificent destination for swimming, diving, snorkelling, extreme water sports and a photographer’s paradise! There is only one other country I have visited with such blue, clean water and that is New Zealand! …. It is breath-taking from every point and massive!.

Because of the large rural population, the economy of the country relies largely on agriculture. In recent years, the government has made great strides in developing the country from one of the least developed countries in the world to gaining a more stable foot in the direction of financial independence. Since 2005, the tourism to Malawi and environmental protection plus education and health services have received a lot of attention and the welfare of these people has therefore greatly improved..

ACCOMMODATION AND CONFERENCE FACILITIES IN MALAWI

The best way to visit all that Malawi is proud to show off is to base yourself at a good Lodge or Hotel and to travel daily from this point. Such is the luxury yet affordable “KUMBALI COUNTRY LODGE”. Situated within a 650-hectare forest reserve, the Kumbali Country Lodge does not only pride itself on its luxurious accommodations but on its environment as well.

The Kumbali Lodge offers superior, spacious accommodation in 14 executive rooms and 2 deluxe suites. All the rooms at the lodge include wireless internet access, satellite TV, facilities with South African DSTV channels, tea and coffee making facilities, fans, mosquito nets and table and chairs. Most rooms have spacious, under thatch verandahs overlooking their peaceful, beautiful grounds. The accommodation matches the best Malawi has to offer..

Conveniently located near Lilongwe, the Conference Centre provides a beautiful and natural setting for conferences and private events – a result achieving venue in the peace and tranquillity of the country. These are the services provided at the lodge:

• Luxury Accommodation in14 executive and 2 deluxe rooms
• Fine dining, private dining and table d’hote or a-la-carte meals in the restaurant
• Charming Conference Centre (2 venues)
• Wireless internet access
• Fully stocked and cosy bar
• Comfortable outdoor seating overlooking a magnificent, well manicured and well tended garden and fresh water pool with a private lounge upstairs
• Lilongwe Airport transfers
• Transport to/from Lilongwe city centre
• Printing and photocopying
• Packed lunches
• Laundry facilities (7 days a week)
• Dry cleaning available on request
• Reliable electricity supply (generator power back up
• Torches and umbrellas in all rooms

CONFERENCES AT KUMBALI COUNTRY LODGE

In two well equipped, unusual conference venues, Kumbali offers excellent conference facilities to local delegates and international delegates, capable of seating up to 60 delegates +-. Special residential/conference packages are available. Kumbali Country Lodge has increasingly become a very popular and busy conference destination. The beauty of hosting your event here, depending on its size and number of delegates, is that you are likely to have exclusivity of the Lodge. A private fine cuisine dinner may be prepared for your gala night while at the start of your event, a wonderful ice-breaker could be a good old South African Braai or authentic local cuisine at the on-site Cultural Village where local entertainment will be laid on for you too and a well stocked pub.

 

 
The Kumbali Lodge is to be compared with any well run, up-market 4-star venue along the Midlands, or in the Drakensberg.
MALAWI CULTURAL VILLAGE AT KUMBALI COUNTRY LODGE

For an authentic African village experience visit the on-site Kumbali Cultural Village. Within walking distance of the Lodge, the Village has accommodation with traditional and international cuisine on offer, a local arts & crafts centre, and a covered outdoor conference facility.

PERMACULTURE
A short walk from Kumbali Country Lodge, is Nature’s Gift Permaculture Centre- a demonstration plot for Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology. The permaculture centre is on 20 hectares of land and serves to demonstrate and promote solutions for food and nutrition security in Malawi.

What is Permaculture?
“Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems, which have the diversity, stability and the strength of natural ecosystems. It is the integration of land and people, supplying their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without sustainable agriculture there is no possibility of a sustainable human culture.”

Nature’s Gift Permaculture Centre is a ten minute walk from the lodge. The staff, interns, and volunteers, welcome visitors and taking them on a tour of the centre, proudly showing that Malawi is indeed a rich country.

Make a change … on our vast Continent, there is so much we haven’t seen, haven’t experienced and the best way to experience MALAWI is to visit there. And so, for your next ‘different’ conference experience, choose KUMBALI COUNTRY LODGE and a tour to the Lake which will be organised by the owners of the Lodge who also have a smaller Lodge right on the water front!

Brought to you in the interests of professional conference and event organising by VENUE PAGES (www.venuepages.co.za)

Please use the contact us form below should you wish to contact us.  We source venues for you through Africa.

 

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Professional Conference Organising (PCO) – From the Horses Mouth

Article written by Rosalie Howard at Venue Pages who specialises in finding conference facilities in South Africa

Fancy joining a discussion group on various topics in the PCO, conference organiser industry?

We welcome anyone out there to add comments and feedback to today’s chat, on the PCO’s role in marketing conference venues in South Africa, what they should or should not be paid for … Join me!

Sales and Marketing … who would like to note the difference? …

I was employed in senior management in a fine hotel for over 10 years and the area I loved most and succeeded well in was the field of Sales and Marketing which included Banqueting and Conference Coordinating, every aspect of sales, promotional golf days, exhibitions …. You name it.

From this platform, due to a fairly serious back injury, I ventured forth into the world of the PCO’s, which until a little while before, I bore a little bit of a grudge towards. Why? Because quite frequently in my position I would find that events I had been toiling on for weeks, liaising with my client on a personal one-to-one basis suddenly became the possession of a leading local PCO ! … When I brought this matter up, somewhat vehemently with our Operations Manager, who doubled as our General Manager, he had quite a time persuading me to take a different stance and to look at business from another angle …. This didn’t come easily to me at first because I guarded my successes in sales very closely and to suddenly find that my Operations Manager had given my bookings away to a PCO who was going to be earning 15% commission on these was indeed a bitter pill to swallow! I questioned whether it was jealousy or whether I was merely doing my job in support of my hotel, hanging onto every cent I could… After I ‘got it’, I understood though didn’t quite accept yet, that the value of the said PCO and for that matter any PCO was much greater than I had ever given credit for, for the client in question, a large Blue Chip company had become her ‘client’ and she was their ‘guru’. She actually had it in her power to sway her client anywhere she chose!! That’s quite something right? … She was good, she was successful and she served me, I had to concede.

Now …. I am a PCO and have enjoyed fair success over 15 years … and I now, at last can genuinely call out ‘eureka’ from the heavens for now, I understand just how valuable my Operations Manager’s words were at that time!

The Market Place …
Every PCO has a list, miles long of clients, either current or past and they are movers and shakers in finding future clients – they never rest … they are sales people, people! Believe it, they are! They are marketing minded people, or they wouldn’t be in this industry. A reputable PCO will not market or sell a venue he or she does not believe will suit their client … it isn’t anyway in his or her interest to do so … we only promote venues we have tried and tested, who have good reputations or have been highly recommended to us and who meet expected standards. We build relationships with our clients, who come back again and again if they have received good service. We are a one-stop shop for them, their personal nanny if you like, because we relieve them of a lot of donkey work, so why wouldn’t they return again and again? In return for their loyalty and support, we continue to offer them superb service, and I am sure I speak for most of us. It’s not an industry where one can make an easy or quick buck, take it from the horse’s mouth!! We have to work for our living!

Venue Support – Win-Win or Win-Lose?
Just as the PCO’s serves their clients, they serve the venue as well. How?, you might ask….. Because, to ensure the success of the event, to ensure the satisfaction of our clients, we fully coordinate every detail from enquiry stage, to departure from the venue, making sure that every t is crossed, that every i is dotted. The task of gathering facts, itineraries, rooming lists, conference materials and papers, money, ordering gifts and conference bags, making name badges, transport, exhibitions, entertainment, décor, buying and installing the latest on-line registration programmes for our computers for efficient and professional management of the event … the tasks are endless and can take a year or longer, depending on the size and content of the event…. Banqueting Coordinators in hotels and conference centres do not have time or experience in attending to all the requirements that are called for. That is not their job. They are experts at carrying out instructions from the client, they are highly qualified to make the event happen, either via the PCO or direct, depending on whether a PCO is involved or not. The hotel management can only do what they are asked to do. … This brings me to the question … why is it that there are still many venues out there who do not appreciate what the PCO does, who believe that the PCO is overpaid and frequently try to beat them down in commission and it does happen guys! Seriously it happens! Any PCO will vouch for that or we are made to feel that they, the venue are doing us a favour by offering some sort of reward other than hard cash!!

One day, we hope in the not too distant future, hotels and conference centres will appreciate the value of a PCO to them from marketing and selling their specific venue to their client, to carrying out the numerous duties expected of them by the client AND the venue and that they will gladly pay what is essentially a pittance comparatively speaking if we take the entire event into consideration. Why is there often so much reluctance to acknowledge a PCO’s worth? My old Ops Manager, being a marketing minded man could see their value a long time ago and he changed my impressions and my stuck ideas of what a PCO truly represents!

Any comments??? Feel welcome to respond! We look forward to hearing your views